Recommend
28 
 Thumb up
 Hide
16 Posts

A House Divided» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Interactive, Introductive, Strategic Civil War rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Gregory Bay
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
The American Civil War is an area of history that has always been on of great interest to me. I do not rejoice in death and destruction of so many for what is always political causes, but instead I am inthralled with the people that are involved in such circumstances.

For example: Robert E. Lee a man who was willing to lose everything to fight for what he believed was right. A man who received the command of the forces of the North and refused such grandeur, life, liberty, and property for his pursuit of happiness. He is not alone in this great character of service and honour. Many were the heroes that fought, served, loved, and died in the midst of such great evil. This is my passion for history. Character in the midst of evil.

I have been constantly on the lookout for a game to cover the American Civil War on a strategic level that gives a big picture view of the entire conflict. Some time ago A House Divide was brought to my attention. So I began the process of saving for the next game purchase, I always go for the free shipping, as so many understand here. Upon a few plays I have found A House Dived to be a wonderful, introductive game covering the strategic level of the American Civil War.

ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS (PLAYING THE WORD DEFINITION GAME):

What is meant by "strategic" level wargame?

A strategic level game is a game that covers the big picture, if I am getting by definition right here, of a war or conflict. Some games cover just a battle. Other games cover just certain units in a battle. There are varying amounts of depth and coverage for each genre of history as far as conflict is concerned.

For example Axis and Allies is a strategic level game covering World War II. The game does not cover any one battle but the entire conflict. This is what is meant by a strategic level war game. Other games out there: Band of Brothers, Combat Commander, cover a platoon/brigade level of combat. A closer view if you will.

Level of realism? This will be explained in greater detail in the rule book and game play section of this review but I wanted to plant a thought here. Different games offer varying amounts of realism. Usually games that are more realistic, and by realistic I mean true to creating the actual historical account, are more complicated. The reason being is the designer has to create rules, the more realistic the more rules, so that game will play according to a certain program. Often times a game that is simpler does not carry as much historical accuracy because the game does not have a multitude of rules to remember to get the game to function in a certain way. Make sense?

A House Divide is a strategic game of the American Civil War, an overview of the conflict, that provides a good amount of realism to its players without burdening them down with a heavy rule book.


COMPONENTS:

A House Divided comes with a game board, card board chits that represent your units, three leaders that are stand up card board pieces, six dice, and your rule books.

The box that the game comes in is wonderful quality, and the artwork that covers the box really is wonderful and adds to the flavor of the game. I will say this about the art for the game as a whole, it is good. The game board is of good quality and functions very well. The functioning part of the game board is important and that will be covered in the gameplay section of this review. The chits, units, are cardboard with a picture of the unit on them. There are infantry and cavalry. Sorry no artillery but this helps with keeping the game simple. The cardboard chits are of excellent quality and will stand up to many games to come. As well the chits are big and easy to hand, read, and see across the board. The artwork on the units is good and provides plenty of flavor for the game.

Overall I am extremely happy with the quality of the components in this game. I like cardboard chits of high quality, and these included in the game really help with game play by being very easy to understand and are nice to look at. Good components.


RULE BOOK & UNDERSTANDING THE AUTHOR'S INTENT:


A House Divided comes with two rule books: a simple one for beginners and an advanced rule book that provides an even greater depth of historical simulation.

The beginner rule book is roughly 12 pages long and provides a solid bases of understanding for players to pick up this game and be playing withing 30 minutes of reading the rule book. The rule book does a solid job of portraying the game play, strategy advice, and overall view of the game to players that have never played this game before as well as to players who may not be as familiar with war games in general. A House divided is a great game to introduce to either your non war game friends or to yourself if historical/simulation games are something that you have been eying. If this is true this game is a great teacher.

Included in the game as well is an advanced rule book that allows players to add rules, as they wish, to the game to provide for different historical events and strategies. This is a wonderful thing to do once you have mastered the simple game. The advanced rule book does a great job of introducing leadership and tactics of the period in a way in which players can pick and choose which advanced rules to play. You do not need to use the whole advanced rules to play the game. You have the ability to pick and choose.

Overall the rule books do a great job of teaching A House Divided to those familiar and unfamiliar with historical games/ war games. They provide players with a clear understand of the direction of both factions in the game as well as strategy and tips to used in game play. I appreciate when designers do this.

GAMEPLAY:

I will be explaining the simple game with a brief introduction to some of the elements of the advanced game.

Players will be spending their turns doing a basic list of things.
1. Rolling a dice to determine marches.
2. Marching their troops.
3. Resolving any battles.
4. Promoting a unit that won a battle. If applicable.
5. Promoting one unit on the board.
6. Rolling for recruitment.

Then it is the next players turn and following their turn (depending on which side you play) you move the time marking and start all over again.

There are a few exceptions to the list the first turn but other than that you will stay true to this formula in the simple game.

Opening up the game box player will divide their pieces by nationality, color coded blue and gray of course, and will separate their chits by numerics 2-3 for infantry and 1-3 for cavalry. Players will put their starting units on the board, all infantry, according to their start locations as given in the rule book. Bother players will have a level one cavalry left over as well the union player will have 16 level 2 infantry left over for a supply, not including the higher level units. These units for the Union player will only be infused into his supply during certain pre-determined drafts in the game where he will receive four at a time to be added to his recruitment pool and only units in this pool can be added to the board.

More on recruitment in a minute.

Starting with the union player marches are rolled for. On the first turn both players receive two, and players can never receive less than two. On any other turn the number on the dice determines marches with a one always being two marches. For each march a player gets to order one location to move. The units there can either move together or break up in any combination.

Movement takes place over roads, railroads, and rivers. Units can move one space on roads (cavalry two), two space on a railroad if a battle is not at the end, or one space on river (two downstream if you are Union). The river movement reflects the Unions ability to control the river systems via ironclads. Ironclads are not in the game but their presence is still there.

Players can also use their marches to dig in/ reinforce their position which helps only in defense. If the player moves away from where they dug in they lose the fortification.

One of the neat aspects of the game is its simple way of handling the historical aspects of the war in a fashion that does not clog down game play or understanding of the game. The river rule is just one example. Sure you do not have the piece but the effect that ironclads had is there.

After movement any battles are resolved. The player that moved into the location is the attacker and the other player, of course, is the defender. Defenders always shoot first. Players will take their chits and line them up so that each chit fights one unit, and if one side has more chits then the other then you can "gain up" on a chit. Players take turns rolling dice and to hit must roll the number on their chit or lower. There are a few defensive modifiers depending upon the location.

Some locations offer defense bonuses, or modifiers, to the die roll. Let me explain the locations. Some locations are forts which provide a -1 to the range a player can roll. A level 2 normally rolls a 2 or 1 for a hit but because they are attacking a fort they can only roll a 1. Very simple. Other locations are on a water system and this is depicted by a blue side on the location. Very simple to use. If players cross this blue side to attack they receive a -1 modifier as well. There can be multiple modifiers in play and it is possible for units to not be able to hit anything.

Battle continues round after round until someone wins by killing off the other side or one side retreats. The player holding the ground wins and immediately get to promote one unit in the battle. Let's talk about promotions.

Promotion twice on a players turn. The first time is when the player wins a battle, either as defender or attacker does not matter. Promotion entails taking a unit off the board and placing a higher level unit in play. A level 2 infantry would produce a level 3 infantry. This increases the amount of troops in your reinforcement by putting more level 2's back in supply to be recruited.

The second time promotion happens is once on the active players turn after all battles are resolved. The active player can promote any unit on the board.

Promotion is a must to win. Gives stronger units, incorporates cavalry because you start with none, and allows you to grow a bigger army by putting more troops back in the recruitment pool.

Finally the recruitment stage. Here the player rolls on dice and puts that many units into play following a couple of rules. First a one roll is always a two. Second, only level 2 units can be recruited, or level 1 cavalry, so it is very important to promote your low level units early to grow the size of your army. If you roll a three and only have one low level unit to recruit you only get one unit. Final rule, units must be placed on a recruitment city (colored shield that matches the side) and only one unit per city.

The Union player has to deal with a draft which limits his army size for awhile. Every year four more units are put into the pool to be recruited which at first gives the South their advantage but later on the Union their size.

Victory happens when the South conquers Washington D.C., our steals a majority of the supply points from the North. The North can win by attrition or conquering the South.

The game is very fun to play. Rules are straight forward and the gameplay gets players into the heat of battle quickly. Extremely enjoyable.


A TEACHING GAME:

The game is very easy to teach allowing players the ability to add more realism with additional rules as desired.

One of the things I truly appreciate about this game is the very functionable board. All the info is right in front of you and easy to understand. The pieces tell you what you need to role modified by the board.

Like I said, the game teaches easy and is a joy to play. The realism of the game is there. Not every nook and cranny of the war is accounted for but you really can see the strategy and trials of each side.

