Conflict: Middle East

Title		Conflict: Middle East
Game Type	Strategy
Company 	US Gold/SSI, 1991
Players	        1
Compatibility	Kickstart 2.0x or earlier
HD Installable	Yes(?)
Submission	Callas

Conflict: Middle East sees the player taking on the role of the Israeli
Prime Minister in 1997 after the assassination of his predecessor. Your
goal is to topple the Governments of the Arabic states with which you
share a border. The game ends if Israeli is defeated in war or when all
the other Governments have fallen.

Each turn consists of setting diplomatic and intelligence policy towards
the other Government and then making military decisions - which weapon
systems to buy from which supplier with your arms budget, whether to
deploy troops on the border with another country, whether to invade, and
so on.

The game very effectively presents to the player the development of events
and relationships between countries and the pace at which these
relationships change, and gives the player a straightforward and effective
interface through which to influence the course of events.

Since the player does indeed have powerful means with which to effect the
course of events (diplomacy, alliances, intelligence work to subvert
Governments and of course troop deployment and invasion) the game
generates a high degree of involvement; you are aware of what is happening
around you, and you know your own goals, and as you try to achieve those
goals you can both predict and then see the impact your actions have on
the situation.

This contrasts to larger scale strategy games where each turn is but a
small increment in the overall strategy and your actions at any given time
typically have only a small impact on the overall flow of events.
Conflict operates on a much more intense and short lived scale; turns are
briskly done and a single game is played out in perhaps 30 minutes.

Conflict is a rarity; a quick but meaningful strategy game. A strategy
game for the player who has not the patience for the long drawn out turns
of the typically heavyweight strategy game.

After playing two dozen games or so, players will ultimately find a lack
of depth in the game. There are optimal solutions which are uncovered and
once these are known, the game is understood.  This isn't perhaps
surprising because the initial conditions can't really vary very much; the
countries are what they are - the only things which differ are their moods
towards Israel at the start of the game, and this is after all a
lightweight game with a specifically limited scope.

Conflict does however have some issues.

Firstly, the interface isn't quite perfect; it does become tedious to use
since every turn you have to set policy regarding the other countries.
Typically you're performing exactly the same action as you performed last
turn. What you really want is for your policy to continue to be performed
until you change something, but this isn't the case.  Performing the same
set of twenty or so policy decisions every turn does become tedious.

Secondly, the way your arms budget can be used is flawed. Each turn you
receieve so many million dollars to spend on arms.  If you have less than
50 million you can buy nothing since the lowest priced contract you can
buy is 50 million.  However, you can buy a contract which is massively in
excess of your current budget as long as you have more than the 50 million
necessary to get to the contract screen; so for example, with 51 million
in the bank, you can buy 175 million dollars worth of jet fighters -
leaving you 124 million in debt but which seems to simply disappear next
turn (e.g. is not subtracted from next months budget).

Finally, and more seriously, there are a number of bugs in Conflict.

These fall into two classes; the first class are minor (although still
irritating) and appear to either be present in a game from the off or not
present at all.  The second class are serious bugs which will ruin your
game but only manifest themselves if the game has been going on for a long

The minor bugs are;

1. Wars sometimes don't work properly. You outnumber your enemy in every
respect, but he gains territory instead of you.

2. Your budget is not properly carried over each month. What you don't
spend one month should be available the next month; sometimes it isn't.

The serious bugs (which manifest after a long game) are;

1. The game can crash.

2. Saved games don't always reload.

3. After you've played for a long time, you start being given weird value
arms purchasing agreements each turn, even though you didn't buy them.

4. Once the game reaches 2002, your defence budget drops to 0%.  Why, I
don't know.

5. It appears if you refuse to give an undertaking not to increase the
size of Israel's army after the year 2002, your international prestige
drops to "none".

6. If you do REALLY well and conquer all four countries, the game hangs on
the last turn.  That is VERY, VERY ANNOYING.

Also note the game uses hardcoded loops for delays, rather than actual
timing, so when running on machines faster than 7 MHz 68000, the message
boxes which sometimes come up disappear very quickly.

However, despite the flaws, Conflict is still a very high quality game;
fun, constantly involving and easy to play, probably something everyone
should try.  The heavyweight strategiest will enjoy it as a tasty snack,
the shoot'em'up players will get to enjoy a type of game they would
normally ignore.

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