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Subject: This Means War - A Games with Two Review rss

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Jason Moslander
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Fenton
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See more at http://gameswithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/10/this-means-war-hous...

Let me start by saying, "I am not a wargamer." Yes, I have played Risk, Memoir '44, and Game of Thrones the Board Game, but those games are hardly even considered wargames. It's not that I don't enjoy the concept and strategy of war games, it's mostly learning the game, playing the game, and finding someone to play the game with. All of these aspects are very time consuming for most war games. Even a simpler game, such as Memoir 44 was difficult to find playing partners. So, that has left me with little-to-no war gaming for me. So, when Mayfair sent me A House Divided, I was happy and sad all at the same time. I was going to get to learn a new war game, but I also was going to have to learn a new war game. Long complex rule book, long playtime, and the search for a playing partner began. Oh, the game within the game.

Overview
A House Divided is a two-player, Civil War, area-control game. The game was designed by Frank Chadwick and Alan Emrich. The Mayfair box says the game takes 60 minutes to play, but the BGG says it takes 240 minutes (4 hours). One player takes the side of the Union army and the other player plays the Confederacy during the United States' Civil War. The game plays over the course of the war with each round taking one month, except for the months which are combined. This results in a maximum number of 40 turns. You play shorter scenarios and the game can end quicker, if other victory conditions are met. The one I lost by was the South taking control of Washington D.C.

Each round of the game is separated into a North turn, followed by a South turn. Each player will then have four phases on their turn; these consist of movement, battle, promotion, and recruitment. Each of the phases does exactly what the name would suggest. You start by rolling a die. You can then create order for that many cities to be marched on. If any of the marches ends with troops from both armies in the same city, a battle ensues. Dice rolling is used to resolve the battle with the winner receiving the city and a promotion for one of the troops that was in the battle. After the battle phase you can promote one of your troops and then you may recruit a new troops to the battlefield. Play continues in this matter until the end of 40 turns, or one of the other victory conditions is met.

Review
Components and Value
First, I have to speak on the components of this game because they are sub-par. The box is the somewhat standard box that Mayfair has been using recently. These boxes are a nice size, the only problem is that this game doesn't fit in the box. When I received my copy, the lid wasn't on all the way because the board was taller than the lid, so it had a nice convex look. The second problem I had was the artwork. It just looks old and unexciting. Artwork should draw your attention to a game, not make you want to never play it. I know that war game artwork is a little different than your standard board games, but I think it's time for a change. Some updated graphics in the war game genre could go along way. The graphic design for A House Divided also had a major error. The rules and game tracker state that the Union army should start with 34 reinforcement spots; the only problem is there are only 33 on the board. This is a big problem, since reinforcement locations are one of the victory conditions. I wouldn't have been surprised to see this on a first printing by a small company, but this is a fourth edition by a major company. It made me wonder how much Mayfair is behind this game. The game pieces themselves were also lacking-- they were simple cardboard tokens. Finally, the rule book was somewhat difficult to understand. My only advice is that even if you are just playing the Basic Rules, read the full rule book--don't even bother with the Basic Rulebook, unless you are using it to reference something. Other than that, I found it to be pretty worthless.

Game Play
The game play for A House Divided is good. There is a lot of strategy, and if you try for a quick victory, or advancing your troops too fast, you will leave massive gaps in your line. We found this out with our first play. Both players built strongholds and then tried to attack out of those. However, if one of these was ever overtaken, the line was broken. We even had huge gaps in our lines which made it easy for enemy flanks. Therefore, this game is not a quick game, and it's not an easy game. It takes a good amount of skill, and several plays before you can become and expert at it. I wouldn't suggest breaking this out with new gamers, but someone who enjoys Risk or Axis and Allies, may find this one enjoyable. This is also one that would be fun to play with the same person over and over again, or at least a war gaming group, since it can be a difficult task to learn a game of this nature, for the non-wargamer. And because of that, I personally did not enjoy it. If I am playing a war game, I want something a little lighter, and one that focuses on a single battle. I believe that is why I love Memoir 44 so much, and if you are Civil War buff, there is a game that plays like Memoir called Battle Cry.

Final Thoughts
This is was not an easy game to learn or play. It is made for a specific niche in the board gaming community, and I am not really in that niche. Mrs. Games with Two is even further away from that niche, and refused to even try this one with me. And I can't imagine that many wives and girlfriends would be interested in playing this one. So, before you go out and buy this one to play with your significant other, you may want to have her take a look at it and see if is something she would be interested in (and that really goes for purchasing any war game to play with that special someone). In the end, I am glad I tried this one, and I am glad that I was able to explore a new genre, but it just wasn't for me.

See more at www.gameswithtwo.com
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Jim F
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It's ok not to be a wargamer.

I get dragged into a few euros from time to time and don't really enjoy them which is why I haven't written a review of one. Kudos to you for pressing on regardless.

From a wargamer's perspective 'A House Divided' is a fairly light, fun game that can be completed in an evening. I really like it but there is a lot of more innovative stuff out there.
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Jason Moslander
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Fenton
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Thanks for the insight. I think I am just going to have to enjoy wargames when others want to play them.

Ashiefan wrote:

It's ok not to be a wargamer.

I get dragged into a few euros from time to time and don't really enjoy them which is why I haven't written a review of one. Kudos to you for pressing on regardless.

