There are some games that are shitty, and you know they’re shitty games, but play them anyway because you’re never sure how they will turn out. Nuclear War from Flying Buffalo, is that shitty game; you will either hate it or love it, depending on who you play with and the amount of alcohol involved. This game has been kicking around for what seems 50 years, and sort of like some B-movies, there is a large cult following. I’m not going to say that I’ve never had fun playing this, but I will say that I’m not sure I wouldn’t have had as much fun doing anything else at the time, up to and including watching crickets being eaten by a toad. Actually, crickets being eaten by the descendant of an Elder God is pretty cool.
The basic premise of the game is that you’re the chief, dictator, or theocratic ruler of a nuclear-age country who is about to get embroiled in the Last War. This is accomplished by playing warhead cards paired with delivery cards, targeting a rival and wiping out their population. In addition to this, there’s some special cards which do things like steal population from others’ countries through propaganda. To put it plainly, this is a very simple game. What it brings to the table is the ability to play a game with five or six drunk people, and have a good time, potentially. More if you have a copier and can copy the player mats.
The things that make this game kind of weaksauce are that it is infinitely random, because you have no control over what hands you’ve been given, so you may end up in a situation where you just don’t have a viable attack. Now, there’s ample negotiation, or rather pleading and bluffing, but in the end, if you’re stuck with all kinds of cards that don’t work together, the only missile you’ll have in your hand is the one that God put between your legs. It’s maddening when it happens, and it happens not often enough to make you want to burn the game, but often enough to have you consider that option.
The bright spots in the game, amidst a sea of meh, are few and far between but they do exist. My favorite part of the game is the “death blossom” when a player is destroyed. They literally launch all their remaining missiles at random enemies, essentially delivering a final “fuck you” in their death throes. I’ve seen so much chaos ensue from someone getting hit with one, then dying, which sets off another fusillade, and so on. This cascading effect around the table is always good for a choking, breathless, drunken laughing fit.
The other bright spot is the negotiation. You can freely ally, break alliances, make deals, or whatever you wish, and I usually keep some pencils and a pack of post-it notes at the table. It’s a pure joy to “mad mug” one player, then grab the notepad, write “hey, go suck a bag of diseased dicks”, and give it to a different player. They laugh, you laugh harder, and the guy who you just wrote the note to invariably gets attacked by the player you were staring hard at, thinking you two are in cahoots. This really is where the “game” is at, because if you play it straight and just treat it like a war game, you’re going to be bored.
The last bright spot is the art, and it’s hit or miss, depending on which edition you have. I dropped a few extra bucks on the color edition, and the cards really bring things to life. I like the old 1960’s style Atlas missiles and whatnot, but it’s a matter of taste, to be sure. I can see you either loving or hating it, depending on what kind of art style you fancy, but for me, I really like it. It’s very cold-war looking.
The long and short here, and yes, this is a very short review because this is a very light game, is that your enjoyment will come from a few factors wholly unrelated to the game: your level of intoxication, and the people you’re playing with. If you’ve got a good buzz and your “field of give a fucks is wholly barren”, and your friends are a rowdy lot, then you’re probably going to be fine with it once in a while as a filler/party game. If any of those conditions aren’t met, you’ll probably despise the whole experience. With us, it is very hit and miss, and I wouldn’t recommend spending a penny on it unless you’ve played it before and enjoyed it, or you can get it for 10$ in an auction or something.
Why Nuclear War Is A Nuclear Blast:
– When it works, it’s a really raucous, fun time
– The art is very “1960’s throwback,” and I rather like it
– It’s very fast-playing and supports a large crowd
– You literally kill off as many as thirty million people a round, ideally the dumb ones
– Pleading and negotiation are the highlights
Why The Fridge Was Nuked:
– It’s just too damned random, which is saying a lot when I say it
– The art is old-school, and depending on which edition you get, that can be bad or good
– It’s just straight-up dumb, and there’s not a lot of game in the box
Like I said, this game is pretty much hit-and-miss depending on who you play with, and you really need at least two shots of some nice bourbon in each player in order to get in the right state of mind to play. I’d call the game silly, but it’s really just stupid, but it can be fun if you go into it knowing that it’s all about being a dick to the best of your ability, and making little side deals which you know you’re going to break at some point. I don’t really recommend the game, because it’s just too random for my tastes, and also, it’s pretty iffy.
Learn more about Nuclear War at the Flying Buffalo site here: http://www.flyingbuffalo.com/
If you can believe it, there’s actually (totally coincidental) a Kickstarter here that just ended last week: