With the country divided into Red State/Blue State extremes, perhaps another Civil War isn't that far-fetched, though the makers of the turn-based strategy game Shattered Union predict an awfully speedy deterioration of order. In the next election cycle, Americans choose the least popular President in history, leading to a rise in homegrown terrorist activity. This all causes some blowback on Inauguration Day, when a nuclear bomb detonates in Washington. For some reason, the European Union comes along to fill the D.C. power vacuum, leaving the rest of the nation to secede into six factions, including The Confederacy, Pacifica, and the Great Plains Federation. All are determined to bring the nation together under their vague regional principles, which means waging a seven-way battle royal.

Playing your choice of the seven factions, you're either invading your neighbor's territories or defending your own through the same hexagonal, turn-based military strategy that has decided wars for generations. Given a decent starting budget, you can load up your arsenal with infantry, Humvees, heavily armored tanks, stealth bombers, helicopters, anti-aircraft units, and other expensive toys. Be careful how you deploy them, because if you take too much damage in any one skirmish, it's nearly impossible to recover in time to keep from getting steamrolled by an advancing faction. There's also your "political reputation" meter, which rises and falls based solely on your conduct in warfare, not the diplomatic strategy that might have deepened the gameplay.

Beyond the game: Shattered Union disappoints less for what it isn't than what it is: Given ample opportunity to comment on the nation's philosophical divisions, the game instead limits any context to the occasional CNN-style news report, and implicates those meddling Russians for some reason.


Worth playing for: When else will you have the chance to wipe out your least favorite territory (sorry, Republic Of Texas) through a gratuitously overwhelming show of force?

Frustration sets in when: Fuck the Powell Doctrine. Trying to soften up an enemy's ground forces by opening with an air attack will end with your planes in smoking wreckage.


Final judgment: Shattered Union is distracting enough as a strategic challenge, but the concept of a second Civil War deserves something more sophisticated than Risk on a mousepad.