Special Operations (1984) - 8 Bit computer game walkthrough

By Vexen Crabtree 2016

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Special Operations is computer wargame from 1984 release on the ZX Spectrum 48K, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Commodore 64 and MSX. You must explore a forest and its features, manage your five skilled personnel and collect items. Team secondary skillsets and the location of features of the forest and item locations are randomized for each game. To complete the game you must explore the forest and complete objectives, normally by finding one of the routes into the underground complex, and investigating it room-by-room.

Steps 1-4: Setup

  1. Load the game.
  2. For the "Load Saved Game?" question type "N".
  3. Objectives: You only get to see the whole game if you pick a hard objective.
    1. VERY EASY: Photograph the Compound (use the Photographer).
    2. EASY: Get in the Compound and out again. (Perhaps use Sapper - see skill notes, further down)
    3. MEDIUM: Get in the underground Complex and out again.
    4. HARD: Get a sample of an experimental chemically-based rocket fuel (use the Chemist).
    5. HARD: Get a sample of the viral agent (use the Biologist).
    6. HARD: Get details of the rocket guidance system (use the Physicist)
    7. HARD: Destroy the Production area in the complex (use the Explosives guy)
  4. For the Time question, type "9".

This walkthrough assumes for the most part that you are doing one of the harder objectives which means you need to get into the Complex.

Steps 5-8: Skills Selection

  1. The Skills page loads. Skills in this guide are highlighted in the same colours as used on this page. Each person in the list has a second skill which you can reveal by interviewing them. I'll step you through it.
    Selecting skills in Special Operations
  2. Veto the Leader. He is already selected, plus his secondary skill. Look at the list of skills below, in the Basic or Advanced list. If the Leader's second skill matches an item in the list, continue with the next time. If it doesn't then check the complete list of skills in the table below. If the Leader's second skill is struck out, for example, Radio Operator, then, reload the game. Keep reloading it until the Leader's second skill is a good one.
  3. Conduct 8 interviews. For each one:
    1. Look for the next skill listed below which you haven't already discovered. They are in priority order. For example if you interview someone and his second skill is Chemist, then, don't bother interviewing the Chemist.
      • Photographer only if doing Objective 1.
      • Actor (ESSENTIAL for Objectives 3-7).
      • Linguist (ESSENTIAL for Objectives 3-7).
      • Forger only if doing Objectives 2-7.
      • Chemist only if doing Objective 4.
      • Biologist only if doing Objective 5.
      • Physicist only if doing Objective 6.
      • Explosives guy only if doing Objective 7.
      • Sniper helps with battling patrols.
      • Doctor helps with recovering from patrol battles.
      • Locksmith means you don't need to find the Brass Keys.
      • Cartographer to make exploration more efficient.
      • Scout to make exploration more efficient.
    2. Press the letter listed to the left of the skilled person you want to interview.
    3. Write down the result.
  4. Select the Team. You must pick up the skills listed as essential in the lists above and as many of the others as possible. You can select any of them - not just the ones you interviewed. Look at the other skills you have discovered and compare them to the full list of skills below. Try not to pick any people who have crossed-out skills such as the Diver. Skills that are marked as being used once in the list below can be relegated to the Leader as he can do 5 skill swaps, but it is a real waste to use this ability on skills that need to be used more than once.

Note that you can't use two of the same skill simultaneously (although you can have them available as backups in case someone dies). So you can't use two snipers and kill two Germans before battles start.

Crossed-out skills in the list below are ones you can completely do without. They are used to get in-game knowledge if playing the game unaided, but as I'm telling everything, you don't need them! If a skill's entry is blank, it is because it is probably used in the Complex somewhere but I haven't verified it yet.

