Iron Curtain Review
Review by David Lent
Iron Curtain is a microgame where the players each play a Cold War superpower and attempt to dominate as many countries and regions of the world as possible. This isn’t the typical area control game, because many of the cards you are forced to play have the other superpower’s flag and this gives your opponent the opportunity to trigger the card’s event during your turn.
Like all microgames, Iron Curtain has fewer components than a traditional game. There are 20 cards, 48 influence cubes, a scoring marker, box, rulebook and nothing else.
Cards are the main component in this game and their artwork is ok, but the event section doesn’t have any thematic text. It’s just utilitarian text such as “USSR gains 1 ideology point.” It would have been more interesting if it said something like “The KGB helps overthrow a democratic government. Gain 1 ideology point.”
The rulebook for Iron Curtain is poorly worded and the text is really hard to read, especially on pages 3, 4 and 7. Using white text is almost always a bad idea and reduces readability especially for middle-aged eyes like my own. Unless you’re printing on a really dark background, it’s best to use black text.
I made numerous mistakes when learning this game and feel that a better-written rulebook would have prevented a lot of that. However, I still should have read the rules more carefully the first time.
During turn 1, each player plays a total of 4 cards and saves 1 for the end of the game. In turn 2, each player gets 4 cards and will play all of them.
The basic sequence of play is:
1) Play one card
2) Check for scoring
3) Event or command action
To play a card you put it on the table next to a card from the same region. If no cards from that region are there, you can place it next to any card. Each card says how many cards are in its region and how much of a bonus you get if you dominate the most cards in that region.
Scoring takes place if all the cards from one region are in play. Each player gets 1 point for each card they have the most influence cubes on in that region. The player who dominates the most cards in that region gets that region’s bonus also.
During the event/command phase, the player whose superpower icon is on the card may trigger the event if they wish. This is dangerous, because if you are playing a card with the enemy’s icon on it he can trigger the event during your turn. Part of the strategy in this game is trying to play enemy cards at times when their event won’t harm you. Events generally allow you to infiltrate cubes onto cards or raise your ideology points. If you placed the card and did not use the event, you may do a command action. Command allows you to place a number of cubes specified by the card onto a card already containing your influence cubes or onto one next to a card that has your influence cubes. If a card has at least 2 more influence cubes than yours than your opponent has control of that card. That means you have to use 2 influence cubes to place one there.
Victory can occur in one of two ways in Iron Curtain. If at any time before the second turn your ideology points are 8 more than your opponent than you instantly win. Otherwise, victory points are tallied at the end of game. Page 3 says, “The game also ends immediately during the final scoring, if the final space is reached.” However, the end game scoring section on page 7 says the player with the most ideology points wins. The final space is reached when you are 8 points ahead of the opponent, so page 3 and page 7 do not agree on final scoring.
End of game scoring consists of aftermath scoring and regional scoring. Since I am not 100% sure about how aftermath scoring works, I’d like to invite the game designers to explain it in the comment’s section at the bottom of this article. Regional scoring allows all regions (even incomplete ones) to score. Yes, this allows regions that were completed earlier in the game to score again.
I’ve made some complaints about this game, but I do like it. There are some really tough decisions you have to make and some real strategy. It plays fast and is a lot of fun to play. I especially like how you can trigger events during the opponent’s turn if the card has your superpower’s icon on it. There is one fatal flaw though; if you have memorized all the cards in the deck, you will know all the cards that are in your opponent’s hand during the second turn except for one and you will have an unfair advantage over an opponent if he doesn’t know all the cards in the deck. This is still a good game and I do recommend it, even though the rulebook needs works and it’s not thematic enough.
Buy your own copy here.
Watch the unboxing video below.