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LIBERTAD O MUERTE from AVALON-DIGITAL When I first received this beta version of what was originally entitled Libertadores from Ava...




When I first received this beta version of what was originally entitled Libertadores from Avalon-Digital and has finally be named Libertad o Muerte, it didn't even have a rule book available online. However, from my experience with their digital game Battles for Spain, I was able to start to explore the game as most of the mechanics are identical.  Obviously, we're in a different time and a different part of the world altogether with a very different feel to it.

My knowledge prior to this game was purely the name Simon Bolivar whose nickname, El Libertador, lent itself to the game's initially projected title and whose surname is the title of the first Scenario.

The historical background is the Wars of Independence in the Spanish colonies of South America from 1810-1825.  The two players represent the conflicting factions: the Patriots against the Royalists.

Once more, we are in the digital manifestation of the sort of tabletop board wargame that stacks out my game shelves. It's an IGO-UGO system with the Patriot player going first and the Royalist Player second.  You can play either side against the computer A.I., but there's also the option to use playbymail to take on another human opponent.

A familiar framework of Phases takes you the through the rules and as with Battles In Spain, there is now a full 52 page online rule book that you can access.  
The Phases speak for themselves.:
Draw Cards
Naval Movement
Naval Combat
Land Movement
Land Combat
Place Purchased Units
As with so many digital games, the actions are often far swifter to execute than manipulating physical counters and negotiating a paper rulebook.  
Draw Cards and Reinforcement Phases
As with all good card assisted games, this is the opportunity to pick up some of the essential history belonging to this campaign.  Any Event cards will be outlined in purple and have to be played immediately.   I'd also strongly advise reading the inroduction to each Scenario carefully, where you'll find information crucial to winning the game, particularly key regions to eithe hold or capture.

A typical Event that gives the Patriots some VPs 

and increases the Tension Index

Some cards will provide reinforcements that will appear in a later Phase.  These tend to a Leader and some accompanying units and the potential areas that they can be placed in will be highlighted by those areas turning green.  Along with the familiar three arms, you may at times receive ships and privateers.  I always like games that do more than jus provide basic fodder, but create the ambience of the period through touches of chrome like this.
Income and Maintenance
These are the type of Phases which I hate when they appear in a board wargame: the totting up of how much money you're bringing in and how much maintaining your troops cost.  In a computer game, I'm happy because the computer does it for me.  The only input you may need to have is if you don't have enough to pay all your troops and then you will be presented with a list to click on those you choose to retain and pay for.
Purchase [every other turn]
Having had the hard work done for you, you are now free to buy units with any military resources or use some for replacement points.  Once again where you can place what you buy will be shown by the areas being lit up.  This is a very useful help, as some types of units can only be placed in certain types of terrain.  No making accidental mistakes. A final good point is that a black silhouette of the type of unit is left in the area.  The unit will be placed there in a later Phase*.  

Primarily we're in the era of infantry, cavalry and artillery with combat and movement strengths as well as morale.  Replacing the steps that you would have in a physical copy, each counter shows its steps by a number of green dots -  a nice point is that some units that arrive as reinforcements aren't always at full strength! 
A simple process of clicking on a stack and dragging it to its destination takes care of movement.  An aspect I like is that not only does the program, as you'd expect, not let you exceed movement allowances, it also provides a written message if there are other reasons why the move cannot be made.  Wish I could be programmed to avoid those mistakes when I'm playing with physical components!
This is one area that I want to control for myself, but in this game you can't.  For once, the computer taking control for me is not a good idea.  It does make battles fast, but I like games where I can choose how I line up my units, see the dice rolls and know why I've hit or missed.  In games where you've masses of counters that can become a chore, but this is not that type of game. By and large these are fairly low unit encounters.  I have several computer games that employ an almost identical mechanism and visual display for battles as Libertadores does, but give you that degree of control where I think it matters. 
These are fairly rare and occur when you have units in an area and the only enemy, often just a garrison, are in a city.  They are handled by a simple die roll system.
*Place Purchased Units
As it says, this is when you actually get those units you bought earlier.  
Similarly this is when you can use the replacement points you purchased earlier.

All in all this is a very satisfying system with an interface that is largely intuitive and a clear rule book to clarify any uncertainties you might have about carrying out any functions.  At 52 pages it seems like you've got a fairly deep game on your hands, but text size and plentiful illustrations in fact make this a rule book I'd be very happy to have if this was a conventional board wargame sitting on my dining room table.  After a session or two, I doubt that you'll have any need to refer to it, especially if you take the time to go through the Learning Tutorials.   

Turns go by quickly and smoothly with the ability to set your A.I. opponent at three levels of difficulty: Basic, Voluntary and Expert.  The centre one is the default setting with the choice to make it easier or more difficult.   The Scenarios are diverse and range from ones that cover a small portion of the map to much vaster campaigns.  For this, navigation around the map couldn't be easier with the mouse wheel making zooming in and out at your fingertips, as seen below.  One minor draw back is that when the A.I. is playing the map zooms out.  You can manage to manually reframe this, but as it moves from Phase to Phase it automatically zooms out again.  I believe that small irritant is something the company are hoping to improve.

The Big Picture
A Closer Look
I've greatly enjoyed this game and would particularly recommend it to those, like me, who enjoy what is essentially a traditional board wargame in digital format with many of the advantages of the latter form.  In fact, I hope that the rumours I've heard of its intended production as a traditional board wargame come to fruition.  It's certainly one I'd like to have in front of me handling the excellent cards, moving the pieces physically and conducting the battles myself - I'd even put up with having to work out my own income, payment and resources!

As always many thanks to AvalonDigital for providing a review copy

The game can be purchased direct from AvalonDigital for 19.99 euros.

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