Happy Fourth of July, America! The guys and I gathered last weekend to play Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection, designed by Harold Buchanan, who I met at Strategicon in Los Angeles at the end of May. My friends and I love playing war games, and this is the third in the COIN series that I’ve had the chance to play. The previous two are Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt and A Distant Plain.
Liberty or Death is a 1-4 player game that plays for 180-360 minutes from GMT. We unfortunately couldn’t secure a fourth person that day, so we used the suggested the setup for 3-player game, in which one person controls both the Indians and British, and I assumed the role as the Patriots, and my other buddy as the French.
For those unfamiliar with COIN games, GMT produces a series of COIN games that deal with asymmetric warfare and COunterInsurgencies. The four factions in these games have different resources and end-game victory conditions, with the game playing out to mirror the historical conflict that happened. An event card is drawn in each round that will trigger, and the next card that will trigger is placed face up as well so players can see what’s coming. Only two factions have the opportunity to take their turn for each round.
This was my first time playing Liberty, but I’ve played COIN games before — and the guys had all played Liberty recently — so we were all pretty much able to jump right in with a medium-length game. First off, I really like the leader stands! I wish Falling Sky had the stands so you can clearly see where the leaders are. There’s something satisfying about marching your leader and troops into a location and setting up for battle!
Also, the artwork is gorgeous and the map is clearly defined, so there isn’t any ambiguity about location adjacency. Lastly, I really like the event cards. They have so much historical flavor thematically that it brings you right into the war. And out of all the COIN games I’ve played, this is the one war that I’m most familiar with so it was interesting to me when certain events came up in the deck — and randomly looking up factoids, such as who was Tronson du Coudry (yes, he really did drown in the Schuylkill River).
Like with other COIN games, there’s a lot of planning ahead and anticipating what your enemy will do. You must also consider if it’s wise to pass this round so that you can take advantage of the next event card. I also enjoyed having the Brilliant Stroke! cards, which we all used to nullify the current event card and take advantage of having back-to-back strong turns — but, depending on your faction, wondering if your enemy will use his card to supersede yours, which can nullify your card. The tension!
Another nuance of this COIN game is having the Winter cards randomly placed among the last four cards of each deck pile. It seems less brutal that way while creating more buildup and tension because you definitely know it’s coming! I also like that each Winter card has different effects, which are random depending on which scenario you choose,
Case in point: my last game of A Distant Plain was brutal because Propaganda came super early in the first deck and late in the second desk. I was the Afghanistan government, and I had to make my resources last THAT MUCH longer, which the faction is already very resource-poor since the coalition is spending my money! Savage, I tell you, when you’re out of money. In Liberty, there was only one round where I ran out of resources. Sure, the French uses your resources, but it isn’t as brutal. And there’s opportunities to get a lot of resources from them, which isn’t too detrimental to them since they’re a resource-rich faction.
The guys and I had a lot of fun playing this game. Moving around the board was a challenge but we were able to use some of the event cards to spread out on the map. Playing as the Patriots though, those Indian villages were just out of reach, which hurt my chances of winning. Having one player control both the British and the Indians seemed like it hurt the Patriots and the French. Even though their moves were independent from each other, it seemed convenient that the Indians and British were staying out of each other’s way, and there were some pretty powerful event cards that enabled them to maximize their back-to-back turns.
The battles were also a little different in Liberty vs. other COIN games. Usually, battles are just based on the number of wooden pieces at a location. In Liberty, there’s a small dice component, based on the number of Force Level divided by 3. The first few battles slowed down a bit as we were calculating the modifiers but after that, battles went smoothly. The dice component reminded me a bit of Fief battles, and, in my opinion, a little Amerithash-y, which seemed fitting for a game on the American insurrection.
After 5 hours and the last winter, we finished the game, and it came down to margins of victory, with the Indians winning. Anyway, can’t wait to schedule this on table again. I can’t tell you how many times we always say, “we need to get this on table again so we can remember the rules” — this is one I’m really hoping to play again soon, perhaps with 4 players. And maybe one of the guys will buy another COIN game for us to try!