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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: May 10, 2002
Nothing is harder to replicate than international relations. With no bounds in time or space, tons of different kinds of players interacting with each other in myriad ways, and changing patterns of cooperation and conflict emerging, it’s a real challenge to incorporate all the relevant variables or to make intelligent stabs at their interrelationships. On the personal computer scene, the most well known attempt to capture the global system was Chris Crawford’s Balance of Power, initially released in the mid-1980s with a full depiction of the tense Cold War global competition between the two dominant superpowers. Now GolemLabs has developed for Dreamcatcher Interactive SuperPower, the first attempt to portray the far more complicated post-Cold War global environment.
SuperPower combines both geopolitical strategy and simulation elements in its design. Using Central Intelligence Agency and United States Naval Institute data, you assume the role as leader of the government of any one of 140 real-world states in the year 1997, with an underlying assumption that you need to amplify your security and wealth as much as possible. SuperPower comes with the largest database ever assembled for a computer game, with up to 4000 unique deployable units which can be used to fight strategic battles anywhere around the globe. Each action you take in SuperPower has innumerable interactive effects, with virtually every single important component of international relations fully represented including secret service actions such as spying, assassination, and terrorism.
Your specific underlying goals include to maintain power, rid your country of insurgents, maximize your resource base, and conquer the world, with the first absolutely vital to your survival. You can play like you would in the board game Risk, and just focus on expanding your sphere of influence and control by subduing neighbors, but if you do so you miss a lot in the process and may ultimately find your regime toppled. Dominating another state can occur in a brute force fashion by overwhelming it with your military capabilities, after which its government is disbanded; or in an underhanded manner by rigging its elections so that a puppet government following your wishes takes charge. This sneaky second approach has the dual advantages, unless your secret moves are discovered, of avoiding war and causing those inside and outside the dominated state to believe falsely that the state is still an independent democracy.
There are four primary spheres of activity: demographic, economic, political, and military. Demography relates to the sociocultural satisfaction of your population, dealing with such issues as internal unrest and taxes paid. The economic sphere incorporates your capacity to afford your international actions, incorporating resource exchange issues. Politics involves your relationship with your allies and your enemies, including formal treaties. The military dimension covers military equipment and technology (you can even produce nuclear weapons) and soldiers, as well as your position in the overall global military balance of power.
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