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Mayfair Games MFG04860 "A House Divided" Game
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- Ages 10+
- 45 minute playing time
- 2 player(s)
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This product is subject to specific safety warnings
A House Divided simulates the epic struggle of the American Civil War that was fought over the twin issues of slavery and state's rights. The period from 1840 to 1861 saw these issues brought to a boil, and in 1861 the nation became tangled in a terrible
not appropriate for children under the age of 3See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A House Divided is a wonderful game that is easy to learn and play but contains a very deep strategy. Players must wisely choose when and how to attack with their forces, but also be careful to cover their rear areas, so that a crafty cavalry unit or two doesn't wreak havoc behind the lines. Fans of light to medium wargames will get a kick out of A House Divided, and lovers of great historical games will also enjoy this unique challenge. A lot of fun, A House Divided is a great game.
I have played several Civil War strategic games and THIS is the one to get if you want a game that can actually be played! An attractive game map covers the Civil War from the east coast all the way to western edges of Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. There is a rule book of just four pages that can be used to get started with the "basic" game. Then you can graduate to the more advanced 32 page rule book. (Do not panic, as its pages are loaded with helpful illustrations, examples of play, and historical rationale behind many of the rules; you will be happy for each of those pages!) Short scenarios are also included there, so you can simulate a year's worth of the War. There is much internet support for this game and it may easily be played solitaire.
The 32 page rule book has 33 optional rules; they really make the game come alive and may be used in all manner of combinations. Now, if you are a Civil War buff, you will have your own views about various aspects of the struggle, and here you can really make the game your own! Some optional rules are very easy and can actually simplify things, like the rule on temporary Kentucky neutrality. The optional supply rules are especially valuable for adding historical realism.
Components and the mounted map are very good; the minor map printing errors are easily handled by remembering that the New York box is really a "four" level, not a "three," and that if you choose to use the "command table" optional rule, you should follow the tables on the advanced rules display sheets, not the table on the map. Additionally, Glasgow, Kentucky is misspelled as "Glascow" and Jacksonville in eastern Alabama is labelled as Jacksonville, MS.
Some other Civil War strategic level games just get out of control on the subject of leaders, with thirty or more individual leader pieces able to affect the course of battles, either helping or harming their side, while horribly clogging the game boards. This leads to all kinds of non-historical play in those games, as players try to find ways to not use the many "bad" leaders.
By contrast, the decision of A House Divided to only have some very simple optional leader rules, with counters for only Grant, Sherman, and Lee makes a lot more sense to me. Of course, you can always use some extra counters provided in the game to create additional leaders if you wish. But for my playing, it is easier to just assume that the Union forces without Grant or Sherman and the Confederate forces without Lee are led by some of the less-able generals, such as the Union's McClellan, Meade, Rosecrans, or Butler, and the Confederacy's Bragg, Hood, Pillow, or Price. And for those who wonder about the lack of a counter for the Confederate leader Stonewall Jackson, well, the game explains that his strength is built into the power assigned to the Lee counter--and, accordingly, the Lee counter is reduced in power in 1863 to simulate the death of Jackson that year.
During the Civil War, one big issue for the North was whether the Union armies should mostly try to take and hold territory or try to destroy the Confederate armies. Some historians now believe, as indeed Abraham Lincoln came to believe, that going after the Confederate armies was the proper course. Surprisingly, the victory conditions in A House Divided take the opposite approach, as the rules state that the Union player can only win by controlling the seven major Confederate cities of Richmond, Wilmington, Charleston, Atlanta, Memphis, Mobile, and New Orleans by April 1865. (An optional rule allows a Union victory if at least six of those cities are taken and the remaining one is besieged; another optional rule allows an extension of play through the end of 1865--but the emphasis remains on capturing cities.)
Should we try to re-do the victory conditions of A House Divided to reduce the focus on city captures? I currently do not think so. By emphasizing the control of those cities in the South, the game is actually simulating the attitude of Jefferson Davis and many in the Confederacy who did not want to give up a major city without a fight. And the Union player will quickly discover anyway that in order to capture and hold a major Confederate city, he will have to also work hard to decimate or chase away the Confederate armies nearby. There is just no way for the Union player to win by maneuver alone!
Players count numerical values of all of their controlled recruitment cities to obtain a "maximum army size" number for their side before recruitment. Even if the Confederates lose some of their smaller cities like Nashville or Jacksonville, they may find they cannot recruit new units. Some good optional rules give the Union player more leeway in maximum army size, to reflect the much larger Northern population.
I have devised some additional rules suggestions; if you get the game, try these. (They do assume use of the optional rules on temporary Kentucky neutrality and on supply.) And do not worry about the game jargon I am using below; it will all be clear once you have played the game.
