I’ve talked about Liberty or Death before. Recall that it’s a game in the Koei “strategic simulation series” from the early 90s; you may have heard of the more famous entries. I read about Liberty or Death in EGM and got hooked on the concept, and was one of the few games I managed to get the day it came out. Preorders were harder in the pre-Internet era. Anyway, I’m learning how to make my own gameplay videos and figured this was a good a place as any to start. I’ve linked to it below. There’s no commentary and very little processing done to it, the actual “battle of Boston” begins around the 12-minute mark if you want to skip ahead to it. Oh yeah, and please like and subscribe my channel.
Liberty or Death Gameplay
Even though I didn’t speak during the game, I had some thoughts. First, the basics: it’s a hybrid turn-based strategy game, resource and map management make up one part, and turn-based combat on a hex grid make up the other. You can play as the Americans or the British, and while the win conditions are the same for both teams (occupy all the districts), the strategy is somewhat asymmetrical. The Americans should expand quickly, whereas the British should hit hard and consolidate as soon as possible. Yes, you can also win by default as the American player if the game reaches the year 1820 and you’re at a stalemate. It’s unlikely that this has ever happened to anybody unintentionally.
I read an article that for the US release, Koei implemented various tweaks to make it more palatable for the masses. This included dumbing down the enemy AI and making the Americans OP. If I remember right, the game manual even told you to play as the Americans since it’s much easier. The quality of the officers determines how good your units are on the board (referred to as Regiments in game). The American officers are far superior to their British counterparts. The only disadvantages on the American side are no navy, little money, and are poorly equipped. This only lasts about a year in game time (24 turns per year), and by that time if you’ve expanded and played the PR game competently you should easily be at parity with the British side.
Resource management consists of arming and feeding your troops. This includes buying them gunpowder, guns, and food (naturally). Each military district provides to your game economy, which is gold. The more popular your cause is in the district (on a 1-100 scale), the cheaper goods will be and the more money the locals will give you. Troops stationed in wealthy districts (i.e., Philadelphia, Long Island, Boston) will get equipped by the local women groups. So as you gain popular support, you won’t even have to worry about spending Gold for your troops.
As I said above, it’s a lot easier to play as the Americans than the British. For that reason whenever I fire up Liberty or Death I always play as the British. But, since this is the Fourth of July (cheap pop) and I haven’t played as old George Washington in ages, I figured I would give the Americans a try again. You get very little money compared to the British, but you do have a better position on the map. You start with at least double the number of regiments, occupying a central position, as you can see in the video. The thirteen British regiments are holed up in Canada and Boston.
Seven regiments, under the command of Thomas Gage, are garrisoning Boston (District 5). They’re surrounded by George Washington’s huge army in Springfield and some others in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut. A dirty trick: if you battle an army commanded by that side’s Commander in Chief, just capture that unit and the battle is over. It just so happens that the board is set up ideally for the Americans to take advantage of this. Now, Gage (and other units) can escape via the fleet, which is also stationed in Boston but if you bottle him up, you should have little trouble capturing him. This is what I do in the gameplay video.
Taking Boston early, on the first turn nets you a couple of thousand Gold to use for your army. You also eliminate over half the strength of the British forces in the North. If you imprison people instead of ransoming them, you also remove many of the high-quality British commanders from the game.
I stopped after getting Gage, but in part two I’ll continue the mop up operation. It’s not over until it’s over. But I give the British very little chance of defeating me after this knockout blow.
Analysis and Legacy
Upon its release, Liberty or Death got mediocre reviews. I would be surprised if most people have even heard of this game. But it has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first games I discovered on my own in my crowd and followed closely until it came out. It’s not the greatest game in the world, I’ve played a lot of better strategy games for sure. But it has character that a lot of others are lacking. I wish they had expanded on the loyalty system and the political system a bit more. The micromanaging is tedious. I doubt a modern audience would want to give orders to each district each turn and then move all the pieces individually during the battle sequences. That said, I would welcome a modern take on this game, in the Koei-style.
A word about the video: I’m still learning how to capture footage and process the video. I used Adobe Premiere since I have the subscription, but acknowledge it may not be the best tool for the job. If anybody reading this has suggestions, please comment below or the channel. Thanks for reading and watching, and have a good Fourth.