AcrOnceAcrobat and Explosives expert are used for the Hidden Tunnel route to the Complex.
ActManyActor is required to stop Compound and Complex guards from becoming suspicious. ESSENTIAL.
CarCartographer is for exploring the forest; the GUI will remember where you've been and what you saw. If you have excellent memory or are willing to write down locations on a grid as you go, then you don't need it. Also if you have a diver and find the tin with a map in it, you won't need Cartographer. But until you have the map, having the Car will speed up exploration.
CipOnceCipher lets you decrypt the small book to get a password. Used when going the Compound Route to the Complex
CliTwiceClimber lets you explore the two potholes. But you don't really need to, especially if you have the Locksmith.
DivTwiceDiver lets you explore the two lakes, but, you don't need either item you could find there (see the list below).
DocLotsDoctor lets you heal your wounded after battles with patrols. Essential if you're not relying on pure luck to get all your men to the Complex alive!
EleOnceElectronics guy can repair broken radio with valves to make a working radio. You can also find a working radio in a house. But don't need any of it.
ExpOnce(1) Explosives expert and Acrobat are used for the Hidden Tunnel route to the Complex. (2) Also used for Objective 7.
ForOnceForger is used, when you have enough German passes, to add your photos to them.
IntOnceInterrogator can get the password from a surrendered German patrol soldier. Used when going the Compound Route to the Complex.
LeaLeader can be used 5 times to adopt any other skill.
LinMany(1) Linguist and Radio Op can work together to hear a message from broken down lorry. But you can find the lorry without it. (2) ESSENTIAL for getting past guards in the Complex.
LocLocksmith can open the 2 locked houses and doors in the Complex. If you have a diver, you will get the rusty key from a lake which opens the houses and if you find the Bronze Keys in a cave or pothole, you can open doors in the Complex. Loc cannot pick the locked manhole cover on the road.
MecOnceMechanic can repair the broken lorry on the road so Vehicle expert can drive it.
MidOnceMidget and Strongman work together when using the Hidden Tower route to the Complex.
NavOnceNavigator tells you in which general cardinal direction the compound is. Useless skill.
PhoPhotographer completes Objective 1 - enable him as soon as you are in the vicinity of the Compound, then, move back to the forest.
PicOncePickpocket can acquire the Brass Keys from Complex guards if you didn't find them in caves.
Pil?Pilot. Not required when making your escape to the opposite side of the forest.
RadOnceRadio Operator used with Linguist and a radio, to hear that a lorry has broken down. Unnecessary. Used when taking the Compound Route to the Complex.
SapOnceSapper can find a manhole cover somewhere on the road. If you don't have the Sapper, then, search without him. When you are in the right spot you will hear the faint sound of running water. Then, use your Leader. Type "su Lea, Sap, se". You then need the T-shaped key to get in. A sewer then takes you to within the Compound (perfect for Objective 2). The sewer fills with water some time between 18:26 and 34:36 so I don't recommend trying this route unless you luckily find the key very quickly.
ScoLotsScout makes exploring the forest more efficient, and gives you a chance to avoid German patrols.
SniLotsSniper lets you kill one German just before a battle starts with a forest patrol.
StrOnceStrongman and Midget work together when using the Hidden Tower route to the Complex.
Una10Unarmed Combat can dispose of guards in the underground Complex. But they sometimes raise the alarm. You will always need forged passes, uniforms, the Actor and Linguist to get past guards, so don't bother with this guy.
VehVehicles expert. Can drive the lorry found on the road after Mechanic repairs it. Optional part of the Compound Route to the Complex.

Steps 9-14: Explore The Forest

The forest starts gray. The gray area is unknown territory, but it fills it a random selection of trees. As you explore, the white areas are the known territory. As you move, you can see a very small area around your immediate location, and unless you use the Cartographer then you will lose sight of known areas as soon as you move away.

