The teletype chatters happily... "Warcomp on line"... The war computer's talking to you... "Civilian casualties will be minimised where possible. Thank you for your attention"... The date may be tomorrow, although I hope not! Warsaw Pact conventional forces have attacked western Europe from Denmark to Italy.
The player can take either these or the NATO forces opposing them, with the object of winning the war without blowing up the world. At his disposal lie the tactical use of gas on the battlefield, a deep airborne strike against the enemy rear supplies, and strategic rockets capable of destroying cities. Any one used too early, or in the wrong place, may trigger a massive nuclear exchange which will destroy Europe forever.
The Spectrum version of Theatre Europe, last year's "strategy game of the year", is now out. The graphics are a bit flawed this version, but still a nuclear airburst over a city isn't meant to look pretty.
For those who can't take ever World War Three seriously, the program has a built-in option of "action screens" allowing the player to shoot down aircraft and destroy tanks in true arcade style as part of the battles.
I hated it, but non-wargaming friends thought it was the best part of the game. For the rest, the player controls land operations in Europe at Corps and Army levels, and has some realistic decisions to take about how to deploy his airpower, and the moment when he must decide to go nuclear.
In this version of a future war the Pact forces are virtually unstoppable by conventional means, perhaps unrealistically so.
The ability of the Romanians to drive through Yugoslavia to northern Italy in ten days raised a few eyebrows, as did the American tendency to attack the Swiss Army for no apparent reason.
The game also includes the use of strategic chemical rockets for gas attacks on cities, which neither side actually has and a reflex launch-on-warning system which we hope neither side will use.
On my best effort with the NATO forces I finally halted the Pact drive just west of Paris. Three European cities had been reduced to radioactive rubble. West Germany had been devastated. In thirty days nearly as many people had died in Europe as in the whole of World War Two. It was a victory.