The South starts off with the advantage, and has a good shot at winning. As time rolls on though the North catches on and usually will win by attrition.

The game is an overview of the war and allows players to try the what if questions. I have seen the South conquer Chicago and cut off the West to win. You do find yourself using a lot of the strategies and fighting similar battles as the were fought in the real war.

This game is a great introductive game to bring your friends into historical simulation as well as for gamers that do not want to be overwhelmed by rules.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I enjoy A House Divided. I do not own many Civil War games because I have not found one that I really like yet. A House Divided really scratches a majority of the itch for me, though I would like to get another deeper game one of these days.

The table is no stranger to this game and I have taught many to enjoy the military/historical side of gaming because of the simple depth provided here.

If you are looking for a game covering this time period that is simple yet thought provoking then you have found a gem.

Just a great game!

Thank you!

Gregory

...and what say you?
25 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brad Miller
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I concur with much of what you say. AHD is a pretty great, yet simple, ACW game. It's not a simulation, but it does tend to get a lot right in terms of the decisions that had to be made by the two sides in a strategic sense.

For a deeper game look at The Civil War for hex-and-counter, or For the People is you like CDGs. looking forward to checking out Lincoln's War when it comes out as well.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Raspler
United States
New York
New York
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My main problems with AHD is that allows for cartoonishly impossible events (like the South taking Chicago or NYC), but rarely allows the Union to progress along anything like a historical time-table. Don't get me wrong, the Union wins their fare share of games... but they often do it without the deep incursions they had historically. Rebel states should fall, one after the other... the Mississippi should be taken... and the South should be split and split again into smaller chunks.

This is rarely seen in AHD. It's also rarely seen in For The People, a more complicated game by far. In fact, the only stratetic ACW game I've seen where the historical time-table is followed is Blue Versus Gray... in which the North can really dismember the south, but can still lose the game if the rebs manange to keep their forces together and hold a few key spaces.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have the 1st and second edition of the game. Would there be that much of a difference to justify getting the newest one? I have do like the game but have not played it as much.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
p55carroll
United States
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Games are like songs: you never get tired of playing the best ones over and over, and you can enjoy them all by yourself.
badge
"Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than fun, and happiness is better than mirth." (William Blake)
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
sherron wrote:
I have the 1st and second edition of the game. Would there be that much of a difference to justify getting the newest one? I have do like the game but have not played it as much.

You need to check out the "living rules" on the Web page linked to here. They'll enable you to play the latest version of the game with the components you already have.

Even people who do have the 3rd edition of the game should be sure to look at the "living rules."
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gregory Bay
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Patrick Carroll wrote:
sherron wrote:
I have the 1st and second edition of the game. Would there be that much of a difference to justify getting the newest one? I have do like the game but have not played it as much.

You need to check out the "living rules" on the Web page linked to here. They'll enable you to play the latest version of the game with the components you already have.

Even people who do have the 3rd edition of the game should be sure to look at the "living rules."


Yes what he said!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Young
Canada
Victoria
BC
flag msg tools
Old Ways Are Best!
badge
Check Six!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
baymonkey wrote:

ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS (PLAYING THE WORD DEFINITION GAME):

What is meant by "strategic" level wargame?

A strategic level game is a game that covers the big picture, if I am getting by definition right here, of a war or conflict. Some games cover just a battle. Other games cover just certain units in a battle. There are varying amounts of depth and coverage for each genre of history as far as conflict is concerned.

For example Axis and Allies is a strategic level game covering World War II. The game does not cover any one battle but the entire conflict. This is what is meant by a strategic level war game.


When I see definitions in all caps, my antennae quiver. You see a lot of references to "strategic" versus "tactical" levels in game discussions and I sometimes wonder whether everyone agrees on what the terms mean. Your use of the "big picture" idea is a sound one, but since you've made a point of definitions, perhaps what is more precisely meant by that should be examined.

For game categorization purposes it might be useful to consider the following three generally accepted levels of warfare: Tactical, Operational, and Strategic.

The Tactical level generally deals with small units and the tactics they use. Company and Platoon commanders deal in terms of objectives and how to take them. Advanced Squad Leader is a prime example that instantly comes to mind when I think of tactical level games. Memoir '44 is another more recent example. This categorization can also be extended to include a recreation of a single battle such as Zama 202 B.C.: Hannibal vs. Scipio Africanus, since the focus is often on the specific tactic or set of tactics that spelled the difference in the outcome.

