– Shall we play a game?
– Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War?

You might remember a certain 1983 movie entitled WarGames. I was a little kid when it came out, but I got the message: War is bad, computers are awesome. Well, that’s the message I got anyway.

Produced at the height of Cold War, WarGames told a story of a young computer hacker gaining access to the A.I. controlling American nuclear arsenal and almost annihilating the entire planet in the process. The final stand-off took place in a military facility and featured (then) state of the art CGI simulation of a Global Thermonuclear War. It is this segment of the movie where Defcon gets its inspiration from.

Global conflict erupts with a series of co-ordinated strikes


Just like all the other games produced by UK-based Introversion Software, Defcon has a very specific look and feel rooted in the old school game culture, instantaneously appealing to all the geeks. While compared to other strategy games it may be relatively simple – it engages the player on multiple levels and is a very hard game to put down.

Right from the get-go you will know there is something different about this game. The tag line reads: Defcon: Everybody Dies – quite untypical for a game in which you command your country’s nuclear arsenal in a global war. But that’s the whole idea. There are no real winners in Defcon – there is only one player that loses less than the others.

Pre-emptive airplane attack as the nuclear subs close in on America


The atmosphere of the game is something everyone (gamer or not) should experience. The haunting music (generated procedurally depending on the escalation of the conflict), vector graphics and cold statistics appearing on your screen (Tokyo: 14M dead, New York: 6M dead, Warsaw: 4M dead…) give you a feeling of isolation and detachment as the world gets slowly annihilated at your fingertips. While you may enjoy playing the game itself, you will clearly get the anti-war message Defcon conveys.

The game takes player through the five stages of DEFCON (the defense readiness condition). Starting at DEFCON 5, where only troop movements are allowed, the conflict slowly, but steadily, escalates towards DEFCON 1 – an all-out engagement with all your forces working to annihilate the opponent. You will need to deploy your armies, set up offensive and defensive installations, control the attack patterns and hope to remain the last nation standing.

Russia and America in the midst of a full-scale exchange


Defcon can be played solo against computer opponents, or in multiplayer mode over the Internet. Feeding off the Cold War paranoia, the players are encouraged to create alliances, which in the course of each match will inevitably have to fail sooner or later until only one nation prevails.

The game also features an old school staple – an office mode, where the game is played without the sound and can be hidden with a single press of a “boss button”. In office mode the conflict unfolds in real time and a single match can easily last an entire day. (Standard “accelerated” match takes approximately 15 minutes to complete).

Defcon: Gameplay video (click to play)


Defcon is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux and can be purchased directly from the Introversion Software store (£15/$22.50/€17.25) at:

…but you will be probably better off buying it on Steam (PC version, possibly OSX too) for just $9.99:

There’s also a demo available both at the official site and on Steam.

Official Defcon: Everybody Dies website:

Official Introversion Software website: