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Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection» Forums » Sessions

Subject: first game report rss

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Patrick Barry
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We took our first stab at this game at a monthly meetup this past Saturday. We had four players, all new to the game. I think I was the only one with no experience with COIN games. I read the rules a few times, but my understanding was very limited as it turned out. I played the French and only understood how to take my pre-Treaty actions, and not even what the implications were for them since I didn't even understand my post-Treaty actions or the actions of anybody else! We played the full scenario to the final Winter Quarters, where I got the win based on the points. All in all, it took us about 7 hours to finish. This is my recollection of what transpired, maybe some of the other players will chime in and set the record straight. I wish I had taken a game log, but I doubt I would have had the stamina.

The strategy that I set upon from the jump was to concentrate on British casualties and to try and enter the war as soon as possible. As such, I never gave the Patriots resources once in the entire game, and I only brought out one Squadron pre-Treaty and a second late. I wish that I had brought out more squadrons earlier. I guess I was worried about not pulling my weight with the fighting. As it was, I didn't even get to play Treaty until after the third Winter at least.

The way the game played out was far from optimal on all fronts, however. The Indians did not have much of an impact until late in the game with their Raiding, although there was a point in which they almost won before the Patriots reined in the Support just enough. Because the Indians weren't raiding much of the game, we never saw the need to have the Patriots head out and do anything to them. There was a point where I invoked an event (French Settlers Help, I think, thematically appropriate at least) to place a Patriot fort and 3 Continentals in Northwest Indian province, which seemed like a big thing to all of us at the time, although they were all gone in only a couple of turns from other events that I cannot recall. Other than that I don't know that anybody but Indians ever went into the Provinces.

And in fact the whole Southern colonies were completely ignored the whole game as all the forces were concentrated in the North. That was probably because I never gave the Patriots any resources to place anybody there, and the Brits were mostly reactive to what we were doing.

We had several smaller battles and two big battles in Boston and Massachusetts that went against the attacker in each case because we didn't really understand the various loss level modifiers beforehand I initiated the one in Boston and ended up losing on the tiebreaker and lost a couple of levels of Opposition, but the one in MA was started by the Brits and they lost to Washington, leading to great changes in Opposition in the surrounding countryside early on that carried us the whole game.

We didn't even Skirmish that often, on the other hand. I confess that I realize now that I cheated on a couple of my Skirmishes as I removed solitary British forts without removing one of my own cubes. I can see it right there in the rules, but we had been playing for about six hours before I got around to trying it and I guess I was just too fatigued to get it right by that point. I think I could have automatically won Battles in these cases, but I don't think what I did instead made any difference.

I am not against a long game when it has scope such as this one does. I think that something like this or History of the World bloat in length more because of people not being chained to their chairs and so drifting away a minute or so before you need them for something. I make it a point only to drift away when I am sure I will not be needed! I am not sure it could really go much faster, though, since time spent looking up rules that might be cut out would just be balanced out by actually needing to take time to deliberate and make informed strategic plays instead of whimsical ones.

My general impression of the game is favorable. I have never played COIN games before, although I have wanted to do, so my perspective leans more towards regular board games. My feeling is that it could use a little more randomness and less fiddliness. The main culprit for me is the battle procedure. I recognize that the intent is to discourage players from battling too much, but I think, given how determined every other action that you can take in the game is, that it can use more of it. But then that is my taste, and it may already be too random for the core COIN demographic. The loss level calculations are too fiddly for my taste. Most games modify battle strength and this different approach is hard to wrap your head around. I have more thoughts on the battle procedure, but maybe that should be another post. What I do enjoy is the asymmetry and the pseudo-cooperation and the managing of card events.

I hope to play again sometime, but maybe after some plays of 1775: Rebellion to build my energy level back up...
Pat
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Harold Buchanan
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Hey Pat

Glad you gave it a go. The game pays dividends over multiple plays. It is not unusual for the French to win a game of inexperienced players. My suggestion is always make every move with the victory conditions in mind - sounds like you did that for the French. Can't tell about the other factions.

Harold
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Brian Hard
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Sounds like you had a great match. I get what you're saying about the combat mechanics. After several plays it isn't so bad and I think it just takes more familiarity with it to make it more second nature and common as an aspect of the game. It's a nice weave of strategic and broad historical strokes in a fun gaming experience. I'm very happy this was brought into the COIN series.
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Oerjan Ariander
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Regarding COIN playing time: Unless there are several players with serious analysis paralysis, my experience is that COIN games speed up very significantly once you get to know the rules. With new players, I count on an average game speed of ~4 Event cards per hour (i.e., ~15 minutes/card) at least for the first Campaign or two; with experienced, non-paralyzed players I've seen up to 20 Event cards played in an hour (3 minutes/card). I'd expect you to shave at least an hour off the play time next time you run the Full scenario - or more, particularly if you run the shorter scenarios inbetween.

Regarding French victory: it is very easy for the Patriots to give victory to the French by killing more British than necessary. Those Tories are extremely tempting targets, but... it is often better for the Patriots to resist that temptation.

Regards,
Oerjan
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John Johnson
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Great session report, Pat. It was a good time.

