Proliferation is a great game about nuclear conflict set in the near future. The premise: "[Nuclear capability worldwide] has escalated, and many smaller states now possess tactical nukes. This state of affairs has polarized the world, and the major powers have mobilized forces in an attempt to enforce security. As one of the major powers, you have a array of resources at your disposal, including conventional armies and fleets, diplomats, tactical nukes and ICBMs and defense satellites. In addition to the military aspects of the game, you also have to manage economics. There is a market of food and oil, each of which is vital to the growth of your population and the management of your military forces." |
Although Proliferation looks like an enhanced version of Risk at first glance, it is a deeper game that requires a more intricate balance between economic and military policies. Although you can send armies to occupy other countries as in Risk, it's the nukes that will determine the outcome of war. There are two broad kinds of nukes you can use in the game: tactical nukes and Intercontinental Missiles (ICBMs). Naturally, ICBMs are much more powerful but cost lots of money and one whole turn to launch, and they can be shot down by defense satellites. As in the real world, defensive systems cost much more than the nukes themselves.
Each region starts with a given population that grows over time. The greater a population you have, the more you can build on each turn. To grow the population and move armies or launch nukes, you need sufficient food and oil – both of which are produced in each region but can also be bought and sold on the world market.
The ingenuity of Proliferation is in that the game isn't just about the nuclear conflict – it is also about the consequences. While you merrily launch nukes at other countries, you will have to watch the radiation level, both at your country's level and the planetwide level. Tactical nukes radiate local radiation, while ICBMs directly increases platnetwide radiation. At the end of each turn, a certain degree of local radiation seeps into the Earth's atmosphere. Needless to say, radiation level plays a huge part in not only the war but also the fate of human race. Small victories on the battlefield may be a big misstep in the larger context of global warming. You are therefore forced to consider the consequences of your actions, and have the "big picture" view of the war at all times. If you enjoy a thought-provoking strategy game about nuclear conflict, one that offers a decent AI and well-designed interlocking gameplay mechanics, Proliferation is well worth your time. Formerly shareware, the author has since released the game into the public domain, so there is no excuse not to try this intriguing underdog. Two thumbs up!Reviewed by: Underdogs