A House Divided (board game)
A House Divided is a strategic level board wargame about the American Civil War for two players, featuring point-to-point movement, low-complexity rules, and relatively few counters to maneuver. It was designed by Frank Chadwick and released in 1981 by Game Designers Workshop. A House Divided won the Charles S. Roberts/Origins Awards for Best Pre-20th Century Boardgame of 1981 and Best Pre-20th Century Boardgame of 1989.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand.
I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it to cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing, or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, until it shall become alike lawful in all states, old as well as new, North as well as South."
The game has been released in three versions, the first version in 1981, second version in 1989, and the third version in 2001. The first two versions were published by GDW, while the third edition was released by Mayfair Games, featuring new design, updated rules, and larger playing pieces.
The changes between the first and second versions were few, but important. Most notably, some rules were changed, some new optional rules were added, and also the map came as four puzzle-like pieces, instead of as one large, foldable map, as in the first edition. In addition, some piece designs were altered. The third edition adopted a foldable cardboard plate as seen in other games, such as Axis & Allies, and also featured a brand new design for the pieces. The rules, however, remain virtually unchanged from the second edition.
The second edition was edited by Alan Emrich. At his website you can read more about his thoughts on the game, as well as his "living" version of rules edition 3.1, which is based on changes he'd like to see.
A House Divided owes much of its popularity to its relatively simple rules, with more advanced rules for experienced players, and features a playing board covering most of the United States mainland. Play is turnbased, and the players play the Union and Confederacy armies respectively. The game is played over a series of up to 40 game turns, each game turn being divided in two player turns. The Union player has the first player turn every turn. The first game turn is July 1861, and the game culminates in June 1865.
The pieces represent infantry and cavalry units, each unit containing from 10,000 to 15,000 infantry or from 7,000 to 10,000 cavalry. Each game turn represents one or two months, depending on the time of year. In all versions, the pieces are represented with three ranks; Militia, Veteran and Crack. All new units are Militia units, and promotions happen at the end of victorious battle, as well as during the promotion phase of a players turn. No unit may be promoted twice in any single player turn, i.e.; if a unit has gotten a battlefield (post-combat) promotion, it may not receive a regular promotion in the same player turn.
The map comprises the eastern United States, and contains boxes for each city, as well as roads, railroads and rivers.
The turns comprise four phases, conducted in this exact order:
There is no stack(ing) limit, and players are free to inspect their opponent's forces at any time. In the advanced game, there is a combat limit in each combat round of 8 units. The original game included a short-game, in addition to the full game, where only the first two rounds are played. In later versions, rules are included for shorter campaigns starting in 1862, 1863 and 1864.
In the long-game, the Union player wins when and if he controls all Confederacy cities with a recruitment value of 2 and 3, these being New Orleans, Charleston, Mobile, Wilmington, Richmond, Atlanta and Memphis. When the last of these cities has been captured, play stops immediately, and the Union player has won. The Confederacy player wins if he does one out of three:
- Captures Washington (immediate victory)
- Captures enough recruitment cities to make the Confederacy Army Maximum greater than the Union Army Maximum (immediate victory)
- Avoids a Union victory (victory at the end of the game)
S. Craig Taylor, Jr. comments: "For my money, a great game is one that allows the player to make a series of important or key decisions that directly and understandably reflect on victory or defeat. Games that imitate reality on the game's own selected level without bogging down in details are often referred to as elegant, and that, in one word, sums up the appeal of A House Divided, the little game that could, and places it unmistakably onto any list of the very best wargames."
- "Origins/Charles S. Roberts Award Winners (1981)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-02-17. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
- "Origins Award Winners (1989)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
- Taylor, Jr., S. Craig (2007). "A House Divided". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 150–152. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.