Civil War: Road to Gettysburg is a simple turn-based strategy game that casts you in the role of a Union or Confederate general in the American Civil War. You must lead your army through a series of battles based on historical events. Before each conflict, you use your budget to purchase militia, cavalry, cannons, and other units. Once in the field, you maneuver you army to engage and destroy the enemy. Power-ups on the field allow you to gain extra money to buy troops or heal injured formations. Road to Gettysburg is a relatively straightforward game that presents essentially the same obstacles on different maps. While this lack of depth makes it a short play, its easy-to-use interface and good, basic design create an enjoyable experience.
As with most turn-based strategy games, Road to Gettysburg requires you to move your troops to engage and destroy an enemy army. The board is divided into squares that are used to measure movement and the range of your attacks. Each unit has a number of hit points that measure its total health. When a unit runs out of hit points, it is destroyed. When you destroy an enemy unit, you earn money that you can use to buy new units between battles. The weakest units move slowly and have short-range attacks, while more advanced ones, such as cavalry, can gallop across the field. Units like cannons can deliver devastating long-range attacks, too.
When you order a unit to attack, the target of its strike is allowed a counterattack if it survives the assault. As units take damage, you can order them to rest in place, giving up a turn in order to restore some of their hit points. Given that a unit may absorb up to two attacks per turn--once when its target counters and another when its opponent makes its regular attack--units tend to spend a lot of time resting between fights. Since units accrue experience points that allow them to improve over time, it is important to rest up between battles. Most of the scenarios are designed so that the enemy army is scattered into several small formations that remain in place until your forces draw close to them. Thus, you can afford to attack one formation, rotate your troops from the frontlines to rest them, and wear down the enemy without sustaining many casualties.
While the basic game is fun and challenging, it lacks strategic depth. Once you learn how far an enemy unit can move and the range of its attack, you can concentrate on positioning your own forces to maximize the number of attacks you can make while minimizing your opponent's counters. Range plays a critical role in the game, as you can fire at an opponent from beyond the range of his attacks to avoid a counter. Speed also helps, as fast units can dart in, make an attack, and then retreat to rest up for their next turn. If you have several units available, you can continually cycle in attackers to wear down an opponent while resting your forces.
Unfortunately, these basic strategies represent the limit of your plans. There seems to be little point in flanking or surrounding enemy units. Strictly speaking, attacking one unit with three different units of your own merely gives a foe the chance to make three counterattacks. There seems to be no benefit to attacking an enemy unit from two sides or maneuvering around it. The terrain also seems to have little impact on the battle. Taking cover in trees or ditches appears to have no effect on the damage you sustain. There does seem to be a defensive mechanic in the game, as cheaper units tend to inflict far less damage on more expensive ones, while equally matched units deal similar amounts of damage to each other. In essence, the strategy seems to be to buy the fastest, longest-ranged units and use them to wallop your opponent.
Civil War: Road to Gettysburg's graphics are clear and suitable for the game's turn-based strategy setup. They aren't particularly noteworthy, but you'll know where your units are and what they're doing, which is sufficient for this type of game. The game's opening themes and in-game music are also well done, and they have a nice 19th-century sound to them that history buffs will appreciate.
Overall, Civil War: Road to Gettysburg is a fun, simple game that is well suited for those who don't want to spend a lot of time learning the ins and outs of combat.