a house divided [Updated August 2001]

AHD  2 prizes Beginners Double Elim Continuous 
 Demo  10  Round 2 12 Round 3 14 Round 4 17  Round 5 Final 19       

   Salon CD

Phil Rennert, MD

2001 Champion

2nd: David Metzger, VA

3rd: Rick Young, CA

4th: Rob Mull, CO

5th: Bryan Van Nortwick, NC

6th: Chris Bauch, LA
Event History
1991    None      -
1992    None      -
1993    None      -
1994    None      -
1995    None      -
1996    None      -
1997    None      -
1998    None      -
1999    David Metzger     18
2000    Tom Cannon     12
2001    Phil Rennert     16

AREA Ratings

GM: Daniel Broh-Kahn

Civil War for the hexagonally challenged ...

With the resurgence of point-to-point movement systems proliferating everywhere at WBC, everyone thinks they are looking at something original with each new offering. Sorry, grognards, but A House Divided was there first, and this year was the 20th anniversary of publication. The tournament attendance was up i, as people were looking for a quick game to get under their belts before their afternoon semifinals took place. Attendance was 18 in 1999; 12 in 2000; and back up to 16 in 2001. Thanks to all who voted the game back into the century this year, and we look forward to seeing you next year.

We began this year with a one-hour introduction to the game at Café Jay at 9:00 am Saturday. Much to my surprise, several people actually attended, from novices who wanted to learn about an excellent system to veterans looking for a refresher course after many years. After that, the tournament began with a review of rules and policies, as well as a democratic vote on which options to apply.

One option proposed was a duplicate system, whereby all boards operate on the same roll for marches. This was quickly vetoed by the masses, who showed no interest in having to rely on someone else's luck! On the other hand, another proposal, known as the rule of 7, was implemented in order to minimize the luck element regarding moves and recruiting. This simple rule states that the sum of your marches die roll and your recruiting die roll in a month is always seven. There were some concerns that this rule would penalize the Confederates, who never seem to have enough troops to recruit anyway, but as it turns out that wasn't the case.

As in previous years, the tournament started off with the 1861 scenario, but unlike last year, players chose to retain that scenario throughout the day due to the imbalance of the others. In most of the games, the Union player was forced to aggressively invade the south in order to take cities, and the avenues of approach were usually the same. The three routes, from east to west were Northern Virginia, through Kentucky, and down the Mississippi. All three of these are subject to march rolls, and it was a fortunate player who was able to pull off two successfully, let alone all three. Of course, a die roll of 6 on marches means the Union player can conduct an invasion, which is a cheap way of picking up one or two point cities.

For the Union, in the east, a successful assault at Manassas can lead to quick hopes of getting the Union player to Richmond, or, at the very least, preventing the Confederate from getting to Washington. In the central, Union troops try to get Louisville, build up some cavalry, and stop the rebel cavalry from scurrying around the Midwest. The last option in the west calls for a Union buildup in Cairo, Illinois, then leapfrogging down the Mississippi to Memphis, Vicksburg if possible, and Baton Rouge and New Orleans if you live right.

Unfortunately for the Union player, the Confederate has his own agenda, and is more than able to cause disruption to the Union plans. In at least one game, Washington fell, causing an immediate win for the Confederates and horrible shame for the Union. Baltimore was taken in several games, which can cause real headaches for the Union, as it is a Confederate recruiting city. Of course, this would be a good time to point out that city control is the last thing that occurs in a turn, meaning that the Confederates had to hold Baltimore (or in the West, Cairo) for at least a turn before they can rebuild troops there. But that was not the worst! In several games before the finals, Confederate forces captured Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and even New York.

What started out as a double elimination format actually ended up being run as a Swiss-Elim tournament, since a couple of the games ran longer than planned, disrupting start times for later rounds. Advancing to the 9:00 pm Saturday semi finals were Rick Young, at 3-1; David Metzger, at 3-1; Robert Mull, at 3-1 and Phil Rennert, 4-0. After some scheduling compromises and arranged times, the two semifinal games were completed late Saturday night, with Confederate wins, as usual. With respect to battlefield luck, your beloved GM probably fared worse than most, going into battle and having five hits inflicted on five units in the first defensive fire!

The Sunday morning final had undefeated (5-0) Phil Rennert facing off against 1999 champion, David Metzger (4-1). Both sides wanted the Union, but the die roll found Phil taking his usual position as the rebels. Early in the game, the Union invaded Charleston and entrenched, a tough proposition for the south. On turn 6, Lee moved west and north to Franklin, supported by cavalry galloping from Decatur to Roanoke, threatening to walk around Washington and into New England. The North rolled 6, brought in all available forces (even forgoing the invasion), and amassed a larger army. Then the South rolled 2, and could only evade west to Chillicothe.

The next turn the North rolled 6 again, and the big army went by rail to Pittsburgh; but due to rule of 7, the North couldn't raise its new April draftees. In its turn, the South rolled 6, took the Ohio River cities (Cincinnati, Louisville, and Evansville) with a force in Columbus, slowed the Pittsburgh army with skirmishing cavalry in Wheeling, and cavalry-jumped into Baltimore. The North again rolled 6, squashed the Baltimore raid, recalled the Memphis force to Cairo and with draftees, built an anvil to match the hammer now in Wheeling. However, the South rolled 5, just enough, and spread out from Columbus to grab Fort Wayne, Cleveland, Canton, and Pittsburgh; this put the South's army maximum over the North's by one, resulting in an automatic win for the undefeated champion.

Even if it hadn't exceeded the North's maximum, they would have had difficulty retaking eight points on turn 10 of the final. The tournament revealed that the 10-turn scenario rewards strategies that would be suicide in the campaign game. In terms of balance, it seemed that the Confederates won most of their games, but almost half of those wins were under the command of Phil Rennert, the only undefeated player. A possible addition to next year's tournament would be a variable ending chit for the scenario, preventing the Confederate player from end-gaming the situation and picking up easy cities with no chance of retaliation, as the Confederate always has the last player turn. In this possible tournament addition, the Confederate player rolls to end the game on turn 9 (33% chance) then again on turn 10 (67% chance) and finally on turn 11 (100% chance).

In spite of the rule of 7 there were again several complaints about die rolls, and another system under consideration is the use of a fixed pool for die rolls for marching and recruiting. In this system, all the march and recruiting die rolls for each player are placed into two opaque containers. Each container (one for marches and one for recruiting), contains two 1s, two 2s, two 3s, etc. Each turn for marches or recruiting a die roll number is drawn and not replaced. This system, while not necessarily eliminating bad luck on crucial die rolls, would at least reduce it! The drawback is that this could possibly be even worse than the die-roll modifier system, in producing rolls known in advance, once the container gets low.

As usual, the GM will put proposed rules modifications to the vote of all players before the 2002 tournament starts. If you have a favorite rule you would like to see added, let me know! And for all those gamers looking for a real wargame that they can set-up and finish in two hours, see you all next year, for the return of A House Divided, who turns 21 and is ready to drink.

 GM      Daniel Broh-Kahn  [2nd Year]    17 Seven Springs Court, Phoenix, MD 21131-1542
    Daribuck@aol.com    NA

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