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Martech Games Ltd
1987
Strategy: War
£12.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
SpeedLock 4

40
Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

They call me The Armageddon Man because ah'm a-geddon tired of all these warring nations. Seems that things have got so bad in the year 2032 that they've had to add another N to the UN to give it extra weight.

Life's not easy as head of the UNN, when its members are determined to do the dirty on each other behind your back. With allies like these, who needs enemies?

The game's an icon driven exercise in strategy, which may look like The Fourth Protocol, but it's far more diffuse as everyone tries to break every other protocol as well. Be grateful for the friendly control system because everything else is one hundred percent hostile.

International diplomacy is Just like juggling, only more difficult. You've got 16 nations to keep happy, and four aims. The first is economic stability and the second concerns the military balance. Allow either of these to get out of hand and sure enough, truces will topple.

Keeping the peace is your third aim. After all, you won't have much of a world to govern if they let loose their missiles at each other.

But a strict letter condemning that outbreak of rioting which was aimed against the Indian Embassy in Canada won't do any good unless you've maintained a good working relationship with the countries involved. This is where your real diplomatic skills come in. You have to know how to react to individual requests and actions as they occur.

To help you in your task you have five primary resources. An information window lets you access the figures on food, technology and nuclear capability. This last area presents particular problems, as you try to work out whether it's safe to agree to a country's request to increase its allowance of warheads.

Backing up this data are the waves of communications that flood into your letter rack. Often these will flash onto the screen, interrupting whatever you're doing, but others may pile up in the tray, and vital information could be lost if you don't get to them in time.

However, it's not all reading, and your mail is made easier by the use of certain standard communiques, ranging from the congratulatory to the sharp slap on the wrists.

Of course, there are times when the pen isn't mightier than the sword, so the UNN provides you with a peace- keeping force, which can be ordered anywhere in the world to put the squeeze on a potential aggressor, though it will take a week to get there. But you won't be top man for long if you garrison the troops in somebody's backyard for months on end!

In the field of high-tech tactics, you have six SDI defence satellites and three Big Bird 'eyes in the sky'. Shift the former around the globe to warn generals that their missile strikes may not reach their targets when a country gets out of line. The spy satellites let you keep tapped in on secret communications, and a well- placed one can cover more than one nation.

Finally, you'd do well to listen to the radio. No, not Mike Smith - eavesdrop on the military and the politicians to find out what they really think about each other ̶ and about you! One problem is that all messages are coded, but a bit of playing about to discover the correct sequence of the eight buttons on the cypher panel may unscramble them.

If you do your job properly everyone will co-exist in perfect harmony and flowers will grow and little fluffy bunnies will bounce in summer meadows... but if you don't the world will get blown to kingdom come!

Conventional conflicts are the first signs of things going wrong, and while they don't do too much to upset the power balance, they can soon lead to limited nuclear wars, and if the opponents have built up strong enough alliances, all sorts of unlikely partnerships can develop resulting in the biggest bang of your life.

For a game based on the brainbusting diplomacy of international relations, The Armageddon Man plays remarkably smoothly, thanks to the icons and menus.

The slick presentation extends to the packaging, which includes a fold-out map and stickers - invaluable to keep track on alliances and, if you're as bad at geography as I am, as a guide to positioning satellites. Unfortunately, there's an economic factor here that shouldn't puzzle a potential UNN leader - the map has forced the program's price up above the magical tenner.

There's also the question of the game's long term appeal, because as week follows week and your personal ratings are displayed, you may find that there's too little variety in your task. In fact, the whole affair could become as trying as watching children squabble amongst themselves, and you may just feel inclined to lie back and watch the animated display as they blow each other to kingdom come!

The slickest simulation of global geopolitics yet - and it's piggin' difficult too!

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Screenshot Text

The main screen with the satellite placement window opened. One of your first tasks ass UNN commander is to get your presence aloft, so that you can find out what's happening and set up SDI barriers. To move satellites you can either pick them up with the cursor arrow from the map, or click them back into the window.

Radio transmissions are spread across six wavebands, and each of the 16 members of the UNN is restricted to a single band. Using the automatic scanning device you can intercept any communication in the band, but it will be scrambled, requiring you to filter it. However, if you can locate a much-used frequency, you can tune in accurately for clear messages.