Civil War: 1863 is a turn-based strategy game for the iPad that lets you take command of Union and Confederate forces and engage in some of the epic battles that occurred in 1863 during the American Civil War.
I grew up playing turn-based strategic war games against my younger brother. They were board games in those days and we played tons of them – from ancient battles with Alexander the Great or Caesar’s armies (or their opponents’) to command to many Napoleonic battles and campaigns, World War II games, and lots more. I enjoyed these immensely, despite the fact that my brother ran rings round me and I very rarely emerged victorious when playing against him.
I’ve been looking for good strategy games of this type to play on the iPad for a long while, have tried out a number of them, but had never come across one I found compelling and wanted to spend a lot of time playing. Earlier this month I spotted Civil War:1863 in the App Store and thought it looked a lot like what I was after. I’ve spent many hours playing the game and I’m happy to say I’ve been enjoying it a whole lot.
Here are some of the game’s notable features:
● 8 Mission ‘First Strike’ Campaign.
● 8 Mission ‘Hoorah’ Campaign.
● Includes battles based on historic events.
● Features both Union and Confederate forces.
● 7 different unit types with unique gameplay.
● Changeable unit formations and tactics.
● Generals can attach to units to increase morale.
● More capable Veteran units and unreliable raw units.
● High Definition graphics (including retina for the new iPad).
● 5 Pass & Play two player scenarios.
The game currently costs $1.99 – though it’s listed as a 50% off introductory price. For that you get two campaigns (sets of 8 missions) for free. The first is titled ‘First Strike’ and is essentially how you learn to play. It walks you through gameplay basics in missions like Advance, Fire, Charge and more. The second is called ‘Hoorah!’ and lets you command the Union army in the battles of Dover, Thompson’s Station, Dutton’s Hill, Stephenson’s Depot and Oak Ridge.
There are also two more campaigns available as In-App purchases for $0.99 each. ‘Rebel Yell’ has you in command of the Confederate army on these 8 missions: Springfield, Big Black River Bridge, Port Hudson, The Slaughter Pen, East Cavalry Field, Wauhatchie, Ringgold Gap, and Mossy Creek. in ‘Victory Road’ you’re leading the Union forces again, in these 8 missions: McPherson Farm, Ambush, Helena, The River, Honey Springs, The Hill, Bayou Fourche, Bayou Borbeau.
You can play the game in two modes – Campaign or Two Player. Campaign is solo play against the game’s AI, while two-player is done in a pass and play style.
There are three difficulty levels for each mission in all the campaigns: Casual, Standard, and Hard.
— It’s easy to play and to master all the elements of gameplay. The training missions are basic but well done and the Help section offers lots more useful information. For instance, you can look at details on the abilities, strengths, and weaknesses of each of the unit types in the game. Here are a few examples of these screens:
You also get good guides on how to change unit formations and things like how to charge the enemy and when this may be effective.
— Gameplay is smooth and intuitive. You get comfortable with moving units and firing on the enemy very easily. It’s also very easy to spot which are your troops and which are enemy troops, to identify which types of unit are which – even when it comes to distinguishing between things such as regular infantry and dismounted cavalry or which infantry have muskets and which have rifled muskets.
— The missions offer a decent variety of scenarios requiring you to adopt different tactics in order to achieve a victory. Some will have you in all-out attack mode and others will require you to desperately hold on to control points when you’re badly outnumbered. You get a brief historical summary of the battle or part of a battle each mission is based on and mission objectives are always clearly stated at the beginning of play:
They can also be easily checked with a single tap during play.
— The scale of the game is very good. In most missions you’re commanding somewhere around 10 to 25 units. This is just about enough to make the missions fun and challenging, while also keeping gameplay fast and easy. There are no zoom in or out controls in the game – because none are needed at this sort of scale.
Very few to speak of, but here are some things that may fall more into ‘wish list’ sort of territory:
— I’d like the ability to choose which side to command in all of the campaigns, rather than having them split for you into Union and Confederate missions.
— I think perhaps there needs to either be a more difficult level added above ‘Hard’ or the Hard level needs to be made a bit more challenging. I’ve found that I’m winning the majority of hard missions on the first or second try – and as my brother would surely confirm, I’m not the greatest of generals. I don’t think the missions are way too easy, but offering a fourth, tougher level would add value to the game for more experienced and better players.
— Another option or extension I’d love to see is some larger scale battles. As mentioned above, the current scale is very good and makes for very easy and comfortable gameplay – but I’d love to also have the option to command more units and engage in longer / bigger battles. I think offering this sort of thing as an additional In-App purchase might prove quite popular.
I’ve become a huge fan of this game over the course of the last few weeks. I’ve played it a whole lot – playing nearly all the missions in all the available free and paid-for campaigns at all three difficulty levels. Like a good book, I find this game quite hard to put down. I’ve often opened it up thinking I’ll just play one or two missions and then ended up playing more like five or six without even really thinking about it.
It just feels an awful lot like old-school strategy board games. It’s the first iPad game I’ve found that I can say that about.
If you’re a fan of turn-based strategy games, and especially of military strategy games, Civil War: 1863 is definitely worth a look. If you’re anything like me a look will soon lead to being hooked.
Here’s an App Store link for Civil War: 1863; it’s priced at $1.99 with In-App purchase options as described above.
Disclosure: This game was purchased independently by the post author. For information on our review policies please see our About page.