Uni & Her Nukulele: Us & Them: Cold War

By Kieron Gillen on March 18th, 2010 at 2:25 pm.

THE FEAR OF TOTAL ANNIHILATION! Ah, it’s so quaint now (Are you sure? – Ed). News reaches us of a turn-based, somewhat playful take on the material – it’s not exactly Balance Of Power. Us & Them: Cold War from Icehole has a hefty, time limited demo, so – especially since there’s not exactly many games like this – probably worth a look at it if you have an interest in this sort of area. Well, probably. The Borderline probably which we call “maybe”. The impressions that lead to that follow…

In short, somewhat disappointing. Though when this was a screenshot associated with the demo’s release…

…I’m not exactly sure how it could not be.

It’s not really that kind of funny. At least, consistently. It’s an Agent-based world-scale game, basically. You have a variety of agent types, which you place on the board, with the abilities acting on that country. So, for example, spies if placed on a friendly country counter-spy and spot enemy agents. If placed in an country on the other side, they get to – er – do other things, like form a spy network with other spies in other countries to give their bonuses a boost. Assassin’s off people. Political people increase the level of support towards your side, and lead political revolutions when the moment is right. Economics’ chaps boost money or fuck up money. And… oh, you get the idea. Agents are your -er – agents of change. Add to that a larger political modeling (countries are influenced by their neighbours), tech research (Bigger nukes, better spy gear, space race), random events and some splendid appearances of all our cold war favourites and that’s about it. It’s certainly a strategy game buried in here somewhere.

Thing is, after a half-hour or so of prodding, I’ve lost the interest to find it. The main issue is the UI. It’s an enormous issue, so much that I want to actually make a bigger font to make sure the point is made. Even moving your agents around is troublesome, but the biggest thing is simply that – when looking at the map – you have no idea which agents you have where. You can select a menu to list all the agents and their location… but you can’t click through on that menu to go to where they are. You have to remember where they are, go back to the map and then find them. Which, because there’s so many regions, does involve a little more geographic competence than I’m comfortable with. Mainly, having to dig for any crucial information to make your strategic decisions – especially when it’s a game where you have as many pieces in play as you do – is a killer for interest. This reaches an apex when, due to its turn-based system, you just start each turn with a big long list of everything the other side has done. Financial attack in Columbia? Great. What does that mean, in actual hard terms. How much has it hurt me? If you’re going to interupt me to tell me about this attack, how about actually telling me the numbers to save me having to go and find out myself. I’m not going to kill the messenger of bad news. Or maybe I will, if he just carries it that badly.

Still – it’s a five hour limited demo, so there’s plenty of time for you to discover whether the accessibility bothers you enough. I suspect for me, the detail will lose me anyway. The oddest thing in the time I spent with it was when my Spy went to work in Russia. I’m playing communist, and give him the order to try and arrest and capitalist big-dog spy. I fail, and find my agent arrested for failure. Not in a “I’ve been arrested as a failure of the state” way, but because the game gives a chance of success or failure on every action – and actual failure can lead to arrest or death of the agent. Getting arrested when going to arrest someone in your own home country makes me scratch my own head.

Anyway – demo here and you can buy it for 14.95 Euros from their site. Oh – and this is the footage which Icehole give for the game…

Which makes me feel perfectly justified in linking to this…

That remains a brilliant HAH! Also ultra-pugilistic.

(Er… the title was going to be Unilateral Disarmament & Her Nukulele, but there was no bloody chance of that fitting in. And is a reference to the hyper-sacharine joys of…)

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28 Comments »

  1. Jesus says:

    If you’re interested in Cold War theme, I recommend Twilight Struggle board game, much much better.

  2. 12kill4 says:

    The idle thumbs podcast collective recently we discussing their desire for ‘Coldwar: TotalWar’ (yes both I and they recognized the contradictory title) and it seems like ever since I’ve been seeing this type of game pop up on my radar… Unfortunately it looks like we will keep on wanting.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      COLD WAR: TOTAL WAR would be a brilliant title.

      KG

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      If it had the option of invading Czechoslovakia and overthrowing the post-1968 govt, I’d be totally sold… (and sneakily executing a few (dozens, hundreds..) agents of the Secret State Police…)
      Boy, I can dream…

    • 12kill4 says:

      It has a colon and makes less sense with each reading… That does seem to fit the criteria of a marketting department all too well. If we only we could throw in a number or two (roman numerals are good…), maybe some reference to a conspiritorial project- and some kind of reference to another popular game so that mothers mistake our game for itthe game might just get made on the basis of it’s title’s commercial viability.

