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Subject: Component review of 4th edition rss

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Christopher Donovan
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I've been playing A House Divided since I taught it to my girlfriend in 1992 (GDW 2nd Edition). This year, when I saw that Mayfair was doing a new edition, I decided to pick it up and teach it to my wife. The game itself is a classic, as the many reviews already written here can attest to. The purpose of this review is to compare the different editions' components & presentation. (P.S., I like large type and large images).

1. THE BOX

1.1 GDW 2nd Edition
Not bad. Classic "brother against brother" battle-scene. Rendering is decent. Proliferation of product information is a bit garish. Standard "bookcase game" size, only a bit thinner. Fairly handy size.




1.2 Phalanx 3rd Edition
Good use of color and the "god rays" are an interesting touch. Dynamic composition. However the artwork is amateurish and the flags are wrong. A "strategical" boardgame? Larger size with nice weight. Impressive, if a tad unwieldy.




1.3 Mayfair 4th Edition
I kind of like this toyish/mythological depiction. It's a bit staid. Grant looks fabulous, while Lincoln looks like a made-up gorilla. Mayfair's ACW logo is actually pretty cool. And they got the flags right! Size is nice and compact, like an over-sized brick. Matches up with Mayfair's other ACW games, Test of Fire: Bull Run 1861 & Clash of Wills: Shiloh 1862. It comes with a fairly useless insert that, combined with the un-punched counter-sheets pushes the box lid up quite a bit. Easily discarded but it's a waste of plastic.





2. MAPBOARD

2.1 GDW 2nd Edition
Clean & functional. This was actually very colorful for its day. There aren't any errors, but I wish the units didn't cover up the recruitment values of the cities they are placed in. This edition came out when GDW was experimenting with mounted mapboards that fit together like four big puzzle pieces. They also did it in their 2nd edition of Imperium. It's not a bad idea, but the cardboard tended to warp after a while, leaving you with a bumpy board.




2.2 Phalanx 3rd Edition.
Many prefer this board, and it is impressive (the picture doesn't do it justice). But for me, it's a mixed bag. I like the large size. I also don't mind the "money" texture on everything (a comment on the war's cause?), but there are functionality problems. The turn track runs around the edge of the board, inviting players to dislodge the wooden turn marker. The boxes for the spaces are the size of the original GDW counters, with an outline the size of the counters from this edition. This means the units completely cover the boxes, hiding the name, port symbol, fort symbol, recruitment value and river crossings. This was also true of the GDW edition, but it seems more pronounced with the larger counters used in this edition. Also, the board was printed with two recruitment value errors. The publisher provides stickers to apply to the board to correct these errors, which works well enough. There are however other errors, namely in the river connections on several boxes. This is not noted anywhere in the rules, which is a pity. I should mention that it is very nicely mounted (as with all the Phalanx games).




2.3 Mayfair 4th Edition.
They tried to bring a bit of functionality back, which I really appreciate. The boxes are big enough to contain the units, and they have very cleverly made sure you can see the recruitment value, port/fort status and river crossings on any box even when units are occupying it. Very, very nice. The Command Table and Sequence of Play are printed on the board, and the turn track has turns marked for Union conscriptions and leader entry. It is mounted, and the size is a bit smaller than the Phalanx Edition. This does crowd the board a little, particularly in the Eastern theater. On the other hand the smaller footprint can be convenient. The recruitment value and river connection errors from the Phalanx Edition are gone. A couple of new errors have crept in, unfortunately. The Command Table has the values for USA/CSA reversed, and New York is printed as a "3" value recruitment city (it should be a 4).





3. COUNTERS.
Yes, all editions use those weird little cardboard counters.

3.1 GDW 2nd Edition.
Again, clean & functional. Maybe a little too functional. Standard die-cut, though they are 5/8" and not the tiny 1/2" counters from so many wargames of that era. I do especially like the Battlefield Marker, for some reason. You don't really get as many control & entrenchment markers as you need, though it's only occasionally a problem.




