I do not recommend this game, giving it 1 star out of 6.
The game runs slow and the extreemely poor UI, bizarre AI behavior, illogical combat and supply rules inhibit gameplay behind repair. The game requires you to micromanage a lot of units, even simple actions require hundreds of clicks and repeating the same tedious minutiae over and over again.
1. The game is poorly optimized and resolving a turn takes way too long.
2. The UI is very user-unfriendly and the game is absolutely horrible at providing you the information you need to understand what is going on. This is a huge issue with a game of such large scale.
3. The map gets cluttered with unit stacks and sorting these out is a tedious and unnecessarily long process.
4. The game's command chain and army organisation rules are interesting, but are poorly implemented which inhibits gameplay.
5. The AI makes poor, illogical choices - Confederate AI in late 1861 for example moved teh vast majority of troops from Richmond in order to mount a pointless offensive at Cleveland Ohio. As a result I took Richmond in December 1861 far too easily.
6. Only supports Play By Email multiplayer. We did it back in the 1990s, time to move on AGEOD.
The end result is that the game is tedious, slow and user-unfriendly at its very worst. I'm thoroughly disappointed by it., especially after reading the positive reviews. Sadly the reviewers failed to report on the game's numerous shortcomings.
Long, detailed version:
GAMEPLAY,AI, RULES, REALISM:
The AI is in general not very good and will pursue both historically implausible offensives as well as moves that are plain dumb. In my game as the Union, the confederate AI moved most of its army from the Shenandoah and Richmond to launch a strike at Cleveland Ohio. This allowed me to take a mostly undefended Richmond in December 1861, while the AI was gallivanting at lake Erie.
Supply rules are very poor and create absurd situations - that Confederate army in Cleveland was cut off from the south entirely, but stayed in supply as Cleveland was a city with a harbor and thus generated a lot of supply. The game did not "notice" that said harbor was at a lake controlled by the Union.
Political and economic decisions are good, like in most AGEOD games. However, again like in most AGEOD games, these take a back seat to actual military action and that's where the game does not perform well at all.
Combat results are poorly explained and I found myself scratching my head many times. For example, a 5000 men division of mine collided during movement with a 11 000 enemy force. Both were in clear terrain, 100% supplied, I was the attacker and my general was a very poor one, my units mostly volunteer militias and I did not have enough Command points for this stack either. For some absurd reason I basically overran the enemy unit, dealing 5000+ casualties at the cost of 700 men. I checked all the after-battle reports and found no indication why this was so. The report even stated that some of my men deserted at the face of the enemy! (no such status for the opposing side) So why did I won?! This is just one example, I seen such outcomes numerous times.
The tactical options once a battle takes place are very simplified, you do not get to command any units on a tactical map or nothing of that sort. Instead you pick from a series of strategy cards, which function much in a scissors-paper-rock fashion. Very disappointing.
The game is poorly optimized, Even with the "Give AI more time" options turned off resolving turns takes a lot of time. On average (counted for December 1861 and March 1862) each WEGO turn takes 3.5 minutes to resolve and that is just the units moving, I'm not counting the time consumed at simulating battles. The main campaign has 114 turns, which gives you 6.6 hours of just waiting for the computer to resolve the moves.
The UI in most AGEOD games is bad, but here the sheer amount of units greatly increases the problems one has with this. The eastern theatre between Washington and Richmond becomes quickly cluttered with numerous stacks that with their graphics cover beneath them objectives and terrain. This made sorting out my Army of the Potomac a huge pain and took a lot of time each turn.
It is absolutely necessary in the game to combine brigades into divisions, these into a corps and these into armies. The game does a poor job at depicting which corps stack belongs to which army - to check you have to click on it every time and even then all it does is to flash the army command stack - which might in some cases be a screen or more away. To remove a single brigade from a division, you need to manually disband the whole division and then re-form it. You will need to do this all the time, in order to send damaged brigades to the rear to let them rest and refit.
On a map of this size, with so many small units being built in various locations it becomes vital to quickly locate the unmoved newly deployed units. Yet the game does not have a "go to next unmoved unit" button. So each time you need to open the ledger with some 80+ unit stacks listed and search for that 3 unmoved militia brigades that you want to ship out by rail. Which can be a big pain, as you need to distinguish them from 16 other militia units you placed in various regions to act as immobile garrisons - the ledger will not filter these out for you.
The ledger was so unwieldy and user-unfriendly, that I actually resorted to al-tabbing and creating an excel spreadsheet to keep tabs on various units.
Renaming stacks could help with this mess, but sadly there's a bug which did not allow me to delete the old name and replace it with a new one. Very frustrating.
In short, the horrible UI combined with the huge scale of the game made it near unplayable - it was a tedious, long and annoying process just to understand what is going on the map.
While graphics in strategy games are not that important, I would like to observe two things
1) Unit and leader graphics were clear, crisp and pleasant to look at. Definitely one of the stronger sides of the game.
2) The map on teh other hand felt bland, the colors were unrealistic and annoying. My eyes became tired after a few hours looking at the map, which is a bad sign - does not occur in most strategy games. This is a real downgrade from AGEOD's first civil war game, where the map was in soft, natural colors and much easier to look at.
-Sounds felt generic, not bad nor very good.
- Music was ok as it was period instrumental tracks. Sadly most were very short and after s few hours became very repetitive.
Only supports Play By Email multiplayer. We did it back in the 1990s, time to move on AGEOD.