Cuba Libre: Directorio and 26 July Steal the Country!

Yesterday, one of my wargaming friends, Roslyn, and I played Cuba Libre by GMT Games. This was probably our third or fourth game over the last few months. We keep seeming to find our way back to this great game. What was interesting about this game is that we each played two factions. Per the rules, I played the Directorio and 26 July and Roslyn played the Government and the Syndicate. Pretty standard fare, but I pulled out the win on the second propaganda card.

Cuba Libre at the start of the game.
Cuba Libre at the start of the game.

For those that have never played Cuba Libre or any of the COIN series of games, the Propaganda cards are mixed into the deck at programmed intervals and they are a way of regulating when scoring and victory conditions are checked. They do more than that, but that is the overarching premise of the card. The deck will have four them programmed in so, there are four chances to check to see if there is an instant winner. If not, when the game ends, final scoring is done to determine the winner.

Ok, I digress a little. Anyways, a 2 player game requires each player to manage two factions and to win at any of the propaganda cards, you have to meet the winning conditions of both factions to actually have an instant win. Well, let me tell you this is a bitch to accomplished! It’s hard enough to manage one faction in a 4 player game let alone two factions in a 2 player game. Nonetheless, I was able to win!

Game situation at the first Propaganda card.
Game situation at the first Propaganda card.

The struggle to meet each of the winning conditions of each faction is tough. Roslyn is one hell of a player! It always felt like every time I would gain any ground with one faction, she would do something that would cause my other faction to be in dire straits. This is evident in the Government (dark blue) and Governmental Police forces (light blue) all over the map! The image to the left shows me getting by butt kicked by the Government forces.

Game situation two cards before the second Propaganda card.
Game situation two cards before the second Propaganda card.

You can see in the picture to the right that the Directorio (Yellow) has 11 on the score track. This is an aggregate total of the population of the spaces where DR has control plus the number of bases (roundels) on the board. The first of two winning conditions has been met, but I have to hold on a little longer to see if I can bring up the score of the 26 July forces to 16 or higher. The 26 July scoring is based on the aggregate total of opposition (either x1 or x2 the population number) and the number of bases on the board.

The situation as the 2nd Propaganda card was played.
The situation as the 2nd Propaganda card was played.

The next two cards played were rather heated as we both tried to position ourselves for the either the win (me) or to prevent the win (Roslyn). Try as she might, the cards that were drawn and the actions available to her were just not enough to prevent me from winning. The last card played from the deck allowed both of my factions, 26 July followed by Directorio, to go back to back and prevented Roslyn from taking any actions that would prevent my win. With the Directorio poised for the win, it was a matter of positioning 26 July for the win. That was done by conducting terror operations and shifting the opposition markers in my favors. When all was said and done, the 26 July forces’ score shifted up to 17 and allowed me to win! The next card was the Propaganda card and we both knew it.

While this is not a review of Cuba Libre, I should point out that the game and the COIN series as a whole are a lot of fun to play. It truly involves a lot of strategy and forward thinking. If you have any interest in the historical topics that are covered by the COIN series, you owe it to yourself to give the system a try. I recommend Cuba Libre as good starting point. It is the least complex of the four published games. The best part of the series as a whole is that while it is a 4 player game, you can play the game with any number of players up to 4. You read that right, it is solo playable; they designed the series from the ground up to be solo playable!

~ Modoc

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