Just a couple of comments from my perspective (I played the Indian faction in this session):

I wanted so badly to ravage those empty southern colonies early in the game but alas, it appears that per the rules the Indians can only raid/plunder colonies with Opposition and there were no Patriots to be found down south. If it appeared that I wasn't doing much early on, it was because I couldn't. When raids in New England became a viable option late in the game thanks to the awesome special ability of Dragging Canoe, I was wreaking havoc and loving every second of it.

Having realized that I couldn't raid much early on, I tried to fly under the radar, Gather, Gather, Gather to build villages, and win on the second/third card. There was a considerable length of time when I was close to - or surpassing - my win condition and was just waiting for the Winter Quarters but I felt that everyone would feel "cheated" if I didn't verbally remind them of my board state relative to the Patriots. After that, of course, it was soon worn away by the building of several forts (with some French help, if I recall correctly... grrr). The first time I play a game, I'll be a gentleman and point stuff like this out. After that, it's knives out.

Regarding game length, analysis paralysis, and rules complexity, it was definitely a long and exhausting experience. Realizing the complexity of the rules relative to other COIN games is precisely why I chose the Indians, who seemed much easier to manage and play more quickly. I'd recommend that folks play the short/medium scenario or even just go through the Playbook together, the first time they play. Though I enjoyed Liberty or Death and certainly would play it again, I still prefer Cuba Libre which pares down the branches on the decision-making tree by 50% or more, or A Distant Plain which is a step below LOD in complexity but makes you feel like a super-powerful badass when you play as the Coalition or the Taliban. CL and ADP also don't have the battle charts, which, I agree, bog down this game. If you're an American Revolution nut, though, there's no doubt that this is a great game.

As for the outcome of this session, you did a great job as the French. British casualties were the determining factor for endgame scoring. I'll admit that I pressured my British partner into a foolhardy attack in Massachusetts just to get the game moving along at a decent clip. That attack failed to the detriment of both the British and myself though I definitely we still could have won after that failure.

The best part of this was finally getting to play a COIN game with a full complement of four players. Usually my buddy and I play 2v2 Cuba Libre/A Distant Plain which is a much different experience.

Congrats on the win!
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Justin J
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I’ve enjoyed reading both of your perspectives.

So I played the Patriots this game. This was actually my first COIN game, though I had played a quick two player game a about month prior, which I lost by the second Winter Quarters card. So I felt like I had a good grasp of the rules and the flow, though the strategies for the factions were still opaque. I figured I spend my time building up Patriot forces and Rally in several provinces to hopefully spread out the British player’s forces and net me resources during the winter. Then we drew the first event: Something, something, Patriots lose 3 resources.

I don’t know the card name because I burned it after the game.

So I had no resources my first turn and a stingy French player . I believe I had to pass. This gave the British player a chance to muster and march into Massachusetts. I was in trouble. I spent most of that first round trying to dig myself out of that hole. Things began to turn around when I performed a big Rally right before the second Winter’s Quarters card and spread out to several southern colonies, which brought in sweet, sweet resources. This and a couple defeats in Massachusetts turned the British player’s attention to the south and to other cities. When the French entered the fray, we targeted a few cities and that was about it for the British. It was about this time (I think up to the fourth or fifth winter) that the Indian player really start to grasp his faction and just went wild spreading his influence.

The Indians really gave me trouble. Most of it was due to John really getting a handle on how to play them and exploiting my complete ignorance on how to combat them. During the game, it baffled me at first how to even initiate battle with that faction since he was careful to keep his pieces underground. Late game was when it dawned on me how to do it – march in Continentals to flip pieces and either battle or Skirmish (I forget the name of Special Activity for targeting Royalists, but you know what I mean). But it just didn’t seem worthwhile to march into the Reserves just to take out a piece or two. Having time to reflect, I can see that was a mistake. I was pretty lucky in getting several forts out quickly and was able to swing several provinces back to opposition before each of the final couple winter cards to prevent an Indian victory. Of course by this time the British casualties were astronomical.

So the French won. It surprised me. I thought the Indians had it for sure. I chided the French Faction at one point: “Pat,” I said, “if you don’t enter the war now, we lose the game. And you would have spent the whole game only pushing pieces from unavailable to available.” To his credit, the French had a huge impact when he entered the fray.

I’ll echo the others about the battle system. I found it fiddly and would actively seek out ways to avoid fighting just to keep from going through it. As the game went on, we went through it faster and faster – though sheer willpower probably played as much a factor as understanding the system. All in all, I really enjoyed it. With 4 players, the game absolutely shines. I would love to do another long game, but will probably stick to the short and medium game until I’m more familiar with the game (and the other players too). And since you mentioned it, John… we could easily get four at game day – so how about some Cuba Libre?!?

-Justin
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Patrick Barry
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CaveHinds wrote:

So the French won. It surprised me. I thought the Indians had it for sure. I chided the French Faction at one point: “Pat,” I said, “if you don’t enter the war now, we lose the game. And you would have spent the whole game only pushing pieces from unavailable to available.” To his credit, the French had a huge impact when he entered the fray.


