Upon starting a new game, a series of newspaper headlines establish that the player is the new premier of Israel, freshly instated after the assassination of the previous premier. The date of January 1997 is shown, projecting 7 years after the game's release. The player is tasked with managing relations with 7 other nations: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria. Representing Israel, the player may interact with other nations in a number of ways, ranging from peaceful diplomatic gestures to nuclear war. The game is turn-based, and on each turn the player chooses how to interact with each nation. Other concerns include dealing with the "Palestinian problem" within Israel, managing Israel's development of a nuclear arsenal, and purchasing arms from a list of suppliers including the United States. Once a player makes all the decisions desired, the turn is ended, a month passes, and a new series of newspapers are displayed reporting the events that the last turn has caused.
In keeping with the Middle East's reputation at the time, the player is not tasked with economic concerns or more trivial matters---the player is concerned with survival. The seven other nations are all prone to attack Israel, and managing the ire of these nations is the critical task of succeeding in the game. Should any country defeat Israel at war, the game is over. Though relations with other countries can be improved, befriending one nation often means irking another. For example, one common event early on in the game is an Egyptian-Libyan war, and improving relations with either country means aggravating the other.
Even though the game presents itself as a true simulation game, there are certain likely events and strategies that emerge from the game's event generator that change the rhetoric of the experience. Trying to maintain peaceful relations with all of the other nations is a hopeless endeavor---the only way to progress in the game is to be proactive in defeating the other nations through espionage or outright war. The most successful way to play the game is to invade and defeat the four bordering countries one at a time, taking care not to start a war on two fronts. Because the game attempts to simulate events taking place within a real situation in the near future, any success in the game could be seen as an endorsement of the same actions being carried out by Israel in real life. Thus, on one level, the game can be seen as an argument for proactive warmongering in Israel.
However, it is important to point out that all of the actions the player can take are carried out in an abstract way. For example, the command to support an insurgency within an enemy's borders is exactly the same for each possible nation; no information about that insurgency or its beliefs is provided. The newspaper headlines report a developing conflict with Egypt in the same way they might with Syria, regardless of the long histories these countries share with Israel. Each country is only depicted by its military muscle and by the range of randomly generated biases it can have against other countries (though these biases are also unexplained).
Two decades later, a modern player of the game also knows that warfare on the scale encouraged by the game has not come to pass. Despite the engaging game play, it might be fair to say that the game has failed as a simulator simply because the real events that took place over the game's timeline are not tenable as a gameplay strategy in Conflict. Whether or not this is an actual ambition of the game is questionable, but its simulative nature makes this reading unavoidable.
It is certainly difficult to imagine an updated version of Conflict. Though the tumultuous nature of the Middle East was well established at the time of the game's development, the two decades that have passed since have seen a steady rise in nuclear armament and anti-Israeli rhetoric in the region. The United States' increased involvement also further complicates the rhetoric of an American game that simulates a situation in which American meddling is universally detested. Also, war games are now often considered for their rhetorical implications (i.e. Medal of Honor), which means a game like Conflict would be seen as boldly offensive. Both PeaceMaker and the recent Balance of Power remake give us a better idea of current standards of ludic political correctness and design strategy.