This was a game that pleasantly surprised me.
For those of you unfamiliar, Cold War: CIA vs KGB is a two-player ‘Secret Unit Deployment’ card game, where one player plays the CIA and one plays the KGB. Players send ‘undercover agents’ to influence the outcomes of events in different regions of the world via the manipulation of various groups (represented by ‘group cards’). It’s quite light and a little more luck-based than I like, but I enjoy it on occasion.
I guess because so much…everything, really… surrounding the Cold War seems to forget that the conflict involved or impacted anyone other than (white, male) politicians, I opened this game up expecting it to fare poorly on my initial “Do non-white men exist?” test. But lo and behold, the creators seem to have made a deliberate effort to include depictions of historical people of different races and genders, including 3 of the 12 playable characters. High-fives.
This is the category I was most impressed about. In the group cards (all which showed images of people), 36% depicted people of colour. There’s also a playable black character (on the US side) which I was not expecting but definitely appreciate in a game about Cold War era spies. (More of this!) The group cards depict events/groups of people throughout the world & 12 of the 21 objective (country or event) cards depict African, Asian, Latin American, or Middle Eastern countries, which is a good nod to how the Cold War affected places that were not just the US and USSR–it also depicts people of various countries and ethnicities in a variety of different roles, not just negative or stereotypical ones.
If you add the total number of cards-depicting-people together (group cards and all characters), we come in just under 30%. But 57% of geography card depict non-European or North American countries. All told, I feel positively about the creators’ efforts to depict a wide range of people and cultures in a game about history’s most famous decades-long White Dudes’ Dick Measuring Contest.
I’m giving it:
There are two playable female characters, one for the CIA and one for the KGB. And in the group cards, 25% depict women.
This is better than I expected, but short of the two-star threshold. Given the subject matter and time period being depicted, I was tempted to round up for effort not usually seen around the topic BUT… there were absolutely zero depictions of women of colour. Yup–every one of the 10 group cards depicting people of colour depicted men only. AND the rulebook uses male pronouns, which is generally the loss of a full star. So I’m ditching the possible rounding for that and calling it:
There are no queer-coded characters or references to queer people that I could find in group or character cards. There are no mechanisms that could indicate a character’s sexuality, queer or otherwise.
Given how suspected homosexuals were persecuted as supposed ‘communists’ in the United States during the Cold War (not that the situation was any better in the USSR), it’s not like LGBT history is completely irrelevant to the Cold War. But it is to my casual observation, queer people are completely missing from Cold War: CIA v KGB. (I’d love to be proven wrong, though, if someone recognises a queer-related historical scene in the group cards I missed, let me know.)
The group cards all use actual historical photographs and show a diversity of real people and real bodies, sans photoshop and strict adherence to modern beauty standards. There are no depictions of people with disabilities I could find, which is disappointing, but there are muscular, fit soldiers and fat politicians and scrawny bankers and old wrinkled women and thin people and average-sized people and more.
Overall, outperformed expectations given the theme, although obviously a few areas where representations of diversity could be improved.