North & South

"If I owned Texas and Hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell."

Source // Dazeland

I went into North & South completely blind as to what it was about, but it doesn't take long for you to realise that it's a game about the American Civil War, and what a game it is. You command your army on three different scales in a game against your enemy and whatever stage hazards you've opted to play with, including varying weather conditions and Native Americans.

Now I'm not the best tactician or strategist, but I'm sure we'll put on some kind of showing. The Civil War might get a bit alt-history from here on out...

Fun Times

I'm playing the NES port of North & South, which does swap out somewhat detailed characters and imagery for some NES-ified cartoony sprites, but I think it adds to the game in this case, rather than taking anything away.

There are three stand-out elements going on with this game representing battles on different scales. The first is this map of the Eastern United States (not so united at this point in their history, I suppose) where you play a game centred on territory and resources.

Holding land is good, and holding a train line will supply your army with more manpower for when you try to take over another territory. If it's empty of enemy threat, great, you move in. If it's not, you get to fight it out on the battlefield.

In this not-at-all-helpful screenshot, you fight a battle based on the strength of your army in that territory. Hopefully, you'll have a bunch of riflemen, a cannon and some cavalry at least, with more of these units available as and when you can strengthen your army. You can switch between these units to quash the enemy forces however you'd like, each behaving differently as you'd expect.

It's not as in-depth and tactical as it might look or sound, with battles over in twenty seconds, but it's more interesting than leaving it to a roll of the dice or a random number generator.

If you find yourself losing a great many men but still winning the territory, you better hope that it doesn't get immediately contested before you can regroup, as one lonely rifleman against an army doesn't make for good odds.

That is, however, exactly what happens when you try to take over a fort, which sees a lone soldier take on everyone inside in a side-scrolling beat 'em up of sorts. You need to dodge enemies, explosives and guard dogs, as well as find the right path through the fort, scaling ladders up the walls, dropping down when required, until - if all goes well - you reach the flagpole within the time limit and raise your own flag, taking over the fort.

Do all of this over and over again until one side has complete victory over the other and you've just won North & South.


I didn't win North & South, but that's all on me. I wasn't playing with optional rules like weather and interference from Native Americans or Mexicans but still had a great time with it. Wanting to pad out this section just a little bit more, I'd say that the graphics aren't the nicest but that's almost a low blow to the NES. It's perfectly playable, even if it has a slightly off-putting colour scheme here and there.

Final Word

Going back and playing North & South for longer, and with a gameplan, is definitely on the cards. You don't need to know endless amounts of rules, but you can't just charge in and think you'll have no problems. You'll need to think, even if it's just a move or two ahead. Your gaming skills will help you out, though, unlike if this was played in board game form, for example, so that does add another element to the way it plays.

I really like games that catch me off guard. I don't know whether you'd call it a sleeper hit or a hidden gem, but there's something about North & South that was joyous and unforgettable. Perhaps I should go into all these games with an ignorant mind...

Play North & South, or at the very least watch how it's played (didn't realise my screenshots were so useless - been a while since I took them), It's got a little of this and a little of that and it all comes together into a must-play title.

Fun Facts

Though it is clearly based on the American Civil War, North & South is actually based on a French comic strip about the Civil War, Les Tuniques Bleues.

North & South, developed by Infogrames, first released in 1989.
Version played: NES, 1990, via emulation.
Version watched: Amiga, 1989 (World of Longplays)