3.2 Phalanx 3rd Edition.
Very nice! These are cut individually (no nibs!), with rounded corners (no clipping off the nibs!). The artwork is beautiful, with medals showing the progression from Militia to Crack experience. There still aren't really enough control & entrenchment markers.
One quibble; the depiction of Militia is a bit rag-tag, with the Vets having a proper uniform and the Crack troops looking like they just marched off a parade ground. In reality, the reverse should probably be the case. And the CSA didn't even have medals! The best you could hope for was to be mentioned in a dispatch.




3.3 Mayfair 4th Edition.
Mayfair did something interesting with their counters, they printed three copies of one identical sheet. This means you get extra pieces for replacements and/or DIY variants. They even included "rail cut/stripped" markers for those wishing to use an old 1st edition rule that isn't listed anywhere in the 4th Ed. rules. They are individually cut, but in such a way as you still end up with a few nibs to trim off (or not), unfortunately. They are smaller in size, roughly the same size as the GDW edition. The unit depictions are actually the same as those in the Phalanx edition (sans medals) and still look nice. The reverse ("hit") sides do not have the depictions, only the red firepower. It works because cavalry/infantry stripes have been faintly superimposed over both sides of the counters. This isn't exactly pretty but, again, shows the eye towards functionality with the Mayfair edition. The corners of the units are cut differently depending on the units type and experience. In theory, this allows you to see at a glance if a particular unit is cavalry or infantry, and what its experience level is (militia, veteran, or crack). In practice, it works for single units but is less useful for judging a stack of mixed units. And finally, glory hallelujah, you have more than enough control & entrenchment markers. They even give you a river crossing battle reminder marker.





4. RULES

4.1 GDW 2nd Edition.
Not much to say here. I barely remember the rulebook, except that it was pretty easy to learn & teach so it must have been pretty good. Short.


4.2 Phalanx 3rd Edition
The Phalanx Edition rules were based, I believe, on the GDW 2nd Edition. However they were re-organized into three(!) different booklets, one for Basic rules, one for Advanced rules, and one for Optional rules & Scenarios. I found this a bit cumbersome in play. I quickly downloaded Alan Emrich's excellent 3.1 AHD Living Rules and never looked back.


4.3 Mayfair 4th Edition
Which brings us to the Mayfair Edition, and possibly the best thing about it: the rulebook. It's digest sized, dense, with sidebars explaining various things. It's based off the aforementioned 3.1 Living Ruleset, which I really, really appreciate. It's pretty well organized, which is a feat given the number of optional rules AHD has picked up over the years. A separate "Quick Start" four-page summary of the basic rules is included to get you going FAST, which plays to the strength of the design (elegance & simplicity). Also included are two different player-aid sheets, one for the CSA and one for the USA. Each has customized information and each has a side for playing with the Basic rules and a side for playing with the Advanced rules. These also appear to be based on the play-aids bundled with the 3.1 Living Rules. Lastly, an optional rules checklist is provided in the back of the rulebook, along with several proposed sets to try out and a little paragraph explaining the rationale behind each. I think this shows a high level of care that went into the product, despite the mapboard errors.



5. CONCLUSION.

5.1 The Box.
I prefer the artwork of the GDW version but the layout & presentation of the Mayfair version.

5.2 Mapboard.
The GDW edition is the most error-free, and the old 1st Edition GDW came with a conventional paper mad that never warps. However I think I have to go with the Mayfair board due to its thoughtful functionality, even though it has a couple of errors (kind of annoying for a 4th(!) edition).

5.3 Counters.
The Phalanx edition counters look the nicest, they are the largest, they are the best-cut and are made of good, thick cardstock (the GDW edition cardboard was a little cheap...). However the Mayfair edition is more functional and finally gives you all the pieces you will ever need to play, and then some.

5.4 Rules.
No competition here, the Mayfair rules are a nice, quality presentation of the latest Living Rules. I can't recommend them enough.