  1. Select skills. While exploring, have these skills selected (in order of importance) but do not use your Leader for any of these). It's not a game-stopper if you haven't got these skills:
    1. Type "su Sni" so the Sniper will kill one German from any patrols you encounter.
    2. Type "su Car" so the Cartographer makes the map shows you what you've found already.
    3. Type "su Sco" so the Scout might spot some (diagonal) patrols before they hit you, and to improve the speed of map discovery (because you also see the 4 diagonal spaces). You can then avoid the 4-man patrols by moving away from them when you see them on the diagonals.
    4. Once you're used to the game, you can dispense with the Cartographer and Scout as you'll be happier just letting most the map stay dark.
  2. Find required items. Here's what to look for while exploring (how to explore comes in a moment):
    • Brass Keys: If you do not have the Locksmith or Pickpocket then explore the caves until you find the keys. They open doors in The Complex. Although even if you have the Pickpocket you may find he never gets a chance to use his skill if you encounter a locked door before you see any guards in the Complex.
    • T-Shaped Key. If you have the Sapper then finding this key means you can enter the hidden manhole on the road. Explore the caves to find it. Good for Objective 2.
    • If you are looking for an item in the caves and you do not find it in any of the 6 caves, then, also search the potholes using the Climber. If the two potholes are close to each other (fewer than 5 spaces) then you could tell your Leader to become the Climber for a while, and just hope you don't run into any patrols (which causes Leader skill to reset).
    • Password. If you are going to the Compound Route to the Complex you need it. There are two ways to get it: [ + Show the list + ]
      • Find the Small Book of Strange Characters in a cave or pothole then use the Cipher
      • Having an enemy soldier surrender at the end of a battle with a patrol, and use the Interrogator.
      • If you don't have either required skill, then at the first opportunity use your Leader and switch skill (type "su Lea, Cip" or "su Lea, Int" accordingly).
    • Uniforms and Passes obtained from enemy soldiers killed during battles with patrols. You need enough for each team member (5, unless some have died). After defeating an enemy patrol, take their stuff by typing "ta". When you have enough, skill-use the Forger to modify the passes ("su For" or if you haven't got it, use up one of your 5 Leader skills - "su Lea, For").
    • Ignore other items. There is a list of them all further down on this page. There's no harm taking them if you do happen to find them though.
  3. Commands used:
    tfSummary of what game icons mean.
    mnMoves North one space (battles have different keys, though).
    meMoves East.
    msMoves South.
    mwMoves West.
    seSearch the current forest location. Never do this in the Compound or Complex as it gets you caught.
    inEnter a feature (cave, lake, lorry, etc).
    ouExit a feature (cave, lake, lorry, etc). Can be typed at any time for an immediate exit (you don't have to manually walk back to the entrance point).
    taTake item(s) from your current location.
    suSkill-use. You will be asked for the 3-letter code for the skill. Your available ones are listed on screen. To make your Leader become any skill, type su Lea. You can only have 3 active at any time.
    scSkill-cancel. You will be asked for the 3-letter code for the skill. To cancel the Leader (the first one listed) type "su Lea" rather than the specific skill he has adopted.
    stList the status of all your guys (are any of them injured, or dead?).
    eqList all of your equipment.
    noDo nothing for a minute.
    waWait for a longer time.
    atAttack an enemy patrol seen in a diagonal position by your Scout.
    quQuit game and asks if you want to save. Only possible if your 8-bit emulator supports virtualized media.
  4. Enemy Patrols will occasionally find you (there is a whole section on them, next).
  5. Find the Forest Road, which is against one of the edges of the map. All methods of getting to the Complex are near (or on) this road.
  6. Find the Compound only if doing Objectives 1,2, or, if doing Objectives 3-7 and you are entering the Complex via the Compound (click to see what the requirements are). Find it by walking up and down the road - it looks like a square block on the road. When you move on to it, you enter it. Click to move to the Compound completion steps.

If you haven't gone the compound route, then, you need to read the Hidden Routes section below. But I'd recommend browsing the following general-information bits too.

4. Fighting German Patrols

As you move around the forest you will encounter German patrols. They vary in strength of numbers from 2 to 4. They move one square at a time, just like you.

Getting One-Up on the Enemy Patrols. There are two tricks you can use:

  1. If you have a Sniper then just before the battle starts, he will kill one of the Germans.
  2. If you have a Scout and you spot a German patrol in a diagonal space, then, they cannot yet attack you. You can move away from them, or ambush them thusly:
    1. Type hi to hide.
    2. Wait to see if the enemy patrol moves into a space directly adjacent to you, or if they move away. If they came closer, follow the next step.
    3. Type at to attack them. The battle will start as normal, although your Sniper will not fire. You get the first round "for free" and the enemy make no movements and do not fire on you. If you are lucky you can kill a few of them in this manner before the battle really starts.

The battle map will be drawn. You and the computer take it in turns to move all of your soldiers; you have to tell each one which enemy soldier to shoot at, and he can then move two spaces per round. After both sides have moved, the firing happens. When making your moves, observe the following rules:

The Controls
7 = Up
5 = Left8 = Right
6 = Down
9 = Don't move

After the battle:

  1. Type "su Sni" to turn your Sniper back on.
  2. Type "su Doc" to heal your guys then "sc Doc" to turn it off.
  3. If you are going the Compound Route to the Complex, type "su Int" to use the Interrogator to obtain the password from a surrendered soldier (if there is one). Or "su Lea, Int" to have your Leader do it. Not required if you are instead going to use the Cipher to get it from the Book of Strange Codes found in a cave. Type "sc Int" or "sc Lea" to turn off the skill afterwards.
  4. Type "ta" to take enemy uniforms and passes.
  5. Type "eq" to list your equipment. Once you have 5 uniforms and passes, type "su For" to add your own photos to the passes. Or "su Lea, For" to have your Leader do it. Type "sc For" or "sc Lea" to turn off the skill afterwards.

