Nuclear War has been on my wish list for a while, and having to supply games for a New Year’s Eve gaming session was the excuse I needed to finally get it. As the name of the game implies the players represent the superpowers of a world on the brink of destruction.
The game mechanics are fairly simple allowing for fast play. Each turn you draw a card and you play a card face down before you. These cards are activated two turns later. So you need to plan ahead. Bombs are launched in two phases, first a player needs to build an intercontinental missile or bomber and equip it with a suitable warhead on the subsequent turn. Extra spice is added in the form of secret projects with which you can steal, kill or vaporise your opponents population.
Luck is a considerable factor in Nuclear War, you need to draw the biggest warheads and best carriers. This factor is further increased by a spinner that determines the effects of the attack: your mega-missile might turn out to be a dud, or perhaps “Radioactive Beta Rays Kill Another 5 Million.” On the other hand this is very suitable for a game where all-out war is inevitable and the population dies by the millions. At times like this no one should feel like they are really in control.
Nuclear War is a very cynical game (and probably not approved by the government as one of my friends suggested). It is not uncommon to ask for ‘change’ when 7 million have died in an atomic blast and you do not possess the correct population cards (which come in the 1, 2, 5, 10 and 25 million varieties). Most suitable, a player who’s total population is killed can launch a final retaliation strike using all of the warheads and missiles she has left in her hand, possibly ending the game with no survivors.