Geopolitique 1990 Review
Developed by Strategic Simulations, Inc
Review By Bob Proctor
Computer Gaming World Volume 4 Number 1 (February 1984)

Geopolitique 1990:

Type: Strategy
System: Apple II/ or Apple IIe
Format: Disk
#Players: 1
Author: Bruce Ketchledge
Price: $39.95
Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Mountain View, Ca

David: "Joshua, let's play a game of Global Thermonuclear War!"

Joshua: "Well, David, I'm pretty bored with that now that I've played out all the variations. How about a game of Global Political Confrontation instead?"

David: "That sounds boring."

Joshua: "Oh, but it's not! Even at MY processing speed, I've only been able to analyze a small number of variations."

David: "Yeah, but I'd rather play a wargame."

Joshua: "War, of course, is always the last resort of diplomats and statesmen."

Very few games, either on a table top or computer, have presented war in a broad context. Stop and think, how many games can you name where warfare isn't mandatory? There's CIVILIZATION, winner of a Charlie at Origins '83, and the older EMPIRES OF THE MIDDLE AGES from SPI. Both of these multi-player games can be won without resorting to military conquest, though you may be forced to defend your borders against less scrupulous neighbors. Science fiction fans could say the same thing about STELLAR CONQUEST and later games of galactic exploration and colonization.

Now there is such a game for computers: GEOPOLITIQUE 1990 from SSI for the Apple II (a version for the Commodore 64 is planned but not yet available). Rather than being set in the past or distant future,GEOPOLITIQUE is modern. It has seven "starting positions"; one of which portrays the world political and military situation as it is now (1984), while the rest show various situations that might occur by the year 1990. In all cases, you play the United States against the computer's USSR. No two-player games, solitaire only.

The country's condition is measured on three scales: Gross National Product (GNP), Prestige, and National Security. In each game, you must pick two of the three as your objectives. The computer sets goals based upon the beginning situation. If you achieve these goals, the game is over immediately and you win. The Soviets have a similar set of goals, but you're never sure how close they are to making them. Different combinations of goals can produce drastically different games from the same starting position, so there is enough variety here to keep a dedicated player interested for a long time.

A typical game lasts from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. This does not have to be at one sitting since there is a game-save option at the end of each turn (year). To keep games from running over-long, each scenario has a time limit of 8 to 12 turns. If neither superpower has fulfilled their objectives at the end of this period, then the one which is closer to doing so (on a percentage basis) is declared the winner. Those of us who occasionally feel "we wuz robbed" will be glad to know that it is not necessary to stop play at this point; you can continue (indefinitely) if you want to.

Golly, I said, can a game that runs in 48K really capture the interplay of a hundred governments, of thousands of cultures? The answer is "Nope, not even close". What it can do is portray two superpowers and 16 minor countries in a simple economic framework. The superpowers vie to form Economic, Political, and Military Treaties with the minors. A fourth type of agreement is the Neutrality Treaty, which cancels all previous agreements a minor has formed and is used to undermine the enemy's power base.

Only six of the minors have names of countries: Canada, Brazil, Japan, China, India and the United Kingdom. The rest are abstractions of the attitudes and resources of a region. So, there are Western Europe and Eastern Europe, Central and South America, North, West and East Africa, and Opecia (the oil-rich middle east). One consequence of this is the absence of all the familiar names: Korea and Viet Nam, Cuba and Grenada, Sinai and Lebanon. The hot-spots of the last 38 years are submerged in the identities of a dominant neighbor (as Korea would be part of Japan) or lumped together. Presumably, Egypt, Israel, and Lebanon are all part of the region called Near East, but can you imagine stranger bedfellows? (Not any more than Korea as part of Japan-Ed.) Still, you negotiate with these regions as though they had a single government and, in keeping with that spirit, I'll refer to them as "countries".

Negotiations are influenced by many factors. Each country is rated for its willingness to negotiate and its leanings toward one or the other superpower. The relative level of prestige of the superpowers is a major factor in a country's desire to form treaties with them. As the world tension level increases, countries tend to become more willing to take sides. The presence of nearby military units can help (if they're yours) or hinder (if they're not). Finally, the manner in which you conduct the negotiations is important. There are five degrees of pressure. You can start with a mild Request, escalate to a Demand, even go all the way and threaten military action. You shouldn't be too demanding with allies, nor should you threaten with the military unless you are willing and able to conduct a limited, local war if the threat proves insufficient. The loss of prestige that follows a hollow threat is crippling.

