Alternative history has always been a popular genre of fiction, and for good reason. After all, it's fun to speculate on what might have been. What if the South had won the Civil War? Or what if the Allies had lost World War II? With Cuban Missile Crisis: The Aftermath, we have a strategy game that asks what if the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis ended in nuclear war that wiped out civilization as we know it? And what if the remnants of the surviving armies kept fighting for fuel and supplies and to simply get home? It's a nifty premise, and one that's presented quite uniquely in Cuban Missile Crisis. This is a game that could have been just another real-time strategy game, but it turns out that it's stuffed with some really good ideas. And while the game itself suffers from some notable flaws, it does manage to present a setting and a style of gameplay that we rarely get to see.
Combat heavily favors tanks, and executing combined arms tactics is a handful, but at least you can blow up pretty much everything onscreen.
In many ways, the plot of Cuban Missile Crisis reminds us quite a bit of the old, popular role-playing game Twilight 2000, because both games share a desperate and bleak postapocalyptic tone. In Cuban Missile Crisis, you choose to take command of any of the four major factions that are left in a post-World War III world, including the Anglo-American Alliance, the Soviet Union, the Franco-German Alliance, and China. However, instead of controlling nations and large armies, you'll command units cobbled together with survivors and stragglers. Instead of huge divisions, you command companies or smaller units, with a few tanks and other vehicles that are strung together with whatever spare parts are available.
Cuban Missile Crisis plays out on two maps, a turn-based strategic map and a real-time-strategy map where battles are resolved. While this makes it sound like other RTS games that feature overarching campaigns, Cuban Missile Crisis differs in a few notable ways. The strategic map displays the territory that's under your control, and, more importantly, the location of various supply depots that become strategically critical to your campaign, including fuel depots, which help keep your vehicles going; spare parts depots, so that you can repair your units; and ammunition depots for bullets and shells. It makes sense that these become the entire focal point of your war effort, as you simply need to secure more supplies to keep going. Still, you can't help but feel like a general when you come up with a strategy and issue orders to your units. For instance, you may have multiple thrusts into enemy territory to seize different objectives, or you may try to concentrate your units so that you can force the enemies into decisive battle. It's so engaging that you'll often be tempted to use the autobattle function to instantly compute the results of battles so you can stay in this mode, rather than having to battle it out yourself.