Fighter Planes & Submarines

Now that I can see everything going on in and around Europe, I need to set up my attacking capabilities. The second of the three buildings I need to build are Airstrips - these give you access to two different types of aeroplane. The first plane type is the Fighter, a quick craft that can only travel over short distances and is good for short spy runs as well as shooting down enemy bombers. Bombing planes are the second craft, these guys are slow but can travel long distances and deliver a rather hefty payload of a nuke. I quickly dot a few airfield buildings around Europe before moving on to the deploying the third, and most crucial, of all the building types.

Defcon My Experience Defcon My Experience
Defcon My Experience Defcon My Experience

The Silo buildings provide the money-shot in Defcon. At the start of each game you get the chance to build 7 nuclear silos. Not only do they stop other nukes from getting through to your cities (by shooting them down), but they also provide you with ten long-range nuclear missiles to fire at the enemy. Silos can only have two modes, defensive or attack. When in defensive mode, they shoot down the enemies nukes without giving away their location. However, once they go into attack mode, they are viewable by anyone in the world - the trade off of being able to launch nukes is that others can target your silo. Once the silos are dotted around Europe, I quickly turn to constructing my naval fleet - the clock is ticking, and once it hits DEFCON 3 I won't be able to build any more units.

The naval fleet consists of three different units, all with different abilities. Think of it as a rock-paper-scissors formula and you shouldn't go too far wrong. The first type of ship is the Battleship, the second is the Carrier and the third is the Submarine. The battleship is good for attacking and little else; it's most effective at killing carriers and planes. The carrier has two functions - it acts as a mobile airstrip, allowing the launch of a few fighters and bombers, and it is able to drop mines that blow up submerged submarines. Submarines have mid-range nuclear weapons and so act as mobile nuclear silos, able to get up close to the enemy all sneaky like, before launching the devastating nukes. The sub also has the handy ability to move unseen by the enemy, unless there is a carrier in the vicinity

Once everything is set up, Defcon hurtles forward with the war. The initial, early phases are usually a case of you trying to suss out where your enemy has its units. Of course, your own personal strategy is the crucial factor here. I tended to start by sending out a wave of fighters towards my enemy in an attempt to get an idea of where he has his radars and silos. Once I know where those buildings are I try to get my submarines in as close as possible – usually close to a coast line. Once I've got the subs in place, I launch my mid-range nukes at his silos and World War III commences.

Defcon My Experience Defcon My Experience
Defcon My Experience Defcon My Experience

When the nuke lands

Upon launching a nuclear bomb from either your subs or silos, the unit that launched it instantly becomes visible to everyone on the map. As a result, as soon as one nuke has been launched, things quickly spiral into chaos and nukes get launched all over the place. Here, again, is where tactics come into play. The clever player may try to entice his enemy to attacking silos that are well out of the way of your major city populations (you only get points for killing humans, not building emplacements). Then, once all of the opponent's nukes are expended, you go on the counter-attack, wiping out city after city until nobody is left alive. The way the game makes you use tactical foresight and strategic thinking is nothing short of majestic - it's almost certainly the best I've ever seen.

In fact, short of writing some kind of convoluted apocalyptic-novel about the experience of playing this game through, it is really difficult to explain why this game is actually so good. It sounds quite complicated, as if there is almost too much going on; but in actuality, the game never makes you feel overawed. It simply instils a sense of panic in you that at any moment your whole continent is about to be on the receiving end of a whole host of nuclear missiles, engulfed in radiation - and you'll be left with the blood of millions of anonymous faces on your hands.
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