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Subject: A great introductory American Civil War game! rss

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Donald Wilbur III
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Sacramento
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A House Divided (hereafter AHD) is a game of the American Civil War at the grand strategic scale (the whole war on one map). It’s fairly simple to play and understand, yet it gives a good feel for the difficulties each side faced in waging this war.

Every turn of AHD represents one or two months (10 turns per year). The turn sequence is very simple:
1) Movement
2) Combat
3) Promotion
4) Recruitment

Movement is very simple compared to many wargames, you roll a die to determine how many of your armies you can move then you can move those armies any where you like according to a simple table. Cavalry can move 2 anywhere, infantry can move 2 on railroads or rivers or 1 on roads.

Combat is nearly as simple, each unit has a combat strength of 1, 2 or 3. If you roll that number or less on a die you damage the enemy unit you are attacking. There are only a few modifications to that. For example, crack infantry and entrenched troops are harder to hit so they get -1 to rolls against them.

There are three levels of troop quality: militia, veteran, and crack. After winning a combat the victor can choose any one of the troops in the victorious stack and promote it to the next level – militia becomes veteran, veteran becomes crack. During the promotion phase you may choose to promote any one unit anywhere on the map. This is great to beef up those stacks on the front line.

It’s essential to keep promoting your troops for two reasons. First, the promoted troops are better in combat (duh!). Second, your army can’t grow if you don’t continually cycle the militia out of your forces so you can recruit them again.

In the recruitment phase you roll one die to determine how many militia units you can add to your army. If you don’t have any militia in the pool you can’t recruit. So you have to fight battles to get promotions (or lose militia) in order to recruit more units.

The North wins if it can take all the major Southern recuiting cities (New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Mobile, Charleston, Richmond, and Wilmington). South wins if it prevents that for the whole war, if it's recruiting potential gets big enough relative to the North or if it takes Washington (in the basic rules at least).

There are a variety of optional and advanced rules which can be used. Some of them provide historic flavor, while others really change the nature of the game. With the basic rules, the North has a pretty powerful advantage since they have more units to recruit. But with the advanced command and movement rules the South has a distinct advantage in movement and control that makes the game very interesting indeed.

While I recommend playing the basic rules only for your first game, you will want to add some of the advanced and optional rules after that. Without the advanced command and movement rules the South player has very little chance so I would always use this rule. The supply rules make the game much more realistic and are really pretty simple so I highly recommend them. You could play without the leader rules but they add a lot without being very complicated.

Since the advanced command and movement rules slant the game in favor of the South I use all three of the pro-Union rules: naval evacuation, rail movement, and historical recruiting. I also like the advanced rules for capture of Washington. The border states/foreign intervention rules are very interesting, but will only happen if the South is going to win anyway.

I absolutely can NOT recommend the morale rule. This rule forces you to roll an extra two times for each damaged unit and does little if anything to change the results of the combat. I know that in the real conflict morale was crucial, but this rule does little to simulate that and a lot to wreck the game’s playability.

This game is very well made. The pieces are attractive and easy to handle. The board is a little hard to read but otherwise very nicely done.

AHD is not a careful recreation of all things American Civil War. There is very little detail and units/map locations are pretty generic. If you want a game that carefully recreates the war at great depth you will need to choose a different game (For the People?) But if you want a game you can learn in one playing, that you can play without constantly looking up rules, that recreates the feel of the American Civil War, and can be played in one evening this is an excellent choice.

ADH game is a great choice for beginning wargamers, wargamers who love grand strategy, and gamers who love simple games with good strategic choices. This is not a good game for ACW purists, chrome lovers, or for those who want a beer and pretzels game.

Playability: 10
Replay ability: 8
Historical Simulation: 6
Strategy vs. Luck: 7 (mostly strategy)
Solitaire playability: 8 (works well if you play both sides to the best of your ability – no fog of war and no hidden information, but no programmed play).

Overall I rate this game an 8.
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Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
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Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
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The game has stood the test of time coming out in the 1970's by Game Designers Workshop first and being reprinted today! Not that many wargames can bost of that. AHD is one of best.
 
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Christopher Hill
United States
Wilmington
North Carolina
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I haven't been playing AHD for a very long time, but in our first few games we have found that an aggressive South player has a clear advantage in the first ten turns of the game. Southern cavalry can wreak havoc in the North if the Union player is not careful. If the Southern player is not successful in the first few turns, then we find that the game usually turns into a grind it out affair not unlike history. Bottom line, we are finding that the South can win either way, but it seems the North can only win in a longer, more drawn out affair. Has this been other player's experience?
 
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Eric Smith
United States
Philadelphia
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I've bought this game three times, three different versions, and will continue to do so in the future - this is a great board wargame.

Eric
 
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Dave Tianen
United States
Wisconsin
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I have all three editions of this game but I'm a little perplexed on which of the advanced and optional rules to include. My limited experience has been that if you use the optional command table with the generals option, the Confederacy is almost unbeatable early on because the combination of Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy's superiority on the command table are almost impossible to overcome in a battle, where they can improve the hit potential of one or more units. How about just using the battle modifier for generals? The other question is do all the optional rules and advanced rules simply bog down what is at its heart a simple, elegant design?
 
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Donald Wilbur III
United States
Sacramento
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The south is pretty tough with Lee and his 3 rating. But the North has Grant and Sherman so it can either combine them or separate them as it sees fit.

The South really has to do its winning early tho, because in '63 Grant and Sherman get stronger while Lee gets weaker, every year the South's command and move advantage gets a little weaker, and every year the North's army gets bigger.

I'm inclined to agree that too much use of the optional and advanced rules can bog the game down (especially the morale rules). But many of the rules don't really come up that often. Take naval evacuation for instance. I think I've been in a situation to use it twice in the last 3 games. You could leave it out without killing the North, but then again, it's not really that complicated.

The only ones that seem essential to me are the advanced command and move rules and the advanced supply rules. If that balances the game too far to the South, I'd include union rail move and the rule that allows the union to have bigger armies. Just about everything else is chrome.

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Michael Dworkin
United States
Montpelier
Vermont
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That's quite a compliment from the Texan who created the best of all Civil War board games (yet).
 
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