13 Days Review

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13 Days

13 Days The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Review by David Lent

13 Days is a game with a Cuban missile crisis theme that’s designed to feel like Twilight Struggle, but play in around 45 minutes. What separates it from similar games such as Fort Sumter or Iron Curtain is the DEFCON track. If a player has one of their DEFCON tokens in the DEFCON 1 area or all three of their DEFCON tokens in the DEFCON 2 area at the “Check for nuclear war” stage of the turn they lose the game immediately. Tokens on the DEFCON track move up by one for each influence cube after the first placed in an area or down by one for each influence cube after the first removed from an area. Thus, placing too many influence cubes without occasionally removing some will cause you to lose the game.

The goal of 13 Days is to earn as much prestige as possible by the end of the game without accidentally starting a nuclear war. Prestige is gained by dominating the United Nations World opinion or by being the dominating player for a hidden agenda.

Sequence of Play:
1) Escalate DEFCON Tracks
2) Draw Agendas
3) Strategy Cards & Initiative
4) Save Card for Aftermath
5) World Opinion Bonus
6) Resolve Agendas
7) Check for Nuclear War
8) Advance Round Marker

The game starts by all DEFCON tokens being advanced one space. Each token’s starting position for the first turn is marked on the DEFCON track. The three DEFCON tracks are political, world opinion or military.

In the draw agendas phase, each player draws three hidden agenda cards and puts one of their flags on each battleground or DEFCON track they correspond to. This is so you have some idea where your enemy is going to concentrate and you can try to stop them during the turn. You then pick the hidden agenda card you want played at the end of the turn.

During the strategy cards & initiative phase, each player draws 5 strategy cards and then the player with the least prestige declares the first player. If it’s a tie the Soviet player goes first. Each player takes turns playing one card until both players only have one card left. There are U.S., Soviet and UN cards. A player can play cards associated with his superpower or the UN for either their influence cubes or event. Cards of the opposite power can only be played for influence cubes, but before that it is handed to the opponent so they can use the card’s event first if they wish. Yes, your opponent can play the event off your card, during your turn if it has his super power’s symbol. Each player is trying to place enough influence cubes to dominate their hidden agenda’s region or if their hidden agenda is DEFCON associated, they need to move the appropriate DEFCON tokens. In addition, the United Nations, Television and Alliances areas provide a positive effect if a player dominates them. A player never wants to make it obvious which area or portion of the DEFCON track their hidden agenda is associated with, so often times players will concentrate some of their plays in other areas to confuse their opponent as to where their hidden agenda really is. The last of each player’s five cards is put in the aftermath pile. These are scored at the end of the game.

World Opinion bonus is the next step. The player dominating the United Nations area takes control of the personal letter and scores 2 prestige. I felt the United Nations provided too much prestige. It provided a good chunk of my prestige in every game I won. The Telivision area provides the ability to move one DEFCON token up or down. This is extremely userful if your hidden agenda involves the DEFCON track. The last World Opinion bonus is Alliances which lets you put one extra card in the aftermath pile if you wish.

The personal letter is a hot potato mechanic. The player holding the letter may play it alongside a strategy card so they can play one additional cube. Afterwards, your opponent takes possession of it. I’m not a fan of hot potatoes, but this one is pretty innocuous.

During the resolve agendas phase, the hidden agendas are revealed and resolved simultaneously. The player who dominates an agenda gets its prestige points. If it’s area domination, the dominating player may get additional bonus prestige if it’s printed on the area.

The next two agendas are “Check for nuclear war” and advance the turn marker.

After 3 turns have completed, the aftermath phase starts. In this phase, the aftermath deck is searched for U.S. and Soviet cards. Each superpower adds up the number of cubes on their aftermath cards and whoever dominated gets 2 prestige points. In the event of a tie, no prestige points are awarded. The player who then has the most prestige points has won the game.

13 Days is a good example of a mini Twilight Struggle type game. It’s interesting trying to figure out what your opponent’s hidden agenda is. 13 Days biggest strength is the DEFCON track, which adds more strategy to the game and makes players remove their own influence cubes on occasion. Players who like Fort Sumter or Iron Curtain will definitely like this game. Be advised that these types of games have zero combat and not all traditional hex and chit wargamers will like this type of game though.

Buy your own copy here.

View the components in the unboxing video below:


  • Plays fast
  • Allows your opponent to use the event on some of your cards during your turn
  • Thematic
  • The DEFCON track is interesting
  • Good components


  • The example of play section in the rulebook doesn't spell everything out
  • The strategy is often subtle
  • Replayability is limited due to their only being one scenario
  • United Nations gives too much prestige


Rulebook Clarity - 6
Fun - 7
Originality - 7
Component Quality - 8
Replayability - 7
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  1. Thanks for taking the time to read the review. Please feel free to leave any comments here.


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