Balance of Power Game Mechanics

Balance of PowerBalance of Power is a Cold War politics simulator.  You play as either the USA or USSR and try to sway countries to your side while keeping your enemy out, gaining prestige for yourself while keeping theirs low.  The game centers around crises, where you or your opponent does something, like sending troops to Cuba, that the other disagrees with.  Tensions are raised, and whoever backs down loses prestige, but if no one backs down, nuclear war is ignited and the world ends.

Balance of Power has a a wonderful system, though, that I haven’t seen in really any other games, and it’s sad, because it’s really great.  In Balance of Power, you play by sending troops or money to other powers, or by making various levels of treaties or trade agreements with other nations.  What I really enjoy is the ability to send troops or money, though, because not only can you send military aid and troops to the government, but you can also send it to the country’s insurgents*, who are fighting against the government.

If the country is prosperous and secure, the insurgents are unlikely to make any progress, but in an unstable region, your support to the insurgents can topple a government who hates you and replace it with one more friendly to your interests.  (Conversely, your opponent can do the same thing, causing you endless frustration.)  It’s a feature I like because it makes diplomacy more dynamic.

I really love the game Rome II: Total War, but one thing I dislike is that you can only negotiate with the government of each nation, which never changes, and never forgives and forgets, either.  It would be much more interesting if it were possible to support one prince against another in a monarchy as the current king gets older, sending him money and troops, and helping him claim the throne, turning a former enemy into a new ally.  Why can’t I, as Sparta, support the oligarchs against democrats in other city-states?  It’s extremely easy for a single early war to make it impractical to ever make up with another power, and it’s annoying that I can’t back an opposing party so that when they come into power, they shift their nation’s policy to one more favorable to me.  Sure, it would be frustrating to have decades of partnership ended because some moron prince came to power, but that’s what happens.  It would create a far more dynamic, immersive, and realistic world.

It would also provide a use for obsolete equipment.  In strategy games with a tech tree, it’s common to end up with a bunch of obsolete equipment from a few rungs below the ladder that don’t really do anything anymore.  It’d be nice to be able to send it out to friendly governments and insurgents in enemy nations to help them out and extend your sphere of influence.

Oftentimes in Rome II, I end up with armies full of low-level troops, like hastati, that I don’t want to just get rid of, because hey, soldiers may come in useful someday, but just sit around taking up maintenance costs.  Wouldn’t it be great to be a mercenary king?  You could select an army to be offered as a mercenary force, which other powers could offer to hire.  They would pay for maintenance costs, and then you could arrange payment per turn, per victory/battle, and per city captured.

Once that was set up, you’d retain control of the army, but it would be treated as one of theirs in all other ways.  Once they were happy with your work, they’d end the contract.  It’d be a nice way to get some extra cash without starting new wars, and I like the thought of a small, poor nation just sending out mercenaries like they’re Hesse-Kasel to help support the state.  Hell, even if my soldiers just served as mercenary police and helped him improve order, it would still be great to use your soldiers as mercenaries.

If you’ve never played Balance of Power, well, it’s kind of hard to find.  It’s abandonware at this point, so you can find it, but you’ll probably need DOSBox and a Windows 3 emulator.  Maybe I’ll do a screenshot Let’s Play of it someday, because it is extremely fun, if short.  I would absolutely love an updated remake with more turns and a more detailed economy.  Honestly, I’m surprised someone hasn’t done it yet.

*Balance of Power is extremely realistic and detailed, so you can look up each country’s insurgents and find real groups like the Mujahedin in Afghanistan.  Humorously enough, the USA’s insurgents are the Republicans.

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One Response to Balance of Power Game Mechanics

  1. Pingback: Condottieri in Europa Universalis IV | John Kutensky

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