[SSI, Apple II]
– Mr. President – what is your answer to the diplomatic successes of the Soviets in Africa and Asia ?”
– We need to be pragmatic about these : Total war !
As I stand here at the beginning of 1990, I can feel the pressure on my shoulders. The Cold War has reached a boiling point, and the Soviet Union is making an aggressive comeback on the global stage. The world is on the edge of a new global war between the two blocs. I am the leader of the United States, and it is up to me to protect my nation’s security and prestige. The stakes have never been higher, and one wrong move could spell disaster. But I am determined to emerge victorious and secure a peaceful future for my country and the world. At any cost.
On the other side of the world, a politburo of old men have exactly the same desire, and these men are also willing to pay any price for their country.
According to my Kremlinologues, who have thoroughly analyzed the lives and careers of the Politburo’s most influential members, the three apparatchiks rarely see eye to eye on anything except for the pressing need for the Soviet Union to rebuild its military capabilities.
The last few years were WEIRD. So many things happened, and you would not believe it.
The European Union has become a communist state, still led by self-proclaimed ‘Commissars’. Japan has also embraced communism, as have Brazil and the rest of South America. Even the Saudis have aligned themselves with the communists. But the biggest shock came in 1984, when Pierre Trudeau staged a coup and rebranded Canada as the United Soviet Provinces of Canada. After (I surmise) Australia sank to the bottom of the ocean, the English-speaking world is completely surrounded by communist regimes. But we can still trust good old capitalist China!
Here is the diplomatic situation :
- P indicates political agreements, good for prestige and to negotiate further agreements, irrelevant otherwise,
- E indicates economic agreements. Africa is so poor that the two economic agreements there are irrelevant, the South American agreement has a marginal impact,
- M indicates military agreements. Given OPEC [OP] is communist, my starting military alliance with them will not live long.
I have eight years to turn things around and make the USA a wealthy, safe, and prestigious country.
Every year [turn] starts with my advisors asking whether I want to declare war on the Soviet Union. While the tension is at its maximum (3 out of 3), I don’t think America is ready quite yet.
After that, my advisors ask me a bunch of boring questions on how I should allocate the budget. This is particularly tedious, so I am going to show you the 3 screens used for this only once :
I initially wrote two full paragraphs explaining how it worked, but I think it is better if I summarize in one line : industrial capacity is the only thing that matters early game. If I have more of it I have more of everything.
My first focus is grow my economy. For this, I reduce my fixed cost by demobilizing one of my 5 starting units, and start building industries. This won’t be enough, however, if I really want to expand fast I need an economic agreement with an industrial power : UK, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan or Canada. Japan and Canada are buddies with the Soviet Union, so I will focus on the first 3.
I could only produce 4 diplomatic chits this turn, which I allocate to UK, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Luckily, the Soviets totally ignore Europe with their own chits and spread out :
Before the negotiation phase, there is one last thing to do : bringing my task forces close to Europe to add some leverage. “Talk softly and bring an aircraft carrier”, as Roosevelt used to say.
The negotiation with UK goes smoothly. I just have to ask twice and I sign an economic agreement :
It does not go as well with Eastern Europe. I was about to sign something, and became a bit pushy to seal the deal. Someone decided to ask the Soviet Union’s opinion on the economic agreement and guess what ? The Soviet Union did not like it very much. The whole thing faltered. I lost a huge amount of prestige in that negotiation.
As for Western Europe, they immediately told me they would consult with their Soviet partners when I contacted them. To avoid losing prestige, I immediately left the table.
So overall, I managed to sign one agreement with UK, but the US’ prestige has dropped somewhat. Not great. Not terrible.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union :
That’s some serious diplomatic blitzkrieg there.
1990 had been a bad, no good, terrible year. I am sure 1991 will turn better. Let’s see how it starts :
A leftist coup in Saudi Arabia ! Great ! At least the new
bosses comrades cancel all existing agreements, including the one OPEC had just signed with the Soviet Union.
This leaves this general situation :
Now, the silver lining is that I have 25 industrial capacity this year (vs 17 in 1990), thanks to 7 coming straight from UK. It makes a huge difference : I can buy 9 diplomatic chits while improving my industrial capacity for the future by 2. Just before allocating them, I learn about a right-wing coup in Central America. Is the table turning ?
I invest in Europe but also in friendly countries : India, Central America, North Africa. I also invest a couple of chits in Brazil, just to tell them to tone down the anti-Americanism !
The Soviet Union allocates some of its chits in the same area as I did. Chits cancel each other, so we both end up with a much smaller scope of negotiation.
Unfortunately, 1991 is still not a good year. While Central America accepts a political agreement, Western Europe still insists on calling the Soviets before discussing and Brazil laughs at my attempts to convince them that I am not such a bad guy !
Worse : the Soviet Union for its part convinces the UK to rescind the economic agreement with me! Back to square one.
At the start of 1992, I am back to the situation of 1990, but with less prestige. On the other hand, the Soviet Union is wealthier and more prestigious than ever – they actually managed to reach their prestige target (the *W* symbol) !