That did sting! And you also criticized me for not bringing in squadrons, which hurt because the whole reason I was bringing in cubes was to try and get into the action sooner. Then I felt really stupid when I found the event that gave me 5 cubes later on. I never paid attention to the Winters Quarters rules when studying the game and didn't realize about how my resources depended on those squadrons. Then even after that I was so busy playing events or trying to avoid events that I couldn't bring the squadrons in. When I play it again you better believe those squadrons are all coming out first thing!

#33 The Burning of Falmouth, is I think a rough event to start the game. Maybe I should have given you resources to replace the ones the event took, but it was the first turn and I don't think I even realized you had no resources! On the other hand, I do believe that being stingy is the path to victory for both European factions, so I don't feel to guilty...
 
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Patrick Barry
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johnnyonthespot1 wrote:
As for the outcome of this session, you did a great job as the French. British casualties were the determining factor for endgame scoring. I'll admit that I pressured my British partner into a foolhardy attack in Massachusetts just to get the game moving along at a decent clip. That attack failed to the detriment of both the British and myself though I definitely we still could have won after that failure.


I think it takes a couple of battles before the importance of the modifiers really kick in. I was still in 1775: Rebellion headspace and just thinking about having numerical superiority when I launched my mistaken battle. Even three dice on one, the modifiers can swing the battle against you, which seems a bit much to me, but obviously it was intentional. Especially because I think those red dice roll better than the blue ones!
 
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Oerjan Ariander
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The Patriots have a decent ability to raise their own Resources through the Persuasion Special Activity, so while starting with a British play of the Burning of Falmouth is annoying it doesn't have to be devastating... especially since it means that the Brits did not use the very first action of the game to solidify their own position and create a lot of Support somewhere!

Regarding the Indians - if the southern Colonies were left empty by the British and Patriots, didn't the Indians go there to fill them with Villages?

Regarding the French - prior to the ToA most Events are a distraction at best, and a trap at worst. The two Events that boost French Preparation are the only real exception to this... a few others may be necessary to play to keep Support in check, but that's about it. (Note that FrenchBot plays more Events before ToA than a player would, since the bots always get to execute SAs whenever they do Commands.)

Regards,
Oerjan
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Justin J
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Which was why the Patriots had hoped to Rally early and spread out. But instead I had to wait until I had the opportunity to perform a Special Activity. In hindsight, it was just a setback, though it threw a serious wrench into my early strategy.

I actually thought the British's opening moves were pretty smart. He took away all my resources and then put immediate pressure on me. It forced me to be reactive and I worried that I would simply be reacting to him all game. I think he probably got too hung up on Massachusetts and missed opportunities to expand during the early game. But that's what learning games are for: Making mistakes. Next game, there will be no miatakes .

Pat - I was only try to help!

-Justin
 
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Wamba the Fool
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CaveHinds wrote:
Next game, there will be no miatakes .


That's what I keep saying!
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John Johnson
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CaveHinds wrote:
And since you mentioned it, John… we could easily get four at game day – so how about some Cuba Libre?!?


Absolutely!
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Eric Maule
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Gents -

Wish I could have joined you guys. However, when I got through a 5 player game of Scythe (explaining it to 4 new players), and Kemet in the time it took you guys to get through Liberty or Death, I thought you guys might be having a tough go of it.

This is not one of my more favorite COIN games. Cuba Libre is much better, and Fire in the Lake is also stronger.

I enjoyed Liberty or Death, but often felt that the Indian faction was a bit "forced." I've played the game a few times, and it often feels that the French and Indians are really on the periphery and completely in a supportive role. Unlike many other COIN games, this game is much more of a 2 vs 2 game rather than each man for himself, but supported by one to two other factions. However, it's great to read your take as it reminded me how much the game depends on the players playing it for its overall feel.

The Tories/Loyalists would have been a much better pair to the British than the Indians. I also would have liked to see this game designed as a two or three player game, without the fiddly bot mechanics required to make a 2 player game work.

I still like this one better than 1775...by a long shot. I honestly don't even feel like I'm playing a game about the Revolutionary War when I play 1775. I know others' experiences are different and respect that, but that's my perspective.
It does drag a bit though, and I often find myself wanting a simpler rules manual in nearly all GMT games. Ultimately, it's a fairly simple game that gets bogged down by reference sheets that just don't quite go into enough detail (and keep you having to dig through the rules manual) combined with a rules manual that is too long.

In Liberty or Death, it seems like the events are driving you much more than you driving the conflict. To me, it's one of the game's biggest flaws as a game, although I think (in that sense) it's probably a fairly realistic take on COIN.

So, I've just spent my whole message berating the game, but I do like it in many other ways...I hoped for more, but it's not going out of my collection any time soon.

If you need a fourth player for a COIN series game, I'm always game!
 
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Patrick Barry
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johnnyonthespot1 wrote:
CaveHinds wrote:
And since you mentioned it, John… we could easily get four at game day – so how about some Cuba Libre?!?


Absolutely!


I have already started studying the manual. Honestly, though, I don't think there is a game invented that I could really understand until after my first playthrough!
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