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In the 80’s, the Cold War was running luke-warm. Games of the day reflected this tension. One of the most innovative Cold War simulators of the time was Balance of Power. It wasn’t a shootem-up game, but rather a foreign policy strategy game. Here’s a look back.
The first version of BOP debuted in 1985. This is the 1990 edition which introduced more countries (62) and many other features. It ran under Windows 2.0.
You’re the President of the United States from 1989 – 1997. Your goal is to maximize American power and prestige in the world while avoiding nuclear destruction.
Here’s the front cover of the game box. As you can see, it won awards for best game of 1988.
The game runs under Windows 2.0 and required a 286 or 386 processor. The game play would crawl under slower processors.
If you didn’t have Windows 2.0, you could purchase a runtime version of it to run the game.
This was one of the earliest games for Windows.
The back of the box. You can see more awards for the game listed. Screen shots on this box come from the Macintosh version. If you check the screenshot in the upper right hand corner, you can see mention of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
Here’s the manual. You need it for copy protection. There’s also lots of interesting strategic tips and information about Cold War logic.
Here’s a page out the manual. As you can see the dialog boxes are from the Mac version of the game. The manual gave tips and tricks about how to run the game.
The game shipped on one floppy disk. That’s one LOW-density 360k floppy. The entire game only takes a little more than 311KB.
The total package
The splash screen for the game. Nice and clean.
Enter the name for your saved or your new game.
There are several different game scenarios. You can play as either the USSR or the USA. The different levels of play give you different options in the game. For example, in Beginner Mode,you can’t set trade policy and other things.
The map of the world. This is your game board. Across the top are the menus where you’ll set policy. The color coding shows current situations for the different countries.
When you select a country, it turns black and its name appears.
You can view events in the country in the country’s Newspaper. Based on what the USSR is doing, you can challenge them. You have advisors and some stats to help you decide. You can choose to go against your advisors if you want. They’re not always right.
Each country has detailed information.
One of the interesting aspects is you can view detailed information about how the selected country fares in regards to the rest of the world.
Gee… Iraq doesn’t look too violent.
Being a Cold War era game, there are countries in the game which no longer exist.Here’s facts about East Germany.
Another country from a bygone era.
Yet another Cold War country.
To help with realism, the game displays names of the key leaders of the day.
Here’s Ayotollah Khomeini.
Mikhail Gorbachev gets a mention. Looks like he’s meddling in Iraq!
Troops into Czechoslovakia!
Khaddafi gets a mention as the leader of Libya.
No troops for Cuba, but Fidel Castro gets a nuclear defense treaty.
The USSR meddles in the Ivory Coast. If you challenge an action, they might back down. You’ll earn prestige and points towards winning the game if your challenges succeed.
When you select a country, you can set economic, military, treaty, and other foreign policy against it.
Let’s intervene in Iraq for the rebels. What could possibly go wrong?
Regime change is in order. Send in the CIA to destabilize the country. That’ll work.
Apply diplomatic pressure.
If all else fails, slap an economic embargo on the country.
When you’re done, click Next Turn under Game. This ends your actions and starts the next turn. Now it’s the computer’s turn to challenge YOUR actions.
Seems like the Soviet Union doesn’t like the idea of American troops in Iraq.
If you refuse to back down, the heat will turn up. Notice that the Prestige At Risk number jumps.
If you refuse diplomatic pressure from the USSR your next choice is to put the military on alert.
If you push things too far, the USSR will launch a nuclear attack. Sometimes you have no choice but to launch an attack yourself.
This is a great minimalistic screen and it gets the point across.
Let’s try again.
Look! Everybody loves Saddam!
This time when the USSR invades and you challenge, you get to the brink of war again. If you click Defcon 1, it’s game over. Nuclear War again.
The US!? Plotting a coup against Saddam Hussein?!? Never…
If you manage to not start a war at the end of the first year, you must use the manual to enter the word listed to go on.
This is BOP’s copy protection scheme. No manual, no getting past 1989.
It’s 1990 now. One year later and everyone still loves Saddam.
Maybe we’ll have better luck attacking Canada.
Like they say in South Park: Blame Canada!
No more trade with Canada either…
Oops. Looks like Saddam didn’t survive anyway. The Sunni’s have taken over Iraq.
Now we’ll see what happens. It’s 1991
1992. Prestige drops to an all time low.
The end of 1997 and the game. At the end, you’ll see a chart showing your progress as President (or General Secretary).
Here are the credits.
This was an awesome game and a lot of fun to play. Naturally it’s not one of those fast-paced shootem-up games, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. I used to spend hours with it.