If there's one unifying line I'd draw between today's release of Precipice and studio Little Red Dog's earlier Deep Sixed, it would be stress. While fighting proxy wars and dodging nuclear annihilation is a different breed of stress than piloting the universe's worst spaceship, it still makes for a tense time. Precipice is a two player board game-ish Cold War strategy game, with world leaders replaced with adorable animals. If David Attenborough has taught me anything, it's that they're are never more than a second from tearing each other's throats out. See a trailer and a dev walkthrough below.
The animals slightly soften the edge of what looks like an otherwise deadly serious game. Playing as either USA or USSR, you've got to secure allies, claim territory and extend your influence, ideally while avoiding any kind of direct conflict. There's a whole lot of positioning agents and trying to sway governments, played out in short turns. In the developer video below, just three minutes of plotting are allowed before you pass the baton on to your rival superpower.
As with their previous Deep Sixed, the game has a friendly and accessible look that belies a cold, hard interior. Nuclear war is a mutual loss state, but many actions - especially ones that can earn you points towards your victory - push both players closer to the edge. There are a few projects that can earn you points without knocking over countries (such as the space race) but they're optional bonus investments rather than a sure path to victory.
Being a game of hiding things from your opponent, multiplayer is online only, although I would have liked to see a hotseat option. Of course, there's always the worry that you haven't hidden your pieces and moves from the enemy, but there's a lot to be said for committing to a move with a smug grin to put a rival on edge. Or get yourself an elbow in the ribs, depending on who you're playing with. Still, there's AI to play against if you can't rustle up a Ruskie to pair with your Yank.
Precipice is out now on Steam for £7.43/€7.99/$9.59.