Secession is an abstract simulation of the domestic political conflict in the era preceding the American Civil War. You control a political party or faction during the 1856-1860 period and use its resources to accomplish certain objectives. You earn Victory Points by reaching these objectives. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins. The factions are the Republicans, Constitutional Unionists (Whigs), Northern Democrats, and Southern Democrats. Secession is played on the Game Chart which is divided into areas representing groups of states (regions) and important political issues.


The class is divided into groups. Each group has a moderator who runs the game and keeps records for that group. Each remaining student takes a faction.


Secession is played in Game-turns. A Game-turn proceeds as follows:

First, up to 10 minutes per turn are allocated for negotiation among the players. Then the Whig player receives Political Strength Factors (PSFs) and deploys them. The number of PSFs each player receives is specified in the Objectives and Game Charts. The Whig player then conducts attacks against the other players' PSFs. This completes the player's turn.

The remaining players receive PSFs, deploy PSFs, and then make attacks with their PSFs in the sequence given in this order: Northern Democrats, Republicans, and Southern Democrats.

When all players have taken their turns, one Game-turn has been completed.

Each game lasts for 8 Game-turns. The game is over after all of these have been completed. The players then total their Victory Points and the winner is determined.


Political Strength Factors (PSFs) represent a party's leadership, political and economic strength, and willingness to use it. PSFs are similar to the pieces in Risk and checkers.

Your goal is to attain the objectives listed for your faction on the Objectives Chart. You do this by deploying PSFs. Each turn you will receive a certain number of PSFs. You then deploy your PSFs wherever you wish. You may deploy PSFs in any area. You must deploy all PSFs received on that turn in that turn. After deployment, you cannot move PSFs. You can not give them to another player. After deployment you may use your PSFs to attack PSFs belonging to another player.

To deploy PSFs, tell the moderator where you want to put them. The moderator will record your deployments on the Game Chart in accordance with your instructions.

Each faction starts the game with PSFs already deployed on the Chart. These represent the intrinsic strength of each party. You can add new PSFs to them as the game progresses.


After placing PSFs, you can use them to attack your opponents. These attacks represent everything from simple threats to legislative action to major political campaigns. Attacking is never required. Attacks can be made when you and another player have PSFs in the same area. You attack by first indicating your target (the defender). Both you and the defender then remove an equal number of PSFs. You decide how many PSFs are removed. The moderator records these activities on the Game Chart.

After you are finished with this attack, you may attack a different opponent's PSFs in that area if you have any PSFs left there. You may attack in as many areas as you wish, as long as you have PSFs in them. You cannot reduce an opponent's PSF total in a box below zero.


You have Influence in an area or issue when you have at least 5 PSFs there at the end of the game. Influence represents situations where your party is a successful political force. More than one player can have Influence in an area.

You usually achieve Victory Points by obtaining Influence in certain areas. Sometimes you can earn Victory Points by preventing Influence. You can never have more than one Influence in each area, regardless of how many PSFs you have there. The Victory Points for an objective depend on its historical importance to the faction involved.


You cannot win Secession unless you negotiate with the other players. Whoever makes the best deals usually wins. However, trust no one! Lies, betrayals, threats, broken deals, and bluffs are all allowed and encouraged. It is recommended that you read through Machiavelli's The Prince before the exercise. Always remember: you and your opponents are politicians.


A game of Secession normally lasts 8 Game-turns. After the last Game-turn, the players compare their PSF deployments with their objectives listed on the Objectives Chart to determine their Victory Points. More than one player can receive Victory Points for an area. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins.


Constitutional Unionists/Whigs

You have problems. Your once great party, formerly dominated by Clay and Webster, is losing northern members to the Republicans, and proslavery members to the Southern Democrats. You are split into the Conscience (antislavery), Cotton (industrialists with ties to the southern economy), Border (nativists lukewarm on slavery), and Southern (States' Rights) factions. Still, an electoral deadlock could give you a chance in the House of Representatives. You favor government intervention in the economy, are proUnion, and prefer that the slavery issue vanish.

