The Cold War era was a real heyday for conspiracies, which is why we do our best to recreate the atmosphere of secrecy and the romance of revolution in TCWE. Although we love the mystery, intrigue, and guile that was rampant during the Cold War, we also want to design the game following the ideal that “fewer clicks and less micromanagement = more time for fun.” In this diary we’ll explain how we set out to create an atmosphere of espionage while keeping the game play simple.
Let’s start with the revolutionists. As we’ve learned in the last diary, “Overthrowing Governments: A Beginner’s Guide to Politics, Force and Revolution,” revolutionists don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They’re radicals that evolved after getting their hands on weapons, allowing them to launch a militaristic revolt against the government. Within TCWE game, revolutions aren’t possible in neutral countries because neutral countries don’t harbor citizens that violently oppose either of the superpowers (the Americans and Soviets). As soon as a country joins a player’s sphere of influence as Red or Blue, the radicals in that country join the opposing side. The player’s opponent can then utilize those radicals to help him gain control in that country.
Remember when the Americans provided modern anti-aircraft launchers to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, allowing them to successfully thwart the Soviet Union’s occupation from 1979 to 1989? Or when, during the Korean war, the Soviets supplied their comrades the Koreans with modern Mig15 interceptor fighters, which temporarily cleared the Korean skies of US aircraft? That’s what can happen when radicals get support from the opposition. And that’s how it works in TCWE game.
To simplify war in TCWE, military strength is tracked with a status bar. Each country has two bars containing 10 slots, one for the Soviets and one for the Americans. The slots represent military units stationed in a country that player controls. Each player can add up to 10 military units to their bar, as long as they have enough money in the budget to pay for them.
When opposition in a country a player controls reaches 80%, the radicals are ready to start a revolution. That player can then “ADD” units to empty slots. Americans add units to the Blue side and Soviets to the Red. When units have been established on each side, representing the pro-government forces vs the revolutionists, war begins. If one player has added units to his side and no units are in place on the opposing side, revolutionists can easily overthrow the standing government and take control of the country.
The best way to prevent a revolutionary overthrow is to provide military units to each of your Allied countries. This costs money, but it ensures your allies are prepared for war at all times.
So how could war just sneak up on you in TCWE? And how does war play out in the game? As in real wars, there’s always an element of surprise. During each month of the in-game timeline, a military unit from either the Blue or Red side is randomly selected for elimination. This sudden imbalance of power can set the scene for a militaristic takeover.
When a war breaks out, the biggest military doesn’t necessarily win. It’s just one more way the mechanics of TCWE reflect real life. War results are calculated randomly and the number of casualties isn’t necessarily proportionate to the military’s size. This is one major reason why war is preferably avoided. Just because a power is bigger doesn’t mean it’ll win the fight.
Besides keeping military units stocked there’s another way to avoid war in TCWE: spies. Once a spy network is established, they can keep the locals cooperating.
Launching a spy network is a completely different operation than installing military units. The only similarity between spy operatives and military units is that players keep track of both with a bar. The spy bar has 5 slots that can be filled. Spies aren’t soldiers or weapons, and their activities aren’t visible like with military units. Spy wars are silent and covert. Players can use spies for three purposes:
1. Install a spy network to upset the local government through massive riots. This increases the level of Opposition in a country the player doesn’t already control, swinging it closer to the player’s favor. This can lead to civil war, like in the example in Diary 3 in which the Soviet Union overtook Argentina.
2. Install a spy network to prevent riots. Spies can support pro-government demonstrations in countries the player controls, increasing support for the local government. This helps prevent civil war and stabilizes a country at risk of falling to the Opposition.
3. Oust the Opposition’s spy network. Spy networks are constantly seeking out and attempting to destroy the Opposition’s spy network, even if it appears to be inactive.
Unlike the war game mechanics, in which being bigger doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win, the success of spy networks relates directly to how many spies are deployed. For instance, if five KGB agents are active in a country and the Americans have only one CIA agent stationed there, the CIA agent is doomed to be eliminated. Another reason to keep your spy numbers up is because the number of spies in a country correlates directly with how successful an in-game action will be. So, if a player has five spies supporting a pro-government parade, after the rally Support of the government will rise by 5%. If the player only has three spies supporting the parade, Support will rise by 3%. Conversely, if his opponent had four spies supporting an anti-government riot in that same country, Opposition will rise by 4%.
There’s one more thing we want to tell you about spies before this game diary ends. Have you ever noticed how negatively the mass media portrays captured foreign spies? And how this negativity sours the public’s opinion of that spy’s home country? Well, the same thing happens in TCWE. Once a spy is captured the local TV broadcasts the news (via the handy in-game TV stream) and the Influence of the Superpower this spy represents in that country drops by 2%. So if an American spy is captured in Soviet-controlled Cuba, America’s influence in Cuba drops 2 percentage points automatically.
Because of this huge risk, spy wars can seriously bust your budget and your reputation. But, not using spies can cost you your allies in a hurry. It’s a choice between the lesser of two evils, which is just one more way that TCWE operates like real life.