A Few First Impressions [Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection]


Here are my initial thoughts on Liberty or Death; The American Insurrection, part of the COIN series published by GMT GAMES. I had very high hopes for this game and so far, it has definitely delivered. 


Photo by Katie Aidley.

Let me start off by saying, I have only played this game once so these truly are my first impressions but I couldn’t hold off on talking about it as it still so fresh in my mind and I really, really enjoyed the game. Liberty or Death had been on my radar for a while and within a couple of days of receiving it, it hit the table (literally within a COUPLE of days). I couldn’t wait to play and I was rather impressed.

Now the rules might seem pretty hefty from a first glance, however, if you are an experienced COIN player or have played a few COIN games before then you should pick up the rules without too much hesitation. 

There has been so much talk about this game, and even from that initial play, I can see why. The gameplay is absolutely stunning and it’s nice to see the COIN system being used for pre-modern themed warfare, it definitely works.

I’m going to start off talking about the aesthetic and components of the game…


If you follow my blog or know me well, you will know that I am generally not one for theme or usually that bothered about the game I’m playing looking all that pretty. However, when it comes to wargames, the more I can immerse myself in the theme during the game and the nicer the game looks, I am probably going to enjoy it more. GMT games are always of a very high quality, gameplay and component-wise from my experience and Liberty or Death is no different.


Photos by Katie Aidley.

The artwork is beautiful, the map is definitely the prettiest map in the COIN series so far in my opinion and even though the game is so bright and colourful, it doesn’t lose the feel of the time period at all. 18th Century North America has never looked so attractive.


Designer: Harold Buchanan
Series developer: Mike Bertucelli
Solitare system developer: Orjan Ariander
Map Art: Terry Leeds
Counter Art: Charles Kibler, Terry Leeds, and Mark Simonitch

Time Scale: One year per Campaign between Winter Quarters
Map Scale: Area movement
Players: 1 to 4


Photo by Katie Aidley.

Each faction in Liberty or Death brings new capabilities and challenges:

As the British, you have to deal with an Insurrection across a massive region. With control of the seas (at least until the French arrive), you have extreme flexibility and can move across the coast and cities at will. You will muster Tories to support your efforts. They will march with you to battle, but they need your cover. You can control any space you choose, but you cannot answer every threat on the map. The Indians will work with you but, like the Tories, will need you to coordinate and protect them when the Patriots become aggressive. With the leadership of Gage, Howe, and then Clinton, you will be able to strike a potentially decisive Brilliant Stroke if the stars align. Each leader brings something new to the war effort. If you can strike the decisive blow and Win the Day you will be able to build Support and reduce Opposition in short order. If the option to Battle the French in the Colonies presents itself, it will be hard to pass up!

As the Patriots, you initially aren’t powerful enough to counteract the British Army. You will need to pick your battles and initially spread the Militia to key areas. Over time you can train a force of Continentals to take on the British Regulars. Until then, Rabble-rouse and work with the French to challenge British dominance. Skirmish with the British in small numbers to make their stay expensive. Will the French be there when you need them? Persuade the local population to give you resources to keep the heat up. Watch the Indians on the Frontier because if they develop their forces unanswered you won’t be able to win the game regardless of what happens with the British.

As the Indian player, you have selected the lesser of two evils in aligning with the British. You will work with them to lower Opposition using Raids but you will be developing your footprint by Gathering forces and building villages. The British can help you to protect them from the Patriots and in return you can assist the British in controlling the region. War Chief Joseph Brant and later War Chief Cornplanter give you the ability to mount a decisive attack with your War Parties but will it be worth exposing your villages to Patriot attack?

As the French, you have the ability to be the thorn in the side of the British in North America. With the Hortalez Rodrigue et Cie Company, formed to feed the Patriots resources, you can fund the Insurrection. Your agents can rally assistance in and around Quebec and you can facilitate privateers to steal resources from the British. When you sign the Treaty of Alliance with the Patriots, you can bring French Regulars to America to March and Battle. You can also increase French Naval Intervention, Blockade Cities, move Regulars by sea and Skirmish with the British.

As with earlier COIN Series volumes, players of Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection will face difficult strategic decisions with each card. The innovative game system smoothly integrates political, cultural, and economic affairs with military and other violent and non-violent Commands and capabilities. Rabble-rousing, Indian Raids, Persuasion, Naval Pressure, Letter of Marque, Looting, Trading, Skirmishing, and Foraging and more options are available. Flow charts are at hand to run any faction short a player—solitaire, 2-player, 3-player, or 4-player experiences are equally supported.