Northern Democrats

You are the oldest political party in the world, and your lineage can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson. However, your southern branch is operating all but independently, and your northern members are divided between the Barnburner (antislavery) and the more pragmatic Stephen Douglas factions. You want to find a solution to slavery that will keep the country together. You like immigration, oppose government involvement in the economy, and do not care much about imperialism.


Your party has its origins in a meeting of abolitionists in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854. This ignited a series of gatherings in the Midwest and New England and created a major force within a year. Your party is a coalition of Free-Soilers, bolting Barnburners, northern Whigs, and converts from the anti-immigrant American (Know-Nothing) Party. You want to subsidize business, eradicate slavery, and stop immigration. You are on a roll in the North, but lots of people hate you, especially in the South. You have no friends.

Southern Democrats

You are dissatisfied with your fellow Democrats in the north, contemptuous of the Whigs, and ready to fight the Republicans on everything. As far as you are concerned, the rest of the country is determined to destroy your way of life. This may sound paranoid, but even paranoids have enemies. If the slavery issue is not settled to your satisfaction, you will leave the Union. If anyone tries to stop you, you will fight.

REGIONS (States and electoral votes)

New England (NE)

Maine (8), Massachusetts (13), New Hampshire (5), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (5)

Mid-Atlantic-1 (MA-1)

New Jersey (7), New York (35)

Mid-Atlantic-2 (MA-2)

Connecticut (6), Pennsylvania (27)

Midwest-1 (MW-1)

Illinois (11), Indiana (13), Ohio (23)

Midwest-2 (MW-2)

Iowa (4), Michigan (6), Minnesota (4), Wisconsin (5)

Border-1 (B-1)

Delaware (3), Maryland (8), North Carolina (10), Tennessee (12), Virginia (15)

Border-2 (B-2)

Kentucky (12), Missouri (9)

Deep South-1 (DS-1)

Florida (3), Mississippi (7), South Carolina (8), Texas (4)

Deep South-2 (DS-2)

Alabama (9), Arkansas (4), Georgia (10), Louisiana (6)

Pacific (Pac)

California (4), Oregon (3)



Republicans and Whigs favor high tariffs, a national bank, homestead acts, transportation subsidies, and a northern railroad route. Both Democratic groups generally oppose these, although Douglas Democrats like the northern route.


Republicans and many Whigs oppose extending slavery to the territories and despise the Fugitive Slave Law. Radical Republicans even favor abolishing slavery in the slave states. Northern Democrats and Border Whigs want a solution that everyone can live with. Southern Democrats want slavery extended and strict enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law.


Republicans and Whigs oppose it. Northern Democrats support it and draw many votes from new citizens. Southern Democrats are not overly concerned with this issue.


Republicans and Whigs tend to see it as a Southern plot to find new territory for slavery. Northern Democrats are somewhat neutral on the issue, while their Southern counterparts like the idea. Never underestimate the power of Manifest Destiny's call, however.


If the Republicans win as they did historically, the Civil War starts. A Whig or Northern Democratic victory in the game probably means an Electoral College deadlock, and subsequent deals in Congress. The slavery showdown is postponed and the Civil War is delayed indefinitely. If the Southern Democrats triumph, expect more government paralysis, increased violence, and the possibility of the Civil War starting in a more haphazardly fashion, perhaps by the Republicans.


States are grouped into regions according to their voting patterns during this period. A region's states are not necessarily contiguous.

PSFs are based on a party's average electoral strength in this era.

Victory Points are assigned according to a region's electoral and popular votes, and its importance to each faction.

Secession is based on Stratagem, a military and diplomatic simulation designed for use in Western Civilization courses. A copy can be found here.

Crisis at Fort Sumter is an interesting simulation of the war's start. CompuServe's worthwhile Civil War Forum is now open to the public.

Secession is designed by Peter L. de Rosa, and is Copyright, 1999-2000. All rights reserved. Reproduction allowed for nonprofit educational use as long as this copyright notice is included.

Design Consultant: Thomas R. Turner, Editor, The Lincoln Herald, and Professor of History, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, Massachusetts.


Any of the following can be used either singly or in combinations. Make sure everyone knows which rules are being used in a particular game.

PSFs can be deployed simultaneously. The players write their deployments out and give them to the moderator who will record all of them at that time. Resolve conflict in the normal player-order. Repeat this each turn.

