After the disappointment of the last two offerings, I was well pleased to come across this one. Once again it's from CCS, virtually the only company working in the strategy games field as their main area. Despite the fact that CCS continue to put out the most diabolical rubbish, along with the occasional goodie, I'd still like to commend them for a Crash Plasticine medal for artistic bravery, in the face of ongoing public apathy.
Superpower is a good game. It may not be anything spectacular to look at (definitely unspectacular), but it is intelligent and thought-provoking. the game is basically a variant of the old mainframe decision-making game, Hammurabi. You play the part of a superpower attempting to increase its influence in a certain region, made up of nine countries; these countries are democracies, dictatorships and one-party states. Each country has a certain output, which is taxed at various levels. The states spend their money on defence, welfare, infrastructure, and police; the multinational companies lobby to have their taxes reduced, but they might get them raised, or they might be nationalised (I remember Suez).
The game really presents a remarkably accurate model of an unstable, developing area such as Central America or the Middle East, with all the Machiavellian comings and goings of the real, expansionist world. I got the feeling when I was playing this that I was in charge of a massive CIA operations to convert the entire region.
There are six main ways of gaining power over a nation: by Investment (and bribery) in the economy; by Diplomacy (or counter-diplomacy) by which means you forge military and commercial blocs, or persuade countries to go to war with each other; by Economic lobbying, ie attempting to persuade countries to adopt a more favourable attitude to your investments in terms of taxes; defence spending etc; by Arms Aid; by funding opposition parties; and finally, by overthrowing governments, which can be achieved, among other ways, by hiring a hit man for five million dollars
The range of options is huge; the author may be very well experienced in running political and economic models to have thought it all out. If all this sounds a bit heavy for your tastes, don't worry - it's actually great fun puzzling out how to maximise your advantages (and profits) in each country, and I got a little vicarious thrill each time my opponents' assets got nationalised. I've got a couple of ideological reservations about the game: it's very materialistic [What about your house, then, eh? - Ed], and I personally think it would have been better to have found some other basis apart from profit on which to gauge the success of the player(s).
Despite that, though, this is still one of the best decision-making games I have seen, and even if you're not interested in politics, it beats stuff like The Great Space Race hands down (the graphics are better too!). If you ' re getting tired of sprites and shoot-em- ups, and the 48,000 views of an orc's ear lobe leave you yawning, I'd strongly recommend Superpower - you keep turning round expecting to see yourself on News at Ten!
If I had my way this game would be compulsory for all new recruits to the Foreign Office- I got more out of this than a year's lectures on international relations at university.