Recommend
33 
 Thumb up
 Hide
17 Posts

A House Divided» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Capturing the Epic Struggle rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Chad Ridgley
United States
Copperas Cove
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Though this board game is well-known and has been reviewed several times already on BGG I wanted to add my two cents on a game I am familiar with. As a bit of background I want to first say A House Divided is my favorite in the genre of Civil War strategy level games. It was my first foray when I started playing it in the 2nd edition back in 91 and I still find myself replaying the 3rd edition set with the Living Rules that are posted online. I have to say that the 3rd edition components are lovely and really worth the upgrade if you owned and enjoyed playing the previous editions.

As many have noted, A House Divided may not be as detailed as others, but for a mid -level interest in the American Civil War, it manages to capture the overarching aspects. Due to its elegant design and fluid play, I find that it tends to see the table far more than other Civil War games that I own. Another one of my favorite elements is how this game provides a basic game along with the advanced rules that can be added later. This allows beginners to quickly learn the general flow of the game before delving into considerations like supply, movement and command, and the other intensive battlefield aspects. While these advanced elements increase the level of detail and enjoyment for experienced players, they also greatly add to the playing time and are easy to occasionally forget after you have been playing and rolling lots of dice for a couple of hours.

As far as the game play goes, each player goes in turn completing four segments: movement, combat, promotions, and recruiting. Players roll for the number of movements or marches. Each piece can make no more than 2 marches per turn. Afterwards any combat is conducted and the victor gains a promotion to a unit involved in the battle (militia becomes veteran, veteran becomes an elite). The active player then can choose any unit in their army for another promotion. Finally recruits are added from the available pool (infantry or cavalry). The game involves lots of dice rolling especially in battles. If you mess up on your battle command value roll (in the advanced game) you are likely going to cough up the battle even if facing an inferior force. I've also seen battles I thought would go one way end up going the other due to a series of bad rolls. So naturally luck plays an element in things, but good strategy and careful play usually prevail.

As far as strategy, the South usually carries the edge in the first 2 years and needs to make the most of it. They have advantages in command points so they can react capably to Northern attacks and are usually recruiting new forces closer to the front than the North. Should they lose a battle or two early on, they can quickly gather new recruits and build a new defense. I tend to find the South using a mixture of a Fabian strategy with their cavalry, containment in the port areas, entrenchment in key recruitment cities, and opportune counterstrikes as circumstances arise. Against a novice Union player they have a good chance of winning early if the North blunders in their advances and attacks somewhere allowing the South to develop an experienced army that can roll into the Northern recruitment areas.

The North has to constantly worry about not falling below in points to the South. It can be hard to evaluate success, especially early on. Success in a couple of battles does not guarantee that the South will be spent as they can just recruit more from nearby cities and prepare to hold a new line. In this game it often feels like when you chop off one limb from the South, another grows back in its place. But it helps to exploit the undefended coastal areas and spread out the South so they can't focus their initial defense solely around Memphis, Nashville, and the Northern Virginia areas. The more the South is forced to sacrifice along a front for the sake of defending another, the more successful the North will be. By mid 1863, the Union is usually far more able to push its weight around. They will then have a recruitment advantage of 20 militia infantry to 8 rebel infantry and this increases again in 1864. Rebel Entrenchments will continue to slow down the war and force the North to maneuver and cut off supply lines or apply pressure to other areas.

Other considerations--naval movements are much more difficult with the additional rules on coastal defense and containment. As always, troop experience is a huge deciding factor. Elite infantry can possibly hold off 3 militia singlehandedly. Watch for cavalry jumps and nearby enemy reinforcements when you attack. Often times it is about seeing opportunities on the game board and knowing how to exploit them, though sometimes you just don’t have the command resources in a turn to make the moves you want to make.

In terms of game balance, it is there, but I have to say personally that many of my solitaire games end up as Southern wins. That's probably because I'm not skillful or careful enough playing as the Union. Though the rulebook says otherwise, I think the Union is the toughest for me to play as.

The game does have its flaws. As stated before if you play using the advanced rules, it can be easy to forget an aspect unless you are constantly looking at a player card to remind yourself. I also think the containment rule needs more clarification. Civil War buffs and war gamers may be turned off by the oversimplification of the game in certain aspects. The rules just don't include more than just the 3 big name generals (though the presence of Stonewall Jackson is abstracted in Lee's case). To be fair though I have also seen other more heavy Civil War games struggle with this aspect in different ways. The game also doesn't account much for political considerations (except Foreign Intervention which is nearly impossible to trigger) and doesn't allow much control of the Union Blockade. I also would have liked to see an adjustment to the Command Points Table, more terrain modifications, removing Confederate river attacks, and allowing discretionary retreats.