Source [Liberty or Death on BoardGameGeek]


Photo by Katie Aidley.

I’m not going to talk too much about the rules as such as you can find those yourself but I do want to talk a little bit about the conflict in the game and the battle system. Now, remember I have only played this game once but I found that there were not many battles going on in the game. I quite liked that aspect though, in some wargames there are so many battles that they tend to lose their importance or impact within the game, however, this Liberty or Death was historically accurate and felt as though it fit in with the era, it also drove me to try and come up with some different strategies during the game instead of just relying on winning conflicts. There’s a lot to think about and it will probably take a while to get used to the commands which are somewhat unique from the predecessor COIN games, fitting in with the different time period. 

I’ll admit, I haven’t fully figured out what my strategy is so far and I feel like that will probably take a few plays to master but I did feel confident in the gameplay and the rules by the end of the first game which is always a good sign.

Once I’ve played a few times, I will come back and do another post but I needed to tell you my initial thoughts on the game.

A clear winner in my opinion, even from one play it was obvious to see why it was a 2016 Golden Geek Best Wargame nominee and I’m eager to get this to the table again very soon.

Thank you for reading,




10 comments on “A Few First Impressions [Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection]”

  1. I absolutely love this game. It’s the latest to hit my table. The only other COIN game I own is A Distant Plain. I taught my teenage daughter how to play it a couple of days ago and she seemed to enjoy and catch on within a couple of event rounds. I’ve played several solo rounds and have found the British are better off if they can get cities controlled as soon as possible. Garrison is a huge help in that. For Patriots I’ve been able to snip away at British forces with Skirmish and you do best with Patriots if you know how to roll in French forces into decisive campaigns.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I bought Fire in the Lake with great expectations, but it departed on eBay within a couple of months: never did fully work out what I was doing so, consequently, never experienced any sense of tension or engagement with the game.. Even when I got it to the table with my regular game partner, we blundered through a few turns not really knowing what were doing. Your review here has made me think I should give the COIN series another chance. Maybe Liberty or Death is the way back in?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry you had that experience, LoD is easily my favourite COIN game and definitely a different take on the COIN system. I would recommend it. Thanks for your comment.


  4. Thanks for that. It’s always reassuring to have a personal recommendation on a game from someone who’s played it. I’ll add Lod to my games wishlist then.. Once I’ve bought 1960: the Making of the President and Legendary: Buffy the Vampire Slayer I’ll definitely buy it. Unless some other game appears that catches my eye… So many games, so little time/money…

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  5. Katie,

    Great review! This is the only COIN game in my collection, as it’s really the most beautiful game I’ve seen, coupled with a great system, covering the Revolutionary War. While I absolutely love 1775 by Academy Games and it’s much easier to get to the table, for a larger, more epic feel, Liberty or Death will be my game of choice for more of the wargamer’s wargame feel.



  6. It’s really good to hear such positive comments about a game I’m looking to buy. After a fairly negative experience with Fire in the Lake, I’ve steered clear of COIN games, although they’ve always appealed to me as the type of games that I’m likely to enjoy. I highly recommend the five walk-through YouTube videos from Ricky Royal (Liberty or Death : The American Insurrection: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5UyaJ4tfEqwAj4nvSH_al5JQQ0T8BZuY) which give a real sense of the game.


  7. Bob,

    Thanks for the response and the recommendation. Between Ricky Royal and Rodney Smith, you can’t get really get better play-thru videos. Fire in the Lake did nothing for me as there are vast periods which do not hold my interest, including but not limited to the Napoleonic Period and pretty much everything before it, WWI, and the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts. In truth, only WWII strategic games (and now that I have The War: Europe 1939-1945 and I’m the developer for The War: Pacific 1941-1945, that box is checked), Liberty or Death and 1775 scratch the Revolutionary War itch; and now I’m looking for a comprehensive, yet accessible Civil War game, as I know of none available.



  8. As somebody with a few dozen COIN plays behind me, I’ll make this one comment: one play of one game, or even several plays, will not give you mastery of the system. It took a full half a dozen plays to ‘figure out what I was doing,’ and even today, I find that I can still find ways to lose badly.

    If you can’t or won’t give the system 5-6 more plays, I would not recommend purchasing another COIN title. Me personally, I love the system, but it is not for everybody.


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