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Antigonus Monophthalmus
United States
Maryland
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I will not be discussing the basic rules in this review because I have not played them, nor will I, because they are... basic. All the cities are worth the same, there's nothing special about railroads or navies or Europe, and there is nothing more than random combat.

On to the real game...

The Map: Beautiful. That's one thing I will always say about Eagle Games, they have nice maps. Size: huge. Well designed: no. One third of the map (it comes in three oversized pieces) is devoted to absolutely nothing. It has Texas and Mexico. And nothing else. Sure, it does have rail points and European Intervention there, but that could have been handled somewhere else. The spaces, and I cannot emphasize this enough, are way too small. There are ways around this, like forming your men around one infantry guy to "represent" the army in a space, or to move the army into the Atlantic or out west, or to bunch them up, or use the very helpful "City Army Holder" boards which BGGFiles gives us, and that's all good. But with such a big board it is almost criminal that I have to resort to that, PLUS the fact that I LIKE a good looking game, and massing my units up is disorganized, mindless blobs around one infantry or putting whole armies in the Atlantic to clear up space dashes any aesthetic appeal this game might give me. And don't get me started on the Canadian territories, which fly across all theological boundries from God-awful to pure Satan. How I just imagine large spaces in Kentucky instead of those monstrous hangouts the British get.

By the by: I have played both the historical and balanced game, and I will say even though the historical game went monstrously, I enjoyed it much more, and will only discuss that version (because it offers the most in terms of game-play).

Setup: The setup is actually not too bad. Place units in cities depending on what the rulebook says. Simple. Maybe 10 minutes, tops, from grabbing the game to setting it up (assuming you already have a monstrous playing area ready).

Gameplay: The game starts in June, 1861. The Rebs go, the Union goes, the date marker moves the month up. Again and again that happens, and then the interesting part takes place. Naval battles can be fought, Political initiatives are undertaken, and production occurs. Yay. I will discuss these in turn.

Movement: your standard movement rules apply here. Infantry and artillery moves one space, cavalry can move two. When you land on enemy movements you have a battle. Cities count as an entire space, and the states are broken up hapahzardly into various, nearly indistinguishable spaces. Map problems are as I discussed above. The real trick is managing your rail movement, though. Both players have a certain number of rail points (North 7, South 4) at the beginning, and there is a system of railroads all over the country. A certain number of pieces starting in a city connected to the rail line can be moved anywhere along the rail as long as they don't run into enemy pieces or cities owned by the enemy. Cavalry cost two rail points, infantry and artillery cost one, leaders cost none. These units can stop anywhere along the tracks, and do not have to go to another city. This can make certain cities very important, especially to the south, as "railroad hubs" which connect multiple parts of the country to each other. This makes certain cities very important, and provides a nice strategic element to the game.

The battles themselves are a little random, actually, and from what I've read not quite historically accurate at all. I will try to find the link. The idea is for smaller battles (6 or fewer men on either side) it's a skirmish and you fight in one large line with an open space in the center. Cannons can shoot (at a lower hit rate) across the center, but the grunts and cavalry have to wade through the fire. You can either fire with your men, which is difficult to hit with (8+ on 2d6) or you can charge and from there it's a 50/50 shot with a chance of both of the buggers dying. Cavalry do better at charges, and infantry can always protect the weak artillery. Cavalry can do two things. When men are hit theyhave a 50% chance of dying or retreating (cavalry have a 33% chance of dying). Leaders provide bonuses or can rally retreating men. When one side retreats the other side gets a chance to pursue. If there is a cavalry unit in "reserve" he can cover the retreat so only other cavalry can pursue, and they must kill any covering cavalry before picking on the infantry and artillery.

A large battle (6+ on both sides) is pretty fun, actually. You can see the setup on the downloadable battle map (which you should get) and basically it's the same battle line with three flanks. If any of the flanks fall you lose the battle and automativally retreat. Men can be held in reserve to boost a flank, and men can be moved from flank to flank. These battles are very rare, though, because it is hardly ever in the South's best interest to force a large battle. Usually this willonly happen when the North is attacking a very important (and thus a very well defended) southern city.

Naval Battles: Men can also be moved via the navy, which usually the North does to the South, which provokes a naval battle. Both players roll 2d6 and add their naval rating. Higher number wins all and the loser (depending on how much the winner won by) might lose naval points and men if they are transporting any. In the Naval Battle phase, the combat works out the same way, only without the risk of losing men. It is also possible under the advanced rules to avoid a naval battle if you are moving amphibiously.

Political Initiatives: This is where all the fun stuff happens. Emancipation can be declared by the North after inning a battle where 8 enemy units are killed, and the south any time. The South may lose some states due to that, but their European Intervention level shoots up drastically. Conscription can be declared with the risk of rioters, one point of European intervention can be bought for 10 PP, and European Intervention can be attempted by the southern player. 2d6 are rolled, and if the Southern player gets 3 or more over whatever the number is, France and England come to give them a hand, and that can be a mess for the North. 1 or 2 over gives the south 15 PP worth of aid, which can also be useful, but the south really needs to pull for that intervention.

Production: There is a chart of what everything is worth. Things are generally cheaper for the south, especially cavalry, with the exception of artillery, Rail Stock, and Naval Strength. This gives the North a large logistical advantage over the south, usually, while the south has a better logistical advantage in terms of being able to hit and run well, with their larger percentage of cavalrymen. The south must also add one to the cost of everything as the turns go on, to represent the north's increasingly nifty factories and crap.

Overall: A very amusing and fun game. I rated it a 4 because of how rarely I would want to play it (too much time and a little to random) but it can be a nice relaxing game if you don't care too much for historical accuracy or a really tense and thrilling gaming experience. And basically it is just that, a nice little game that lasts a long time and can provide some serious spurts of fun battling between careful planning and balancing of troop movement. The only major problem with this game is that if you play with the advanced rules where the North needs to win a major battle between July-October 1864 to have Lincoln re-elected and win, the South just keeps their armies down a maximum of 5 men, and then the North needs to scramble to own 7 Southern Cities. I can say I did not have this problem, but I understand it's there.

In the long run I wish I had not spent $40 on this game, as it is not exciting enough to keep my interests up, and I do not think I could recommend this game to anyone. The only niche this game could fill is the nice relaxing game to pass the time, or the game to play one turn a night on.
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Jordan Elton
United States
Culpeper
Virginia
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Thanks for the good reveiw.
 
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William Garramone
United States
Nashville
Tennessee
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Pretty accurate review and reflects my opinions as well. I sold the game because the HUGE but extremely poorly designed map just pissed me off. The fact that the spaces could have been better utilized was just a complete downer for me.
 
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