Balance of Power

aka: Balance of Power: Geopolitics in the nuclear age
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Buy on Amiga
Buy on Apple II
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Description official descriptions

The year is 1986. You take on the role of the US President or the Russian General Secretary. You have the full industrial capacity, covert forces, and military might of your country at your command. Your job? To make your country the world's most powerful and prestigious over the course of your eight years in office. Sounds easy, doesn't it? It would be if the other guy didn't have his finger poised over a red button that could wipe out the world!

You must use diplomacy, make treaties, issue risky, covert CIA or KGB actions, or riskier, direct military intervention to prop up third world countries or help their insurgents and win them to your governmental philosophy: Capitalism or Communism. The world is a big place... and the other guy could start a nuclear war over a country as tiny as Tunisia. This game is the ultimate Cold War simulation. Every action requires careful analysis and the ability to judge your opponent (computer or human) and his reaction. The game features 62 countries, each carefully researched with up to date (as of 1985) information regarding their government, demographics, resources, etc.


  • バランス・オブ・パワー - Japanese spelling
  • 權力平衡 - Simplified Chinese spelling

Groups +


Credits (DOS version)

4 People

Programming - DOS version



Average score: 82% (based on 5 ratings)


Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 34 ratings with 1 reviews)

They don't make 'em like this anymore... Cold War, anyone?

The Good
This is easily one of the classiest games ever made... how did Chris Crawford do it almost single-handedly?? When I got this game back in the mid-80's I had recently become a teen-ager, and BOP helped me learn about the Cold War. I was able to see how "geopolitics" worked. Plus, my friend and I had a great time bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. ;) They should make students in "World Since '45"-type classes play this game to learn about Cold War politics.

I didn't really see the need for all the background information it gave for the countries. Basically all that was important was stuff like who the government liked, or who their insurgents liked. :) In fact, Chris wrote in the manual, "This mode is not necessary to the play of the game. It presents information that is interesting and useful for someone unfamiliar with the countries of the world... it is included for your curiosity." But you just don't find that type of thing in today's games. Today's games are all hype and fancy graphics and require a computer that doesn't exist yet and you come away from them with nothing... BOP was made by one guy who cared passionately about his own personal game. He made it because he loved what he was doing, and he did an incredible job; by sharing his game with the world, he has done a great deed. He was able to make a true educational and entertaining game. There are virtually no games like this made anymore.

Thank you, Chris Crawford.

The Bad
Well, there wasn't really any sound, but this type of game doesn't really need sound.

My only complaint really is that it doesn't seem like 8 years is quite long enough. I think the game might have been a little better if it took place over, say, 20 years or something like that to give the world events more time to develop (this would definitely be better suited to BOP: the 1990 Edition!).

The Bottom Line
This game will teach you about the Cold War. You'll learn about insurgencies, how coup d'etats affected the geopolitical balance, what Diplomatic Affinity was, what "Finlandization" was, and just how easy it would have been for the US and USSR to go to nuclear war. Cold War, anyone?

DOS · by Raphael (1245) · 2001



Chris Crawford in the Acknowledgements section:

I conceived, designed, programmed, developed, and tested this game. Yet, no such project is truly single-handed; every designer owes a debt of gratitude to a large number of people who lent him their advice, their assistance, and their sympathy.

He credits his wife, Kathy, for consulting him about all "big decisions" (he mentions helping with the images and posing for the pic of an anti-nuke protester).


This game was probably one of the first to include a "Nightmare" level.


The manual actually contained a bibliography... how many games today can claim that?

Subversive party

For each country in the game, there's a "subversive" party/organization listed for it. For the United States, it was "Democrats".

The lost Mac original

This game was originally written for the Apple Macintosh in 1985, in a blend of Apple Pascal and 68k assembly. This version is now presumed lost, though the extant Windows 1.0 port was deemed very similar by contemporary magazines, and the sequel "Balance of Power: 1990 Edition" for Mac also survives. Check your attic!


This was one of the earliest Windows-only games. You'll notice how similar the game is to the Mac interface (and you'll know why Apple sued Microsoft over the similarity!). It came with a Windows "Run Time" version for users without Windows/286 so they could just play the game.


  • ACE
    • October 1988 (issue #13) - Included in the Top-100 list of 1987/1988 (editorial staff selection)
    • March 1991 (issue #42) - Included in the list Greatest Games of all Time in category Strategy Games (editorial staff choice)
  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #78 in the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #11 Best Way To Die In Computer Gaming (blowing up Earth)

Information also contributed by Kasey Chang and PCGamer77

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Related Sites +

  • Chris Crawford
    biography of Chris Crawford, creator of Balance of Power, its sequel, and many other games. Written by Chris himself! (site offline after 2005, but has a copy)

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Raphael.

Apple II added by PCGamer77. PC-98, PC-88 added by Kabushi. Amiga, Macintosh added by Terok Nor. MSX added by Игги Друге. Atari ST added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: Alaka, The cranky hermit, Garcia, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto, Jo ST.

Game added September 2nd, 1999. Last modified August 14th, 2023.