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Subject: Rebel Yell: First impressions - solo game rss

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Mosse Stenström
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"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Abraham Lincoln, Speech at the Rep. State Convention, Springfield Illinois, 16. June 1858

Having received a DVD-box about the American Civil War (1861-1865) for christmas I decided I had a gap in my wargaming collection. Sure, I have Crucible of Courage on pre-order from Multi-Man Publishing, but I couldn't honestly wait that long... A House Divided seemed to fit the bill as a single-evening grand strategy ACW game.

Having read the rules it seemed a little too simple. So I decided to go for a solo run and set up the game on my kitchen table. I opted to go for the basic rules only just to get a feel of it and started. From the get-go it seemed very unbalanced, but the wrong way around. I was very sceptical about the south having any chance of surviving - a sensation that would turn around completely during the first year of battle.

At least in my game, most of the action took place around Washington. As southern occupation in Washington is an immediate game-ending occurance I concentrated northern troops in the locations around it. Manassas Junction and Gordonsville saw early action and it seemed dark for the southern cause. In panic I entrenched the southerners stationed at Fredericksburg.

With the momentum up I advanced the Union forces from Indiana and Ohio to take Louisville, Bowling Green and Cairo and get a central position. This onslaught was quickly stopped, though. The southern boys found comfort in fantastic aim and were winning battles even when facing overwhelming odds in their disadvantage.

In the east, the more victorious northerners had advanced too far with too few troops leaving the line spread too thin. The draft in April 1862 helped patch it up, but the damage was already done. The southerners concentrated a force able to conquer the world itself and marched on Washington. The boys in blue scrambled together all they could but were unable to stop the juggernaut attacking Washington from Harper's Ferry. Not even the river nor the defensive advantages of Washington was enough to survive, and in June 1862 the confederate flag was raised in Washington to mark a victory for the south.

I was really surprised at how well the system, even though I tought it would be too simple and "gamey" (keep in mind I used only the basic rules) actually worked. Rolling for marches (you roll a D6 to see how many marches you can perform that turn) can hurt you a lot if you roll low, but hey - who said war was fair? The battle system gets a praise in itself. Allowing reinforcements in the middle of the battle is a simple and great idea, beautifully executed. Sure, you get no immediate punishment for retreating, and even get to rally your troops back to full strenght even if they took a beating, but giving an extra promotion to your enemy can cost you dearly later on...

As my game ended quite early on - I can't say this for sure, but maybe the recruiting system is a bit too generous? I haven't (yet) studied the war that closely, but was there truly such a constant stream of new (more or less) eager men to die fighting throughout the war? Well, maybe further plays will prove me wrong on the point.

There is however one major bad thing about the game. The board. (I have the Phalanx version, by the way...) Why coudn't they have printed all info about the locations above the box instead of inside it?!?!?! After all, there's not a whole lot of info needed - just the name, the recruitment value and a possible port-symbol. When checking for maximum army size, you have to sum up all recruitment values in the towns you hold, and now, you have to keep moving counters away from their locations to spot the value. Also, when trying to find key positions you have to constantly lift counters too see which towns have recruitment values at all. The otherwise beautiful board looks marvellous when glanced upon, but isn't really something you want to spend a couple of hours intensively staring at. There are some other minor problems I had. Why aren't, for example, the entrenchment counters a bit smaller than the army counters - so that you could actually see what's under them?

My overall impression and initial opinion is still that I've bought a great game and I look forward to playing it for real against a real opponent and not just myself - and I will be using at least some of the advanced rules. The generals, for example seem to add just a little bit of extra, without being overpowering.

themosse.net/blog
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john f stup
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damascus
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i have the original gdw version and i have never felt any compelling reason to use any of the advanced or optional rules. it's a frank chadwick masterpiece with the basic game only. having said that, because i own victory games 'the civil war', gmt's 'for the people' and task force games 'grand army of the republic', when i'm in the mood for more detail, i would opt to play one of those. but it's nice that they give the buyer the option of adding detail. the areas around the boxes have enough space that you could print the info above the boxes yourself.
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