I’ve had A House Divided for several months now (well, since October) and today I finally got to play it. I was slightly curious about the length of the game, as the box says 60 minutes, someone wrote somewhere it takes two hours and somebody said four to six hours… The four hours turned out to be the correct time level. We played for three hours and ended the game in the end of 1864 (the war ends in 1865 when played properly).
There was also the confusion over optional rules, advanced rules and advanced optional rules. Chris Farrell recommended some rules in his Geek article and Mark Ma made also suggestions in another Geek thread. I chose command tables and advanced battles (mandatory, says Chris), leaders (looked like fun), capture of Washington (seemed like a reasonable rule), Northern rail movement (easy and probably useful), like battlefield targets (reasonable) and that’s it. I didn’t use supply, but I should’ve. I avoided it, because Chris said the supply rules are flawed, but they certainly are necessary. Other than that, I was pretty happy with the rule set.
I drew South and started the game fighting. I finally reminded North that I will win the game if he doesn’t start attacking. After he figured out naval moves, I was in trouble. He kept pouring troops to Pensacola (mental note: block Pensacola immediately when playing South next time) and composed huge piles of units there. His generals and a large stack of units went on around Jackson, Mobile, Memphis and New Orleans. Having to care about supply lines would’ve slowed him a bit.
In the east, the line around Washington was pretty stable. Juho caused me some trouble with his landing in Wilmington, but he didn’t move from there. In general my central cities were pretty safe. In the end, I found some holes in Juho’s defense lines and moved in to conquer some of his cities. I actually managed to bring his army size to mine — one more point and I would’ve won! When we decided to end the game early in the end of 1864, we had the final battles (Juho attacked Richmond and lost, I attacked Washington and lost) and checked the rule book for result. Turns out South would win with army size difference of 13 or less, and I had just three less than Juho. Victory for me, that is.
If the game had gone further, Juho might’ve won. His superior army (the Southern lack of men certainly became very concrete to me) meant he could’ve pushed in my territory and conquer my cities. I did lots of escaping from battles, which is nice except he can promote a unit each time so soon his armies were full of crack infantry… Tricky. I think I might’ve won, because I’m not sure if he would’ve had enough time in the end.
I don’t know — it’s certainly pretty interesting and I could have another go at it some day. However, the four hours means it’s not going to happen any time soon. If I play the game again, it’s going to be one of the scenarios. Playing from beginning of 1863 or 1864 to the end might be an option. The early game is less interesting anyway and that would squeeze the game length to a more reasonable two to three hours. The biggest problem with A House Divided is without a doubt the existance of Liberty and Hammer of the Scots, both of which are shorter and more interesting games.