Scenario: Theatre of War
for C64

Mr Creosote:
Company: Starbyte
Year: 1992
Genre: Action, Strategy
Theme: Multiplayer / War
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 7036
Review by Mr Creosote (2014-07-19)

Formally set in the time of the First World War, Scenario pits four powers against each other in the struggle for supremacy over the European continent. Each player starts off with one selected territory and a small army and from there, it's aggressive expansion – into neutral territories first, and then head-to-head against the active opponents.

The game actually does little to set itself in this particular war. The players can't take over any of the actual historical countries, let alone are those in some way accurately simulated with respects to their relative military or economic power, their political situation or anything along those lines. Rather, what we have here is an abstract wargame derived from Risk: dice rolls determining battles (which usually come down to superior numbers winning) and even the continent being divided into larger areas – corresponding to Risk's continents – which provide their owners with bonus resources if controlled completely.

Formerly neutral Europe is being divided by ruthless superpowers

Risk's mass appeal stems, as a major part, from its simplicity which makes it so easy to understand. Scenario, on the other hand, attemps to take advantage of the technical management capabilities of the host computer, making careful extensions to the concept. For instance, income is only based on province taxes as a first step. This money can then be invested in raw materials which can be mined in the owned provinces and then sold on the world market for varying prices. Money can then be invested into factories for one of three army types or the armies themselves, to be thrown on the battlefield as cannon fodder. Oh, wait, there are no cannons – just tanks, aircrafts and ships, proving once and for all that this game was never intended to be a specific WW1 game, that having been mostly an infantry and artillery war still.

There are some other things to put money into still. Raw material related activities can be optimised by surveying provinces for their abundance of coal, copper and iron. Fortresses can be built for better protection, local resistence groups can be funded to incite a revolution in a province and ships can be sent on overseas expeditions for even more profit. Though all of this is so expensive that it can really only be done in the later game, when it is not so important anymore anyway.

None of this makes Scenario overly complex. It's still a rather simple matter of pushing armies around on a static map and hope for some lucky dice rolls. Especially in the early game, because the usual avalanche effect applies: get a lucky start and it will be hard to stop you even if all other players join forces in a concerted effort – simply because more resources early on result in yet more resources and consequently more power to use against everyone.


Random events can still spoil the party, of course. Some are rather minor, like not being able mine a particular raw material for one turn. Other effects can be rather major, like the explosion of a factory – enough to break an empire's victory chances completely if it occurs in the early stages. As a welcome break from the rather abstract proceedings, some random events trigger short arcade-like scenes, like the factory sabotage shootout. Nothing spectacular, but nice.

The main thing, though, is: Even playing against friends, Scenario is a rather unspectacular and fairly dry affair overall. Between the number-heavy lists and prompts, there is hardly any room for dynamic tension building up, and the action is not nearly as polished, well-integrated and fun as, for example, North & South manages. The lightweight strategic level also just lacks a lot of refinement. Small things by themselves, but in sum, things get a little annoying over time. Like for example that the map lacks essential information (some of which you repeatedly have to dig out of submenus and other things, like the bonus region grouping, you cannot access at all in-game) and that some menu items lack feedback with regards to whether they worked or not (and why not) completely.

The small extensions to the trivial wargame model (Risk) don't break its inherent balance (apart from a couple of events maybe), but they also don't really add anything to the game. The raw material trading being the prime example: What is the point of adding a layer of indirection in the money generation (taxes --> raw materials --> money) when it becomes just another boring routine step which each player carries out in the same way every turn anyway? It's not game-breakingly boring, but also pointless. Which can be said in similar ways about most of the game elements; they feel tacked on rather than game-enhancing.

So can they be ignored? Can Scenario just be played as a basic version of Risk? Pretty much. Mining and production certainly have to be considered mandatory. If you fail at the action scenes, you're not losing anything compared to the state the game would be in if they didn't exist (i.e. you can win bonuses, but they are never essential). And if you just don't use the rest of the options, you'll still be fine. Which might not be the best sign if you're looking for a sound, interconnected game concept, but it's good as far as nothing obstructing the basic enjoyment level is concerned.

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