There is an old saying, “It’s not always what you know but who you know”. In many cases, this is true, and dare I say more so when it comes to ascending to positions of power. I’m not here, of course, to debate how we get the leaders we do, but it’s difficult not to touch on the subject when you are covering a game that puts you in charge of spreading a secret organization’s influence across the world in order to claim global dominance. So let’s just pretend, for the purpose of reviewing The Shadow Government Simulator, that there definitely is such a thing (although between me and you, we know there is, right? Right!?).
Charm, Bribe, or Intimidate?
The Shadow Government Simulator is a new Turn Based Strategy game from Chupacabra Games Studio, published by Games Incubator. The game puts you in control of one of three secret organisations – The Illuminati, The Freemasons, or The Templars. Through various methods, you have to take control of popular and powerful figures to join your organization. One of three methods does this–bribe them with money, charm them with exquisite meals, gifts, and, err, puppies(?), or send in some muscle and intimidate them.
You, however, can’t do this alone. First, make connections, and once you have one or two agents on your side in a particular region, they then do the work for you. They do this by gaining traits that then improve ally agent stats or lowering enemy agent stats. If your stat beats an enemy stat, they too join your organization. Once you’ve won the leader over, you control the territory they are working and you move to the next region. In the early game, you will have an easy task of taking control from governments, but you will soon face the other secret organizations, battling them for control over their territory, and likewise them over yours.
Play it by the Numbers
The gameplay is mostly numbers based. Think Top Trumps – your stat beats their stat, and you win. But an agent stat alone won’t beat the more well-connected enemies, whose stats will be beefed up by their current connections. As a result, you have to be tactical with who you connect to and what abilities you give your agents while looking for your enemies’ weak spots. For example–you want to influence a banker who is well-protected by muscle and is rich with cash but is easily charmed. Therefore, you need to look for one of your agents who may already have a strong ‘Charm’ statistic or an allied agent who could either run a hate campaign against your enemy to reduce their charm statistic or improve your ally agents’ current charm statistic by making them more appealing.
Each move you take will consume one of two resources – Intel and Money. Each resource gets replenished at the end of every turn, so you must plan carefully what to do and when, or otherwise, you may lose your opportunity to influence your enemies. You do not have the luxury of waiting around, for the longer you keep connections, the more exposed you become and the harder your task will be. Become too exposed, and it’s game over. It’s also a good idea to sever unnecessary connections if you can, as they too increase your exposure – but doing so means you may lose bonuses created by those links, so be careful with which connections you keep and which you lose.
It shouldn’t take you too long to start the game. The main menu is fairly basic, as are the options. There is a very good tutorial that will teach you what you need to know to play. The game does a good job of immersing you into an atmosphere of intrigue and secrecy. Graphically it is nice to look at, with some neat effects. What is especially cool is when you perform an action–little videos pop up, such as ‘accidentally bumping into someone when creating a connection, or, err, little puppies (yes, really!) when charming someone. The soundtrack fits the mood of the game and has just enough variety to keep you engaged.
Each figure you aim to control has a different role. You can influence bankers, army generals, politicians, journalists, and even streamers. This allows you to create some fun scenarios–want to intimidate a streamer so that they can charm a highflyer banker? According to The Shadow Government Simulator, this is a totally plausible outcome. Each role has a different category–should you complete secondary objectives in a particular region, you can give bonuses to these categories–for example, giving all of your media figures an extra connection for the remainder of the game. You can also use these bonuses to counter the ever-increasing challenge that the game presents to you at the end of each region.
While there is a strategy to the game, it isn’t very deep – you will spend all your time managing numbers. From what I’ve experienced so far, there aren’t any major events that will change how you play the game. You must decide, but the decisions themselves don’t feel that important. I also found selecting agents sometimes a little frustrating – sometimes you’re not sure whether you are selecting the agent, and instead end up accidentally cutting a connection at the cost of Intel.
I was, however, immersed in a dark, secretive world of conspiracy. I found great satisfaction in increasing my secret society’s influence across the world via the control of powerful figures. Creating fun scenarios and imaginary situations is what you will get the most out of this game. The AI will ease you in gently, but it will eventually challenge you, to a point where one too many mistakes could cost you the game.
It is worth mentioning that Chupacabra Games Studio comprises just one Lead Developer. To that end, we must congratulate him for creating a solid turn-based strategy game that has enough to keep you entertained. While I had hoped for new content, sadly, we won’t be seeing any. One month after release, the developer announced that due to unexpectedly low sales, the game will not be developed on any further. He is, however, very active in his community discord server and engages with the players often. He frequently runs community challenges and has recently given details of a prototype for his new game.
With all of that said, The Shadow Government Simulator stands as a good, casual single-player strategy with enough complexity to keep you engaged for a few hours.
Player of Strategy and Horror games. Full time Freelance Techie and Web Designer, part time Musician and Writer.