Nuclear War



Nuclear War copyright 1965 by Douglas Malewicki. Nuclear Escalation and Nuclear Proliferation copyright Flying Buffalo Inc. These postal rules by Richard Smith 1998 based on Keith Dowsett's which were based on those originally appearing in Shadows of Amber.

NUCLEAR WAR is a game for two to eight players. Each player represents a "major world power" and attempts to gain world domination through the strategic use of propaganda techniques or nuclear weapons. The last player remaining in the game claims victory only if he has at least one million of his own population remaining. Thus, there may not be a winner in the Nuclear Warn game... just losers!

The postal game can be played with cards from NUCLEAR WAR, NUCLEAR ESCALATION and NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION. The Variable Pig game has cards from the first two - a combination that has worked well in the past. Rules for Nuclear Proliferation cards are marked (P). It is recommended that there is no trading, and no "special powers" and that secrets which cause players to miss turns are removed. By necessity, the order of play is mostly simultaneous in the postal version, and some of the cards work slightly differently.

Postal Play Summary

The starting population of each country is determined by shuffling and dealing the small POPULATION CARDS. The number of cards dealt is as follows:

# of players 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
# of population cards each 20 15 12 10 9 8 7

In the Variable Pig game, each player will always have at least one 25 million card to avoid an excessively early exit.

Each postal player is then dealt a hand of 10 Nuclear War cards. This initial hand may not contain a SECRET or TOP SECRET. Details of the cards dealt and population are sent to each player secretly.

On the first turn, each player must come up with an amusing name for their country and also MUST submit press complaining about the very small size of their population. On the first round, each player must specify his first face up card, and 2 face down cards.

Play continues thereafter as follows (note that details of many of the cards are given later):

Secrets and Top Secrets

Whenever SECRETs are referred to in these rules this will include TOP SECRETs implicitly. Whenever a secret is dealt to a player it will automatically be announced as either a secret or top-secret, and will take effect next turn unless stolen. If a secret is stolen it will be announced that the thief now has a secret which will take effect the following turn unless it is stolen again.


The game turn will take place in several phases, detailed below.

1) Espionage

SECRETs announced in the previous turn may be stolen, if a player has more than one secret, or more than one player tries to steal the same secret, success will be determined randomly (I'll throw a dice). Players may elect to use a spy to counter another spy (conditional orders required).

2) Secrets

Any SECRETs which have not been stolen will take effect upon their possessors or chosen victims as appropriate. If a player is wiped out by a secret he misses the remainder of this turn and gets a final strike next turn.

3) Final Strike

Any player whose population was destroyed (except by propaganda) in the previous turn may indulge in a final strike by launching all their remaining missiles at various targets. If a player is wiped out by a final strike he misses the remainder of this turn and gets a final strike next turn.

4) Turn over next card in the queue

If it is a warhead without a launcher, or propaganda during war it is discarded.

5) Declare targets

For each complete warhead/launcher combination a target must be selected, a preference order should be specified in case your primary target has been wiped out in one of the previous phases.

6) Sabotage

The saboteur card may be used to foil one launch of an enemy weapons system. Players simply order which player is to be sabotaged. The saboteur can be re-used if the chosen player cannot be affected. The saboteur may be stopped by a spy. The saboteur is discarded when used (except as previously stated).

7) Launch missiles

This includes space platforms, killer satellites, and cruise missiles, but not submarines and atomic cannons.

8) Intercept

Anti-missiles and interceptors may be used (conditional orders needed e.g. Intercept anything carrying 50 megatons or more at me).

9) Nuking

Warheads explode on targets, cruise missiles drop if ordered, space platforms drop warheads, subs fire over the area they are lurking. The spinner is then spun to check for special effects, and players may opt to roll the Nuke die also after the spinner outcome (default is YES). The spinner and Nuke die are not described in these rules because the GM (at least) should own a copy of the (excellent) game! However, you should note that in the postal rules a 2 on the Nuke die is treated as a 1, and 6 as a 5 - this is to avoid players missing a turn.

10) Submarines and Atomic Cannons (P)

Provided they have not been destroyed, Atomic Cannons fire if appropriate and the results are dealt with as in the previous paragraph, subs may return to port and be given a new target.

11) Move Cruise and/or Supervirus

Any cruise missiles must move on to new targets, failure to order a move or selecting a country which has already been visited will result in computer failure and the missile will return to sender and drop next turn.

