Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection and the Event Cards (Part 4)

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The following are a few British Faction first Event cards and the associated history:

27. The Queen’s Rangers Show for Battle

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The Loyalist regiment with a history reaching back to Rodger’s Rangers in the French and Indian War was renamed in honor of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III. Lieutenant-Colonel John Graves Simcoe turned the Queen’s Rangers into one of the most successful British regiments in the war.



Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection and the Event Cards (Part 3)

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The following are a few French Faction first Event cards and the associated history:

60. Comte d’Orvilliers Builds a Fleet at Brest

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In 1777 D’Orvilliers was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Navy and worked to prepare the navy for conflict with the British including the preparation of a fleet in Brest.





Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection and the Event Cards (Part 2)

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The following are a few Indian Faction first Event cards and the associated history:


75. Congress’ Speech to the Six Nations


“We desire you will hear and receive what we have now told you, and that you will open a good ear and listen to what we are now going to say. This is a family quarrel between us and Old England.





83. Guy Carleton and Indians Negotiate


As Patriot forces moved toward Quebec City in 1775, Quebec’s Governor Guy Carleton struggled to raise Militia. Area Indians were willing to fight on the British side and the Crown wanted  them to do so.




84. “ Merciless Indian Savages”


The Declaration of Independence lists “repeated injuries and usurpations” against the colonialists on behalf of King George III of Great Britain. The second paragraph concludes, “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world,” before 27 sentences listing various transgressions from tax complaints to forced military conscription. The last of these complaints reads: “He has …endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

96. Iroquois Confederacy


A confederation of six Indian tribes across what is currently upper New York state that played a strategic role in the struggle between the French and British for mastery of North America. During the American Revolution, the Oneida and Tuscarora supported the Patriots, while the rest of the league, led by the Seneca and including Chief Joseph Brant’s Mohawks, fought for the British.




Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection and the Event Cards (Part 1)

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LOD Components2 for HB

The depth of the history around the American Revolution is captured in the Liberty or Death Event Cards.  Below is a sample of the Patriot Faction first Event cards with a brief discussion of the history.

Card Number 4. The Penobscot Expedition

LoD4The largest American naval expedition of the war, a flotilla of 19 warships mounted by the Provincial Congress of the Province of Massachusetts Bay sailed from Boston in July of 1779 for the upper Penobscot Bay in the District of Maine (then a part of Massachusetts colony.) The flotilla also included a ground force of more than 1,000 colonial troops as well as a 100-man artillery detachment under the command of Lt. Colonel Paul Revere. The goal was to reclaim control of what is now mid-coast Maine from the British who had seized it a month earlier, renaming it New Ireland. The Patriots paid a heavy price in the fighting over three weeks in July and August of 1779. As the British were reinforced the Patriot fleet was destroyed as it fled up the Penobscot River. It was one of Britain’s greatest victories of the war. The Expedition was also the United States’ worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor 162 years later in 1941.

Liberty or Death – Addressing Open Questions

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As a historical boardgamer, my greatest hope in trying out a new game is that it will reveal to me something about some other time or place that I did not already understand.  Harold Buchanan’s Liberty or Death does that for me, even on the should-be familiar topic of the American Revolution.  Let me tell you how so…

A Puzzle

In 1994, my wife and I took a wonderful driving vacation through the Empire State—wonderful for me, at least, as we endeavored to visit all New York’s colonial-era historical exhibits that we could reach.  Our last stop before the drive back south to Virginia was Newtown Battlefield.

