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Posted on Jul 25, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

AGEOD’s American Civil War Review

By Larry Levandowski

In 19th century warfare, combat was not inevitable when forces found each other across the field. In ACW, small forces may automatically avoid much larger ones. Larger forces may also attempt to avoid combat, and wait for the right moment to strike. These features realistically recreate some of the running out-flanking campaigns characteristic in the later years of the war. When combat does occur, the player’s job is over, and his generals take over. Combat resolution is very complex, and many factors like weather, organization, troop quality and range take effect. But the player can not do anything except analyze the result. The game offers a full and verbose combat resolution screen. Reading the tool tips over each icon on the screen gives almost a play-by-play account of the action. This feature does a great job in keeping the player involved.


Players wanting to get their feet wet will happily find that naval combat is prominent in game play. The Union’s large blue water navy allows for surgical strikes along the South’s coasts, and blockading of their ports. The South can fight back with commerce raiders, blockade runners and ironclads. Brown water combat is also represented, and the map allows movement along every major and minor river. Ironclads, gunboats and forts are the player’s tools to take and hold these watery highways.

ACW also gives significant space to the grand strategic elements of the Civil War. Players can invest in infrastructure, borrow money and court the favor of foreign powers. If lucky, the South may even coax the reluctant British to join their cause. By carefully managing production of war supplies, conscripts and ammunition, players order replacements and reinforcements by unit type. Want the South to put more effort into their navy? Buy more ships. The interface for these features is intuitive and easy, certainly the mark of a great game.

In terms of game play, the AI is a decent sparing partner when compared to robo-generals in other games. Even hardcore gamers will find themselves enjoying the ride. The player can adjust the AI somewhat, increasing aggressiveness, giving it more time to think, or even by turning it off altogether. The robo-general occasionally does some things that are questionable, but not outrageous. In one game, a computer George McClellan marched straight to Richmond, past the entire Army of Northern Virginia, leaving the might of the South in his rear. The real McClellan would have never gotten to Richmond with a large enemy force on an open flank, but Grant might have, so the AI was not completely out of character.

While the AI is decent, it certainly is no substitute for a human opponent. The game supports PBEM, but the player won’t find this option on the menu. There is no, send file to your opponent button. PBEM is done through a clumsy procedure that feels more like a work-around than a function in a commercial game. Players uncomfortable with fiddling around behind the menus may abstain from this feature.

Except for some of the issues noted above, there is remarkably little that is wrong in ACW. But the one thing that will irritate players the most is that turns take close to seven minutes to process on a mid-range machine; that’s a lot of coffee breaks.

Still, in the final measure, AGEOD has given strategy gamers a great way to experience the grand sweep of the American Civil War. The game is deep and complex in a very good way. Casual players should stay away. But veteran strategy gamers and those with interest in the period are encouraged not to miss AGEOD’s American Civil War.



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  1. Most of my ACW gaming has been at the tactical level, but only because I was waiting for a game like this. If you enjoy ACW gaming, this one is a must!

  2. Truly fantastic ACW game! AGEOD team still makes patches and improves the game and it is now very close to perfect. Historical accuracy is almost 100%, turn processing is much, much faster and map and rail roads are 100% correct due to the work of community.
    Year has gone by and AGEOD forum is still very alive and players are praising this game. I have never in my long gaming life played one game for so long as I play this one and I doubt that I will stop it anytime soon.


  3. Being a little more than casual gamer, I found this game very difficult at first. However, I kept at it (the game) being intrigued at the time period. After several trial runs and a little forum reading, I finally resigned myself to play it through regardless of the outcome (its not like this is THE CIVIL WAR, what did I have to lose). At one point I was clicking various pieces just learning the ways to manipulate it. As the game went on, I began to understand how to form military units.With all the difficulties turned down, it was still a very challenging game to strategize. The A I was actually fun to play and after a little trial and error and understanding of why the game mechanics do what they do…this game jumped, no soared to the top of the list of games I enjoy spending time to play. To play this game, you have no choice than to spend time, like any strategy game worth any merit.


  5. I have not played the game yet — still about halfway through manual — but the tool tips shows that the bugle in upper right corner is for advancing turns. Have you tried this?