Supervirus can be passed to any country except the one which passed it last turn (except when there are only two survivors). Retaining the virus for four turns confers immunity to supervirus and supergerm. If a country is wiped out while the supervirus is in that country the virus is also wiped out.

12) Propaganda

Propaganda cards take effect in peace time - if any nukes have been poffed then no effect. Propaganda cards must have a named target on the turn they are exposed.

13) Specials

Specials can normally be played at any time, and conditional orders are acceptable. You will be given the details of any special you receive.

14) Peace ?

Peace is declared at the start of the game, and if a player has just been wiped out (and completed his final strike). It may also be declared if all the players unanimously vote for it.

15) Next Card

Each player must specify his new face down card 2, last turn's face down 2 becoming face down 1.

16) Press

Press is actively encouraged, and can include offers for a treaty, announcement of a deterrent, or just gratuitous libel. The GM will collate and modify the press sent in to create an amusing turn report.

Details of Weapons Etc.


To nuke someone you must play a missile card followed by a warhead which that missile can carry. Bombers may have multiple warheads. Details of maximum payload for missiles and bombers will be given with the card. For Space Platforms, Atomic Cannons, Submarines, and others see later.

War is declared as soon as a warhead is fired, successful or not. ALL players are at war when this happens.


If the announced "target" possesses an ANTI-MISSILE card of appropriate intercept capability (as indicated on the card itself), depending on conditional orders supplied he may destroy the attacking missile or bomber. The Anti Missile card is then discarded and a replacement supplied next turn.


The B1 Bomber is the most versatile of all the delivery systems. It is capable of carrying up to 100 megatons in any combination, and may attack more than one opponent in a manner similar to flying from target to target. For example, a player who exposes a B1 bomber card on one turn, may expose a 20 megaton warhead card on the next turn and attack an enemy. On the succeeding two turns he may then expose another 20 megaton warhead and a 50 megaton warhead, and use them in attacks on the same or different targets. An intercept by an enemy of course destroys the bomber and any remaining warheads committed but not yet turned up are immediately destroyed (replacements next turn).

The B70 is the same but can only carry 50MT. The Stealth Bomber (P) is treated as a normal B1 bomber in the postal game, but is much harder to shoot down (requires the Stealth Fighter).

Space Platform

The Space Platform is an orbiting missile platform used to drop warheads on your enemies below. A player may have any number of space platforms in orbit. When a player turns up a space platform as his play, he may put any number of warheads from his hand (up to 7) on it face down. The GM then rolls the RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT die to "launch" the platform. A 2 through 6 successfully launches the platform. A Nuclear Cloud means the launch was a failure (The platform and all the warheads are lost. The player gets replacement cards from the deck next turn). The GM rolls the die again. If he rolls another cloud, the platform crashes into one of your cities and you lose 10 million population.

If the Space Platform is successfully launched, it remains aloft until shot down by a killer satellite, or until all its warheads are used up. Any player who has a space platform may drop a warhead from it IN ADDITION to his regular turn. These warheads need no missile carriers; the player merely turns one over and announces his target. They also cannot be intercepted. Cards on a platform are kept face down until used and are considered part of a players hand until they have been dropped.

A player may drop no more than one warhead per turn from any one space platform. The platform itself is never damaged by a misfunction. Dropping a warhead from a platform will cause you to have fewer than 9 cards in your "hand". Your hand will be replenished on your NEXT turn. A space platform that has not yet been launched cannot be used in final retaliation.

The Killer Satellite

The Killer Satellite is launched with a Titan or Atlas Missile. The killer satellite is turned up after the missile instead of a warhead. The "launch" of a Killer Satellite is automatically successful (unless foiled by the Saboteur card). Once a killer satellite is launched, it remains in orbit until the owning player decides to use it (or gets wiped out). On any subsequent turn, the owning player may attack an enemy space platform by declaring his target and the GM rolls the Radioactive Fallout Die. If he rolls a 2 through 6, the attack is successful and both the Killer Satellite and the Space Platform (along with any warheads on it) are discarded. If he rolls a nuclear cloud, the mission fails, and the Killer Satellite is discarded.

Cruise Missile

The Cruise Missile is a self-contained carrier/warhead system which flies around until the owning player decides to drop it. A cruise missile is launched when it is turned face up (it needs no warhead). It will not start nuclear war by itself until it is dropped on a player. The turn it is launched, the player rolls the Radioactive Fallout Die. If a 2 through 6 is rolled, the launch is successful. If a cloud is rolled, the launch fails and the cruise missile is discarded. If the cruise missile is launched successfully, it is sent it to lurk over the country of the player's choice.

