Conflicts 1 is a compilation of three games - Falklands '82, Theatre Europe and Battle of Britain. There's no point in my giving full reviews of them - they all been reviewed in CRASH (Issue 27/April 86, Issue 30/July 86, Issue 37/February 87 respectively). But let's put the collection in perspective. Is it worth paying the price of one new wargame for three old ones?
The lead track is Theatre Europe, one of the few wargames which have been conspicuous commercial successes; it's famous for its 'stand'.
Most wargames take a neutral view of their own ethics, despite the disclaimers that some companies publish in their rulebooks. Theatre Europe is a long-view representation of a war in Europe between NATO and the Warsaw Pact - you know, the sort that could happen tomorrow afternoon - which shows how quickly even limited use of nuclear weapons could lead to total devastation.
Commendable as this is, it means the game balances on a knife edge between statement and playability.
Still, Theatre Europe is a very playable and horribly fascinating. It's a combox game, involving the movement of tiny units across a crowded map of Europe and the spending of resource points, and even has an appalling arcade sequence in the familiar PSS style.
The idea is to survive till the Americans arrive if you're NATO or to take over West Germany if you're the Warsaw Pact. Nuking enemy cities, or subjecting them to chemical attack, runs down the other side's supplies, but retaliation is inevitable. After provocation you'll probably find yourself on the receiving end of Fireplan Warm Puppy, which is Theatre Europe terminology for the complete destruction of Western civilisation.
The game has a few impressive atmospheric touches, like the ironically dispassionate Warcomp computer which checks your authorisation for launching chemical or nuclear strikes. Not many wargames can claim to be ironic.
All computer wargamers should have a go at this experience. It's hardly a long-term project, despite its three difficult levels, but in some ways it's inspired.
Battle Of Britain is almost new on the Spectrum, but it's been around longer on other machines. Stylistically it looks very similar to Theatre Europe, with a combox, tiny little units and an arcade sequence, but the gameplay is very different. It's a realtime simulation of the Battle Of Britain in 1941, when the Luftwaffe tried to storm the south of England and the RAF fought them off.
You can choose from a quick (and too easy) blitzkrieg game, an introductory training level, and a campaign game which takes place over 30 days, like the real battle. This lasts several hours, and must be a test of endurance.
A choice of speeds varies the difficulty, and the gameplay is a test of reactions and quick thinking. There's no time to do any strategic planning - it becomes a fast-moving, rather addictive puzzle. The programming is professional and the arcade sequence is marginally lass awful than the one in Theatre Europe, though it has a time cutoff and so is no more than a trimming.
Falklands '82 is the turkey of the compilation. This was unfavourably reviewed, and caused comment on the morality, or tact, of bringing out a wargame based on such a recent conflict. But whatever your views on the ethics, Falklands '82 is not a good wargame. Its orders system is clumsy and frustrating, its graphics are peculiarly weedy, and it's far too easy.
Conflicts 1 comes complete with its own rulebook: a cut-down, concise version of the original manuals. Sadly all historical and atmospheric material has been removed - but if you don't have any of the games, Conflicts 1 gives fairly good value for money.