The Operational level of warfare involves higher levels of military command and planning. Another description here might be "theatre level." A "campaign" or series of battles is generally involved. Another distinction is that the considerations are primarily military. I think that A House Divided is more operational than strategic as it deals principly with the military actions of the Civil War. Other aspects - political, economic and diplomatic are scarcely touched. Many war games focus on this level but are often, and I think erroneously, described as "strategic." A campaign plan can certainly have a "strategy" where the term is meant to refer to the heart of the plan - not to be confused with the level of warfare description.

The Strategic Level deals with all aspects of a nation at war, and depending on the scope of the struggle, you could see the term "Grand Strategic" apply as well (a group of nations combining their efforts will have a "grand strategy"). The management of a war economy to direct production, the coordination of several theatres of war, and the diplomatic actions necessary to engage and coordinate allies etc. are all involved at that level. Interestingly, the often dismissed Axis & Allies provides a very good example of a game set at the Grand Strategic level.

For a truly strategic level US Civil War game I think you have to look at something like For the People. There you are looking at the conflict through the eyes of Lincoln and Davis, where you need to be if you want a strategic level depiction. If you are looking through the eyes of just the military commanders, then you are still at the operational level.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gregory Bay
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Bubslug wrote:
baymonkey wrote:

ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS (PLAYING THE WORD DEFINITION GAME):

What is meant by "strategic" level wargame?

A strategic level game is a game that covers the big picture, if I am getting by definition right here, of a war or conflict. Some games cover just a battle. Other games cover just certain units in a battle. There are varying amounts of depth and coverage for each genre of history as far as conflict is concerned.

For example Axis and Allies is a strategic level game covering World War II. The game does not cover any one battle but the entire conflict. This is what is meant by a strategic level war game.


When I see definitions in all caps, my antennae quiver. You see a lot of references to "strategic" versus "tactical" levels in game discussions and I sometimes wonder whether everyone agrees on what the terms mean. Your use of the "big picture" idea is a sound one, but since you've made a point of definitions, perhaps what is more precisely meant by that should be examined.

For game categorization purposes it might be useful to consider the following three generally accepted levels of warfare: Tactical, Operational, and Strategic.

The Tactical level generally deals with small units and the tactics they use. Company and Platoon commanders deal in terms of objectives and how to take them. Advanced Squad Leader is a prime example that instantly comes to mind when I think of tactical level games. Memoir '44 is another more recent example. This categorization can also be extended to include a recreation of a single battle such as Zama 202 B.C.: Hannibal vs. Scipio Africanus, since the focus is often on the specific tactic or set of tactics that spelled the difference in the outcome.

The Operational level of warfare involves higher levels of military command and planning. Another description here might be "theatre level." A "campaign" or series of battles is generally involved. Another distinction is that the considerations are primarily military. I think that A House Divided is more operational than strategic as it deals principly with the military actions of the Civil War. Other aspects - political, economic and diplomatic are scarcely touched. Many war games focus on this level but are often, and I think erroneously, described as "strategic." A campaign plan can certainly have a "strategy" where the term is meant to refer to the heart of the plan - not to be confused with the level of warfare description.

The Strategic Level deals with all aspects of a nation at war, and depending on the scope of the struggle, you could see the term "Grand Strategic" apply as well (a group of nations combining their efforts will have a "grand strategy"). The management of a war economy to direct production, the coordination of several theatres of war, and the diplomatic actions necessary to engage and coordinate allies etc. are all involved at that level. Interestingly, the often dismissed Axis & Allies provides a very good example of a game set at the Grand Strategic level.

For a truly strategic level US Civil War game I think you have to look at something like For the People. There you are looking at the conflict through the eyes of Lincoln and Davis, where you need to be if you want a strategic level depiction. If you are looking through the eyes of just the military commanders, then you are still at the operational level.


Appreciate the comment. Yes I would say that you are correct and that House Divided is more operational level, but is not the US Civil War two nations fighting as well? Just a query to ponder.

I do not go over board with definitions but I did bring them up here to perhaps introduce/intrigue those that do not play wargames/historical simulation.

Thank you for you thorough input and discretion!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Young
Canada
Victoria
BC
flag msg tools
Old Ways Are Best!
badge
Check Six!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good point - indeed a civil war is a struggle between two prospective nations, or two competing concepts of a single nation, depending on how you look at it. And, anytime you set up hard and fast definitions you can immediately encounter grey areas and edge cases.

