Cardinal of the Kremlin logo

The wall has fallen. Democracy has swept into the East and the World is becoming a far safer place to be in. But behind the public handshakes and smiles the Cold War is still going on. The Bear and the Eagle never sleep.

The USA is still developing its Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) but the Russians are closing fast. 'Bright Star' is a Soviet laser defence system to rival SDI. It's proceeding apace and only you can stop it. You're in control of the SDI project, which encompasses everything from hiring and firing the staff to arranging for enemy scientists to be 'liquidated'. It's not an easy job.

Star wars
The majority of the game is mouse or joystick run and you control everything from a main menu. Sub-menus take you to the detail and the whole thing works smoothly, simply and well. It needs to because it runs in real time and you'll have to make some quick decisions about where to place your spies, assigning people to top jobs and conducting naughty espionage in the USSR.

Bar graphs display everything from team efficiencies to the danger your operatives in the field are in. Slowly, as you manage your people, the SDI project comes together and (hopefully) Bright Star runs into big US-initiated hassle.

The knowledge of your team increases as you test all the latest devices. You must determine how well the devices worked and what changes need implementing. Then you get some bods in to carry the changes out, chew the asses of those who've failed and keep the project rolling. This is simultaneous plate-spinning and juggling territory.

Dealing with the FBI and CIA spooks requires a deft touch. They jump at shadows and just love to open fire. But their intelligence is vital if you're to trip up the Russians. They also look after your own security. Leaks cost lives, and worse, make the President look bad in front of the camera.

You can talk to the Russians, and even negotiate with them (the flesh creeps...), but the game really hinges on how you play your two trump cards. One is the Archer. This is an elite Afghani rebel who is fighting for his homeland (which he's since had back, incidentally).

"Bright Star" is close to the Afghani border, so a stray missile might perhaps be launched. You actually get to do this in a little arcade sub-section fought on a map of Afghanistan. You control Archer's troops with the keyboard (mouse or joystick strangely aren't allowed). When he moves close enough to the Bright Star complex you simply hit the attack key and he should do the rest.

The Empire strikes back
Then there's the central character. Te Cardinal. He's a Red Army Colonel but luckily for you he's also an American spy. Believe what he tells you because it'll be vital to whether you win or lose.

The game is based on the 1987 Tom Clancy novel of the same name, but the atmosphere Clancy imbues in his books with is sadly not repeated here. What we have is possibly the ultimate management sim. The detail (all lifted from the impressively accurate book) goes some way to instilling the feeling of Superpowers on a knife-edge, but it's mainly a case of compromise and learn, until experience tells you what settings to select and who to hire. The arcade sequence doesn't help much because it's restricted by memory and is too simple in presentation.

The Cardinal Of The Kremlin is nicely put together. It's pleasant to use but still complex and taxing. However, the Cold War is being forgotten, and this is one management game that already feels out of date.

Cardinal of the Kremlin: Explanation user interface
  1. The laser research team. Watch for your egg-heads burning out (due to hard work), and make sure they don't blab about their jobs.
  2. The laser testing team. These guys try the lasers out (what on exactly isn't specified). They also write the software (and the odd virus when they're bored).
  3. The CIA. The spoks look after your 'overseas interests'. They all wear shades and have large armpit-bulges. So whatever you do never annoy the CIA.
  4. The FBI. The FBI look after the security of your project. If there are any leaks or defections then it's the FBI who should get it in the neck. If you can find them, that is.

Sieg ohne Krieg

Cardinal of the Kremlin logo

Der kalte Krieg mag offiziell ja beendet sein, aber einen alten Falken wie Tom Glancy stört das wenig. Kein Wunder, wenn auch in der jüngsten Versoftung einer seiner Romanvorlagen wieder die Toen den Schwarzen Peter hähen.

Handelte z.B. "Hunt for Red October" noch tief unter dem Meeresspiegel (wo man U-Boote halt findet), so geht es jetzt hoch hinaus.

In diesem Solo-Strategical soll der Spieler mittels SDI den Ausbruch des dritten Weltkriegs verhindern. Dazu muß an der Leistung der Satelliten gebastelt werden, auch die benötigte Software und das Zielsystem harren der Verfeinerung.

