Civil War: 1863

Players:
1-2
Multiplayer:Pass 'n' play only
AI:3 levels
Universal App:Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)
Purchase for iPhone:Use link below to purchase universal app
Purchase for iPad:
Civil War: 1863
Price: $1.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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Ah, the sixties – the eighteen sixties. A simpler time when Woodstock was just your supply of fireplace logs, Hippies were a pelvic inflammation caused by lack of vitamin E, and wars were less divisive and more civil. Can the modern conveyance of the iPad recapture the glory days, or will the endeavor be stonewalled? Press on to find out.

Gameplay

Civil War: 1863 straddles the line between board game and war game. A meat-space version would require far more charts and modifier tables than Risk, but far less than Advanced Squad Leader. Fortunately the computer handles all of the bean counting for you, thus making war enjoyable for those of us who aren’t amateur tax accountants.

Civil War 1863 Title Screen

Upon starting a new game you are given your choice of which side you’d like to fight for. Go with the Union army if you’d like to fight alongside such Yankee legends as U.S. Grant, Tecumseh Sherman, or Derek Jeter. Or sidle-up to the Confederacy if you’re with General Robert E. Lee, Lieutenant John Pemberton, or Colonel Sanders.

After declaring your allegiance, you get to choose between the four included campaigns (plus another six, if you want to shell out the money for them). Each campaign consists of five to eight individual missions. Often times playing as the Union or the Confederacy makes no difference as the mission is exactly the same for both sides – only the colors of your uniforms the design of your flag will be different. For other missions, you will become the de facto “attacker” or “defender” based on your choice.

Civil War 1863 Mission Objectives

Each mission has a number of objectives that decide your success or failure. Usually its things like “Capture two control points”, “Win before turn 15”, or the always reliable “Kill Everybody”. With only those commands, it is now up to you to save the sanctity of the USA! Or CSA if you’re playing the South.

The game is played on a hex board with varying terrain, roads and buildings, all of which have varying effects on units’ movement, combat and lines-of-sight. Deciphering which terrain is which can be a little tricky in the fully-rendered psudeo 3-D perspective view. Luckily the game allows you to zoom-out just a little, which automatically switches everything to a simplified 2-D, more board-gamey look.

Civil War 1863 2D View

By touching one of your units, all of the hexes it can move to and/or attack are highlighted. Touch a highlighted hex and you unit moves there or attacks there. Touching a highlighted enemy brings up displays of all of the modifiers that will be calculated in the attack, and you can check your odds against multiple targets before deciding who to drown in a hail of hot lead.

Once you’ve moved all of the units you wish to move this turn, a tap of the “next player” button sets the computer controlled units into action, or tells you to hand the iPad over to your opponent in pass-and-play mode. Whoever said “War is Hell” (bonus points if you know the answer) obviously never played this game, as the controls are easier than my television remote.

Civil War 1863 Movement Options

Implementation

Once you get past the math of range, terrain and morale modifiers (and given that this is an iPad game, you are instantaneously past those), Civil War: 1863 is a simple game.

You have exactly four unit types available to you (Generals, Cavalry, Dismounted Cavalry, and Artillery). While this may be historically accurate to the fighting forces of the time, it makes for a kind of blasé game experience. Units can be slightly differentiated by their status as raw, veteran or elite, but all that amounts to are differing pluses or minuses on their combat modifiers.

Civil War 1863 Combat Options

Frustratingly, you are never given any sort of choice regarding which units you will bring to the mission, nor their starting positions on the map. When the mission starts, your units are there, take them or leave them (and leaving them tends to get you executed, so do try to get along). In some missions reinforcements will arrive for one or both sides. Again, you have no say in who shows up or where they show up. However, the same reinforcements will always show up in the same location for a particular mission, so upon playing a mission for a second time you can strategize around their impending arrival.

Another strange quirk of the game is the restrictions on movement that pop up from time to time. Complete rules on exactly how each unit moves or cannot move would have been appreciated in addition to the highlighted hexes telling you where you can go at any moment. The same can be said for ranged combat, particularly lines of fire and range for artillery.

Each mission can be played at three different difficulty settings, and in an odd touch for this type of game, after the success or failure of a mission you are given a score. These features are obviously both included to encourage replay-ability, but exactly how your points are determined is not explained anywhere that I could find.

It should also be noted that in keeping true to the name of the game, units that are flayed alive by an artillery barrage, or are in some other way eviscerated, recoil a bit, say “ugh” and then regain their perfect posture. Upon dying, they genteelly lie down and then calmly fade away into the nothingness so as not to get blood on other soldier’s shoes. And that, above anything else, makes this a truly civil war.

Civil War 1863 In Game Modifiers

Captain’s Judgement

To misquote Abraham Lincoln, I find myself to be a house divided on Civil War: 1863. On the one hand, I find it to be rather slow and plodding. The majority of your troops literally walk across the battlefield, with all the animated urgency of a trip to the couch for an afternoon nap. The inability to choose your own units and the nonchalant way they go about being horrifically wounded makes it difficult to have the any sort of intellectual or emotional investment in their well-being. Put that all together and you’ve got a lackadaisical game that I couldn’t care less about.

But then again, a slow-paced game that frees you from the burdens of preparatory decision-making and the emotional strains of sending fine young men to war may be just the thing for lounging on the veranda on a hot summer’s day with a cool mint julep in your hand.

I think I’ll keep Civil War: 1863 in much the same way I keep old Charlie Daniels albums – To be brought out two or three times a year for very specific purposes, and then hidden away and never to be mentioned again in polite company.

5.8
Mass-scale slaughter for the leisure crowd.

Good Things

  • Almost as easy to control as a pet rock.
  • Possibly the ideal war game to play just before bedtime.

Bad Things

  • It's the slowest war you've ever seen.
  • No way to choose your fighting units.
  • No way to choose your starting positions.

The Breakdown


Gameplay
5
Interface
8
Artwork
6
Features
4



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