Thereafter, on subsequent turns, he must detonate it, or move it to another country. An attempt to move it to a country already threatened results in a systems failure causing it to drop on his own country next turn.

MX Missile

The MX Missile may carry any ONE war head BIGGER than 10 megatons. When fired, the owning player announces his target, and then rolls the Radioactive Fallout die once for each 10 megatons carried. Each 10 megatons is a separate attack and a misfunction rolled for one does not affect the others. (i.e. "explodes on launchpad" just cancels that one 10 megaton attack.) All attacks from an MX must be on the same player. Each 10 megatons destroys 2 million people, plus whatever is rolled on the die. For example: you get two attacks with a 20 megaton warhead; with a 50 megaton warhead you get 5 attacks. The MX can NOT carry a 10 megaton warhead.


If you draw the Supervirus card, you may give it to any player. The GM rolls the Radioactive Fallout die and the victim loses that many million people (the misfunction cloud means "1".) On HIS next turn, he passes the Supervirus to any other player, except the one who gave it to him (unless only 2 left). Holding the card for 4 turns confers immunity.

Supervirus continues until it is wiped out by the superserum or until the player who has the virus is wiped out by nuclear missiles while the disease is still in his country.

The Submarine (P)

When you turn up a submarine card, you send it out "to sea" along with a 10 or 20 MT warhead which must be taken out of your hand, and should not have been played as a 'facedown" card.) [If you don't have the proper sized warhead in your hand, or if you don't choose to use one, the submarine may still be played but will be "in port".]

The submarine must be sailing off the coast of a particular country, which you must tell the GM but it will not be announced to the other players. On any subsequent turn, in addition to anything else you do, you may (if you choose) fire this warhead at the player it is targeted for. This firing cannot be stopped by the saboteur or by anti-missiles, but is subject to nuclear misfunctions, dud warheads, etc. If the missile fired by the submarine "explodes on launch" then the submarine is destroyed.

When you fire the warhead, the sub is exposed for the next turn whilst it returns "to port" and can be nuked. If it makes it to port, on later turns it can be loaded with a missile and sent out again with a new target in addition to whatever else you are doing. You may return a sub "to port" without firing in which case it is not exposed. (Note: once a submarine is put into the "at sea" box or the "in port" box, it is no longer considered part of the 9 cards "in your hand". However, the warheads it is carrying are still "in your hand" and count as part of your g cards.)

A sub may only fire the warhead it already carries in a "final strike."

Atomic Cannon (P)

When you turn up an atomic cannon as your face up card, you must choose an opponent to target. This will be known to all players. On any subsequent turn, whenever you turn up a 10 megaton warhead that is not being carried by a missile or bomber, you may fire it from the atomic cannon. On turns which you do not fire, you may reposition the turret to face another player. Your cannon can be nuked.

If the "missile explodes on launchpad" the atomic cannon is destroyed. The atomic cannon can be "sabotaged" by the saboteur card, (only when firing: not when being targetted) but cannot be stopped by any anti missile. You can only have one atomic cannon face up at a time. (If a second one is turned up while the first is still there, it is discarded.) An atomic cannon that has been played (but not one in your hand) can be used during final retaliation to fire one 10 megaton warhead.

Targeting the Atomic Cannon or a Submarine (P)

Any player may direct a warhead or missile at an atomic cannon or a face-up submarine on the turn after it fires instead of at his enemy's population. Merely state the target, and if you don't get a dud or explodes on launch or misfunction that causes you to miss the target, the target is destroyed, but your enemy doesn't lose any population from it. An atomic cannon can shoot another atomic cannon, but cannot target a submarine.

The Space Shuttle

This card may be used to reload your space platform if you have one. When the space shuttle is turned face up, you may immediately take as many warheads out of your hand as you like, and add them to your already launched space platform. If you have no space platform, the space shuttle carries one warhead of up to 50 megatons, just like a missile. Can be shot down by the "B" or "S" antimissile, the Sprint Interceptor, the Jet Interceptor, or the Stealth Fighter only if dropping a warhead on a player (i.e. not reloading the space platform). It can be stopped by the Saboteur. The space shuttle is discarded after it is used.

Smart Bomb

You must order to use this "special" come what may when you nuke someone. This doubles the killing power of a 10 or 20 megaton bomb (before you add up what happens from the spinner or die.