Players can communicate with each other only through written messages.

Normally, one player controls one faction. To simulate the problems some political groups have in making decisions, more than one player can be assigned to a faction where internal disunity was a significant factor.

The instructor can require all players to record their negotiations with other players. They are collected at the end of the game and analyzed. Information from these records (documents) can be surprising.

Any game can be lengthened beyond 8 turns at the instructor's discretion.

If one player has 10 PSFs in an area, and no other player has any PSFs there at all, then the first one has Control of that area and no player can deploy PSFs there for the rest of the game. Two players can agree to split Control of an area, but they must both establish Influences there on the same Game-turn. Both players get Victory Points in this situation.

An attacker loses one less PSF in an attack than the defender. For example, the attacker could destroy 4 defending PSFs, while losing only 3.


At the start of the game, deploy the Constitutional Union/Whig PSFs as follows:

5 in New England
10 in Border-1
10 in Border-2
10 in Deep South-1
10 in Deep South-2
10 in Slavery
10 in Economics
10 in Immigration
5 in Imperialism

As soon as the Republicans put 5 PSFs in the Slavery box, the Whigs must attack them.

As soon as the Southern Democrats put 5 PSFs in their Slavery box, the Whigs must attack them.

As soon as the Southern Democrats place 5 PSFs in their Imperialism box, the Whigs must attack them.

All three attacks are done automatically with the Whigs using 5 PSFs for the attacks.

At the end of the game, total the CU/Whig VPs in the normal manner.

Note that it is possible for the CU/Whig ‘player’ to win against human players.


To make Conflict Resolution more unpredictable, resolve attacks as follows:

After PSF deployment, the attacker identifies the defender. The number of the attacker's PSFs is compared to the number of the defender's PSFs and the odds are computed. Divide the number of the attacker's PSFs by the number of the defender's PSFs to get a ratio. For example, 10 PSFs attacking 5 PSFs would be 2 to 1. Always drop fractions. For example, 14 PSFs against 5 PSFs would still be 2 to 1. 15 vs. 5 would be 3 to 1.

After computation, roll a die and resolve attacks on the following table:

Die Roll 1-2 1-1 2-1 3-14-15-1+
1 X D D D D D
2 X X D D D D
3 X X X D D D
4 A X X X D D
5 A X X X X D
6 A A X X X X

Example of Play

After several Game-turns, the situation on the Scenario Chart looks like this:

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 5 10 8 5
Yurt 6 - 2 5
Zen - 5 - 11

The Whigs get 10 PSFs per turn. They put 5 in Xenophobia and 5 in Yurt:

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 10 10 8 5
Yurt 11 - 2 5
Zen - 5 - 11

The Whigs then attack the Northern Democrats in Xenophobia with 5 PSFs (each loses 5 PSFs) and the Republicans in Yurt with 2 PSFs:

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 5 5 8 5
Yurt 9 - 0 5
Zen - 5 - 11

The Whigs next attack Republicans in Xenophobia with 2 PSFs. (remove 2 PSFs from each):

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 3 5 6 5
Yurt 9 - - 5
Zen - 5 - 11

Now it is Northern Democrats' turn. They get 15 PSFs. They put 4 in Yurt and 11 in Zen:

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 3 5 6 5
Yurt 9 4 - 5
Zen - 16 - 11

The Northern Democrats then attack the Whigs in Yurt with 4 PSFs, and the Southern Democrats in Zen with 11:

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 3 5 6 5
Yurt 5 0 - 5
Zen - 5 - 0

The Republicans now receives 20 PSFs. They put them in Xenophobia:

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 3 5 26 5
Yurt 5 - - 5
Zen - 5 - -

The Republicans attack the Northern Democrats with 5 PSFs, and then the Southern Democrats with 5 PSFs, all in Xenophobia:

Whigs N. Dems. Reps. S. Dems.
Xenophobia 3 0 16 0
Yurt 5 - - 5
Zen - 5 - -

If this were the end of the game, the Republicans would have a Influence in Xenophobia, the Whigs and the Southern Democrats would have Influences in Yurt, and the Northern Democrats would have one in Zen.

Objectives Chart

Game Chart




Web Site Reviews: Ancients Web Site | ZOCo