Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Return of Supremacy

When I was at university, when the Cold War was winding up and the smell of perestroika was in the air, a friend and I went looking for a board game to play on Oxford Street in London. In the end, we bought two, Imperium Romanum II, by West End Games, which I still have but think I've only played the once, and Supremacy. This latter went on to dominate much of our board gaming over the next six or seven years.

Supremacy feels like it has grown out of Risk, but is a much more sophisticated animal. Each player takes one of six global powers - e.g. USA, European Union, China, Soviet Union. There are also South American and African factions. There is a strong economic component in this game - players manage corporations which produce minerals, oil and grain, which they can either sell to the market or use to power the expansion and movement of their own armed forces (moving a fleet one space takes one oil, for example).

Supremacy forces you to focus on the size of your armies, as players have to pay maintenance fees to keep their units in the field, a similar mechanic to Blood Royale. I've seen players forced to resort to issuing bonds to continue to maintain their sprawling forces.

The market in Supremacy was a great mechanic, as it provided a major source of income, if you could time your sales correctly. If a commodity was very cheap, it could be obtained to power your war machine, but conversely, if expensive, there was a temptation to off-load commodities from warehouses to make a quick buck.

Each player committed to only three actions per turn from an extensive list, and buying or selling in the market was one of these. Moving troops and fighting constituted other actions. Hence, if you were committed to a war for too long, such as I was once in South America, you could end up neglecting your economy.

The other interesting aspect was the capability to develop nuclear weapons. There was a nuclear winter rule - once 12 nukes were used in anger, the game ended in nuclear winter, and everyone lost. Things start without WMDs and it is shocking how fast nuclear weapons proliferate, followed by the infamous L-stars (a satellite defence system against nuclear weapons, although this could also to used to provide an additional intelligence edge to conventional forces). Nuclear forces added an additional dimension to the game, as did the deployment of boomers (nuclear-armed submarines) which could move around the board in secret mode.

A nuclear missile goes off in Kazakhstan as China invades Siberia.

Hours of fun. Expansion packs included submarines and land-based bombers, spies, saboteurs, biological and chemical weapons, and options for warlords. These latter were the neutral forces that occupied the grey zones in between the major powers, and could vary substantially in strength. They acted partly as an obstacle for overseas expansion, but could also be buffed up with weapons sales if you needed them as an ally.

I recall my controversial decision to sell chemical weapons to Saudi Arabia in order to stop Africa from getting into the Middle East. The African player was pulling his hair out, as Saudi already had five army corps, making it an expensive proposition as he started massing troops in Egypt. The weapons deal made the whole Saudi project that bit more costly for him and in the end he shelved his invasion plan.

We played this game extensively between about 1990 and 1998. In the end, we ran out of time and people available to commit a whole day to the thing. I sold my 50% share in the game to my friend, who then moved to the north of England. I've since tried to see if second hand copies were available for sale, but sadly it looks like gamers hang onto this one. It was one of my favourite games to play in the 1990s.

The big news is that Command Post games has announced they are re-launching the game as Supremacy 2020, taking into consideration feedback from the large and loyal player base. Expected publication date is the end of this year. I am supremely excited about this, even though the likely price tag will be close to £100. Whether I ever get to play it is an open question, but like Ogre GEV, at least I'll have a copy of it.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to play this one day but I suspect I lack the time and brainpower for it!