5.5 Overall.
The Mayfair edition. It's compact, attractive, and, above all, FUNCTIONAL. The GDW 1st Edition, which I barely mention, is pretty old-school sexy. Now if they would just put out a magnetic travel edition...

I hope this review has helped illuminate the various versions. Ultimately, get the one that you can most readily lay your hands on, download the 3.1 rules and play it. It's a wonderful game.

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M King
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Thanks for posting this. Very thorough. I like the compactness of the Mayfair Ed., but after seeing that map, I'll stick with my gdw 2nd ed. It's just too crowded--it gives little sense of the map beneath all the boxes. I really like that phalanx map--I may have to prowl eBay a bit.
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Leo Zappa
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Quote:
1.3 Mayfair 4th Edition
I kind of like this toyish/mythological depiction. It's a bit staid. Grant looks fabulous, while Lincoln looks like a made-up gorilla.





Well, of course "Lincoln" looks like a "made-up gorilla", considering that he's not Lincoln at all...but

DR. ZAIUS!!!



...BTW, a nice, thorough review! I do have to say, however, that beauty (or functionality) is in the eye of the beholder. IMHO, the new Mayfair edition doesn't compare well to the Phalanx edition, which I own and have played. However, such things are a matter of taste, so there's no right or wrong, just different opinions. Regardless of the edition, I think most people should agree that this is a great game.
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PAUL OCONNOR
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I would totally play a classic Planet of the Apes re-spray of this game.

Ape Civil War, with Mutants and Men caught in the middle.

This needs to happen. Why hasn't this happened?
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Christopher Donovan
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goldenboat wrote:
I would totally play a classic Planet of the Apes re-spray of this game.

Ape Civil War, with Mutants and Men caught in the middle.

This needs to happen. Why hasn't this happened?


The mutants get Kentucky. The men from the future have no real effect, other than triggering the 3978 AD end of the game by detonating the Alpha-Omega Bomb.
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Jim F
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Who knew trench warfare could be such fun?
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Where I work we already have an ape in charge.

Thanks for the breakdown. I like the Mayfair map and, as you point out, my old GDW puzzle board is definitely bumpy! I felt puzzle boards were a wrong turn at the time and nothing I have seen since has changed my mind.
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Mike Szarka
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When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
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Excellent, thanks. Other than my bumpy puzzle-cut board, no reason to replace my GDW 2nd edition.
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Christopher Donovan
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mcszarka wrote:
Excellent, thanks. Other than my bumpy puzzle-cut board, no reason to replace my GDW 2nd edition.


Indeed, every edition plays the same great game.
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Mack mercenary for hire
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I am also thinking about getting the Mayfair edition, and replacing the map with the Phalanx 3rd edition map. The Mayfair map really is too compressed (Mayfair, correct the map errors and stretch it back out to size - please!)

I love the art and size of the Phalanx counters. But the functionally of the Mayfair counters cannot be beat. I really dislike how some games have counters that are crowded or have really small or strange font types (I store such games with a pocket magnifying glass in the box).
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David Fernandez
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The Apes Vs Humans Vs Mutants war game hasn't happened because Fox has the rights and cannot give a monkeys for a new board game.
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Brad Miller
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The Phalanx counters are what makes that version the one I want to play. Such a fun game.
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Roger Masters
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Thanks for this excellent review. I own the 3rd edition and I love it. I almost got the Mayfair edition, but the new board was a deal-breaker for me. Just lacks the "terrain-feel" of Phalynx'. Great game, though. I use this game as a sort of "gateway drug" for my non-board gamer friends. Always gets them hooked. I use all the optional rules except for the leaders and combat rules.
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RIK FONTANA
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I was an 'original' playtester way (WAY) back in Normal, IL when Frank was first designing the game. I have the original but the pieces so worn-out some of the numbers are unreadable, ha!
SO GLAD I SAW THIS EXCELLENT REVIEW of the various editions.
I was ready to get the Mayfair 4th, figuring later is better. But I can see that the 3rd Edition will be my successor.......
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