As the title suggests, it is a game centered around The American Civil War. In it, you assume the role of either Lincoln or Davis, and try to lead the Union or the Confederacy to victory in the civil war ... while also having to deal with things like cabinet choices, appointments and firings of generals who will lead your troops, and the usual problems that happens whenever politics is involved.
Tropes present in this game:
- All There in the Manual: Justified as games during this era could only hold so much information, which meant that most of the information had to be put into the manual to save space. Although even with the manual there are things that take time (and losing repeatedly) to figure out.
- Subverted, however, in that the manual implies that, if playing the Union, you will score better at the end of the game if you have a reasonably strict peace policy. In point of fact, the more moderate your peace policy, the higher you will score at the end of the game.
- Bullying a Dragon: It is possible to try bullying France or Great Britain (by trying to coerce them, for example) when playing as the Union. It does not end well for you. Technically, it is possible for a coercive policy to succeed, but only if the Union is doing very well militarily. If the Union is doing well enough to succeed with coercion, however, it is doing well enough to get European non-intervention without using coercion.
- The Union can, however, often get what it wants with a merely threatening foreign policy, which is a much milder level of "bullying" than outright coercion.
- Coercion is usually disastrous for the Confederacy as well, although in slower motion. Confederate coercion means embargoing cotton sales to Europe, which actually was the Confederate policy in real life. Needless to say, refusing to export cotton hurt the Confederacy much more than it hurt Britain or France.
- Easy Logistics: Averted. Your army has to be kept properly supplied, or it will quickly decrease in size and thus also effectiveness because of the combination of desertion, diseases, and deaths. And the supplies have to be transported in some way, which generally means it is done using rivers, ships, or railroads. In fact, the logistics model is probably the most realistic of any computer war-game ever, and is one of the principal attractions of the game.
- That being said, the Union can move troops and supplies along the Mississippi and its major tributaries for free; the Confederacy can only move supplies along the river, but it is also for free.
- Edutainment Game: This game was designed by a history professor to be used as a teaching aid. It's actually quite effective at that, and is still a great game to boot.
- Money for Nothing: When playing as the Union, it is possible to get into a situation where there simply isn't a way to spend enough money so that you actually use more of it than you get, nor possible to decrease the amount you get; this reduces money to something with virtually no value. It is much harder to reach such a state when playing as the Confederacy, however, as for them it is money tha is the limiting factor most of the time and without getting European aid you simply don't have enough of it.
- Morale Mechanic: Winning battles increases the morale of soldiers, and losing decreases it. The higher the troops' morale is, the more effective they are in combat, and the less likely you are to lose troops due to desertion. Combining armies also averages out their morale, which can be quite problematic whenever you need to do something with new recruits (which is nearly all the time).
- Nintendo Hard: This game is really hard. It takes quite some time to learn how to survive, let alone even aim for winning the game, especially on higher difficulties. Bear in mind, however, that the hardest part by far is getting used to the logistics engine, which is far more detailed and realistic than just about any other computer war-game ever. Because of that, you are unlikely to be used to having to deal with logistics in this way, and that can trip you up enormously. Once you get the hang of the logistics engine, the game becomes much easier.
- Save Point: You are only allowed to save the game when given the option to do so (which is par the course for a DOS game). What made it especially annoying was that there was a save/quit button on the main menu, which you could access at any time. When you clicked it, a pop-up dialog box told you that you had to wait for the end of the phase.
- Spiritual Successor: to Bever's Revolution '76, which was a similar game about the American Revolutionary War.