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Posted on Oct 9, 2008 in Electronic Games

Supreme Ruler 2020 – PC Game Review

By Jim Cobb

Mouse tips are very informative and help play, especially when explaining the icons on the numerous action screens. Small rings indicate where facilities can be built and colored brackets delineate units. All these feature aid players and players need all the aid they can get because the documentation doesn’t cover enough.

A Large Forest and No Bread Crumbs
Supreme Ruler 2020 was meant to be a deep, complex game. An 82-page manual, 10 tutorials, many tips at the start of the game and two walk-throughs should have given players what they need to understand. Such is not the case. Sure, most basic concepts and mechanics are touched on but players can be confused. Much of the blame can be laid on sloppy manual writing that uses terms like “countries”, “regions” and “areas” interchangeably. Key concepts such as World Trade are explained misleadingly; the manual intimates that the player can place items directly on the world market when, in fact, only ministers can do that, leaving players to trade with specific countries. The mechanics for multi-play are completely absent. Playing this game is hard enough; learning the mechanics shouldn’t be even harder.


Countries come with several flavors of government that can affect factors such as productivity. Players can soften these effects by choosing a conservative, moderate or liberal stance. The key to running the county lies in the eight departments such as land, financial, state, and defense. Each department has as many as seven sub-departments showing information and action choices. Six of the sub-departments have ministers who can be given goals and priorities, relieving the players of a tremendous amount of micro-management. Conversely, ministers can be fired or locked out of decision making. Communication with ministers is through the info panel and a slick e-mail system.

Players have the usual number of production, social, military and financial duties and choices; two deserve more than a passing mention. Financial decisions include raising or lowering taxes on eight different societal classes, prioritizing spending and floating bonds. Decisions come from detailed panels. State functions include making treaties and trades. Players are required to analyze each relevant country to check their strength, stability and resource situations. Diplomatic and trade offers are selected and a bar shows chances of success. Sometimes, a bit of financial sugar helps a treaty go down easily. Any of these departments could be a game in itself; managing all of them requires a high level of player interest and dedication. Some aspects such as the tech tree are simpler than some other games but play demands much shifting of gears.

The race really begins when playing one of the fifteen solitaire scenarios or six campaigns. Scenarios are a joy to play even for beginners. Victory conditions are clearly stated as either military in nature or unification votes. Given the short timeframes, players can concentrate on just a few departments and let long-range matters alone. The domestic situation can be handled quickly at the beginning, allowing concentration on foreign and military affairs. Choice of country determines how easy a win can be. The AI isn’t altogether stupid and will take advantage of weaknesses. These scenarios can be enjoyed in an afternoon or evening.

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