S&T Issues #’s 52, 54, 56, 58 & 59


The following short list of specific issues of S&T represents the third installment in my series of short descriptive reviews covering S&T magazine games that were published during what is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Age” of SPI: the 1970s and 80s. These are S&T insert games that did not make it — often for painfully obvious reasons — onto my “TOP 20 FAVORITES LIST.” Some of the early S&T titles featured in this particular post were well-received when they first appeared, either as simulations or as games, some were not. One of them, CONQUISTADOR — after being revised and expanded — was reissued by the Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC); while another, OIL WAR, served — at least partly — as the inspiration for 3W’s richly-detailed ARABIAN NIGHTMARE. The other three games in this collection, whether deservedly or not, have more or less faded into obscurity. Still, whether widely popular, or generally reviled, I believe that all of these games are interesting at least from one standpoint: their place, however fleeting, in the history of game design and development. I hope that you, my readers, agree with me.


11. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #52, OIL WAR

included a game of the same name and, like the other magazines in this series of posts, S&T #52 (Sep/Oct 1975) dates back to the “Golden Age” of SPI. This particular issue featured the following articles:

  • Oil War: American Intervention in the Persian Gulf, by Frank Davis
  • Island War: U.S. Amphibious Offensive Against Japan, 1942-1945, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: OIL WAR: American Intervention in the Persian Gulf, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • Briefings
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #52 Magazine Game: OIL WAR: American Intervention in the Persian Gulf, designed by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two-player operational (brigade/squadron) level simulation of a hypothetical attempt by the United States and its Allies to use military force to seize the oil-producing regions of the Middle East.

Based very loosely on the NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System, OIL WAR is really an odd little game. In spite of the simulation’s size and its bland, even simple graphics, its integrated air-ground mechanics of play actually work together surprisingly well. Unfortunately, the game just doesn’t seem to have much else going for it. Each game turn in OIL WAR is equal to two days of real time, and map hexes are thirty kilometers from side to side. Terrain effects are negligible (where did the rivers, marshes, and other notable terrain go?). OIL WAR is played in game turns; each game-turn begins with the American player turn, and then follows a set pattern of game operations: (American Player) Air Unit Basing Phase; Air Transport Point Allocation Phase; Supply Phase; Air Transport Phase; Movement Phase; Air Combat Phase; Ground Combat Phase; (Arab Player) Air Unit Basing Phase; Reinforcement Phase; Movement Phase; Air Combat Phase; and Ground Combat Phase.

Regrettably, because I didn’t play this title enough to develop any genuine expertise, I really can’t describe how the game actually holds up after repeated replays. Interestingly, in the games that I did play (virtually always as the Arabs, I should note) the US seemed to have a surprisingly awkward time of it. Still, I personally could never really develop any enthusiasm about this title; and after only a few play throughs, I never took OIL WAR out of its mailer again. Instead, I largely ignored games dealing with the Gulf Region until the appearance a few years later, first of Mark Herman’s much more detailed GULF STRIKE (1983, 1988 & 1990), and then of Jim Dunnigan’s and Austin Bay’s richly-textured treatment of Middle East conflict (both real and hypothetical), ARABIAN NIGHTMARE (1990-91).

In retrospect, I do have to admit that OIL WAR offers — given the events that have transpired in the Middle East over the last three decades — a trio of weirdly prophetic, hypothetical scenarios: the Arab-Israeli War Scenario; the Oil Embargo Scenario; and the Iran-Iraq War Scenario. Each of the game’s scenarios is eight game-turns long. There are no Optional Rules. A complete copy of OIL WAR includes the following components:

  • One 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Terrain Key, Combat Results Table, and Force Holding Boxes incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” set of OIL WAR Rules (with Scenario Set-Up Instructions) which is stapled into the text of the magazine

12. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #54, WESTWALL; Insert Game: DIXIE

In a break from SPI’s usual magazine format, this issue of S&T included a game on a completely different topic than that presented on the magazine cover. Content-wise, a copy of S&T #54 (Jan/Feb1976) featured the following articles:

  • Westwall: Four Battles for Germany, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Simulation: DIXIE: North vs. South in the 20th Century, by Redmond Simonsen
  • After Action Report: BLUE & GRAY II, by Joel Klein
  • After Action Report: Sinai, by Jim Dingeman
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • For Your Eyes Only, The Editors
  • Briefings
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #54 Magazine Game: DIXIE: North vs. South in the 20th Century, designed by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two-player operational level (brigade/division/corps) simulation of a hypothetical, alternate history, war between the independent Confederate States of America (the South) and the United States of America (the North). The underlying premise of the game is that, had the Confederacy won its independence in the American Civil War, then festering political, social, and economic conflicts between the North and South would finally have led to a full-blown war between the two American Republics in the 1930’s.

