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Posted on Jun 5, 2021 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Fight the Civil War Right On Your Cell Phone or Computer John Tiller’s Civil War Battles Computer Game  Review

Fight the Civil War Right On Your Cell Phone or Computer John Tiller’s Civil War Battles Computer Game  Review

Rick Martin

“John Tiller’s Civil War Battles”  Computer Game Review.  Published and Designed by John Tiller Software Price – Free

Passed Inspection:    Available on PC, Mac, Android and I Phone.  Easy to learn; fully implements touch screens on modern cell phones; great sound effects and easy to discern graphics; full on-line cloud stored PDF instructions included; completely free

Failed Basic:     no way to cancel out an incorrect unit order, operational tempo can be difficult to plan as you often don’t know how long you have to achieve an objective

This review is dedicated to John Albert Tiller who passed away April 26th from brain cancer – (1953 to 2021).  John brought us many fine computer game designs over the last 26 years.  John’s first games were designed for TalonSoft back in 1995 and include Battleground Ardennes and Battleground Gettysburg.  Leaving Talonsoft, John formed John Tiller Software and the rest, as they say, is history.  John’s games run on PCs, Macs, tablets and cell phones.  He will be missed by his extended family of computer gamers. 


Civil War Battles is an introduction to the line of John Tiller Civil War Battles Campaigns in which each of the 10 games cover one campaign in the American Civil War.  While Civil War Battles is free, the other individual campaigns cost $2.99 each on the Play Store for Android.

Civil War Battles has 14 scenarios.  The first 10 are boot camps covering different tactics and skill sets you’ll need to learn for combat during the Civil War.  The boot camps include learning movement and combat formations, proper use of cavalry, use of cannons and even the use of gunboats to support land combat and sieges.  The last 4 scenarios through you in to a battle as the training wheels come off.  The final four scenarios are a hypothetical attack on Memphis, Tennessee during December of 1862. 

I reviewed the game on my Galaxy S9 + smart phone.

Boot Camp

Upon opening the game, you’ll be initiated with a starting scenario which guides you through some of the basic elements of moving and shooting.  Then you’ll go through each boot camp scenario if you wish or if you are familiar with the game, you can jump in to the battles.

You’ll see a bar of icons on the top of the screen with the name of the current scenario on the top.  On the right side of the top are three squares.  If you touch the three squares, you’ll open up a drop down menu with the following choices:  Next Turn, Start New Game, Command, Scheduled, Victory, Labels On, Sound Off, Alt Highlight and Help.

Above the map are various command buttons which include such commands as change facing, change formation, dig in, assault, etc.


The map is under the top bars and shows the area of the battle.  On the computer version, you can use the mouse or keyboard controls to navigate the map.  On your cell phone or touch screen computer or tablet, you can zoom in and out with your fingers and touch a terrain tile to see its terrain type (forest, swamp, etc.), its elevation, visibility from that tile, etc.  When you touch a unit, you will see a depiction of the men in the unit, whether they have been spotted, their ammo, number of men in the unit, their remaining strength (100% to 1%), troop quality (A to F), their weapon range, fatigue, formation and unit facing.


The unit formation and facing is also shown on the unit counters on the map.  Tiller created a very intuitive system for immediately telling the formation and facing of the unit by showing it graphically on the counter.

While some have complained about the “older style” graphics of Tiller’s games, I find that they are very effective for imparting a large amount of detail on the units in the shortest amount of time.  The graphics are very intuitive and don’t need tons of “rules” to tell you what they mean.  This also means that you get tons of game play for a small amount of both memory usage and of system storage.  You don’t need a state of the art 8 core system to play Tiller’s games.

Units included are leaders, infantry, cavalry, artillery, support and supply units as well as ships.  Each unit is rated for the number and type of guns, movement, number of men, troop quality, range of fire, fatigue level, mounted or dismounted if cavalry or limbered or unlimbered if artillery.  In addition, unit facing and whether the unit is in marching formation or attack formation.  There is also a representational picture of the unit and the unit identifier for example “1 Co. W. Tennessee Cavalry”.


On the phone version of the game, to move a unit just click on it and then drag it the direction you want it to go.  If the unit is in column formation, the line will adjust to the path you set.  If you are in battle row formation, you can use the rotate button to change the direction the formation is facing.

When infantry or dismounted attacks, click on the unit you want to attack and a cross hair will form.  Any unit you can attack will then be highlighted in red.  Simply click on the unit you want to attack and see the unit shoot and hear the gunshots.  Unlimbered artillery and ships work the same way.  You’ll then see combat results.  To melee attack, move the unit into the defender’s position and then hit the melee attack button on the top control panel.

The 6th Melees

The sound effects are very evocative of a civil war battle.  From the sounds of horses and the creaking of wagons to the gunfire and cannon sounds, the audio experience gives you a “I am there” feeling.  You can mute the sounds should you feel the need to play the game while waiting in line at the grocery store.  Also when you win or lose the game, you get side appropriate music along with your after action report.


I only have two complaints with the game.  There is no feature to cancel an action.  So if your finger slips and you move a unit somewhere unexpected, you can’t take the move back.

Also for some of the scenarios, there is no way to plan the operational tempo to meet the scenario deadlines as many of the scenarios don’t tell you how long a scenario will last.  I would at least like something saying “you have 3 days to take the city” or some such time requirement. 

In this free learning game, you can only play the Union. 

Battle of Memphis

Civil War Battles is a good solid game system and really gets you pumped to purchase one of John Tiller’s full Civil War Battles Campaign games.


Armchair General Rating:  91% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and has designed the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!


  1. Great review and fitting tribute to a game genius. I could not locate the free “John Tiller’s Civil War Battles.” If a link could be posted. I use a PC. Thank you, Jon Iverson

    • It looks like this free version is only available for tablets and phones for some reason. The full campaigns are out for all platforms.