Sometimes, the best computer entertainment comes in small packages. If you are one of those poor, unfortunate souls that has no idea what to do with your computer beyond typing a letter, checking e-mail, waiting for porn to download or, worst of all, playing that ridiculously idiotic solitaire game, you need to keep reading.

Playing Solitaire is hazardous to your health. It’s a well-known fact that for every minute you are playing with that binary manifestation of crack rock, you will age 20 years and increase your chances of dry mouth, anxiety, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, sudden paralysis or brain death. At the very least, you will suffer severe sexual side effects.

Any one of those reasons alone is enough to stay away from Solitaire. Odds are that your grandparents taught you how to play solitaire to keep you from playing with yourself. You need to recognize that you are way past those problems and Solitaire will not cure your boredom at school or at work or at your church/synagogue/mosque/cave.

The rationalization that people give themselves for playing the evil card game is that they can play a complete game in 15 minutes. Solitaire is perfect for a break. All this means is that you play Solitaire because you are ignorant of the alternatives, like Nuclear War.

Would you rather play a game with ancient glyphs of virtually identical competing aristocracies of a paternalistic, hierarchical, hegemonic, oppressive, racist and sexist nature or a game of historical ideologues turn megalomaniacs upon the acquisition of nukes and bombers? Would you rather play a game where the objective is to stabilize four oppressive regimes or a game where the objective is to destroy four megalomaniac world leaders before they destroy you?

Who is going to make you laugh, the Jack of Spades or Mao the Pun?

For that matter, who is more interesting to pick a fight with, the King of Clubs or Ronnie Raygun?

Put simply: Nuclear War is the best time waster ever made for the PC. A complete round of Nuclear War goes by quicker than Solitaire. It is just as easy to play and orders of magnitude more colorful and enjoyable. Nuclear War can fit on an ordinary high-density diskette and works on the entire range of PC based operating systems from the ancient DOS to the modern Windows 2000/XP. This article advocates nothing less than universal distribution of Nuclear War on every PC. It does not advocate the active elimination of Solitaire because the brutal hand of Darwinian natural selection needs no assistance.

Nuclear War was developed by Eric Hyman and published in 1989 by New World Computing. A 13 year-old game would not be worth mentioning if it’s gameplay did not stand the test of time. Like solitaire and dozens of others, a classic is a classic because of its simplicity.

The rules are simple. Each player starts out with five cities and is limited to one choice of action per turn. Among those actions are building weapons, dispensing propaganda, preparing a missile launch, deploying a missile defense or scrambling a bomber. Keeping your cities populated along as possible is the objective. You lose population by receiving nukes, flying heifers and propaganda, you increase population through dispensing propaganda or random mass defections/catapulted immigrants/space aliens. That’s it. It’s you against four crazy megalomaniacs. Mutually assured destruction in 10 minutes.

The game is not easy to win. After an opponent is exterminated into a nuclear wasteland, the remainder of usable weaponry is launched all at once at the remaining players. When it’s just you and one other computer opponent left, the chance of a Rocky vs. Apollo 12th round double knockout is somewhere around 95%. The political antics, caricatures and humor make nuclear war look deceptively childish. Like real international relations, most of the events occur at random and fall squarely into the realm of outrageous.

Because it’s a 13 year-old game that has clearly been abandoned by its original publisher, you’d expect to either not find it or come across it by some historical site with a niche in old software. It’s my personal belief that piracy does hurt innovation but selling a 13 year-old game for $15 is highway robbery. I won’t mention the name of the site that is running this rip-off and I won’t tell you how or where to get a copy … if I don’t personally know you or like you.

I will simply leave the criminal question answered like this: Don’t look in North America for Nuclear War. The company that owns the North American rights has not a single programmer, cannot provide technical support and cannot make any innovations or improvements to the 1989 version. The Nuclear War PC game is not a major focus of the company so your money would be going to a mighty expensive antique. As cool as Nuclear War is, it is not worth paying $15 for a disk in a crappy Ziploc bag.

One final hint: learn how to read the word “Download” in French.

Happy nuclear slugfest!

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