DIXIE is played in game turns composed of two symmetrical player turns preceded by an Initiative Determination Interphase. Each game turn is equal to 15 days of real time, and each map hex is approximately 70 kilometers from side to side. A player turn is composed of eight operational phases: the Administrative Point Level Determination Phase; the Replacement and Reinforcement Phase; the Unit Breakdown Phase; the Movement Phase; the Rail Movement Phase; the Unit Formation Phase; the Disruption Recovery Phase; and finally (we knew it had to be in there somewhere), the Combat Phase.

Curiously enough, in spite of the historical record of the American Civil War and the profound economic and social differences that divided the political cultures of North (industrial, urban-centered) and South (agricultural, rural-based), the opposing forces in DIXIE and their supporting “war-making” infrastructures are virtually identical. Moreover, for reasons known only to the designer, both sides begin the game with amazingly small (given the mobilization levels of the two belligerents during the Civil War) numbers of ground forces, and also (apparently) without either strategically relevant naval or air forces. The seemingly inevitable outcome of all this is that very little of any real interest actually happens in a typical game.

In so far as it matters at all, victory in the game depends on a player’s understanding of the proper use of the zone of control rules, the exploitation of any advantage in initiative, and the careful accumulation and proper use of administrative points (think BRPs). In this sense, I suppose that DIXIE is as much an economic game as it is a conflict simulation. Unfortunately, while this type of approach can work extremely well for a strategic simulation like THIRD REICH (1974), it fails miserably when it comes to this game.

DIXIE offers three make believe scenarios: Alternate World I: The War for Hemisphere Security, 1936; Alternate World II: The Property War, 1937; Alternate World III: The War for Access and Free Labor. DIXIE includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 17” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Track, Terrain Key, Administrative Point Track, Initiative Track, and Holding Boxes incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” map-fold set of Rules (with Scenario Instructions, Terrain Effects Chart, and Combat Results Tables incorporated)

13. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #56, REVOLT IN THE EAST

which also included a copy of the game of the same name. A copy of S&T #56 (May/Jun 1976) includes the following featured articles:

  • Revolt in the East: Warsaw Pact Rebellion in the 1970’s, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: REVOLT IN THE EAST: Warsaw Pact Rebellion in the 1970’s, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • FIREFIGHT, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Angola, by Jim Dingeman
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Briefings
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #56 Magazine Game: REVOLT IN THE EAST: Warsaw Pact Rebellion in the 1970’s, designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a corps/army level simulation of a hypothetical revolt of Warsaw Pact Nations against the Soviet Union sometime in the 1970’s. This two-player game examines the consequences of such a revolt, and the possible military reactions both of the U.S.S.R., and of NATO to such an eventuality.

The game mechanics that Dunnigan chose for REVOLT IN THE EAST are surprisingly simple, even pedestrian; in fact, one of my regular opponents liked to refer to this game as Dunnigan’s version of “whack a mole.” This, I suspect, is probably why this title is generally held in low esteem by most players. Nonetheless, REVOLT IN THE EAST, despite its dearth of operational detail, is still — in my view, at least — an enjoyable little game. For one thing, it is fast-playing; and for another, the randomness of the events dictated by the “Revolt Table” insures that no two matches ever develop along exactly the same lines. Chance, needless-to-say, plays a big role in this game, but this aspect of the design also makes it both enjoyable as a “beer and pretzels” game for experienced players, and a good candidate as an introductory title. Each game-turn in REVOLT IN THE EAST represents one week of real time, and each hex is fifty-six kilometers across. Individual turns follow a simple and very familiar (Igo-Ugo) pattern of player actions. In each game turn, the Warsaw Pact/NATO forces move first followed by the Soviets; in addition, the player actions for each game turn can be further broken down into the following phases: Warsaw Pact/NATO (WP/N) Revolt Phase; WP/N Reinforcement/Replacement Phase; WP/N Movement Phase; WP/N Combat Phase. The Soviet player turn is identical, except that there is no Revolt Phase.