The world map is drawn in high-res, but is as abstract as the geography. The countries are mostly, well, squares! This is necessary if there is to be room to show the location of fleets and armies, small glags that indicate US/USSR sympathies, and letters to show existing treaties. The oceans of the world are divided into 13 Ocean Areas which are used solely for the deployment of fleets.

Any strategic game should impose some sort of constraints on your actions. This prevents you from doing everything and forces you to make choices and assign priorities. In GEOPOLITIQUE, these constraints are economic. Each country has a rating for three categories of raw materials (food, metal, and energy) and for industrial capacity. Industrial capacity is used to produce raw materials (up to limits set by the above ratings) and to convert raw materials into"finished goods".

There are only five kinds of finished goods and none of them are automobiles or refrigerators. Instead, we have military Maintenance Points (MMTP), Military Mobilization Points (MMBP), Political Action Points (PAP), New Industrial Capacity (NIC), and Mobilization Capacity (MCAP). Wow, what a lot of fancy words; let's see what they mean.

You need one MMTP per turn for each fleet or army that is mobilized. If you can't produce enough MMTP's then you are forced to demobilize the units that can't be maintained. You also need a MMTP to "ready" a unit for a turn. A unit must be readied to conduct a local war and readied units exert more influence over negotiations.

You need one MMBP to mobilize a fleet or an army. All newly mobilized units appear in the US (or USSR) and must be deployed from there. Movement is simple, each unit can move to one adjacent area turn. Armies can move across any number of ocean areas as long as each is occupied by a friendly fleet. There is a limit to how many units can be mobilized in one turn. This is the Mobilization Capacity, or MCAP. MCAP can be increased at considerable cost, as a result of production.

Political Action Points represent your capacity to support negotiations abroad. Like MMTP, they are relatively cheap to produce but cannot be saved. You scatter them around, no more than two to a country in anyone year. After allocating, you get to negotiate with any country where you have a PAP. However, each Soviet PAP cancels one US PAP and vice versa, so if both powers put one PAP in Central America then nobody gets to negotiate. Even if you choose not to talk at first, a long-term investment of PAP's can slowly make a hostile minor more amenable.

The last "good" that can be produced is New Industrial Capacity. These points are simply added to the current capacity so that there is more available the following year. If you can combine industrial growth with economic treaties with minors (to raise the raw material base), you can boost GNP quite rapidly.

What if your national prestige drops so low that nobody wants you as a partner? Then you concentrate on increasing your military strength and taking over minors by force. A successful local war will give you automatic economic, political and military treaties with that country. However, the government also becomes rather hostile so it is necessary to keep an army there to prevent the USSR from obtaining a neutrality treaty. A successful campaign of military conquest will inevitably lead to war with the other superpower. At this point, you discover that you've been playing GEOPOL and that another game, GEOWAR, is available on the other side of the disk.

GEOWAR seems similar but is subtly different. The turns represent three months instead of twelve and there is no more negotiation. All minors promptly declare their allegiance or neutrality. Military units acquire strength ratings. Depleted strength is rebuilt by Reinforcement Points, which become the primary output of economic production.

Now the race is to see which can dominate the globe. Each country has a value relative to its worth and the first side to amass 60 points for two consecutive turns wins. The power which has already invested in mobilization capacity can seize the initiative by getting its forces into the field more quickly. The one with the greater economic base can also try to attrit the other with repeated combat, being willing to suffer equal losses since it can replace lost strength more quickly.

It's a real global war, but non-nuclear. Those who prefer Armageddon to maneuver will be disappointed, but a nuclear war does not give meaning and substance to the GEOPOL part of the game. As Joshua found out, the only way to win a nuclear exchange is not to play.

GEOPOLITIQUE 1990 is not only an excellent game, it is an innovative one. It would be nice if it were more detailed (less abstract), it would be nice if you could play either side, it would be VERY nice if there were a two-player version. But I'm not finding fault with what is there; just wishfully thinking of what I'd like to see added to an already full disk.


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