The Civil War Experience Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 players
  • Approximately 60 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Experience the Civil War by leading the armies who fought it

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek mixed!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

American author and a professor of history, Douglas Brinkley, said “We can only imagine the history of the free world today if, at the end of the Civil War, there had been two countries: the United States and the Confederate States of America.” In this game, you get to relive the bloody history of our nation at war with itself. Pick a side, send in your troops, and command the battleground.

The Civil War Experience, designed by Daniel Caudle and published by DOC Educational Games, is comprised of 2 standard six-sided dice, 32 Resource cards, 28 Infantry cards, 18 Calvary cards, 8 Artillery cards, 12 Gear cards, 10 Extraordinary Circumstance cards, 84 Hit Point counters, 24 Deployment Point counters, and 2 Resource Silo cards. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card, but the counters and are exceedingly thin and flimsy. Artwork in the game is a mix of historic photos and paintings.

Prepare Your Army

To set up the game, have each player select which side of the Civil War conflict they will play as: the United States of America (U.S.A.) or the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.). Give each player the deck of cards that represent their selected side (blue and grey backed cards, respectively).

Second, each player now pull from their deck two Infantry cards, the “Forest” Resource card, the “River” Resource card, and the Resource Silo cards. The open area between the two players is referred to as the “Battleground”. Each player now places their Infantry cards face-up in front of them in a row. Behind their Infantry cards, have each player place the “River” and the “Forest” Resource cards in a row. Next to this row, place the Resource silo card.

Third, place the counters and dice to one side of the game playing area. This is referred to as the “supply”.

Fourth, have each player shuffle their deck of cards and deal seven to themselves to create their starting hand. Place the deck of cards to one side of the player and face-down. This the player’s personal draw deck for the duration of the game. Cards in a player’s hand should remain hidden from their opponent until played. If either player is unhappy with their first hand, they can discard it now by placing the cards at the bottom of their draw deck and dealing seven new cards.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first by rolling one die.

Company Inspection

There are a total of six different types of cards in the game. The parts of the cards are summarized here.

A) Name of the card, its affiliation (blue or grey), and accompanied artwork.
B) The amount of Hit Points the card can take before it’s discarded. If no value is listed, it can be removed by suffering only one point of damage or is discarded if the attached card it’s on is discarded.
C) The target number value used when attacking.
D) The cost to bring the card into play.
E) The card type (I: Infantry, A: Artillery, C: Calvary, G: Gear, R: Resource, X: Extraordinary).
F) The amount of damage the card inflicts if it successfully attacks.
G) Flavor text and any listed special abilities or additional rules.

War is Hell

The Civil War Experience is played in rounds and turns with no set number of turns per game.  A typical game turn is summarized here. At anytime during the player’s turn, they can discard one card from their hand, place the remaining cards in their hand at the bottom of their draw deck, and then draw an equal number of cards that were just placed at the bottom of their deck. This can be done as many times as the player likes and is possible on the player’s turn. For example, if the player has four cards, they can discard one, place the remaining three at the bottom of their deck, and then draw three new cards for their hand.

Extraordinary Circumstance card can be played at anytime based on their play description. When brought into play, they are immediately resolved.

Step One: Draw and Count

The first thing a player does on their turn is untap any cards tapped during their previous turn. Then they draw one card from their draw deck, adding it to their hand. The player then counts the number of Deploy Points they have available to them by reviewing the Resource cards they have in play. Each player starts the game with access to the “Forest” and the “River”, for a total of two Deployment Points. As the game progresses, additional resources will be put into play, allowing the payer to collect even more Deployment Points.

Based on the number of Deployment Points the player has earned this turn, they collect an equal number of Deployment Point counters from the supply.

Step Two: Deploy

The player now looks at the cards in their hand and decides which they want to play this round. Cards have a cost to bring into play which is paid for by spending Deployment Points. Cards come into play placed in front of the player face-up and “tapped”. Meaning they should be placed so they are tilted, indicating they are in play but not available to the player to use this turn. Gear cards are an exception here, as they come into play attached to a unit. The Gear card adds a bonus which it provides immediately.

Gear cards attached to a card can reduce the Accuracy value, improve health, and add other additional abilities that are triggerable based on situations in the game and per the player’s decision to use them. Some Gear cards are deployed as a single card, not attached to any card. During this turn, a player can pay half of the initial deployment cost of  a previously played  Gear card to redeploy it and attached to a different card in play.

Deployment Points earned this turn and any kept from the previous rounds can be used at this time. Any Deployment Point counters not spent remain on the player’s Resource Silo card.

Step Three: Take Action

The player can now take actions. Most actions are focused on attacking the opponent. Only those cards that are not tapped can be used. When they are, they are tilted to indicate that no further action can be taken by them during this turn.

Cards that can be used to attack have an Accuracy value. This is the target number that must be rolled at minimum using the two six-sided dice. A successful role means the card being used has hit the target card identified by the active player.

Damage is now dealt. Each card, if it can be used to damage another card, has a Damage value. The amount of damage dealt is tracked by placing an equal number of Hit Point counters on the target card. If the hit card accumulates an equal number or more Hit Point counters than its listed Hit Point value, it’s removed from play and placed in the player’s discard pile, along with any cards that are attached to it.