5. A Table of Forest Features and Items

Type "in" to enter Caves, Potholes, Houses, Lakes or the Hidden Tower. While exploring inside, you have stand your guy on each possible space until you find something. There is only one thing to find, once you've found it type "ta" take it, then "ou" to exit. Some obstacles require skill usage to get past.

Crossed-out items in the lists below are ones you can completely do without. They are used to get in-game knowledge if playing the game unaided, but as I'm telling everything, you don't need them!

TreesThere's a few symbols for trees. Trees and blankspaces both signify that nothing of interest is there.None.
6CavesFind items. See the lists below.
2PotholesRequires the Climber to enter.
2LakesRequires the Diver to enter.
2HousesRequires either the Rusty Keys or the Locksmith to get in. No need to do so though.Find Radio.
The RoadRuns along one edge of the map, and someone along the road is the Compound.Find Compound & Complex.
6?Enemy PatrolsThese move one-space-at-a-time the same as you do, and cannot attack diagonally. If they end up on your position or next to you, a battle will ensue. If you have a Sniper then you will kill one German before the battle begins.Get Uniforms, Passes & (with Interrogator) Password.
1Hidden TowerA hidden feature that you have to search for ("se"). It will be on the line of spaces next to the road, or, the one next to that.Hidden Route to the Complex.
1Hidden PotholeA hidden feature that you have to search for ("se"). It will be on the line of spaces next to the road, or, the one next to that.Hidden Route to the Complex.
1Hidden ManholeA hidden feature that you have to search for ("se"). It will be on the road but you must have the Sapper selected whilst searching.Hidden Route to the Complex.
1Faint sound of waterYou are on the hidden manhole. Select the Sapper and search again.Hidden Route to the Complex.
1CompoundIs on the road somewhere.Route to the Complex

Items obtained from Caves and Potholes:

2 Houses can be unlocked with the Rusty Key obtained from a Lake with a Diver, or with the Locksmith. The houses contain:

  1. Revolutionaries who capture you for an hour then let you go. House is empty. Linguist/Actor/Unarmed Combat don't help resolve this encounter in any other way,
  2. Contains a radio, see the notes on the Radio, below.

2 Lakes require a Diver to explore them. They contain:

  1. Rusty key - unlocks the 2 Houses (one of which gives you a Radio).
  2. Tin containing a map which reveals the whole map. If you get this, then you don't need the Cartographer. This is only a minor benefit and isn't worth striving for.

6. The Radio (ignore)

This part of the game is interesting first-time round because it reveals the existence of the broken down lorry on the road somewhere. This has to do with the Vehicle Route into the Compound. But I would recommend not pursuing the Radio at all - there are many other tricky tasks that you need your skills for and you can get the vehicle without hearing the message! But if you want to, here's how:

  1. Get a radio in one of two ways:
    1. Search the caves and potholes until you have found the broken radio and a set of valves. When you find them, type "ta" to pick them up. Then type "su Ele" to make your Electrician repair the radio with the valves. Type "sc Ele" to turn off the skill. You won't need it again.
    2. Search the 2 houses until find a working radio. You'll need the Locksmith to get into the houses or you can find the Rusty Key in one of the 2 Lakes with the Diver.
  2. Type "su Rad" so your Radio Operator starts using the Radio. He dumbly reports that he hears nothing of interest.
  3. Type "su Lin" so your Linguist can listen and who realizes there is a message being transmitted from a broken down lorry on the road.
  4. Now you've heard the message, you know to search for the lorry on the road.
  5. Type "sc Rad".
  6. Type "sc Lin".

Steps 15-22: The Compound Route

Requirements: (although if just doing easy Objective 2, you don't need the items for the Complex)

Do not do a "se" search command in the Compound, it will attract lethal attention of the guards!


  1. Move on to the Compound to enter it.
    The map of the compound
  2. Type "sc Sni" as your first action in the Compound, otherwise the Sniper gets you caught.
  3. If you are merely doing very easy Objective #1 - just use the Photographer ("su Pho") and you will get a "job done" message. Move away - too easy! Now go to the Completion Section of this page.
  4. Travel around the rear, more hidden, line of trees before emerging on to the road.
  5. Getting Past Guards in the Compound requires enough forged passes and German uniforms for all of you, and two skills. Although each of these elements helps, having them all together means you will get past all guards.
    1. Type "su Act"..
    2. Type "su Lin".
  6. Go to the front gate guards along the road.
  7. Walk straight through. There is an element of luck in getting past the guards. If you are merely doing the easy Objective 2, then, all you need to do now is to exit the compound again and follow the Completion Steps. Nearly there!
  8. Walk straight to the Underground Complex entrance (click for the walkthrough steps).

