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Subject: Time to release your inner Slim Pickens rss

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Brian Morris
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One of the great iconic images in film history is the scene in the 1964 film Doctor Strangelove where B-52 pilot Major T.J. Kong played by Slim Pickens rides a nuclear bomb down to oblivion all the while whooping and hollering like he was riding a bucking bronco. The film and scene is a classic. While I do not personally know for sure I half suspect that that film was some form of inspiration for this classic game which was released the following year. At the very least it is reflective of that style of humor at that point during the cold war.

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Game Summery:

Nuclear War is a filler type card game created in 1965 that simulates exactly what it's title says. Two to Six players tossing thermonuclear weapons at each other until one nation is left standing...or no nation for that matter. The game can play from 2 to 6 players although 4+ is truly best. Play time is fairly short at about 30-45 minutes although some games as a result of retaliation can be amazingly brutal and short.

Board Game: Nuclear War


Game Mechanics:

The game begins with players dealing out population in the form of cards. Each card contains a listed number of population points ranging from 1,000,000 to 25,000,000. Most games players will get around 10 of these cards with how many people you have being kept secret from other players.

One the population has been dealt players receive 9 cards for basic game play. Players use these cards to basically wipe out their opponent's population through propaganda or blowing them up.

The players choose two cards from their hand and place them face down in front of them. These are the two cards the player will play in the first two turns of the game. They can either use propaganda cards or go right for the nukes. The game begins with all players at peace with each other which means propaganda cards are in play. If a player plays a propaganda card that card can be used to take population from an enemy for yourself. These cards range from 2 million to 25 million people.

If a player has poor propaganda cards or feels that stealing population cards is morally wrong they can instead go right to the nuclear option...literally. In that case the player would place a delivery system and a nuclear warhead as their first two cards.

Board Game: Nuclear War


One thing to remember in this game is to nuke your opponent you need two things. You need a warhead and a way to get it to your opponent. Thus a player must first place and turn up a delivery system. This will likely be a missile or bomber (the game has a lot of different delivery systems. Especially if you get the expansions). On the player's subsequent turn they would flip over a warhead. Once fired and if the targeted player can not intercept the missile the nuke hits pay dirt and the player spins a spinner to determine if the warhard was a dud or maybe even did triple damage. The biggest warhead in the game by the way is 100 megatons. If you do triple damage with that whopper you literally crack the earth open like an egg destroying the planet and everyone dies i.e. loses.

Board Game: Nuclear War


Other cards or I have a secret:

Nuclear War isn't all about nukes, although it is mostly. Aside from propaganda, nukes and missiles players can also have spies and secrets. Secrets are special cards that player's draw and then declare that they have. Other players can then choose to steal that secret using a spy, which is another card a player can have. Secrets run the gambit in terms of what they do. They could do massive damage to you or they could do massive damage to your opponent. Stealing a secret is always a risky thing to do.

Time for total retaliation:

One fun little game mechanic in Nuclear War is called final retaliation. If a player loses all his population (expect through propaganda) they get one chance for revenge. They may now fire off every nuke in their hand (they must still have a way to deliver it) at the remaining players. If they manage to eliminate another player that player also gets retaliation and so on. This retaliation can daisy chain resulting in complete annihilation of all other players. Thus nobody wins and the earth is left a radioactive cinder floating in space.

Board Game: Nuclear War


Expansions:

As one can imagine with a game that is 45 years old it has had a few expansions. There have been variations on these three over the years but when you get down to brass tacks there really are just three. Those expansions are Nuclear Escalation, Nuclear Proliferation and Weapons of Mass Destruction. All three of these games basically provide updated missiles, bombers and special cards that update the original game. For example in the original you have Titan missiles and B-70 bombers while in the expansions you'll get things like the B-1, MX Missile, cruise missile, submarine and even the space shuttle. Each expansion has about 100 new cards and you can mix and match them together and even play the three expansions together without the original as they're all designed to play separate or mixed together.

Summery:

If you are looking for a filler card game that takes about 30 minutes and you like a good dark humor game then this would be a good choice. The game plays fast and furious and we use to play about 2 games in an hour with my old gaming group. Look at it this way as well. How many games from the mid 60s are there still sitting on the shelf of your FLGS? Not many. The fact that this game is still selling 45 years after it's debut and 20 years after the cold war ended I think speaks volumes about what a fun little game this is.

I rate this game an 8
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Eric Phillips
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The time I played it, one of the guys at the table got dealt a population of 10 or 15 million people along with event cards that immediately caused all of them to emigrate. He was out of the game before he even had the chance to take a turn.
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Brian Morris
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I've played this game well over 100 times over the years and I've seen several times people literally eliminated on turn 1 from horrific luck.

I use to play this with a group of friends and we played together for a number of years and knew each other well. One game one of the guys took several wicked hits and still seemed to have a pretty high number of population cards. So the other three of us started pounding him. It was basically three on one. We finally killed him after a long time but it turned out he had been dealt ALL of the 25 million population cards and his smallest population card was 10,000,000. He basically had as much population as the other three players combined. He figured he would lay back and not do much damage to anyone and let the three of us kill each other. His mistake was cashing in his 25,000.000 cards first so his stack wasn't going down fast.

The fun thing about any game you play a lot is you can see some really weird stuff happen.
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I have the first two expansions, but recently reverted to just the original deck because I was finding the game was taking too long for the nuclear fun that it's supposed to be.

