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(This review is being conducted based on the Author's copy, purchased in 2000. Author has tried to describe and assess the product without violation of copyright and in as honest a manner as possible.)
Mid-East Peace is a wargame produced by Columbia Games Inc. The premise behind the game is a fictional conflict between the major powers of the middle east in the late eighties and early nineties. It's obvious by the cover art on the box that the game tries not to take itself too seriously. The game can support up to six players, ideally play should not be conducted with any less than four players.
The contents of the game were less than stellar at the time of purchase, but they all function as they are intended to by the producer of the game. Included is a small rulebook, a playing map and a few counter sheets. I'll go over these individually. The rulebook itself is pretty clear about what you need to know to play the game. However, the material quality of the rulebook I recieved was sub-par. The print quality was very poor, so much so that in some spots a few words were unreadable. The rulebook itself came disassembled as pile of pages that I had to stack correctly and fold over, then staple. The playing map is a sturdy card stock and is actually pretty well made. It's very colorful and very clearly printed. My one complaint here is that the map is entirely too small. In what is clearly meant to be a six player game, the entire map becomes crowded with counters, and makes playing with the optional "Chrome" rules more of a hassle than a pleasure.
The counters aren't too bad. Every counter in the game is a singular rectangle shape. Six sets of armies are available. An army being represented by a nation's flag with a white arrow superimposed over it and a number (army strength) printed on the flag. Each nation gets eleven army counters of varying strengths. One army counter is left blank to act as a replacement for missing pieces. The rest of the counters serve as game components. Oil Markers, Bloc Markers, UN markers, etc. My only complaint here is the Oil Markers. The value of the oil markers should be more clearly printed on the counter, as of right now it's a rather small number, and considering all Oil Markers look the same, it's sometimes difficult to tell them apart.
The gameplay is fairly straitforward but surprisingly deep. Players begin by choosing a home nation (out of the eleven available) and place their starting armies. Each nation is marked with a numerical value. This value tells how much oil the nation produces every turn, as well as how many armies and oil markers that it's owning player starts with. This makes certain nations into suicidal choices as a starting point. Players picking Libya, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon take note especially.
Oil Markers are the currency of the game. Players can collect these every turn if they so choose, and must use them to attack, defend, cut deals and purchase new armies. Oil Markers are stored in a 'bank' that all players use for spending or buying. The level of Oil Markers in the 'bank' constantly increases and decreases during a game, and there are dire consequences if it gets depleted.
Gameplay is seperated into three Phases, and players may only use two of the three phases in a turn, and only in a certain order. Each phase has a different advantage, and players need to be very careful when planning their turn to ensure that they are able to accomplish their goals with the phases they have chosen. Each player gets one turn made up of two phases of their choice before the end of a round.
It is only during certain phases that a player can collect oil markers, attack other countries or buy new armies. In the Economic Phase a player can collect oil markers. In the Military phase a player can remove armies, move them into friendly territories or attack other players. The Diplomatic phase allows players to set up an arms auction, in which players bid for the right to buy armies. The highest bidder being the only player allowed to purchase armies at their bid price. Additionally during the Diplomatic phase, players may ally themselves with a superpower or call for a U.N. resolution. These resolutions can be anything, from calling on U.N. peacekeepers to occpy a region to sanctioning another player, to ending the game. Each player gets a certain number of votes based on the number of territories they control and casts these votes either in support or opposition of a U.N. resolution.
The real strength of the game and one of it's best features is the hugely open diplomacy aspect. Players are free to negotiate at the end of every round. This negotiation system functions very much like the one in the Avalon Hill game, Diplomacy. Players can create alliances, pay each other for favors or make virtually any other kind of arrangement.
One other aspect that I like is bluffing during combat. A player can announce an attack or defense with any number of armies, but secretly decides on how many actually attack or defend by selecting a number of oil markers equal to or less than the number of armies they want to activate. Players attacking and defending reveal their committed oil markers at the same time and if the attacking player has committed more than the defender (and only more than..) then the attack succeeds, if not then it fails. It's an elegant system that allows players to bluff each other into spending oil unnecessarily. Players need to be especially careful with their spending as to avoid losing territory because they are out of Oil Markers to defend with.
As mentioned, U.N. peacekeepers can be deployed to territories if a player can get the other players to accept the vote. a U.N. peacekeeping counter essentially prevents anyone from moving into or attacking the territory it is stationed in. This is a very powerful token in the game, and the player or players who control the U.N. will find this to be a valueable asset.
Superpower alliances are an interesting feature, but I and those that have played the game with me believe that the superpowers can slow the game down or lead to a less enjoyable experience. Players can ally with a superpower (either "Red" or "Blue" respectively representing The Soviet Union and The United States.) in the diplomatic phase. There are some restrictions that this brings to the game. Nations allied to the same superpower cannot attack each other. Additionally players who are allied with a superpower gain the benefit of being able to request a free unit for their starting territory. The effect of this is that the superpower force effectively doubles the value of every defending army. This can and has led to huge stalemates and irritating slows down the game in my experience. These negatives can be avoided, but with the tendency for players to go for the win rather than the fun, it's easily abused.
Victory can be achieved in two primary ways. Through 'War' or 'Peace'. Depending on how the game ends, scoring is tallied differently for each player. More aggressive players will be punished after a Peace victory, but would be rewarded under a War victory. There are four possible ways to end the game this way. One of them is a U.N. vote that ends the game, another is if one player defeats all of the other players, and if any player reduces to oil marker 'bank' to zero.
The game has some noticable flaws, most notably in the quality of the components (which can be easily addressed), but also in rule clarity and gameplay testing. I dont regret purchasing this game as it makes for a quicker experience than games like Axis & Allies or ASL. However, the game hasn't really won me over in the way that other games have. If it were reworked a little I imagine that I'd review and rate the game a little higher.
Thank You for Your review. I am just now thinking about a buy...