REVOLT IN THE EAST offers four scenarios: the Standard “Revolt” Scenario; the Yugoslavian Revolution Scenario; the Czechoslovakia Resists, 1968 Scenario; and the Hungarian Revolt Scenario, Seven Days of Freedom, 1956. REVOLT IN THE EAST includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 16” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Terrain Key, Warsaw Pact Revolt Table, Combat Results Table, and Turn Record/Reinforcement Track incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8 ½” x 11” set of REVOLT IN THE Rules (with Scenario Instructions and Terrain Effects Chart) still stapled in magazine

14. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #58, CONQUISTADOR

when it was originally mailed, included a copy of a game of the same name. S&T #58 (Sep/Oct 1976) contains the following articles:

  • CONQUISTADOR! Pizarro and the Conquest of Peru, 1524-33, by Richard Berg
  • Simulation: CONQUISTADOR: The Age of Exploration, 1495-1600
  • SSN/ASW: Nuclear Submarines and Anti-Submarine Warfare, by Lou Dolinar
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors,/li>
  • Briefings
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #58 Magazine Game: CONQUISTADOR, designed by Richard Berg with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a solitaire, two or three player strategic/operational simulation of the exploration and conquest of the New World. Players represent one of the three great colonial powers during the age of exploration: Spain, France, or England. [Please note that the Avalon Hill version of the game adds Portugal as an additional colonial power and also more than doubles the number of game counters.] As might be expected, the goal of each player is to use his explorers, fleets, soldiers, missionaries, and colonists to establish control of territories in the Americas, for the purpose of accumulating more wealth, land, and prestige (actual discoveries) than his opponents by the end of the game. This competition, besides assuming the guise of exploration and colonization, will often result in direct combat between opposing players, both at sea and on land.

The game mechanics for CONQUISTADOR are reasonable, if somewhat involved; in addition, as seems typical of many of Richard Berg’s designs, the rules — although intuitively logical — are both a little murky and awkwardly organized. This means that, while seasoned players should have little difficulty understanding the various elements of the design platform, novice gamers will probably have to work a bit to really learn the game system. Each game turn is sequenced as follows: the Royal Council Phase (taxes are raised, random events occur and, based both on the players’ respective treasuries and on the capabilities of their individual monarchs, “player turn” order is determined for the balance of the game turn); the Initial Naval Phase (basically, eligible ships move from the Old World to the New or move from one location to another in the New World, and naval attrition losses are also determined); the Land Phase (most of the game’s real action takes place during this stage: discovery, colonization, combat between colonial powers, subjugation and/or extermination of Native Peoples, native revolts, looting, etc.); the Final Naval Phase (successful players sail whatever loot they have managed to acquire in the New World back to their European bases); and finally, the Maintenance Phase (players decide which fleets, armies, etc. they want to field in the coming game turn and pay for their maintenance).

CONQUISTADOR offers only two scenarios, each lasting 21 game turns: The Campaign Game (1495-1600); and The Solitaire Scenario, Spain in the New World. A complete game of CONQUISTADOR includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 32” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, various Combat Results Tables, Treasury Track, Build & Maintenance Chart, Terrain Key, and many other Events Tables too numerous to list)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (stapled into magazine)

15. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #59, THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER

like the other magazines in this series, came with a copy of a game with the same title. A copy of S&T #59 (Nov/Dec 1976) contains the following articles:

  • The Plot to Assassinate Hitler 1938-1944, by Virginia Mulholland
  • Simulation: THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • The Russo-Japanese War, by Sterling
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Briefings
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #59 Magazine Game: THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen, is an SPI Power Politics Game (like THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR and AFTER THE HOLOCAUST). Because of the unique nature of this game’s underlying premise, both the time (length of game turn) and the map (hex size) scales have been HIGHLY ABSTRACTED. This alone, takes a little getting used to on the part of the players. Nonetheless, reduced to its basics, this two-player game is a simulation of attempts by certain anti-NAZI members of the German hierarchy to assassinate Hitler and to seize control of the German Government. Hence, whatever its flaws, THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER offers players an interesting and unusual gaming experience.