All in all though, whether you will like the game probably depends more on what you are looking for in the genre. If you are only looking for a Civil War game that depicts exact detail and historical realism then this one may not do it for you. A House Divided is enjoyable as a light to mid-level Civil War game that offers good strategical insight into the war, solitaire suitability, fun interaction with the dice rolls, and good replay value.

Pros:
-Elegant design. Few issues with rule contradictions or confusion
-Captures many key elements of the Civil War in some fashion without much complication.
-Easy to learn basic rules that can be upgraded to advanced play
-Tense battlefield struggles with a degree of unpredictability and suspense
-Nice board and components (except more control markers were needed)
-decent solitaire play
-Easy to create your own variant rules for added realism

Cons:
-Oversimplification of certain important aspects such as Leaders and leadership, political considerations, or the Union blockade
-Though they add extra detail, the advanced battlefield rules make the game a bit more cumbersome
-North can easily cough up the game if they aren't careful early on

37 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan
United States
flag msg tools
1 Player hardcore
badge
Lone Warrior
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
What kind of advanced rules do you play with? And how long does it take you to play?

I've only played a couple partial games with my dad as we tried to learn this game over Christmas this last year. Due to time constraints we had to end each play early. We only played with the basic rules, but I found it took us a long time to get as far as we did (a year & a half or so) before we quit. At the time, I couldn't imagine playing the entire game because it was taking it so long to get as far as we did.

I imagine this game plays quicker when you're familiar with the rules. Can you shed any light with your experience on an approximate time frame necessary to complete this game?

Sadly it's a game that probably won't see plays but maybe a couple times a year. But I do hope to get it to the table more often as I enjoyed my couple abortive plays.

Thanks for any knowledge shared. Oh, and good review
2 
 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
I think the length of the game is part of what gives it that epic feel. The actual war dragged on for five years; the game only takes a few hours. But while you're playing, you get the impression that you're doing something vast and far-reaching. I don't think one could ever get that "epic feel" from a short game.

If a wargamer must stick to short games, he'd probably do well to stick to tactical-level games.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan
United States
flag msg tools
1 Player hardcore
badge
Lone Warrior
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't mean to imply that I'm interested only in short games. Epic is not a bad thing at all, it just means it won't get to the table as frequently. I estimated that we were looking at over 6 hours from start to finish at the rate we were playing, and I had budgeted less time than that before my first play for no good reason.

I'm just curious what people with more experience have seen so that I can prepare my schedule and my opponent beforehand. I also want to know if our inexperience with the rules may have contributed to a longer than standard play time.

Thanks,

Ryan
2 
 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
Ryanmobile wrote:
I estimated that we were looking at over 6 hours from start to finish at the rate we were playing ...

I'm just curious what people with more experience have seen so that I can prepare my schedule and my opponent beforehand. I also want to know if our inexperience with the rules may have contributed to a longer than standard play time.

Sounds to me like you were just learning and enjoying the game. It does go faster as you build experience. But of course, if the game doesn't get to the table that often, experience builds slowly.

I've rarely played any wargame all in one sitting. They lend themselves (IMO) to being left set up so that you can sit down and play a few more turns now and then as time permits. I've had wargames set up for weeks or months before they finally ended.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chad Ridgley
United States
Copperas Cove
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Ryan--

I play with Alan Emerich's Living Rules v. 3.1, which is very similar to the advanced and optional rules that come with the game, but with a few changes and additions. For me the basic rules become very natural after playing a few games, but I wanted a little bit more so I started adding the advanced rules to my games. I use every rule except for ironclads (mainly because I haven't yet made the pieces). Most I like though I still get a little confused with containment in certain circumstances.

As far as time goes, in the normal 1861 starting date you only get a quick game (2 hours or less) in a Confederate victory somewhere in 1862. Otherwise A House Divided can be like other Civil War strategical level games, where it turns into a long war of attrition, sometimes with a playing time of 8-10 hours, especially if you are using the advanced battlefield rules. Usually by 1864 it is obvious that the South is just hanging on trying to slow down the inevitable though. To manage I usually just take a break somewhere in 1862 and come back to play another year or so when I get a chance that way I feel refreshed. It is just too much to try and do it all in one day i think.

