Link to LoD blah blah

Intro:

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Enough of American history…what about board games for one?
This season I shall be mostly wearing a Liberty or Death game box and hoping for mild weather.

Now don’t think for one minute that being English means I support the British attempt to kick some Patriot arse back in seventeen hundred and frozen stiff, but I do like playing the British faction in Liberty or Death and am fascinated by their almost symbiotic relationship with the Native American Indians. Truth be known I am usually secretly rooting for an Indian win…take back their land, as it were.

What’s All The Fuss About?

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Some nice tuck boxes found on BGG

So! The mighty Liberty or Death. There are reviews galore out there (Katie’s Game Corner, for one, pushed me over the edge to take the plunge and part with rather more cash than I care to do so for a board game…and was it worth it? We shall see) and I have no intentions of trying to give a review of the game, tell folks how it should be played, discuss master-plans to ensure the French don’t get a look in….no. And if you get the chance to witness my failed attempts to win the game, you’ll get an inkling into why not!

Part of the COIN series GMT Games have, this is a mighty 4 player, card driven affair with an absolutely stunning map. Did I mention the map? So how can a colossus of a four player game scale down to a solo game for the solo player? Simple! It doesn’t!

“What? Are you clinically insane?” I hear you utter. Well it is true. The game does not scale down for a solitary beat your own score affair. By gosh, no! No punches are pulled here. It is the full scale game. All sides, all counters, all cards…in fact, all singing and dancing (if you have a good voice and like moving the standees about the map in a jaunty fashion) So are we left to play with our selves? Having to decide strategies for all and sundry?

No! No! No!

There are dedicated, friendly bots to help. A fully automated system to manage decision making on behalf of the opponent AI’s. (Link at the bottom to a piece on the Bots and their cunning ways)

 

Immersion or Subversion?

I’ve never ventured across the pond to the US but having a passing knowledge of both US and British colonial history, I get the distinct feeling that this very neatly portrays historical events in a pretty accurate way whilst still allowing for unpredictable outcomes from predetermined events. The way the board and components have been illustrated adds to that feel of conflict, tentative unions and political subversion. When I play, I don’t feel like I’m pushing blocks about in an abstract area control game…I could almost be at the heart of this complex power struggle.

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…aerial shot of Colonial America taken from a camera mounted on a carrier pigeon

Mechanical Attributes:

A deck of cards that drive you mad! Event cards run the show here, giving the first faction their  opportunity to play turn-changing situations if they so choose. It blows my mind how an inanimate deck of cards is so able to bring up just the card I least need my ‘not real’ opponent to play…at just the most inconvenient time and then leave me nothing I can use on my turn. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!

This mechanic translates very smoothly into solitaire play…like a timer/turn order mechanic, it stoically orders both player and Bot about in a goodly fashion.

A cleaver little touch to make all these multiplayer event cards solo friendly is the introduction of a symbol of a rifle on each event card over the faction it applies to. This, in turn, acts as a link to the player help sheet listing how the bot should put the event to good use… cards that would normally require superhuman brain power to implement in multiplayer situations.

 

The turn order mechanic is another really nice touch in that if a faction opts to take an action rather than passing, they will be unavailable for the next turn. This works in conjunction with the event deck which not only has the current card face up, but also has the following turn card also face up.

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These event cards dictate who gets opportunity to act and who follows. Now even more decision making. Do you act immediately and do something trivial like steal a Patriots boots from outside his tent but force the French to follow you so they are unable to act next turn or do you wait for the next event and do something extraordinary but find the French blockading an important city? The map is nicely laid out so that working out proximity is simple for applying events, movement of war parties, or just throwing mouldy old potatoes into. It’s not a fast action game but control, events, situations can change in the blink of an eye so vigilance is imperative at all times. The flow of the game, the unique faction abilities/actions, lavish player aids all bring a high component level game neatly together.

Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:

The components really are of a high quality from nicely finished wooden pieces (cubes & hexagonal jobbies with screen printed images on them) to thick glossy tokens to a very robust map.

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Lavish illustrations and examples of play help the lonely gamer through this epic journey

The rule book and playbook are printed in colour with clear illustrations and easy to read text layout. The player aids are sturdy, clear and well printed which is handy because they are referred to and handled a lot in the solo game. All in all very pleasing to unbox this and see the copious amount of components tumble out…all in ziplock bags, of course. None of you ludicrous Tom Vassal nonsense…I’m the one who has the arduous task of sorting out all the pieces for goodness sakes!…mind you it did happen once!

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note to self…quick tear-down is never welcomed or appreciated come next game

Meeples and Standees:

  • COIN series creator: Volko Ruhnke
  • Game designer: Harold Buchanon 
  • COIN series volume V by GMT Games

Yay or Nay?

A categorical Yay from me and an unadulterated Yay from him

Solo-able?

With out question totally solo-able and, although quite long, a thoroughly challenging and enjoyable experience. It is possible to play as any of the factions, all of which play differently, there are several different length scenarios and the event driving deck is pretty huge so there is a tasty variety of game changing situations. Sometimes it is tricky to tight-rope your way through the logic sheets, but they do provide a particularly challenging set of opponent skills/abilities/decisions…better than many of my decisions, that’s for sure. There are lull times in the game but this just draws the real player into a false sense of security. And it is just at that point the cunning Bots strike and the game is flipped on its head and you are playing a major game of catch-up and damage limitation. As a solo player you can’t win the game during the game. You have to survive until the end and then clench what ever muscles you have to clench during the final tally

Me, Myself and I

I didn’t think I would like the game…well no, I liked it when I saw Ricky Royal’s excellent series on LoD but was unsure how much enjoyment I would have, being predominantly fantasy game-based. Admittedly it looked mouth watering but that isn’t enough for me. I like to be challenged but not death by statistics, I like theme but not glossy veneers and I like to feel I’m actually within the narrative of a game. Sadly Liberty or Death hits all of these and I can’t moan about anything except a tiny element to be aware of …see the footnote at the bottom of this piece. It is particularly interesting to note as a solo player you cannot win during the game (as all Bot factions may, during Winter Quarter sessions, achieve their win conditions)

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we non-botist players must survive until the end of the events deck, assuming a Bot has not deviously stolen a win beforehand, and then work our way through the endgame scoring…only then, accompanied by a drum roll for dramatic effect, do we find out if it was all to no avail. An exceedingly nice, yet very subtle touch, I felt, that separates the solitaire game from multiplayer.

Outro:

So for a large scale multi-player game feel for the solo player, this really hits the spot with an interesting portrayal of historical events and a serious challenge with its varied faction win conditions.

This gets a rebellious BSoMT 1d8 Die roll of (8)

*just a foot note…ironic really as I wrote it with my foot…The game is amazing but be warned the logic flow diagrams for the bots can be a little confusing at times which can lead to headaches and repeated reference back to the rule book. I was almost going to award 7/8 because of this but the quality, immersion and game-play swayed my decision.



Link to an article in Bots and Wotnots on the Liberty or Death AI Bots

Both Sides of The C.O.I.N.


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A ginormous thanks in advance!


Something For The Weekend, Sir?

  • Ricky Royal 
  • Box od Delights play-through

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