Freedom! is an asymmetric card driven wargame that models a relatively unknown yet surprisingly important siege between the Ottoman Empi...

Freedom! a Kickstarter preview Freedom! a Kickstarter preview

Freedom! a Kickstarter preview

Freedom! a Kickstarter preview


Freedom! is an asymmetric card driven wargame that models a relatively unknown yet surprisingly important siege between the Ottoman Empire and the Greek rebel insurgents in the city of Messolonghi.  The siege in question is actually the third siege between greek insurgents demanding their freedom from the Ottoman Empire during the early 19th century, none of which I knew anything about prior to receiving this game.

The designer Vangelis Bagiartakis has written a fascinating designer's diary on bgg that is well worth a read if you're interested in the development or history of this game. https://www.boardgamegeek.com/freedom-designer-diary

Gameplay

Watch my rules overview to get an idea of how the game plays.  However, there are far more professional efforts which I will link to below.

Players control the two opposing forces and fight out the siege over 6 rounds. In each round, 7 cards will be played for a maximum total of 42 actions per player per game.  The Imperial player, however,  could end the game early if they manage to infiltrate just one of their units into the forts on the wall or into the Southern City, effectively assaulting the city from the Lagoon. 

Ready to go
The rebel player is largely stuck grinding out a victory over the full 6 rounds unless they are able to reduce the morale of the besieging units enough to where they give up and go home. However, nothing about this is a grind for the defending player. You as the defender, are as much a part of the action and must try to follow your own plan whenever possible to get a win. In other asymmetric games, the 'defender' is often just reacting to the aggressor's moves. As the insurgents, it never felt like I was just along for the ride.

I've played three full games of this and in each, they were all well balanced between my opponent and me. The only aberration I experienced was during the very first replenishment of the first game, my plea to the government, as the insurgent player was successful, (I rolled an 11) and had one point in my plea track which made my roll 12, i.e. a successful plea. This allowed my rebels to storm into the lead early on, but I eventually lost the game as my supplies completely dried up in the second period.
An early success for the rebels, unlucky for some
This timing and handling of the plea for government is crucial to manage for the insurgents to be successful.  Likewise, the Imperial Plea for aid is markedly different and nowhere near as significant, however, it is this asymmetry, not just in this mechanism, but in unit's attack, movement and replenishment abilities that really immerse players into a siege mentality, no matter which side you're controlling. There is a constant back and forth struggle, between both players that is evocative of what I imagine a siege to be like.
 
Like other card-driven games, cards are either played for the event or the action points. I should highlight, which for some reason,  it got lost on the editing floor, that when a player plays a card with their opponent's event, the opponent, on their next turn, can discard a card from their hand to have the previously played event happen.  This is an excellent innovation on the standard cdg mechanic, which serves to make the game that bit more accessible and forgiving.  This ability to 'play' your own event previously used by your opponent is unique and I would not be surprised to see the mechanic 'borrowed' by other designers for future projects. 

There are layers of games, area control, tight economic engine, and well balanced between both forces. Integrated into a whole that is engaging for both sides. The insurgents are just as much fun to play as the Imperials.
A selection of all components

Components

I have been sent a prototype and I am stunned by how good the art currently is.  I am reluctant to criticise a prototype's components but I would like there to be unique art for most of the cards. In many cases, the same art is used albeit the card events are similar. I hope they can commission the same artist to do many more pieces for the game.

The graphic design is a little dark in some places and the clouds across the board feel a bit redundant. The overall look of the board is fantastic and I'm sure will only get better as the game raises development funds through Kickstarter.
I'd love there to be unique art everywhere

Criticisms

The biggest criticism I have, and it's probably more justified to level this at our hobby rather than the game, is its theme, it is quite obscure, and serves a niche within a niche. This may serve to hinder the game's adoption amongst potential backers which would be a shame. I think wargamers who may well be very interested in the theme could be but put off by the 'simpler than Twilight Struggle' tag, (let's not discuss whether TS is a wargame or not...). Conversely, casual gamers who would be enticed by a siege game set in the Crusades, or even Leningrad which subjectively are far more accessible, may be put off by a siege in a city they've never heard of, and in a war they don't know.

Conclusion

Any game that I enjoy playing and at the same time helps me to learn something new is, in my opinion, excellent. This game has that property in spades, I knew nothing about the siege of Messolonghi before hearing about this game, and now I know some of the major events of the siege itself from reading the card texts and have also wished for some Messolonghi-related books to learn some more. 
These are glorious, more please...
We often talk about gateway games into the hobby and although this isn't one of those, it is an enjoyable foray into the CDG genre sitting firmly towards the more accessible end of the spectrum. This doesn't detract from the gameplay itself, there's still plenty to consider and mull over each turn. As much as I would like to pull out Labyrinth or TS more regularly, as an introduction to CDGs for interested players, this is a much easier teach and would be my gateway CDG game of choice. 

The underlying mechanics of this game are solid and as polished as any published title from any game publisher. The rulebook itself needs some work and the graphic design across most components could do with a little attention (I do love the art though). Freedom! is coming to Kickstarter at exactly the right time to secure some more funds to push it through the final stages of its design and I salute Phalanx Games for picking this up and giving us the opportunity to support it.  I will follow the campaign with interest. 

This project is live on Kickstarter right now, visit the project at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phalanxgames/freedom
These comments are all based from a prototype version of the game which is subject to change. 

A preview from the designer himself:


Bonding with Board Games preview:

Detailed review from the Players Aid:

Publisher: Phalanx Games
Players: 2...
Designer: Vangelis Bagiartakis
Playing time: 2 - 3 hours

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