Darüber hinaus darf man sich als Spion oder Diplomat versuchen, allerlei Kram in die Umlaufbahn schießen mit dem Präsidenten plaudern oder einen Rambo-Verschnitt namens Archer auf die Gegenseite loslassen. Bei alledem hat man nicht nur mit den bösen, bösen Kommunisten, sondern auch mit der unerbittlich verinnernden Zeit zu kämpfen.

Von der Präsentation her wird eine erfrischende Abwechslung zu den üblichen Achteck-Verschiebenreien geboten: hübsche (teilweise sogar animierte) Grafik, wenig aber gute Sound, sehr übersichtliche Menüs und zoombare Karten.

Auch die Maussteuerung geht voll in Ordnung, und daß jede Option eine eigen Help-Funktion hat, ist mindestens so erfreulich, wie die abspeicherbare Highscoreliste für dieses Genre ungewöhnlich ist. Lediglich die eingestreuten Actionsequenzen, insbesonders die Auto-Hatz, sind ziemlich daneben - sowohl was die Optik, als auch was die Handhabung (Tastatur) betrifft.

Insgesamt aber eine sehr spannende Angelegenheit! (mm)

Cardinal of the Kremlin logo

Tom Clancy's thriller comes in from the cold and onto the Amiga.

When a new game base don one of Tom Clancy's techno-thriller novels landed on my desk I expected to be thrown head first into a sea of three letter abbreviations, military jargon and worryingly plausible conspiracy theories. And - would you believe it? - I was right.

Not that any of that's a bad thing, however - it certainly helps build up the Cold War atmosphere a treat. Here is a game which - the assumed grovelling respect for all things military aside - successfully and excitingly allows us to (as Clancy puts it in the manual) 'participate in events beyond our daily life'. In particular, events surrounding the development of a working SDI system by the US military, with the help of the CIA, under the protection of the FBI, and in competition with the KGB. (With me so far?).

Of course, this is all milk and honey to Clancy fans,who love nothing better than to gorge themselves on politics, corruption and the secrets of the powerful.

As head of the Central Intelligence Agency (there's no messing about in this game!) and chief of the so-called Star Wars project, you must control the development and defence of your own missile-destroying satellite laser system while undermining the Soviets' project. At your disposal are scientists, soldiers, spies and satellites which you must deploy around the world.

Each area of your influence is represented by a button on screen (there are ten) which you use to hire, fire and generally delegate. For example, to start with you'll need to choose your most trustworthy programmer to head your computer department, checking how smart, and how reliable, the candidates are on a series of easy-to-read meters. It's all fairly simple click and select strategy stuff, and though there are plenty of tasks to undertake, it does have a tendancy to become rather tedious after a few hours - a bit like attempting all your ironing in one go.

Of course, it's not as simple as that. For a start, you'll have to watch out for employees burning out (or getting themselves kidnapped!) and take steps to prevent it or correct things once it's happened, while at the same time keeping in touch with your spies and events further afield.

Your main concern is to get some of your own lasers into space before the Soviets can complete their development program - something you achieve by a) getting your stuff finished as fast as possible and b) doing your best to hamper the Soviet project by sending a commando operative against them.

Unfortunately, this potentially most exciting bit turns out to be something of a disaster - you're thrust from a reasonably captivating strategy game into a two dimensional seek out and destroy sequence of masterful banality, and it mucks things up a treat. It would not look amiss in an infant school programming class. (It's amazing how much the programmers think they can get away with...)

It's a shame, because as strategy games go The Cardinal of the Kremlin is busy and believable without being overly complex. The manual is simple and direct, and it takes no time at all to get playing. For the most part it is a graphically acceptable and smooth (if rather uninspiring) ride, but ultimately you're left with a feeling that the various tasks don't seem to connect awfully well.

Generally then, a weak attempt to transfer Clancy's slightly dubious (but undeniably readable) works to silicon. For fans the best bet must still be Grandslam's The Hunt for Red October, which succeeds where this game fails - in mixing good strategy with exciting action without hurting either.

Cardinal of the Kremlin logo CU Amiga screen star

Anyone who has read a Tom Clancy novel will be aware of the author's obsession with the Cold War. It comes as no surprise, then, to discover that the latest Clancy book t be converted into a computer game involves the two Superpowers in a race against time to develop the first laser missile system.

