Design notes for


I.C.B.M's, S.S.20's, they lie so dormant, they got so many.
Midnight Oil, 1984 (from: Minutes to midnight)

It was clear right from the start that there should be a four-player version of Wir sind das Volk (WSDV). For pragmatic reasons, however, its design had to wait. We supposed that once the 2-player game was finished, it would be very easy to introduce rules for the superpowers. How wrong we were!

Peer's initial idea was somewhat abstract, but the first play test worked quite well. Unfortunately, the Cold War feel was completely lacking. Most crucially, neither playing the USA nor the Soviet Union felt like being the USA or the Soviet Union. We went back to the drawing board and introduced tracks for the key elements of the Cold War: The arms race, the space race and global dominance. These tracks, along with the new action types (arms racing & take a credit) and the Blue, Green and Black Cards transformed 2+2 — it was now a true Cold War game. Eventually the process of polishing and balancing could start.

Sub-decades and automatic events. With 10 additional cards per decade, two half decades were not enough. We tried quarter decades, but they didn't work well. Then we switched to 3 sub-decades including an auto-event. This fixed four design problems in one stroke! (And it is always good when one new rule solves more than one problem.) 1.) Three sub-decades tightened the storytelling arc considerably. 2.) Since there are more Red Cards than Yellow, the red side will benefit more often from the auto-event, thus mitigating the problem of balance. 3.) The arms race advantage could be modeled simply and effectively. (Up to then it was a time consuming procedure with almost no effect.) 4.) Since automatic event plays are faster than player actions, playing time was reduced to ca. 180 minutes, as desired. (N.B.: The last sub-decade includes one extra card to enable all the players to take the same number of actions, assuming all the hand cards are played.)

The Hungarian Uprising. This is a new sort of Red Card, since the event is bad for the red side. This is reflected by the card values, too. (The value is higher for yellow than for red.) Our thinking was: If the event is triggered, the Hungarian Uprising takes place as it did historically. If yellow plays the value, the Uprising does not take place; if red plays the value, the Uprising takes place, but without Soviet intervention. The same concept is used for the Vietnam and Afghanistan events as well.

Conflicts and the arms race. In the real world, the outcome of conflict is unpredictable. That's why we introduced variable costs determined by drawing a card. The same is true for the arms race: Every step in the arms race is a danger to world peace and also the political and monetary costs are uncertain. Engaging in the arms race is playing with fire. Nevertheless, your decisions may be conditioned by the perverse logic of the arms race if your opponent is getting too far ahead. It should be mentioned that the conflict icons also serve another important purpose: Triggering them, a German state can sabotage the plans of its allied superpower to promote its own victory.

Blue, Green, Black Cards. You can only advance along the space track using Blue Cards. It is a race: Who will launch the first satellite? Who will be the first to reach the moon? What happens in the game does not necessarily reflect what happened historically. That's why the Blue Card events are symmetrical. Black Cards address major crisis. Their events, which always remove peace doves, is not very useful for anyone. But, for a superpower playing the value is not a real option either. So maybe the best is to simply leave them on the display — but will the world peace survive a Black auto-event? Black Cards present an exquisite dilemma. Green Cards restore peace doves. And so, by paradoxical Cold War logic, superpowers need green events to progress in the arms race.

Individual victory. Although allied, players pursue their own objectives. There is a real multi-player dynamic. Play is much less predictable than in WSDV, the situation on the tracks can change rapidly. Winning the game is a tightrope walk. If you hinder your partner too much, he will need precious actions to get back on track, actions which may be desperately needed for the common cause. On the other hand, if you don't slow him down enough, you won't win either. The victory conditions are to be read as: A German state wins by triumphing over the other Germany and reaching full sovereignty.

Nuclear war. Even if the idea of global destruction is utterly repellent, what would a game about the Cold War be without the threat of nuclear war? Almost immediately we rejected the obvious thought of everyone losing if nuclear war broke out. A game needs a clear winner, which is not possible if everyone loses. Players who thought they had no chance of winning would be tempted to play destructively to drag all the others down with them into nuclear apocalypse. Thus, we came up with the idea of making the biggest peacemaker the winner if there was a nuclear war.

Talking of nuclear war, we want to commemorate the man who saved humanity in 1983: Three weeks after the KAL007 was shot down, he was duty officer in a Soviet early-warning command centre and jugded a computer alert of an incoming US nuclear missile to be a false alarm, and thus averted an immediate retaliation strike. Stanislaw Jewgrafowitsch Petrow. To him we wish to gratefully dedicate 2+2. May many equal his example of moral courage and considerateness — especially in these times with all their Kims and Trumps.

Richard Sivél
Berlin, September 2017

P.S.: As it was made public only some days after these notes were written, Stanislaw Jewgrafowitsch Petrow died on 19 May, 2017. R.I.P.

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