Besides, with just the original game, it's more kitschy!
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My only gripe with the game is the spinner that comes with the game and tends to stick to the cardboard. I have seen some interesting modifications to this (home made spinners, dice etc.) What would be the best type of die to modify for Nuclear War: a 20 sided perhaps?
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Devon Harmon
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Doesn't the spinner also have dice charts at the bottom? One for use with 2d6, the other for percentile dice, if I recall correctly.

Edit: You can see it in this image, but you can't really read it:
Board Game: Nuclear War
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Mike Jones
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Yes, the newer ones have a chart below it.

I really haven't experienced a problem with the spinner except my metal one.

I'd say part of the fun is if you are going to get taken out quickly or not. I think it's worse to get taken out of the game during the 'first round of real' play then in the Top Secret/Secret round. At least in the Top Secret Round you get to have some fun blowing people up.
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I believe I have one of the original editions that I got back in the mid 60s. It came in a black box and the population cards were basic yellow stock, the poulation cards are very worn now. I still have my copy of it. It gave me countless games with two of my old friends Skip and Charlie. My son took to the game. Its not many games were I lose 2 million people in a nuclear attack and reply "chickenfeed".
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Truly one of the great "silly" games of all time. I just played a session of this last week at the local gaming emporium. Took about a half hour, if that, and in the end everyone died. Another successful cinder.

And, I have to ask, is or is not this the game that ultimately inspired "Killer Bunnies?"
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Nice Job !

I have a friend who talks fondly of this game,
now with your great review I may just have to pick a copy up!!
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Devon Harmon
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So I dug out my copy and took a look at the chart for dice results. I'll try and reproduce it here and hope I get the formatting correct:

2D10 2D6 Result
00-04 2 Missle booster explodes on launch
05-09 3 Dud Warhead (no effect)
10-22 4 Bomb Shelters Save 2 Million
23-35 5 Additional 1 million engulfed in fireball
36-49 6 No appreicable radiation fallout
7 Roll again
50-63 8 Radioactive fallout kills another 2 million
64-76 9 Radioactive Beta Rays Kill another 5 million
77-89 10 Lethal doses of Gamma Rays Kill another 10 million
90-94 11 Dirty Bomb! Double the Yield
95-99 12 Explodes a Nuclear Stockpile! Triple Yield

Note: If the 100 megaton bomb explodes a nuclear stockpile, a super chain reaction starts which destroys all countries, the Earth itself and the entire solar system. Everybody lost.
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MisterG wrote:
Truly one of the great "silly" games of all time.
Nuclear War is not at all a silly game. It is dark, one of the darker games out there. It cloaks itself with a veneer of comic illustrations, but the game is really brutal. Nuclear War brings it home just how horrifying and ultimately futile nuclear war actually is. That the game frequently ends with all players losing is not an overlook of design, nor is it when a player wins, he says something like, "I only lost 37 million people killed! 18 million left, woohoo I won and now I control the world!"

Quote:
And, I have to ask, is or is not this the game that ultimately inspired "Killer Bunnies?"
No.
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You're over thinking it. It's a silly game of dark humor. If you want to read a huge moral panorama around it that's fine but it's still a silly fun card game.

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In my career it was cool to work with full scale blueprints of our stockpile, including the largest bomber-deliverable weapon. It was my job to analyze the nuclear test data and quantify many performance measures of the devices.

"When it absolutely, positively, has to be destroyed overnight..."
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this is one of my all time favorite games

and as an owner, I go first (in the rules) I actually nuked the world with a first round attack
100 megaton warhead
Stealth Bomber (later release in an expansion)

and spun triple yield world is destroyed!!


I have several custom cards I've made, and a few countries just for fun ...
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I know it's a bit of a necro, but I played this for the first time in a couple of years on Saturday. I ended up winning a 5 player game. The MX missile combined with a 200 megaton warhead is a BEAST of a weapon. I fired off 15 shots before I ran into a dud roll on the dice. I spread the wealth around my 4 opponents, and wiped one out completely. The others were weakened sufficiently that they didn't last more than three additional rounds. Also, the guy I wiped out only had one warhead he could use. Luckily, he rolled poorly on the dice and ended up with a dud. It definitely got hairy for me when I lost 27 million of my population thanks to a triple yield missile that usually only kills 9 million. I was down to my last 2,000,000 at one point, but ended up with 7,000,000. Great game.
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How does "Nuclear War" combine with the other three? Can you combine any of the other expansions together, or can they only be each combined with the original Nuclear War?
 
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JimHackerMP wrote:
How does "Nuclear War" combine with the other three? Can you combine any of the other expansions together, or can they only be each combined with the original Nuclear War?
They all combine together using the same basic rules. (except there are some cards in WMD that are played with a die roll instead of a card flip when not playing that set as stand alone). Also, you don't NEED to start with the Nuclear War set.
 
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JimHackerMP wrote:
How does "Nuclear War" combine with the other three? Can you combine any of the other expansions together, or can they only be each combined with the original Nuclear War?
They can all be played with any other expansion, by themselves, or all combined. The base game and all three of the main expansions can be a bit hit-or-miss though. This is because with all of the decks combined, it is entirely possible for one or more players to either have all warheads and no delivery systems or vice-versa and therefore be unable to attack someone else.

Just my 2 .

-M_R
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