Another benefit of the Living Rules is that it provides scenarios for starting a game at later dates and a Sudden Death Victory Condition where you can choose to end a game earlier either in 62, 63, or 64 and determine the victor based on Army Max Size Difference. There are listings for all types of victories so you can get an idea of how successful you were while you played even if you didn't achieve all of the normal campaign victory conditions. Of course using this format beforehand might change the strategies on both sides as the South is likely to play more conservative and the North plays more aggressive in order to meet their quota. For that reason I think it's nice to use Sudden Death if you are in the middle of 1862 or so and don't think you can play it out as far as 65 and just decide that 1863 or 1864 is a good enough stopping point for deciding a winner.

Hope that helps as far as giving you an idea and other ways to shorten the length of play. and Thanks for the compliment.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan
United States
flag msg tools
1 Player hardcore
badge
Lone Warrior
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Chad (freedom fries),

Thanks for your insight. For some reason I was under the impression that this game might run a little quicker. Long games are not a bad thing at all, I'm just glad I'm aware of the time investment involved now, so I can be better prepared.

I ran straight through the rules upon getting this game, both the basic and advanced. I'm the kind of person that wants to jump into a new game with as much complexity as possible, so I was disappointed when my opponent wanted to start simple with just the basic rules (probably smart on his part). I do hope to get some more experience with this game soon, especially with adding some of the more advanced rules over time.

Thanks again for your thoughts Chad!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hughes
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
I played this game 20 years ago in one of the earlier editions. Great fun but long as you say. The advanced game revolved around R.E. Lee. Why he was a 3str leader (or whatever it was that made him good early on) it was all about where he went and how to react to him.
When he dropped a point (lose of Jackson abstractly) then the game shifted the otehr way.
Seemed a bit extreme.
Is that your experience with this edition?

BTW there is a "short" strategic civil wargame out there... Price of Freedom. 3 hours.
3 
 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
lhughes41 wrote:
BTW there is a "short" strategic civil wargame out there... Price of Freedom. 3 hours.

Yeah, but it's one of those newfangled card-based wargames.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rauli Kettunen
Finland
Oulu
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
lhughes41 wrote:
BTW there is a "short" strategic civil wargame out there... Price of Freedom. 3 hours.


PoF kicked AHD off the playing list for me. And PoF generally runs around 90 minutes for us if it ends on turn 7.


Quote:
Yeah, but it's one of those newfangled card-based wargames.


Patrick, don't know about you, but at least for me the Events that the cards add (as well as Emancipation from non-card source) to PoF make the country seem more alive during the war, like there is actually something going on besides faceless hordes of troops going at each other.
2 
 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
Dam the Man wrote:
Patrick, don't know about you, but at least for me the Events that the cards add (as well as Emancipation from non-card source) to PoF make the country seem more alive during the war, like there is actually something going on besides faceless hordes of troops going at each other.

I haven't played PoF. I'm sure it's a fine game; and to each his own. I've developed a distaste for wargames with cards, however, because when I play a wargame I want to focus squarely on commanding military forces.

If I want to be told the story of the American Civil War, I'll read a book or watch a documentary. I'd rather not play a game where the story is told in snippets via a set of cards. Reading card text--even little bits of it--distracts me too much from game play.

To me, a wargame is not the story of a war (or campaign or battle) in game form; it's basically an elaborate chess variant designed to simulate some of the salient military aspects of that war.

I like AHD because it pretty well sticks to military actions and to being just a game rather than a story. I might like PoF, but I'll probably never get around to trying it. It doesn't sound like my kind of game. I used to own For the People, but I traded it away.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Experiencing senility daily since... I forget.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Victory Game's The Civil War is my favorite of this type. Almost apples and oranges - it's longer, more complicated, and much deeper than AHD.

I like AHD and how it plays. It does a really good job (just as you said) as an introductory and less lengthy Civil War game. I like how the units gain experience and their finite number - nice mechanics.

I am curious to check out these living rules you mentioned.

I think the components are a mixed bag, however. Or rather I should say the design of the components. The board, pieces, and artwork are all first rate. What is not first rate is the board size. It is impossible to see the locations under the playing tiles and one has to constantly lift them to examine the board. I would have welcomed a slightly bigger board with slightly larger areas.