At its core, Dunnigan’s “outside-the-box” design pits members of the Abwehr and their OKW and civilian co-conspirators against the Schutzstaffel (SS), Gestapo, and those members of the NAZI hierarchy committed to Hitler’s physical and political survival. The game’s mechanics are fairly straight forward. For starters, the largely empty hexagonal game map represents the territory of the Third Reich — along with a few small neutral regions — as variously-colored blocks of hexes, while key power centers (Foreign Office, Communications, various Faction Headquarters, etc.) are depicted as independent three-hex clusters. [Note that the game starts with 63 units to be placed, but only 62 starting hexes on the map are actually designated; this is a bit frustrating, I admit. On the other hand, there are several different solutions to this problem which have popped up in various quarters, and virtually all of them seem to work out equally well.] The game counters, for the most part, come in three basic types: information markers, event chits, and counters that represent the various (political, military, and civilian) historical actors who were (or who could have been) important to the ultimate outcome of a plot against Hitler and his NAZI lieutenants. Each game turn follows the familiar (Igo-Ugo) format and is composed of four segments: the Assignment Interphase; the Abwehr Player Turn; the SS Player Turn; and the requisite Game Turn Indication Interphase. Interestingly, the Abwehr player usually tends to devote the early turns to recruiting allies in preparation for the inevitable "coup" attempts against Hitler and company. When combat occurs, it takes the form of attacks (against adjacent units) conducted by the phasing player using the game’s abstract vision of political weapons (intimidation, interrogation, blackmail, murder, etc.); the object of these attacks, not surprisingly, is to displace or destroy opposing units. Somewhat unexpectedly, the game even includes zones of control (ZOCs); however, in THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, ZOCs really reflect the reach of a unit’s political influence rather than its purely military effect on adjacent hexes.

Unfortunately, this innovative game system, although fairly dripping with historical color, is nonetheless actually pretty thin in the “simulation” department. Thus, despite the fact that it includes, among its counters, both obscure and well-known historical characters (e.g., Bormann, Skorzeny, Yorck, Treskow, Rommel, Himmler, and Guderian, to name a few), it has still proven to be a bit too weird for the vast majority of players. This, in turn, has led to a situation in which, although there are a few experienced players who really like THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, a far larger number of gamers have made it abundantly clear, over the years, that they thoroughly detest the game; very few players seem to come down in the middle. All things considered, this is probably too bad. Taken on its own (admittedly unorthodox) terms, I personally don’t think that THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER is really all that terrible a game. Moreover, because of the randomness baked into the design (there are a slew of different “resolution” tables, and also lots of “chit” drawing and die rolling), it even plays reasonably well as a solitaire game. Also reassuring, at least to a grognard like me, is the fact that a player must still use a combination of traditional military-style tactics and shrewd (political) timing to win. Needless-to-say, a bit of good luck is very helpful, as well. To determine a final victor — which will usually require five to six hours of play — either Canaris’ Abwehr or Himmler’s SS will have to be completely destroyed by the other side. This seems reasonable enough: historically-speaking after all, the price of failure for the anti-Hitler conspirators was, with very few exceptions, immediate arrest and rapid execution. THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (which comes with all Game Tables, Game Charts, the Terrain Key, and the Turn Record Track incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” set of THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER Rules (with Set-Up Instructions) stapled into the magazine


As I noted previously, installments in this ongoing series of S&T descriptions, beginning with this one, will contain a more orderly and complete list of magazine issues than was featured in either Part I or Part II of this project. Where gaps in the numerical sequence of S&T issues do appear, readers should assume that I have probably already profiled the missing magazine game in a separate post. Moreover, because of the relative obscurity of several of the titles covered in this particular post, I have fleshed-out some of these profiles a little more than usual. That being said, I sincerely hope that my readers will find this expanded treatment of S&T magazine/game descriptions both interesting and useful; particularly, as I currently plan to add additional installments to this series of posts as time goes on.

Related Blog Posts

    A Subjective List of My Personal Picks of the Best S&T Magazine Insert Games Published during the 1970’s and 80’s


  • I have to say I really liked a couple of these games. I've always enjoyed Revolt in the East. It isn't complex and not overly deep but it is good beer and pretzels material and now that Eastern Europe is free serves as a bit of a time capsule.

    Conquistador was a great game, I think one of Berg's best. My brother and I put a lot of wear and tear on this title and there was a lot of scope for varying approaches to victory.

    Love your blog.

  • Greetings David:

    Thank you for your interest and for your comments; both are appreciated.

    So far as this batch of games is concerned, I have to agree with you: CONQUISTADOR is both very interesting (viewed strictly from a design standpoint) and surprisingly challenging considered purely as a contest between players. Like you, I also think that this is one of Berg's very best design efforts, ever.

