On April 12th, 1861, shots were fired at Fort Sumter starting the American Civil War.
War is a brutal and terrifying thing and yet somehow, it’s worse when it’s a civil war. This period is a fascinating piece of American history and has become a staple in war games.
From Gettysburg to Bull Run, history buffs and gamers have pored over historical reenactments and simulations trying to understand the hardships and struggles of the American people during this time period.
Today, we’re looking at the best Civil War board games we could find. So get ready, whether you’re a hardcore wargamer, new to the hobby, or just a history buff, we got you covered.
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Civil War Board Games
In a hurry? Take a quick peek before you go.
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The US Civil War
The US Civil War is inspired by 2 other games on this list, The Civil War and For the People. The ruleset takes inspiration from both of these great games and comes out on top.
This game covers the entirety of the war from 1861-to 1865. If you’re looking for a comprehensive US Civil War board game, this is your best choice. It’s not the most original design, but it takes the best parts of its predecessors and refines it into an epic campaign.
Battle Cry is another great civil war board game. It uses the Command and Color system, the same one used in Memoir ’44, which is very easy to learn and jump into. It offers several different scenarios and allows players to recreate many different historical battles.
If you’re intimidated by the usual big box war games filled with charts and highly complex, Battle Cry is a great way to get into war games. Complex without being overwhelming, Battle Cry is one of the better entry-level games on this list.
For the People
Originally released in 1998, the newest 2006 edition covers the grand scale of the Civil War from beginning to end. It also includes all of the updated FAQ and rule changes from the original edition.
For the People uses a card-based system for player actions. It’s a little bit more mechanic-heavy and difficult to master, making it a little difficult for novice wargamers but after a few campaigns, you’ll have it down.
A House Divided: War Between The States 1861-1864
A House Divided is another fantastic Civil War board game. Veteran wargamers will find the rules easy to learn and jump into, but complete newbies to the genre will find it a bit more difficult to learn the rules and get into a game.
Don’t let that discourage you, though. A House Divided is an excellent entry to your wargaming shelf. It plays amazingly well and does a great job of accurately portraying the battlefields of the American Civil War.
The Civil War: 1861-1865
Despite the unoriginal naming scheme for US Civil War board games, The Civil War 1861-1865 is one of the best entries to Civil War board games.
Players will feel the struggle between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis as they’re faced with the same problems, limitations, and supplies as the North and South. It’s an incredible rendition of the war and history of the time period.
Why is it only 5th on the list then? It’s because it’s going to be extremely difficult for the average player to get started with it. There is a level of experience in war games required to get the full effect of the game. New players will simply be overwhelmed, but veterans of the genre will absolutely love the mechanics and gameplay it provides.
The War for the Union
War for the Union has the potential to be at the top of this list. It takes into account a lot of the considerations of the Civil War and not everything is down to dice or troops on a map. The designers tried something very ambitious adding soft skills into the mix.
Troops have various designations, whether they’re volunteers, raw recruits, or veterans. As troops develop throughout the campaign, they gain different strengths and bonuses. It’s an idea that works well on paper but slows gameplay to a crawl.
That being said, it’s definitely worth a look, especially if you’re looking for something a little different from the American Civil War games.
War Between the States: 1861-1865
This is the first truly big war game on this list. War Between the States puts players in control of every aspect of the American Civil War.
It’s a huge undertaking to take control of production and troop movements for the entirety of the war, along with the tactical decisions that actually win battles.
It does a great job of simulating all of the moving parts of the war but because the designers tried to incorporate so much into the game, it becomes fiddly and takes quite a long time to actually complete turns.
Over Malvern Hill
If you’re completely unsure where to start simulating battles of the Civil War but you have a massive number of miniatures or figurines lying around, then this might be what you’re looking for.
Over Malvern Hill is a rule system for Civil War miniatures designed to be used with any existing minis. You’ll have to provide your own minis, but it provides an open-ended framework for you and your game group to either recreate your own battles or create your own massive campaign from start to finish.
American Civil War Print and Play Series
If you’re unsure of where to start and feeling a bit crafty, you can check out WargameShop.Uk’s American Civil War Print and Play Series. They’ve created a print-and-play game that covers every major battle of the Civil War. Each download showcases a different battle and they’re pretty impressive. Each battle takes about 3 hours to complete.
If you’re looking for a hobby to keep you busy for a while, then slowly making and recreating each Civil War battle in cardboard is a great idea.
Bobby Lee: The Civil War in Virginia 1861-1865
As you might imagine, Bobby Lee focuses on the Virginia region during the Civil War. It’s a little more focused than some of the all-encompassing Civil War games.
One of the most unique things about Bobby Lee is the ruleset and components that go along with it. It uses Columbia Game’s block system instead of the usual cardboard counters. The blocks are set up on their side and are rotated, depending on the unit’s stats. This gives an easy reference point for the shifting strengths of your units as well as simultaneously hiding them from your opponent.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best American Civil War board games! This incredible period of history warrants the huge number of board games that have been made about it. Although many of these games are hard to find or out of print, you may have some luck on eBay or Noble Knight Games which carries a lot of hard-to-find games.
Have you tried any of the games on this list? Did we miss one of your favorites? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
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Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.