From a wargamer's perspective 'A House Divided' is a fairly light, fun game that can be completed in an evening. I really like it but there is a lot of more innovative stuff out there.
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Darrell Hanning
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Jacksonville
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The problem most wargamers have with Battle Cry is its almost complete lack of historicity - it fails to give the player any insight whatsoever into the battles covered, and doesn't even begin to provide any insight into the war in general. This is where A House Divided does succeed. This game, while light and considered an "entry level" wargame, does give the players a solid, geographic context to that war, and even some insight into the manpower issues facing the two factions.

In the genre of wargames, the emphasis is on veracity, verisimilitude, insight, and making the challenge of success commensurate in degree with the stakes at hand. While superior components are always a nice touch, garishness (at the other end of the spectrum from blandness) should be avoided, as the situation on the board must always be easy to assimilate, and not distracting over the course of time taken to complete the game. Miniatures, as one finds in Battle Cry, are usually not suitable, as they do not present unit information as readily as flat counters do, and they can make problematic viewing the information the board presents.

If you're looking for a game that just happens to have the American Civil War as a theme, then Battle Cry is probably for you. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a game that actually gives you insight into that war, A House Divided is a decent place to start.
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Dundy O
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Milwaukee
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Loved your review. You announced to your readers right from the start what you normally play then gave an honest review of this game from your perspective.

As the previous posters mentioned, awesome ('blinged out' bits), colorful maps and the such would not be appreciated. War-gamers study the map and it's unfolding situation in a fashion similar to chess players. Eyes would become fatigued with bright colors or various sized pieces and our minds would become distracted.

Thanks for the review.

 
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Steve O'Grady
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To me, this is sad. Here was an opportunity for a mainstream gaming company (makers of Settlers of Catan) to present an easy wargame to its masses, and they swing and miss.

Here is an admitted non wargamer, with an interest, and a desire, and he walks away from the experience with a sense of struggling to piece together misses in components, box, rules, and art. Art! As he says, the art should make you want to be there, to make you want to be part of it and experience it. It just fell flat and unmotivating. I got the sense that Mayfair was thrilled to get the rights to publish this classic game, but then it fell low on the priority list for quality oversight. And when decisions had to be made on various options, because it was a low niche product anyway with an expected small audience, corners were cut to keep the project moving. The result was that it appeals to nobody.

Jason, thanks for the review. Thanks for trying it out and reporting your impressions. I would ask you stay with it as this is really one of the better war games out there, though this version may not seem to support that statement. If you do find an opponent, you may find it an engaging experience. It is after all 4 years of Civil War from Florida to Texas to Virginia, to Ohio to Pennsylvania. It will take 2-3+ hours to get through it all. Of course you can cut the time in half if one person gets a large lead. At that point there is no dishonor in conceding to your opponent and save yourself an hour or two.

And you are right about the wife. I envy guys whose wives will play a war game with them. Mine won't. So most of my war gaming is solitaire (play both sides) or with my son (occasionally when he comes home to visit), or with a friend I play with at our FLGS.

Again...great review. And stay with it. You have the wargame itch. There is a game out there that will scratch it perfectly. Might I suggest Academy Games 1775: Rebellion. Better game, very approachable for newcomers, a game that can swing widely both ways before it is over, and beautiful art.
 
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Hawkeye
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GeekDadGamer wrote:
To me, this is sad. Here was an opportunity for a mainstream gaming company (makers of Settlers of Catan) to present an easy wargame to its masses, and they swing and miss.


And what's even worse is the previous edition by Phalanx Games B.V. was superior in every way, so Mayfair basically too this and downgraded it. Of course, we knew that would happen as soon as we saw the hideous box art.
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Jim Sandefur
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Use the rules for the original 1981 game. Every reprint of A House Divided made a great game a little less great. Frank Chadwick is a very talented game designer. Everything Alan Emrich has added to the game is a mistake and proves he doesn't even understand the game. Even box art and elegantly simple component art of the first edition is better than the silly crap by Phalanx and even worse godawful crap by Mayfair.
 
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The one and only (but one of two in BGG)
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Jim Sandefur wrote:
Use the rules for the original 1981 game. Every reprint of A House Divided made a great game a little less great. Frank Chadwick is a very talented game designer. Everything Alan Emrich has added to the game is a mistake and proves he doesn't even understand the game. Even box art and elegantly simple component art of the first edition is better than the silly crap by Phalanx and even worse godawful crap by Mayfair.

Hmm ... though that sounds like it might be a stick-in-the-mud rant, it inspires me to try the original. I bought a copy of it after playing the Phalanx edition a few times, but I haven't tried it yet.
 
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Brad Miller
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Jim Sandefur wrote:
Use the rules for the original 1981 game. Every reprint of A House Divided made a great game a little less great. Frank Chadwick is a very talented game designer. Everything Alan Emrich has added to the game is a mistake and proves he doesn't even understand the game. Even box art and elegantly simple component art of the first edition is better than the silly crap by Phalanx and even worse godawful crap by Mayfair.


I think, other than the wavy-line pattern of the board, the Phalanx version is beautiful. Love the large colorful counters. Not sure what Alan has "messed up", having not played the early rules set. Only thing I didn't like was the changes in when control of a space occurred, (end of combat vs. end of turn), which had impacts on recruitment.
 
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