This was orignially a game for DOS, but Beermat Software has taken it and updated it with some new features, such as multiple cities (in DOS, you could only travel around the boroughs of New York), different weapons, a drug list that is updated to the late 90s instead of the early 90s (add ecstasy and Special K, get rid of Ludes), multiple loan sharks with different interest rates and pay periods, and a little old lady who sometimes gives you tips on when a bust is about to go down.

Basically, it's a day trading game, except with drugs. I tried out Beermat's shareware version, but after about the fifth play, I kept getting a weird error: 'H is not a valid integer' when I finished the game, and my high scores weren't shown. I'll wait for their next release, but if you want it, you can get it off of

The DOS version has also been ported to the Palm OS and is a good thing to play during meetings. The actual URL escapes me, but you can find it by going to CNet downloads, and doing a search on 'dope wars' for Palm OS. You can also get the source code from the same spot.

What is Dope Wars?

Dope Wars is a complex game of trading and finance. You play a drug dealer, who can purchase a large number of drugs and sell them on later. As you might expect, the object of the game is to make an overall profit.

Dope Wars is developed by Beermat Software, and originated as a DOS game. It has now been ported to a shiny and rather charming Windows interface. WonkoTheSane informs me that it is also available on Mac OS X. The latest version is 2.2.

What's the appeal?

Dope Wars is a game with a huge amount of depth. There are around fifteen different drugs to trade in, and the only way to prosper is to learn what is a good price for each one. You can travel around six different locales within each city, each of which has its own 'personality'. There are various weapons to buy, tactics to employ etc. This is all wrapped up into a deceptively simple interface.

There is also an online scoring system. At the end of your game, your score is translated into an encrypted string that can be entered on the Beermat website. Of course, any highscore system is bound to attract some enthusiasm and Dope Wars is no exception.

Tell me more about the mechanics of the game

First, there are the various drugs:

Prices for an individual unit of these drugs varies. Some, such as ecstasy, usually go for less than $50 each. Cocaine retails around $20000. Typically you begin with the small stuff and build up to the more expensive drugs. Prices fluctuate according to various random factors. Also, if there is a police raid on for example mushroom dealers, the price of mushrooms will greatly increase. If you get a tip off in advance, you can buy up large numbers of mushrooms for a profit later. Of course, you then risk being raided yourself!

As you travel, you will of course attract the attentions of the local constabulary, in form of Officer Hardass. There are opportunities here for dumping your drug stash, running away from him or staying to face the music. You can also try to scare him away with a variety of comedy weapons. Beermat are very keen that the content of the game is not lost in the mists of controversy, so the weapons are of a comedic nature (chickens, handbags) and cops are no longer killed but instead "scared off".

You carry all drugs around in your trenchcoat. At first, this can only hold 100 units of drugs. Of course, in time-honoured strategy game fashion, you can later buy a larger trenchcoat and hence carry more. The more drugs you're carrying, the greater the chance that Officer Hardass will catch up with you, and the harder it is to run away from him. On the other hand, the stakes are higher and so deep pockets are vital for the top scores.

There is a large number of cities to play in. However, this is only really superficial. It's fun to customise the game and play in your home city, but the gameplay itself is unaffected. You can also customise the weapons, so if you really want to be pulling out AK47s then the option is there.

A key part of the game is borrowing from loan sharks. You begin the game with $2000 in pocket but $5500 in debt. The loan sharks charge huge amounts of interest and it is crucial to pay off your debts to them early on. If you get a tip-off, you may need some extra cash to stock up on the appropriate drug. In this case, you are advised to pay this back quickly. And the tip-off's arent always correct, which can leave you seriously out of pocket.

A new feature in 2.2 is the strange old woman who appears occasionally on your travels. She sometimes offers you handy tip-offs that you might otherwise miss, but more often its just random phrases. She is quite amusing, at least, and further augments the strange charm of the game.

The game continues until your health reaches 0%, or up to a set time limit - typically 30 days but 15, 60, 90 and 120 are available in the registered version. You lose health if the cops shoot you as you attempt to evade them, or you get beaten up by a loan shark wanting repayment. It is possible to attend the hospital and have your health replenished, at great expense. However, the quack sometimes rips you off and this is one of the most frustrating aspects of the game.

That is the basic premise of the game. Of course, the fun is in playing! You can download it from
and I recommend you do, because it's thoroughly enjoyable.

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