Cardinal of the Kremlin is Clancy's third novel to make it onto the home computer, following in the tracks of Grandslam's The Hunt for Red October and MicroProse's Red Storm Rising. The complex strategy simulation begins with a US spy satellite report that the Soviets are building a sophisticated laser defense system close to their border with Afghanistan. Although the project is still in its infancy, it represents a powerful threat to the balance of power and world peace. With the approval of the US President, it's up to you to hinder or disable the Soviet project while overseeing and coordinating the United States own defence programme.

To win the game, you'll need to delay the Soviet programme long enough for US technology to catch up and deploy a fully functioning laser defence system of its own. It's not as easy as it sounds; however, as there are a myriad number of tasks to be completed before such a system can be put in place. An experienced development team needs to be recruited and a vast number of laboratory and field tests carried out. As well as all this, a network of CIA agents have to be assigned to the Soviet project to leak information back to your scientists and the FBI called in to set up security at your own research and development labs.

Once you've received a briefing from the US President, you're on your own. The first thing to do is to recruit department heads for each of the three main areas of 'Star Wars' research: Power, Software and Targeting. There are five eligible candidates for each department, so their past records have to be carefully vetted before a choice is made. Once the departments are up and running, you'll then have to call in the FBI to enforce security. This can range from very lax to oppressive - the higher the security level the less chance of secrets being leaked or the KGB kidnapping a department head. However, if it's set too high, the scientists will become disheartened and their work rate will drop. This will also happen if you push the scientists too hard - there's only so many hours in a day and if you ask too much of them, their productivity rate will dwindle and the department head will suffer 'burnout' and have to be replaced.

Each department needs to conduct a number of experiments before its work is complete. After each test, the working knowledge of each department is suitably expanded. For later tests you'll need to deploy a number of satellites into orbit. It's important not to test when the Soviets are showing an interest in the project, indicated by a small bar on the screen, as they'll learn most of your technological secrets.

While testing is in progress, your CIA operatives will be in the field trying to infiltrate the Soviet project and gather information. You have a total of nine agents at your disposal, each of whom has their own personal dossier. From time to time, it will become necessary to withdraw them from active service if the KGB are showing too much interest in their activities. The more agents you assign to each of the Soviet research areas, the more info the agents will collect and the greater the disruption to the Soviet project.

While all this subversive activity is going on, both Superpowers are busy trashing out an arms limitation treaty. To help stall the Soviets, if they look like they're ahead in the game, it's wise to push an arms treaty. This will delay the Soviets, giving you time to catch them up. If you're ahead, then it's best to press on regardless.

Another valuable resource is The Archer, a hardened Afghanistan freedom fighter, who is kept supplied with arms by the CIA. He can be ordered to attack the Soviet's Bright Star project, thus rendering the plant inoperable for a set time. Attack too early, and the Soviets will be able to rebuild fairly quickly; but if you wait too long, you could be too late to stop their defence system from being deployed. Unfortunately, The Archer is only human so you can only use him once.

Cardinal of the Kremlin is a very complex and involved game. There's rarely a moment with nothing to do - surely one of the litmus tests of a good strategy game. The main screen, The Strategic Control Centre, gives access to all the other sub-screens with the information presented in the forms of icons, graphs and neatly presented reports. The graphics are as polished as Virgin's top-rated Supremacy, and the game is equally as straightforward to play. When testing a program or launching a satellite, special animation sequences show you the results.

Even better, the strategy elements of the game are broken up by interactive arcade sequences. These take the form of a car chase when attempting to rescue kidnapped department heads from KGB operatives or a shoot 'em up attack on the Bright Star Complex. The graphics here would not look out of place on a Spectrum, but help to inject a bit of fun into the proceedings.

Capstone have come up with a top-notch strategy, which is both engrossing and topical. The scenario might seem a little dated, what with the dismantling of the Iron Curtain, the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, but the game is nonetheless a finely crafted simulation.


As well as being fabulously rich and successful author, Clancy is also a die-hard computer games fanatic. It's little wonder that three of his books have been turned into computer games with more to come! Indeed, Clancy's first novel, Red Storm Rising, took its inspiration from Mirrorsoft's Harpoon. Strategy games are definitely Clancy's favourite games and, to illustrate the man's obvious good taste, he also has a two-year subscription to CU Amiga.