      Look out for ‘Cold War: Total Modern War: Project Defrost- Classic 2000′ in a marketting department’s wet dream near you.

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      I’d add “World of” just to be safe…

    • A-Scale says:

      KG the guys on the Giant Bombcast already made that joke three or four weeks ago.

  3. 12kill4 says:

    Accidentally quoting yourself instead of correcting a typo is so very unbecoming…

  4. Malibu Stacey says:

    Sounds a lot like Republic: The Revolution with a bigger map (and a similarly terrible UI).
    Or Evil Genius with all the awesome parts removed.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Poor old Republic, it was such a wonderful concept, its a shame its just so damn ugly, that UI was painful.

  5. jarvoll says:

    COLD WAR: TOTAL WAR.

    DO WANT.

    • Kanamit says:

      Rise of Nations: Gold had a good Cold War scenario.

      I remember winning as the Soviets by invading just enough of the West to be able to nuke them without them being able to wipe me out with their nuclear arsenal.

  6. blaine says:

    If placed in an country on the other side, they get to – er – do other things, like form a spy network with other spies in other countries to give their bonuses a boost. Assassin’s off people.

    Hey guys! Lets stick an apostrophe up Kieron’s as’s!

  7. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I guess it’s a good emulation of the Cold War. Down to the fact know one really knew what was going on.

    Tried the demo… and spot on, Kieron. Possible nice concept, but needs to go back the the drawing board.

  8. Tom OBedlam says:

    What a strange game etc.

  9. matt says:

    I’ll second Twilight Struggle, it’s simply an amazing game that hits on all the historic notes and their cause and effect while being digestible and fun. one of the best boardgames to come out in a long while. Any of you Risk land grab types with an interest in coldwar history really need to get out and buy it.

  10. DollarOfReactivity says:

    KG, how you went from “Us & Them: Cold War” to “Uni & Ukulele”. . . . Your mind works in mysterious ways, apparently mostly fueled by pop songs. Catchy tune, though.

    To bad on the UI, it reminds me of the problems I have with Civ games, when there is an event and I want to find a city or unit and spend 5 min cycling through everything to find it, then forget why I was looking. This seems worse since that’s the crux of the gameplay.

    Games like Total War or Space Empires V seem to understand how we want to use a news feed a bit better.

  11. Pepe says:

    Very funny and strange game!

  12. fishyjoes says:

    I’m starring at Uni & Ukulele :O

  13. Svenska says:

    Speaking of Balance of Power, does anyone know if/where I can get a free version for the mac?

    I have seen sites that take me to the guy who made it’s page, but once there I can’t find it anywhere.

    Thanks for any help

  14. TinyPirate says:

    Speak of the devil, Uni is playing tomorrow, in Wellington, NZ, in the botanic gardens. Neato!

  15. PoorInfantry says:

    Well, while I have to agree with the OP about the UI and the dated visuals, I myself found it quite intriguing after a couple of hours of playing. Perhaps because of my past as a leftie, I particularly enjoyed setting up a chain of succesful revolutions throughout Latin America, where I used Che Guevara to wreak havoc (he seems quite powerful, dunno if the capitalists have something to counter this). Felt good to see the red star over most of the continent! Venceremos!
    Oh, and I enjoyed the gadgets research screen also, some of the descriptions are simply hilarious.

  16. destroy.all.monsters says:

    Hey gents, any thoughts on Flotilla? It looks mighty nice.

    Currently downloading the RUSE beta.

    • Heliocentric says:

      Woah there you off topic sonoddabich! Flotilla has some real gui issues with wrestling control of the camera off you with every single action. But its very clever.

    • robrob says:

      @Heliocentric

      That was fixed a few patches back. The update schedule has been pretty aggressive with new patches every couple of days. The new hardcore mode extends its life a bit but it is really something to play in short bursts. But yes, it is lovely.

    • Heliocentric says:

      Did the demo get patched? The interface is a big deal in a strategy game, i kind of want to see the implementation before i drop benjemins.

  17. Real Horrorshow says:

    This makes me really want World in Conflict 2.

    Oh wait, it would have Ubisoft’s hideous DRM. Nevermind….

  18. pjnlsn says:

    Yeah, I liked the principle of it when i heard….but It looked kind’ve cheap