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You are the Spy Master activating spies across Cold War Europe and manipulating their actions through bribes, betrayal, and deception; organizing clandestine meetings in exotic cites to exchange secret documents, with one simple objective in mind: safely deliver the secret documents.
There are two levels play in Cold War, the simple duel designed to teach a new player the basic game mechanics and the deck composition via a quick 2 or 3 player game. The game begins with the board empty and a token representing the game objective, the secret documents, in the center of the map: the city of Berlin. The objective: activate a spy, get them into Berlin, take possession of the documents and deliver them to your embassy city. Even though your embassy is just two cities away from Berlin, the task is more difficult than it appears. If he has them, your opponent can immediately play cards to interfere, sabotaging movement or even take control of your spy. In the full game there are two documents tokens in play, and each player's hand size grows by one card with each successful mission. Unique cards with more powerful and far ranging effects are added to the roughly 100-card deck each time it is reshuffled.
Getting your spies out on the board and in the right cities is key to achieving your goal, so all of the obvious functions (the creation and movement of spies, stealing the documents through various means, and the elimination of enemy spies) are incorporated into the cards. Other uncommon cards with potentially more powerful functions are mixed in just enough to create a back-and-forth, turn by turn struggle to get possession of the documents and get them home to your embassy city. At the start of each turn you decide which cards won’t be the most useful, discard them and draw a full hand; refresh your hand and refresh your strategy with each new turn.
There are only 10 different card types with some variation among the cards. (Not counting unique cards which are added as the game progresses). Card effects cover all the expected game mechanics and their individual use is intuitive, but the knowledge of how best to play the cards both singly and in combination with each other is learned by playing the game. Much like chess where learning how each piece moves lets you to quickly play the game, but with the myriad combination of possible moves the game can only truly be mastered by playing it.