I owned Price of Freedom and later sold it. The rules were far too fiddly for me. I found them confusing and thought they were poorly written. Just my opinion anyway. Tried playing several times both with someone and solo. Constant questions, rule look-ups, and ambiguities. I really wanted to like it.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Luke Hughes
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
Well I doubt I can shift any viewpoints, but military campaigns rarely exist independent of politics and economic factors. These extrinsic factors are often hard to model as yet more rules subsystems. Therefore cards can introduce realities that impacted the military campaign in a simple way.

So it comes down to what it means to simulate a military campaign. On the other hand if you want "chess" military games then I hear you.

What do you think of things like Rommel in the Desert that are chess like but rely on card drawn supply? Or say No Retreat that uses limited card interventions in an otherwise chess like game?

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chad Ridgley
United States
Copperas Cove
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
yeah i have to generally agree with p55carroll on the card game mechanic with wargames. For me it has to be done carefully, especially if you are designing the game for a high level of detail and realism. To be fair i haven't tried PoF and I would like to give it a shot especially if you can manage a whole game in 2 hours or so. But when I played another Civil War CDG, For the People, I had an issue with the entry of some of the cards. I began thinking Herman could have fixed it up by splitting the entry of the cards into different decks for periods of the war like 1861, 62-63, and 64-65 or something to that effect. Instead you end up with the possibility of getting the Emancipation Proclamation in 1861, which would just seem anachronistic to me at least.

Bill, I agree VG's The Civil War is the grand daddy of the genre and reaches a level of detail way beyond what AHD aims for, but I probably wouldn't recommend it to someone unfamilliar to the War or might only have a general interest in the period. I hope they revise the components and rules slightly for that game at some point in the future. I remember thinking that the supply rules seem a little bit clunky when I played it.

Interesting problem you noted with the design of the board. It never really bothered me and thus I didn't mention it in the review, but you have a point that unless you are really familiar with the board you always have to move the stacks to see what city you are looking for or are going to. I can live with that though. I was more irritated that Phalanx provides you with half of the flag markers that you need for the game. I have to make up for it by using the ones from my old 2nd edition.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rauli Kettunen
Finland
Oulu
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
chadridgley wrote:
I began thinking Herman could have fixed it up by splitting the entry of the cards into different decks for periods of the war like 1861, 62-63, and 64-65 or something to that effect. Instead you end up with the possibility of getting the Emancipation Proclamation in 1861, which would just seem anachronistic to me at least.


PoF covers at least some of those issues. Emancipation is available turn 3 (Apr 62-) onwards, ditto for Confederate Inflation, while Draft and War Weariness are turn 5+ (Apr 63-) as Events (usable for OPs value as normal of course). Leaders similarly enter the war each in their own time frame, Lee comes in on turn 3, Sherman turn 6 (Oct 63-), etc. You also can't bring in Grant right away and make him the supreme commander of either theater, he first has to pay his dues out west and other people have to be and get sacked as eastern theater commander for Grant to assume that role. Union's cavalry weakness is covered by them being unable to use Cavalry Raid Event until turn 5+.
1 
 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
chadridgley wrote:
Bill, I agree VG's The Civil War is the grand daddy of the genre and reaches a level of detail way beyond what AHD aims for, but I probably wouldn't recommend it to someone unfamilliar to the War or might only have a general interest in the period. I hope they revise the components and rules slightly for that game at some point in the future. I remember thinking that the supply rules seem a little bit clunky when I played it.

You might be interested in this "unofficial revision" in the BGG files. Apparently, fans of the game have been working diligently on tweaking this game into near perfection.

I need to play my copy sometime and find out how good it really is.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chad Ridgley
United States
Copperas Cove
Texas
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for the link. I was actually browsing through the unofficial version a couple of weeks ago, but i got distracted by other things. i noticed that they added in an optional rule for attrition and disease separate from the effects of supply. could be cool.

Rauli, thanks for informing me about the timing of the events as the components look attractive in Pof, but I can't tell by the reviews on BGG whether i would like it better than AHD. It looks like it has its own appeal (shorter playing time is especially nice too) though I can't tell if the rules are as streamlined overall as AHD. i'm impressed to hear you say that Pof kicked AHD off your playing list. Must be worth a try at the very least.
 
 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.