    REVOLT IN THE EAST, I must confess, did not initially appeal to me. The simple game system and extremely bland graphics put me off this title for quite awhile. It was only when one of my regular opponents (as part of a "quid pro quo" arrangement) forced me to try this game, that I actually changed my mind about it. As you note, it isn't particularly deep (design-wise, at least), but it is fast-moving, unpredictable, and, more importantly, a lot of fun.

    Best Regards,Joe

  • I thought this was a great run of issues. I've played and enjoyed all of them immensely except Conquistador, which for some reason I never go around to playing. Even if Dixie and Plot to Assassinate Hitler were not well-received, I don't care - it shows how SPI was willing to experiment at the time. Not every experiment is a success, but every experiment has the germ of at least one good idea in it.

  • Greetings Itmurnau:

    I am inclined to agree with you when it comes to the much-maligned PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, but -- despite the fact that one of my friends liked Redmond's game -- I just could never bring myself to like DIXIE. For some reason, I found the game boring in terms of its play, and off-putting in terms of its concept.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • The failure of DIXIE was a big disappointment to me, back in the day, especially coming so soon after the very real success of WORLD WAR 1, a similar economic/military/political "puzzle" game. Perhaps having a historic basis saved WW1 from the fate of DIXIE.

    And I recall Jim Dunnigan saying that, if they had to do it over, THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER would have been done as a roleplaying game. I liked the boardgame version, but I do admit that the "hex" implementation did add an additional level of abstraction (ZOCs??) that distracted from the very tense and interesting internecine death match of the Abwehr vs. the Gestapo.

  • Greetings Again Eugene:

    Yes, I still remember my own disappointment when, after receiving S&T #54, I discovered that the insert game was "DIXIE" rather than a "Westwall" title. My disappointment was only compounded when I actually sat down and played Simonsen's game. In my view, the game could best be summed up with a single word: BORING.

    "THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER" was one of those games that, were it not for the badgering of my friends, I would probably never have even tried. In retrospect, the game certainly had its quirks; but you have to give Dunnigan credit for thinking "outside the box" when it came to this "Power Politics" title. Admittedly, it was not as enjoyable as "THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR," but it was vastly superior to Simonsen's "AFTER THE HOLOCAUST": a dystopian fantasy that -- in my opinion, at least -- was a terrible game on virtually every conceivable level.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Oh Wow,I enjoyed them all except Plot and that even has found some favor of late

  • Greetings Kim:

    Yes, "THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER" does take a little getting used to, but it grows on you. "CONQUISTADOR" is probably my favorite of these five titles, but "REVOLT IN THE EAST" turned out to be a nice little "beer and pretzels" game. For my own part, the only game in this batch that I could never bring myself to like, try as I might, was "DIXIE."

    Best Regards, Joe

  • This is a good series of articles, and I am enjoying your editorial take on the games as much (or more) than the straightforward descriptions. Might I suggest that you link to the previous articles as you continue this series? It would save your readers from having to hunt around through the directory for them.

    Just a suggestion - I'm enjoying this.

    John G. New, J.D., Ph.D.

  • Greetings John:

    Thanks for your kind words.
    Per your request I have added the hyperlinks you suggested at the bottom of each article to link the series of posts together. I hope this makes things easier.

    Thanks again and Best Regards,

  • Joe,

    I remember having a great deal of fun playing multiplayer Conquistador way back then. German banker was a fun role, you could win without much risk if you indulged in a bit of 'asset lending'. But only over about 3 - 4 plays, then the fun ran out.

    The problem with it was replayability - there was no randomness to the placement of gold, silver, strong indigenous presence, etc. The good agricultural doubled resource provinces would always be on the east coast of North America. Games always went the same way. The German banker always won, or if not playing with that the Spanish generally won, using the early advantage to grab all the best areas, unchallenged by nations/players able to borrow funds to invest in competition.

    Someone copied the concept later with random plug in hexagon shaped pieces for the terrain, and it apparently improved the replayability, but by then I was playing SSI's (?) Colonialism on my 386 computer and had lost interest.

  • Greetings IanR:

    I don't remember that many problems when it came to the game becoming stale; but then, I'm pretty sure that, as was our custom, my old group of regular gamers probably added a few "Home-brewed" rules to liven things up.

    On the whole though, this game along with 'THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR' were both popular multi-player SPI games with me and my small circle of friends for quite awhile.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Oil War got a bad rep because teh first scenario was very unbalanced. The second scenario could go either way-- we had a few good playings of that. Still, it wasn't the most memorable release.

    Sorry I didn't catch this series earlier I was a subscriber from 48 until 70 or so. Lots of memories.

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