Steps 15-18: The Hidden Tower and Hidden Tunnel Routes

This involves finding one of the two hidden routes to the complex. One of them has 4 guards who will engage you as soon as you find it. There is 50% chance of finding either secret location first therefore you can't plan to avoid fighting the defenders. If you have taken too long, the Hidden route will be inaccessible due to poison gases (in the Tower) or rising water (in the Manhole cover).



  1. Find the Hidden Route: When next to the road, search each forest location ("se"). It could be on either right next to the road, or, one step deeper into the forest. You could find the pothole or the tower - keep searching if you find the wrong one.
  2. When you find it, skill-cancel the Sniper as you don't need him anymore - "sc Sni".
  3. Type "in" to enter the hidden route. Follow the next steps according to which one you are using.
    Hidden Pothole Route:
    1. Skill-use the Acrobat to get into the pothole - "su Acr" or if you haven't got it, use up one of your 5 Leader skills - "su Lea, Acr".
    2. Type "sc Acr" (or sc Lea if you used your Leader) as you don't need him anymore.
    3. Explore the pothole until you find the blocked-off corridor. The Explosives guy will blast through - "su Exp" or if you haven't got it, use up one of your 5 Leader skills - "su Lea, Exp".
    Hidden Tunnel Route:
    1. Skill-use the Midget to find the manhole - "su Mid" or if you haven't got it, use up one of of your 5 Leader skills - "su Lea, Mid".
    2. Type "sc Mid" (or sc Lea if you used your Leader) as you don't need him anymore.
    3. Skill-use the Strongman ("su Str" or "su Lea, Str") to open the manhole. Keep him selected as you'll need him soon.
    4. "in", and explore the cave until you find the grill. The Strongman will open it.
    5. Type "sc Str" (or sc Lea if you used your Leader) as you don't need him anymore - you'll have to wait a moment to have the chance.
  4. You are in now in the Underground Complex, skip to Step 23.

Steps 23-30: The Underground Complex

  1. Type "sc Sni" to skill-cancel the Sniper (if you have it) else he fires and gets you all caught.
  2. Never do the "se" search command, it attracts attention of guards.
  3. If you haven't got the Brass Keys, either (a) type "su Loc" to use the Locksmith or (b) skill-use the Pickpocket before you move into any corridor guards ("su Pic").
  4. Getting Past Corridor Guards and Room Guards. Ten corridor guards are randomly spread throughout the Complex. Getting past them requires enough forged passes and German uniforms for all of you, and two skills. Although each of these elements helps, having them all together means you will get past all guards.
    1. Type "su Act"..
    2. Type "su Lin".
  5. Explore the Rooms. They are found at the end of corridors but are not obviously marked. So attempt to walk through the ends of corridors as if there could be a door there. An example Complex layout (broken into segments):
    Map of the Underground Complex in Special Operations
    The top four square segments could occur in any position along the top row. Likewise, the bottom four segments could be in any order. If you can quickly identify which segment you are in from the first impression of the corridors, then, you can decide if you want to enter the nearby room - it is time efficient to bypass rooms that you're not interested in.
  6. Find the Objective: One room contains your mission objective. Skill select the correct expert when you are in the following rooms:
    1. Objective 4: Test Area: "type su Che".
    2. Objective 5: Laboratory: "type su Bio".
    3. Objective 6: File Room: type "su Phy".
    4. Objective 7: Production Area: "type su Exp".
  7. Navigate back to your starting point.
  8. Type "ou" to exit the Complex. Now follow the Completion Steps.

Steps 31-35: Completion

  1. After obtaining the Objective, you still need to extract yourselves. Type "ou" and/or navigate yourself back to the forest, depending on where you are.
  2. Type "su Sni" so the Sniper will kill one German from any patrols you encounter.
  3. Type "su Sco" to give you the option of evading some patrols.
  4. Move to the opposite side of the Forest to the Compound. You don't have to go precisely opposite - just anywhere on the entire opposite side will do.
  5. Well done, you've done it!

Current edition: 2016 Aug 20
Parent page: Misc Pages

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