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Posted on Nov 19, 2012 in Electronic Games

Civil War 1863 – iOS Game Review

By Jim Cobb

Civil War 1863. iOS game. Publisher: Hunted Cow Studio. Designer: Base game $1.99; expansions $0.99 each

Passed Inspection:
Suitable graphics, passable AI, good interface, great price

Failed Basic: Limited replay, no zoom, simplistic historical detail, locked missions

Hunted Cow Studio’s first iPad game, Tank Battle 1944, is a nice, fun tactical game with a "move or shoot" system, but it’s too simple with virtually no differences between each side’s units. Will this studio’s Civil War 1863, patched to version 1.2, be like the first game but without armor, or has it been improved?


Looking Down at the Civil War
Civil War 1863‘s scrollable maps are all birds-eye view with terrain and unit icons tilted up slightly for a quasi-3D effect. Trees, rivers and roads look vanilla but buildings, fences and fieldworks have a period feel. Ridges could be better; though they block fire, they appear as light yellow areas with no clear contours. Units seem to have an authentic look, including Confederate grubbiness. However, the lack of a zoom feature, possible in many iPad games, limits verification of authenticity. Animation is good and symbols imposed on icons representing weapons, experience and mounted cavalry are a nice touch. Casualties are shown briefly with fallen bodies and broken limbers. Sound is surprisingly varied with different sounds for each type of formation as well as nice gunfire and wound noises. Often, sound is the only indication of enemy movement.

Tapping to Victory
Units represent regiments and batteries with strength from one to ten. Tapping a unit brings up white hexes for possible movement, orange lines for line of sight and orange hexes for targets. Tapping white hexes moves the piece there and tapping orange initiates combat. The upper right corner has icons allowing players to choose between fire and shock combat. Care should be taken with cavalry since shock is their default mode when mounted. Cavalry can be dismounted and used as infantry with short-ranged weapons. Infantry can be in three formations: line for best combat results; column for best movement; and unformed, which reduces effectiveness slightly. "Unformed" formation is automatically assumed when entering rough terrain and buildings.

Inexperienced units are marked with a white chevron while veterans have golden ones. Crossed rifles indicate smoothbore firearms. A new unit type is the officers. Mounted, they provide boosts in ability to units they are adjacent to or stacked with, at players’ choice.

Combat results are reductions in strength, loss of formation and elimination. Artillery has a long reach and rifles can fire up to four hexes while smoothbores only have a range of two. Terrain can block fire, but units don’t. Units can move and shoot but not shoot and then move. Changing formation ends a move. Charging units undergo defensive fire and may break off or lose strength, while defending units may fall back before the charge hits home. Charges that manage to make contact can result in either or both units losing strength or retreating. Charges into sheltering terrain usually end badly for the attacker, although cavalry charges against artillery in the open are often devastating for the artillery. All units exert zones of control, creating a one-hex "no man’s land" between units that is passable only by charging.

The base game comes with three solo campaigns per Union and Confederate side, with the first campaign serving as a tutorial supplemented by an on-screen manual. The two expansions have one campaign each. Each solo campaign consists of eight locked missions of increasing difficulty and campaigns must be played in order. Missions, representing historical engagements, have a variety of objectives. Players can be ordered to destroy all enemy units while minimizing losses, hold out for a certain number of turns or gain and hold control points. Gaining a control point often yields reinforcements but losing one means defeat, forcing a repeat of the mission. Victory unlocks the next mission and adds points to the campaign point total. The AI plays a game based on objectives, i.e. if an objective is to not lose three units, the AI will go after the three weakest units the player has. The AI is savage in defense, if clumsy in attack. The three difficulty levels determine the number of enemy units, not AI skill. Playing the hardest level will result in a higher victory point level. A two-player hot seat option has three campaigns of five missions each.

While not rivaling many of its PC counterparts, Civil War 1863 is an enjoyable game and presents players with interesting tactical challenges. The game shows much more sophistication over Hunted Cow’s earlier effort at a historical war game. IPad owners should take advantage of the excellent price and enjoy this game.

Civil War 1863 requires iOS 5 or higher.

Armchair General Rating: 83%

About the Author

Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he dealt with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online and Gamesquad



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