1. I favor using the "Historical AHD" option from page 28 of the rule book that restricts cavalry stacking. An exception should be made to allow Union cavalry stacking just in Washington, as seen in the 1864 scenario. However, I suggest further overall limitations; players should just not be allowed to build all of the cavalry units for which there are counters. There could never have been that much cavalry in the War! Instead, each side should be limited to having only one cavalry unit available to serve anywhere on the map in 1861, two in 1862, three in 1863, and four in 1864 and 1865. Note that all of the game's historical scenario set-ups are already well within the yearly numerical limits I suggest.
2. More limits on the cavalry of both sides: Cavalry moving without infantry may not enter an city box that is of opponent's color that is under the opponent's control if the city's recruitment value is higher than one. Cavalry alone could not realistically hope to seize and hold a large enemy city. Further, if at the start of a player's movement phase he has a cavalry unit alone in a box of a hostile or neutral color, that cavalry unit must move or be joined by his infantry--or be immediately eliminated. A mere cavalry unit just could not "camp out" in non-friendly territory for a series of months. Exception: A lone Union cavalry unit will not have to move if it is in a Confederate port city. (But, remember, Union cavalry alone cannot take the four Confederate ports with higher recruitment values.) Additionally, cavalry that enters the mountainous West Virginia locations of Franklin or Charleston must not move any further during that movement phase and must not jump over those locations. I know that these cavalry limits will cramp the style of some players, and that cavalry raids in the game can be fun, but let us think of what really would have been possible. .
3. Additional realistic limits should exist for Confederate cavalry going into the North. As a simulation of Union power along the upper Mississippi River, a Confederate cavalry unit moving without infantry may not cross a water line to enter the Illinois locations of Quincy, Springfield, Vandalia, or Cairo, nor may it jump over those boxes. Further, to show the effects of winter, a Confederate cavalry unit (even if stacked with infantry) must be eliminated at the start of any Nov-Dec or Jan-Feb turn if it is in a box shaded blue, except for the blue boxes in Missouri. (Notice that historically the Confederates never tried to raid the North with cavalry in the winter.)
4. Want more flexibility and power in the use of cavalry, in view of my above suggested limitations on cavalry? I suggest two changes here. First, modify rule 4.4 on page four so that if a crack or veteran cavalry unit is making a march with infantry into a box with a enemy force that contains both enemy infantry and cavalry, but the enemy cavalry is of a lesser quality, the moving player may attempt to "jump" his cavalry unit over the box, rolling a die for the effort. If the die result is equal to or lower than the combat value of his cavalry, the jump effort succeeds. (This would simulate what the Union cavalry officer Stoneman was trying to do in a July 1964 raid effort, essentially seeking to jump past the combat around .Atlanta to try to reach Macon.) Of course, if the die roll is higher than the cavalry combat value, then that jump effort fails and the cavalry must instead participate in the infantry battle during the combat phase. (Stoneman's jump effort failed, by the way.) Second, modify the "cavalry withdrawal" rules on page 10 so that if a defending force that has both infantry AND a crack or veteran cavalry unit, it may attempt a withdrawal before combat--provided the attacking force has no cavalry or only has cavalry of a lesser quality. Again, the player seeking to retreat must immediately roll a die and if the die result is equal to or lower than the combat value of his cavalry, the withdrawal effort succeeds. (Picture Stuart's Confederate cavalry in the spring of 1862 assisting Confederate infantry in its nearly bloodless withdrawal from McClellan in the Yorktown area during the Peninsula Campaign.) These two rule changes can encourage a player to try to keep his best cavalry posted with one of his large infantry forces at least SOME of the time, rather than only using his cavalry for distant raids. These changes would also properly encourage more cavalry promotion.
5. Troop stacks that depend upon road supply as part of their supply path should be limited in size. If the road is east of the Mississippi, the limit should be six units. If west of the Mississippi (where roads were more likely to be part of a supply path and were more primitive), the limit should be two. Excess units, of course, should be removed as outlined in the supply rules
6. A Union naval invasion should be possible if a five or a six is rolled, starting in 1862. Allowing it only on a roll of six is just too restrictive, except for 1861.
7. Once the Kentucky front opens up, the players quickly see that the area between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians is where many games will be won or lost. In fact, it can understandably cause player efforts to become so focused there that other theaters can be strangely ignored. So, there needs to be a way of simulating the political importance of the Virginia theater (On to Richmond!) and even the manpower potential of the Trans-Mississippi theater. I say that after a player rolls for commands, he rolls a second time to simulate certain political factors. The resulting requirements for these die rolls:
One--At least one command must be issued by that player in his movement phase to units in North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia, if both players have any units located there.