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A GMT Weekend at the Warehouse with Örjan Ariander (April 2015)

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The GMT Weekend at the Warehouse offers gamers an opportunity to play their favorite games amongst the shelves of thousands of GMT games.  For me, the best part is the opportunity to meet designers and other notables that created and love the games.  Now that I am designing Liberty or Death it gives me the rare opportunity to meet face to face with those working with me.  COIN Series Developer Mike Bertucelli and I enjoyed playing head to head, trading smack talk like we have known each other for years, all the while working the kinks out of the game.   Gene Billingsley is the master facilitator, and in fifteen minutes with him I complete 6 things on my to-do list.  This year was a rare treat with Mark Simonitch and Tony Curtis in attendance.  Mark and I talked about the Republic of Texas and he gave me advice (and a deadline) on working with the artists engaged in Liberty or Death’s production: Terry Leeds and Charlie Kibler.  Tony helped me nail down piece types and colors – the final production version is going to be fantastic! But, I must say the highlight was spending time with the Bot Master – Örjan Ariander visiting from Stockholm, Sweden!


Some of the GMT/COIN Brain Trust – Series Developer Mike Bertucelli, GMT President Gene Billingsley, Bot-Master Örjan Ariander and Liberty or Death Designer Harold Buchanan

On Victory Conditions and Playing the French in Liberty or Death

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61 - Minister Comte de Vergennes

How could the French or Indians win the American Revolution? If you define winning the game as controlling North America in some way – they can’t. But the question for me is a broader question: How can these Factions, each important to the outcome of the conflict, win their situation? With that question the answer to “How can the French win?” becomes more clear. Each Faction comes to the conflict with different goals, expectations and capabilities. Capturing this asymmetry is one of the strengths of the COIN system.

The French interests were much broader than the British Colonies in North America. Coming off the Seven Years War and the competition with the British around the world, the French view was this Insurrection in America can be an opportunity to pull British resources away from other more important areas, like West Indies and Europe itself. This leads to the Secondary Victory condition between the French and British: pieces eliminated. Make the other Faction pay a high price for involvement and pull pressure off other critical theaters (outside the game.)

Brilliant Strokes in Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection

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LoD P500 TabVolume VI of the COIN series will bring a number of changes to the system to apply the realities of combat, politics and economics in the eighteenth century.   Each leader has a specific Brilliant Stroke card with capabilities that can be used by trumping an event card in play.   The mechanism allows each player, once per game, to utilize their current leader to deliver an earth shattering blow to the enemy.  Additionally there is a hierarchy of Brilliant Stroke cards so one side can trump another sides Brilliant Stroke.  In the end it is a threat that each player possesses and a threat to each player’s strategy.


Where did the term Brilliant Stroke come from?  There are a number of references to the concept of a Brilliant Stroke in the writing of the time.

With the arrival of General Howe and his armada of ships and men near New York City in 1776 Washington called a council of his Generals to discuss a response.  He later wrote to the Continental Congress to communicate the results of the council.  In reference to the enemy they faced Washington wrote: “…it is now extremely obvious from their movements, from our intelligence, and from every other circumstance, that, having their whole army upon Long Island, except about four thousand men who remain on Staten Island, they mean to enclose us in this island by taking post in our rear, while their ships effectually secure the front; and thus, by cutting off our communication with the country, oblige us to fight them on their own terms, or surrender at discretion; or, if that shall be deemed more advisable, by a brilliant stroke endeavor to cut this army to pieces, and secure the possession of arms and stores which they well know our inability to replace.

After leaving New York, Washington wrote John Hancock and discussed the plan to “…wait for an opportunity when a brilliant stroke could be made with any probability of success”   Certainly Washington’s successful attacks at Trenton and Princeton that followed were “Brilliant Strokes”. 


The Marquis de Lafayette proposed to Washington a “brilliant stroke: to rouse the people of France.”

General Charles Lee planned (and wrote about) but never attempted a “brilliant stroke’ into New York from New Jersey.  Perhaps the most professional soldier in the Patriot army Charles Lee was an extraordinarily controversial figure.  He and his guards were captured by British Colonel Banastre Tarleton at White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.  His time in British custody including plans he made for the British is controversial and documented by his own writings.  After being released through an officer swap he showed poorly at the Battle of Monmouth.  Washington dressed Lee down in front of the troops, Lee publicly expressed disrespect to the Commander-in-Chief and was arrested and later court-martialed.  After Lee appealed unsuccessfully to the Continental Congress to overturn the court-martial’s verdict he resorted to written and verbal attacks on Washington – not a popular move.


