A century and a half ago this nation was half-way through its bloodiest and most divisive period. If any doubt that America and the world’s fascination with the people, battles, events and causes of The Civil War continues to this day, they need only skim television schedules, bookshelves and theater marquees – or catch glimpses on the news or in magazines of those who dress up in period costume to re-enact the gore and the glory of what many back then called “Mr. Lincoln’s War.”
From the sublime (Stephen Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Lincoln) to the silly (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, available in paperback or on cable/Netflix), there is no shortage of movies and television shows about the War Between the States and what led up to it (as depicted with such beautiful clarity in the three-part series, The Abolitionists, which ran on most PBS stations this spring).
There are other ways to experience the age of Lincoln besides sitting in a movie theater or stretching out on a sofa: games allow people (and of all ages) to not only immerse themselves in the period but also to share in and even alter this the greatest struggle in American history.
Games of the Civil War are not new: many were available even during the conflict. During the Centennial in the 1960s big-name board game publishers including Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers and the like produced a plethora of games, most of them simple and many including toy soldiers. The classic Battle Cry, part of the American Heritage collection by Milton Bradley, set many a young kitchen table general quite literally against his or her brother in a simple yet challenging contest conducted across a map of the Union and its Confederate opponents.
The Civil War has remained a perennial favorite not only among those who design and play military simulations – or “wargames” – but also among those who play family, card or computer games. GMT games of California, for example, produces strategic and tactical land and navy games of the war, as does MMP and other traditional wargame producers.
Those who want something less complex or lighter also have many games to choose from. These range from Hasbro/Avalon Hills’s updated versions of Battle Cry – on which players push toy soldiers across the fields of Antietam, Gettysburg and Shiloh – to computer games designed by Sid Meier (of Civilization fame) or for The History Channel. There also card games – both collectible (such as Dixie) and instructional (notably the Professor Noggin series or games in the Trivia Pursuit type category).
Watching or reading stories about The American Civil War can be entertaining and enlightening, but playing a game about it can also be educational. Even better, it can allow the player to recreate or even change history, and, best of all, do so across the table from a friend or family member – thus recreating a war that set brother against brother, but in a bloodless and friendly fashion.
* * *
Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer and columnist. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln.
To view Mark’s 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at http://www.gmtgames.com/p-238-rebel-raiders-on-the-high-seas.aspx
…or his blog at http://markgmclaughlin.blogspot.com/
Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan’s Star Marines, is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Ryans-Star-Marines-Save/dp/1466218487/ref…
To read more usedview.com pieces by Mark G. McLaughlin become a regular subscriber; just click on the “Subscribe to get instant updates” button at the top of the page. Examiner’s editors pledge that subscribers will never be spammed. Sharing articles on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks is also appreciated