I guess my point here was that in A House Divided you are focusing on and managing the military units of the struggle. Other elements of production and supply are simply abstractions if they are addressed at all. Davis and Lincoln faced all sorts of other issues in addition to managing the military activity ongoing - such as getting re-elected; ensuring the populace remained firmly behind the war effort; recruiting, equipping and supplying the war effort; and, trying to convince other nations to support their respective causes. For the People has all these elements embodied somewhere in the game and is a truly remarkable achievement in CDG game design.

I like both - I guess which one you play will depend on which element(s) of the conflict you wish to focus on, and what your opponent is up for...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gregory Bay
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
I always call the word definition game antics with semantics. Heard that somewhere before, but I agree with your assessment.

For the People is a game that I have had repeatedly mentioned to me to play. I have yet to find a game that is a step up to A House Divided that has satisfied me. Think I will be ordering For the People.

Have you played Columbia Games Sam Grant or Bobby Lee?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Young
Canada
Victoria
BC
flag msg tools
Old Ways Are Best!
badge
Check Six!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
No to the two you mention. I am familiar with the Columbia game line but for some reason have few in my collection as yet. I particularly like the way the block system can be used to recreate the "fog of war." I do have Wizard Kings but that is a fantasy themed game system not a war game per se. I actually find I have little time these days for two player war games (sigh).

But as for strategic level US Civil War games, I think there is a thread out there somewhere that compares several strategic level civil war games (that also includes AHD IIRC) - I think FtP rated right up there but there were a couple of others that also received glowing recommendations. Anyone help?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ted Kostek
United States
Camano Island
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
My loose way to classify tactical/operational/strategic games is based on these items.

A game is tactical if you have line-of-sight rules. Operational and strategic games have scales that make line-of-sight invisible on the map.

A game is operational if you can suffer attrition due to supply. Tactical games have time-scales that make supply irrelevant, and strategic games have such large geography that units can get the supply they need from the area. For example, in Axis and Allies, your units occupy all of France. Supply lines are invisible at this scale. Operational games have a large focus on maneuvering groups of units, and the battle rules are typically somewhat abstracted (no line of sight being the prime example).

A strategic game will typically have considerations such as manufacturing and/or purchasing units as a major component. Also, political factors enter into the game.

I'm no military expert by any means, but these definitions seem to be useful (as opposed to definitive).

Based on all this, AHD is mostly operational, but it does have some strategic elements.

OTOH, in Blue vs. Gray the locations of the military units aren't actually specified. There are some supply rules, but the primary decisions in the game aren't about maneuvring units around geographically. Instead, the primary decisions occur at a "higher" slightly more abstracted level.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gregory Bay
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Thanks for the insight Ted!

Greg
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Lowry
United States
Sunnyvale
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I much prefer to go by the scope of the game. Tactical games deal with a single battle, operation deal with a campaign, and strategic deal with an entire front or war.

So, dealing with the entire war, AHD is quite solidly strategic (grand strategic, even).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ted Kostek
United States
Camano Island
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Rindis wrote:
I much prefer to go by the scope of the game. Tactical games deal with a single battle, operation deal with a campaign, and strategic deal with an entire front or war.

So, dealing with the entire war, AHD is quite solidly strategic (grand strategic, even).


This is a reasonable way to classify these terms. It's not that much different than my ideas above, though there are differences. There are various pro and cons to any classification system. A pro of my system is that it groups games based on the types of factors you weigh and the decisions you need to make.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Young
Canada
Victoria
BC
flag msg tools
Old Ways Are Best!
badge
Check Six!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
kostek wrote:
Rindis wrote:
I much prefer to go by the scope of the game. Tactical games deal with a single battle, operation deal with a campaign, and strategic deal with an entire front or war.

So, dealing with the entire war, AHD is quite solidly strategic (grand strategic, even).


This is a reasonable way to classify these terms. It's not that much different than my ideas above, though there are differences. There are various pro and cons to any classification system. A pro of my system is that it groups games based on the types of factors you weigh and the decisions you need to make.


The categorization system you've proposed can work for some genres of games - mostly war games which are overwhelmingly either operational or tactical in nature and in which supply LOC often figure (in the operational type). But, it doesn't help you with any of the CDGs that have emerged as a game genre of their own. Two good examples would be For the People and Paths of Glory. Both of these are clearly strategic in scope covering as they do a Civil War and a World War. The decisions players must make fall into the three broad categories of military, economic and political/diplomatic. Both also make you keenly aware of supply LOC. You are on the right track in focusing on the types of decisions players have to deal with. The proper and established criteria for the levels of warfare do exactly that - it's one of the reasons they are there...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.