If a card ever takes enough damage that extra Hit Point counters are available to disperse, they are placed on any other card that belongs to their opponent. In this way, it’s possible that a powerful attack can damage and take out one or more cards.

Resource cards owned by an opponent can be targeted by an attack, as well, but only when there are no more soldiers in the field. These cards do not have a Hit Point value. Instead, any successful attack that deals at least one damage removes the Resource card in play.

Some Gear cards are deployed as a single card, not attached to any other card in play. These Gear cards can be targeted for destruction, but like the Resource cards, cannot be targeted until all the soldiers in the field have been removed.

This step is repeated until the player has taken an action with all the cards available to them that are not tapped or they end their turn prematurely. Once the player ends their turn, they draw back up to seven cards in their hand. Previously played cards in the discard pile should be shuffled and placed as the player’s new draw deck if they should ever run out of cards.

The Battle Won

The game continues as described above, with each player taking turns, until one player no longer has any cards in play in front of them. The player who still has cards in play in front of them has won the battle and the game.

Game Variant

Depending on the number of cards in play, rolling for each to determine if they successfully attack or not can take longer than both players like. Instead, each player can roll once per group type (Infantry, Calvary, and Artillery). In this way, a successful roll for the Infantry groups means that all Infantry cards have a successful attack. Likewise, a bad roll means that all the cards of the group type do not attack this round, but are still considered “tapped”.

To learn more about The Civil War Experience, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had no problem understanding how the game was played and how it could be won. The cards they played, however, never really seemed to be part of an overall strategy. Instead, they just played what they had and what they could afford. Despite the Gamer Geek in me believing this to be a poor approach, the tactic seemed to work just fine. One Child Geek corrected my thinking by saying, “In the end, if you have a bigger army, you get to make more decisions.” Very true and in this game, the more choices you get to make, the better the outcome of your turn. Another Child Geek said, “I think the best part of the game is being able to change what you have in the field, equipping your soldiers, and being able to change what you want to do.” The game does provide a certain level of flexibility, giving players the option to move previously played cards around and make last-minute efforts to support the line or crash into their enemy when the opportunity appears favorable. This pleased the Child Geeks and they voted to approve The Civil War Experience.

The Parent Geeks found the game to be entertaining with their kids, but not a game they enjoyed much with a peer. According to one Parent Geek, “The game is well designed and I understand how to play it, but it just wasn’t that interesting when I played it with a friend. It feels like a one-and-done kind of game.” With their kids, however, the Parent Geeks couldn’t say enough good things. According to one Parent Geek, “A nice game to play with the kids that gives you a chance to talk about history and strategy at the same time.” When the games were over, the Parent Geeks gave The Civil War Experience a mixed endorsement.

The Gamer Geeks found The Civil War Experience to be of less interest. According to one Gamer Geek, “Too little in this game to get excited about. Cards drive actions, but you as a player get to have some say on how the cards operate. Not a lot, but enough to make card plays slightly less boring.” Another Gamer Geek said, “I didn’t experience anything in this game about the time period it is based on of, nor did I experience what I would call challenging fun. Not a game for me.” The Gamer Geeks didn’t find anything particularly wrong or upsetting with the rules of the game, commenting (weakly) that the game itself wasn’t a bad one. Rather, it just wasn’t a game that held any interest. This resulted in the game being rejected by the Gamer Geeks.

Fun story about this game. It was given to another group to play during the review. Consequently, the game left the United States, went over seas, was lost, found, lost again, and then eventually returned. It has traveled more than I have and that is somewhat depressing. Luckily, the game returned in one piece and had the fun opportunity to be played in another country. War, it seems (and rightly so) is universally understood to be bloody and wasteful. Necessary at times, but history tends to prove that the cost of human life is a heavy price to pay. This game sparked some interesting conversations with players in the United States, France, England, and Spain. All agreed that war is horrible.

This game plays well with the casual crowd. It provides light tactical and strategic game play that feels a bit on a track at times, but does allow the player enough wiggle room to adjust their course. Just not a lot and this was clearly understood and not appreciated at all by the gaming elitists. When they play a game that deal with combat, they want to feel they are involved in the combat decisions. Decisions are made by the players, have no doubt there. Those decisions, however, are few and far between when it comes to variety of choices. This was most likely done on purpose to keep the game accessible to as many players as possible and rightly so. The game was loved by the Child Geeks and the casual gamers.

As for me, I found the game entertaining with my children but it felt too long. The listed game variant is meant to make the game speed up, but by doing so, you remove a lot of the game’s tension and surprises. This hurts the game, reducing game play length but at the cost of reducing the fun value. Due to the game’s length, it starts to feel repetitive. There are not enough cards in the game with significant differences to make it feel like each round is an opportunity for unique game play. Instead, players are given an opportunity to continually fine tune a well understood landscape. The pro of such a direction is that a player has a chance to learn at a steady rate. The con is that if you don’t like the landscape, you are stuck with it.

Do give The Civil War Experience a try when time allows. It serves as a good introduction to historical war games. It’s well designed and plays well. You won’t find epic battles here, but you will find fun game playing memories and interesting decisions.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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