After reading about the concept of the “Brilliant Stroke” it was easy to apply the label to the larger impact of leadership in the game.  Leaders also influence other aspects of the game like battle and each leader has special capabilities but the Brilliant Strokes will each change the momentum and potentially the outcome of the game.  What will your Brilliant Stroke be?

Liberty or Death P500 Page

Liberty or Death BGG Page 

LoD Facebook Page 

LoD Consimworld Page

The Campaign of 1777 – Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection

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We’ve just added Liberty or Death to our P500 list today, so order away! 🙂 Liberty or Death P500 Page. Enjoy! – Gene


Below is a narrative from a recent playtest of Liberty or Death at the Camp Pendleton Conflict Simulations Club here in San Diego.  I am indebted to my friends for taking the time on a Saturday to play the 1776 scenario (four Campaigns) and for giving me such great feedback (except for Tim, who kept prodding me about certain one sided markers in my prototype!)  Don’t worry, “Gentleman” Tim – they will be two sided after we are finished with production!

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The game features Trevor “Swamp Fox” Wilcox as the Patriots, Trevor’s father “Gentleman” Tim Wilcox as the British, Pete “Cornplanter” Martin as the Indians, and Ken “The Comte” McMillan as the French.

It is the start of the 1777 Campaign; this is the second Campaign of the Medium Scenario.  The Patriots have done well building Opposition to the British government in the population.  They have been active in the Colonies Rabble-Rousing and building forts.  The forts will improve their ability to Rally Militia and Continentals.

My first trip to WBC with Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection

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I think you guys are going to really like Harold Buchanan. I’ve only met him that one time in Tempe (see below), but I came away very impressed. Harold is clearly a very smart, very accomplished guy. But I think what’s going serve him best in this industry is that he is a humble, eager learner. In my experience, smart, accomplished people who are also humble committed learners quickly assimilate the information and tools that any new task or trade requires, then rapidly become a dominant force in their space. Time, of course, will tell, but my sense is that Harold has all the tools needed to do amazing things in this business. We’re going to do our best to give him plenty of help as he learns his craft.  With Volko and Mike and all the COIN series development team to assist him, I know that Liberty or Death is going to be a gem. But my sense is you’re probably going to be seeing more than one game from Harold over time, and that this won’t be the only time you see his name and “gem” together in print. 

I hope you enjoy Harold’s first article for InsideGMT! And be sure to keep an eye out  for Liberty or Death, coming soon to the P500 list. – Gene


Busy with family and work, I left the hobby for 25 years.  As my kids moved out to college, I jumped back in and felt like a kid in a candy store.  The number and variety of games had exploded!  I worked my way into a gaming group here in San Diego and Andean Abyss became a fast favorite.  Coincidently, over the last three years, I had been feeding my voracious reading habit with everything I could find on the American Revolution.  In the middle of a game of Andean Abyss I looked up at my buddy Richard McKenzie and said “This COIN system would be perfect for the American Revolution!  The American Revolution is an Insurgency!” The term “Insurgency” wasn’t used in the eighteenth century, but it was still the same – “The American Insurrection” if you will.  I put together a set of cards and a simple map (and I do mean simple) for Richard and I to play.  Patriots, British, Indians, and French were the factions and fit together nicely.  Indians got war parties.  The Patriots got Continentals.  The British got Tories.  The French got the ability to mess with the British, either by funding the Patriots through a shell Spanish trading company or facilitating Patriot Letters of Marque.  It was a lot of fun and intellectually stimulating as well.

Richard MacKenzie with an early prototype of Liberty or Death.

Richard McKenzie with an early prototype of Liberty or Death.