Two--If eligible to recruit militia that turn, one must be placed by the Union player in Washington or by the Confederate player in Richmond, if that player currently controls those locations.
Three--If eligible to recruit militia that turn, one must be placed by the Union player in St Louis or St Joseph or by the Confederate player in Springfield, Missouri, Little Rock, or Shreveport, if that player currently controls one of those locations.
Four, Five, Six--No political requirements in that player phase.
8. Don't you just hate to be up against a mathematical whiz who has calculated all the odds perfectly? .Then get more Civil War realism and uncertainty in this game by requiring that a die roll be made before bringing in a reinforcement unit in any of the combat rounds. If a "six' is rolled, that reinforcement cannot arrive during that round. Exceptions: A reinforcement moving with a leader piece and any Union reinforcement that could arrive via the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, Potomac, or James Rivers would not require a die roll. Also, require a die roll before a player recruits in what we could call a "border" city.. For the Union those cities are Louisville and Knoxville. For the Confederacy those cities are Baltimore, Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Evansville, Cairo, Bowling Green, and Louisville. Recruiting in those places was never a sure thing. So, again, if a "six" is rolled, the recruitment effort in that city fails in that turn and that player's militia must be placed elsewhere--and if the other site chosen is also one of those border towns, a die must be rolled there as well.
9. The rules on rail movement being two boxes per march (and three boxes for the Union via an optional rule) simulate things pretty well most of the time, but there were times in the War when each side assembled additional resources for longer, more ambitious moves. There was Bragg's Confederate army moving by rail from Corinth through south Alabama to Chattanooga in 1862 and Longstreet's Confederate rail transfer from Virginia to the Chattanooga area in 1863, followed by a larger Union force under Hooker doing the same thing a few weeks later. This kind of major movement obviously could not be done very often. I say that in 1862 and again in 1863 the Confederate player can choose one turn in which he may move by rail up to four infantry units four boxes per march. The Union should be able to choose one turn in each of the years 1862, 1863, and 1864 to move by rail up to five infantry units six boxes per march. These greater rail moves are not to occur during the winter months of December through February.
10. Concerning the Kentucky neutrality optional rule, I suggest this clarification: Movement by either player between Cairo and Humboldt, or between Cairo and Island Number Ten would mean that he has entered Kentucky. And I also suggest this change: If the Confederate player has not yet entered Kentucky, instead of automatically removing the prohibition on Union "first entry" into Kentucky in the January-February 1862 turn, the Union player should roll a die about it. This die-rolling would begin in September 1861, at the beginning of the Union player turn (before any command die rolling). This would continue during each successive turn through March 1862, unless the prohibition on Union entry is removed by either a successful die roll or by a Confederate entry into Kentucky. The prohibition on Union first entry is removed by any of the following die roll results: a roll of one in September 1861, one in October 1861, one or two in November-December 1861, one, two, three or four in January-February 1862, and one, two, three, four, or five in March 1862. If the prohibition is STILL in effect (something very unlikely), it is removed automatically in April 1862. Commentary: The current rule about automatically removing the prohibition in January-February 1862 allows for too much advance planning by each side. Keep more uncertainty about Kentucky politics instead!
11. To avoid a Confederate player simply lining up one-piece forces along the Mississippi River to prevent Union river jump moves, allow a Union river jump move into a Confederate-occupied box, provided the Union force making the jump has at least a three-to-one edge (in total units) over the Confederate force in the destination box. When Grant made his famous "river jump move" to get south of Vicksburg in April, 1863, it was into an area where there were Confederate troops--but he greatly outnumbered them.
12. Additional special rules on Vicksburg: A pro-Confederate rule would be to require that, for Union victory in any game or scenario ending in 1865, the city of Vicksburg must be controlled by the Union, in addition to whichever rules are used for Union control of the major Confederate recruiting cities. This is because Vicksburg was seen as very important by both sides. A pro-Union rule would be to stipulate that if the Union player controls both Arkansas Post and Natchez and at least one of those locations is eligible for Union river supply, Confederate units cannot trace a supply path, move, or reinforce between Vicksburg and Monroe, Louisiana, in either direction--because that route would be blocked by Union naval strength on the Mississippi.
13. The 1864 scenario setup understates the Confederate strength remaining in the Tran-Mississippi theater in the spring of that year. Instead of limiting the Confederates to one lone militia unit in Alexandria Louisiana, I suggest giving them two veteran infantry units, one in Alexandria, Louisiana and the other in Camden, Arkansas.
The game system is simple enough that these rules suggestions and ideas from other Civil War buffs can fit in easily. So... try this game!
I will welcome comments here.