Game Reviews

Civil War II: 1862

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| Civil War II: 1862
Civil War II: 1862
| Civil War II: 1862

As oxymorons go, civil war has to be right up there with military intelligence. These conflicts seem to hold an enduring fascination down the ages, no doubt because of their pivotal role in forging so many modern nations.

None more so than the American Civil War, which you can now relive another year of thanks to this strategy offering from Hunted Cow.

It's a follow-up to, yes, Civil War: 1863 and as you might expect it takes the same basic system but builds on it with new campaigns and scenarios.

See the glory

At its core it's a hex-based strategy game where you manoeuvre elements of infantry, cavalry, and artillery around a map and square them off against one another. Units come in various flavours of quality and armament, and interact differently with the on-map terrain.

The big new addition to the strategy of the original is flank attacks, a bonus that's added automatically if you fire on a target from the side or rear. It can have an impressive effect on the outcome, and the incentive to try and outflank enemy positions adds considerable strategic depth.

Games set in the Age of Rifles usually focus, sensibly, on infantry formations, and Civil War II: 1862 is no exception. Troop units march best in column, shoot best in line, and end up as useless scattered mobs if they move through difficult terrain or take too much fire.

But the catch is that infantry units can either move or reform - not both. Getting your soldiers where you need them in the shape best suited to their task is a constant challenge that needs you to keep thinking one step ahead.

Terrible swift sword

The game engine, however, has other ideas. Infantry marching through a wood or over a ditch will scatter, but you can't plot a movement path. The game just takes the shortest route between the starting hex and the destination. So you either lose formation or move at a snail's pace. It can be pretty frustrating.

Civil War II: 1862 is also annoying opaque with its underlying mechanics. The tutorial seems clear enough, as do the in-game instructions. But then you'll find things in the thick of the action that are never covered.

There's the fact that infantry automatically form columns on a bridge, or that artillery units are instantly destroyed if anything gets close enough to charge them.

After a few missions you'll have internalised most of these peculiarities and learned to compensate. Thankfully, those first few missions are generally pretty easy. The AI isn't up to much - on one occasion it completed ignored an easily claimed victory hex that would have won it the game.

There's a choice of difficulty levels for those finding things too easy, and missions do get harder as you progress through the two campaigns included in the base game. The missions are fairly varied, making good use of different terrain and troop layouts as well as a mixture of goals based on occupying victory hexes or wiping out enemy units.

As a bonus, you can play all of the included scenarios from both the Confederate or Union side, aiding replayability. And if you find the AI too weak, you can always challenge a friend with pass-and-play.

Fateful lightning

Civil War II: 1862 is certainly an improvement on its relatively bland predecessor. But there's still something oddly clumsy about the game - a heaviness that transforms what should be thrilling last stands into routine affairs.

Partly it's due to the foggy mechanics. Partly it's down to the limited tactical options at your disposal. But even with improved graphics and sound, the battlefield at your fingertips rarely sparks to life with excitement or tension.

Thankfully, there's a timeless pleasure to slaughtering enemies and stealing their land that's probably more than enough to see you through to the end. And at the current 69p / 99c price point this game is markedly cheaper than most other remotely competent military simulations on the App Store.

But gaming time is precious, apps are cheap, and so you may find you're better off trying to scrounge up to the next price point for something more rewarding.

Civil War II: 1862

This strategy sequel builds on the essentially solid foundations of its predecessor and is good value, but it only rarely offers any serious challenge or engaging thrills
Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower
Matt is a freelance arranger of words concerning boardgames and video games. He's appeared on IGN, PC Gamer, Gamezebo, and others.