Michael B. Williams
Requirements: Atari home computer with 48K, joystick required; Apple II +, IIc, IIe with 48K, joystick optional; Commodore 64, joystick required; IBM PC/PCjr with 128K.
Gulf Strike is a demanding computer war-game simulation in which you compete for territory in and around the Persian Gulf and the country of Iran. One player is allied with the U.S.-Iranian forces, while the other commands the Soviet-Iraqi forces. You may play against another person or the computer.
The balance of victory in Gulf Strike depends on how many of the 21 victory point squares (actually key cities in the Middle East) are controlled by each player. At the onset of the war, the U.S.-Iranian forces control all 21 point squares. Within the game's 25 turns, the Soviet-Iraqi player must capture 9 of these victory point squares to be declared victorious; the U.S.-Iranian player must retain at least 13 victory point squares to win the game.
Once the winning side is determined, the game calculates the magnitude of victory. This value equals the number of enemy hit points eliminated plus bonus points (for the Soviet-Iraqi player, based on how fast he or she overtakes the 9 victory point squares, and for the U.S.-Iranian player, based on the number of victory point squares that the Soviet-Iraqi player failed to win).
The playing area is represented as a map extending west to east from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to the eastern border of Iran and north to south from the Caspian Sea to the north coast of the Persian Gulf—an area covering 784 square kilometers. The onscreen map scrolls in eight directions and shows the location of all ground, air, and naval units. The map also shows the type of terrain in each square kilometer. True to the actual terrain, the map shows deserts, towns, swamps, rivers, and mountains.
Each turn represents two days of realtime and consists of three distinct phases: ground/naval movement, air movement and combat, and ground/naval combat. During the ground/naval movement phase, the players take turns changing and moving their ground and naval forces into strategic positions, taking into account the various types of terrain. During the air movement and combat phase, each player forms an air mission to strike at ground and naval units. The third phase is the resolution of ground combat by the computer.
Each type of unit has a separate type of display which describes its current status. For example, a ground status window indicates the unit's formation (one of 6 possibilities); the number of movement and hit points remaining for the unit; its nationality, size, and type (one of 13); and its combat values (how much damage it can inflict on the ground, in the air, or on or beneath the sea). The air and naval status windows are similar, but tailored for airplanes and ships.
Gulf Strike does not attempt to portray the details of combat on the screen. Instead, it relays information regarding the success and failure of combat through a status window at the bottom of the screen, and by simple sound effects. With the exception of the IBM version, there is no way to turn off the sound when you tire of it (of course, if you are using a Commodore 64, you can simply turn down the volume on your monitor).
Each phase in Gulf Strike moves slowly. Scrolling through the vast playing area is a slow process, so it takes considerable time to probe the abilities of your units. A full 25-turn game will certainly take hours to play. For this reason, Avalon Hill has included a save-game feature.
As with most entertainment software, the temptation is to dive right into the program with only a glance at the manual. With Gulf Strike, this is impossible. The game requires a thorough knowledge of how to play before you begin. Since the game does not occur in realtime, however, you have plenty of time to read the manual between turns, as you play the game. Even if you choose to learn as you go, you will probably want to read the entire manual at some point, in order to understand fully what is going on.
The 43-page manual is necessarily complex and includes an index for quick reference. It states that the clarity of the rules has been verified by Software Testers of Universal Microcomputer Programmers (STUMP) and deemed complete by them in all facets of instruction. Nonetheless, the high level of difficulty of the rules is likely to deter some new war-gamers completely, and may even hamper some seasoned gamers. Be forewarned: Gulf Strike is neither a simple nor a simple minded game. Playing well requires a thorough understanding of all the rules.
The IBM PC/PCjr version of Gulf Strike offers several advanced features and is played entirely with keyboard commands. This version includes the additional commands Help, Identify, Go to a city, and Magnify map. All of the expansions and modifications for IBM are detailed in an addendum to the manual. The Commodore, Atari, and Apple II versions allow the entire game to be played by joystick.
Gulf Strike is not a game to be mastered easily and, for this reason, it is recommended only for experienced war-gamers. The game itself is devoid of polish or glitter, but offers a wide range of features. Dedicated players may appreciate the fact that very few events are determined automatically by the computer. If you're the type of strategist who enjoys taking complete control of the action, Gulf Strike is well worth your consideration.
The Avalon Hill Game Company
4517 Harford Road
Baltimore, Maryland 21214
All versions $30.00