Without the industrial output of UK, I must reduce my ambition : some industry growth, and only 3 diplomatic chits. I deliver two of them personally to Mrs Thatcher. It works :
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union overplays its hand. They fail to reach a political agreement with Western Europe, and decide to stop playing nice… by attacking Western Europe.
But my task forces are around, and intervene. The Soviet Union loses the limited war, and ends up humiliated. Ah wait, apparently not humiliated. I lose 9 prestige points for failing to negotiate with Brazil, but the Soviet Union does not lose any for starting and losing a war in Europe ? Come on !
At least, it definitely cured Brussels, Paris and Berlin of their communist tendencies :
Tension is high again after the conflict in Europe, and there is another wild GNP swing for no good reason at all.
With the British support, I can generate a lot of diplomatic chits that I use in Western and Eastern Europe and in Brazil (a few others are cancelled by their Soviet equivalents). To make sure to convince Brazil, I bring a task force in front of Bélem :
I threaten a military intervention if they don’t break it off with the Soviet Union. They still refuse, and I do not have the option to force them at gunpoint ! Not following up on empty threats is costly : -13 prestige !
Meanwhile, Western Europe, which I just saved from doom, leads me on for a while and then at the last moment refuses to sign anything (cost : 4 more prestige points). By contrast, Soviet-influenced Eastern Europe accepts an economic agreement despite Soviet threats. The Soviets on their side sign a political agreement with OPEC, giving them 8 prestige points.
We start the second half of the game, and the Soviets have completed a second objective, while my prestige is at almost 0 :
I need to stop them from increasing their “national security”, and the best way to do this is to have a larger army than them. Happily enough, with the economic input of both UK and Poland, I can have everything I want : more industry, more units, more mobilization capacity and a bunch of diplomatic chits :
Once again, I try to negotiate with Western Europe. Once again, I am frustrated. Their leaders decide to call the same Soviet Union that waged a war against them 2 years earlier. I opt out of the negotiation.
At least, my special relationship with the UK deepens with the signing of a military agreement !
The situation is improving a bit.
I have 3 turns left. A sad but diplomatically favourable event happens at the beginning of 1995 : the Soviets shoot down a plane thinking it was a US spy plane. No one likes that.
Diplomatically, the Soviets chose quantity over quality. In particular, they have a bunch of pointless economic agreements, while I have two with countries that matter.
There are also some changes in the politburo :
Borostov is more aggressive than Chakov and less focused on economy – and indeed at this point the Soviets don’t need to expand their economy anymore.
On my side, I am also doing decently economically. My limitation is now cash, and I cannot increase it easily, except by increasing the mysterious GDP value. In any case, I buy two more military units :
Diplomatically, the Soviets are still focused on the minor countries while I keep trying to charm Europe, but also my immediate neighbours. I don’t want to be invaded by both Mexico and Canada on day 1 of the third World War.
I finally break the resolve of Western Europe and they sign an economic agreement with me. I also bring home a defence pact with Eastern Europe.
Unfortunately, all the prestige earned is immediately lost when Canada, despite being surrounded by 5 armies or fleets, still refuses to hear about ending their agreements with the Soviet Union. In the Apple II version, I apparently cannot start a limited war to teach anyone a lesson, so all my threats are hollow – I cannot follow up on them.
With a prestige of 0, it is clear that I am not going to win this peacefully before the end of 1997.
If I want my legacy to be something else than “we thrived economically, but boy was President Scribe an embarrassment“, I have one solution : a decisive military victory. If World War III starts, my only objective will be to win the war, and everyone will forget technicalities like “GNP”, “Prestige” or “National Security”. And with Europe almost fully on my side, I have a good chance to succeed :
Also, it will be nicer if my wargame blog shows the “war” part of the game.
I have 7 armies, and I build two more. I also buy enough diplomatic chits for a final round of negotiation with every country at least a bit amicable to me. I manage to nail down two final military agreements : one with Western Europe, and a surprise one with India !
More importantly, I reposition my forces to prepare for a war against the Soviet Union :
- I concentrate two of my fleets in the Atlantic to blockade the Soviet fleets in the Mediterranean,
- I keep one fleet in the Arctic to block the Soviets in their ports (though I think they can build directly in S2 as well)
- I land troops everywhere I can in Europe to prepare to defend it,
I am confident that my two new armies can manage Canada and/or Brazil, should they try anything something funny.
Last turn. Prestige is still 0. It is now or never ! Preferably now.
Diplomatically, my situation is now solid as Europe is totally secured.
And so, when my advisors ask me this :
My answer is decisive :
War has started !
Nations around the world have to position themselves politically :
All of Europe in addition to Central America, India and (surprisingly) East Africa join my side. The Soviets can only count on Brazil, South America, West Africa and Japan !
That’s all for today. In the next episode, an episode I have not played yet, we will hopefully defeat the Soviet Union, either by occupying Moscow or holding 60 victory points. Any strategic advice from desktop generals is welcome !
Next episode released here !