The Wargamer

23 July 2017

The Retro-Grognard: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Liberty or Death retrospective

Published on 23 JUL 2014 7:46am by Jean Marciniak
  1. american war of independence, ground combat, north america, strategic, background / research material, intermediate, turn-based igougo, english, 1, yes, single unit

Editor's note - just occasionally I think it does us good to look back at where our hobby has come from; hopefully this retrospective is of interest and we can compare the games we have now with those we had 2 decades (or longer) ago. Games have come a long way, but perhaps some of the oldies are still goodies, or at least can show us what good design features (or otherwise) are constant. Read on ... 

So back in the early 1990ís KOEI, which is a Japanese game developer, made a series of historical games for the Genesis system. These games included PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations), Operation Europe and my personal favorite, Liberty or Death. These games were all grand strategy games where you would take up command of massive armies and navies.

Now for a kid like me this was huge. No other game on my Genesis system gave you that kind of experience, so you can imagine I spent countless hours and days playing these kinds of games. Liberty or Death was my personal favorite because it covered my favorite time period, The American Revolution. Being able to lead the American armies in their fight against the British Empire was a dream come true for a 10 year old like me. No other game at that time gave you that kind of experience where you were put in command of vast armies, generals and troops and told to defeat the enemy. Games like this did something most console games didn't do Ö it made you think. It was a game where you had to plan a strategy, organize logistics and fight battles by using the terrain effectively. It was because of this game that I got into strategy wargaming.

So letís cover why I think this game deserves to stand out above the rest.

(This review will be based against the other games at the time in 1993. So I wonít fault the game for lack of graphics or lag)



Revolutionary Console Game - no other console developers at the time were making grand strategy games. This was the first of its kind. I give big props to KOEI for developing such a revolutionary and epic game. I greatly respect developers that do something different.

Pretty Intuitive - even after 20 years I was able to learn how to play the game within minutes of starting it up. Props to KOEI for this because that wasn't an easy task, especially with 1990s technology.

Epic Scope - no other game at that time put you in command of such large forces, gave you a huge map and told you to win the war with any strategy you want to devise. This amazed me.

Strategic & Tactical Gameplay - this was one of the first games to implement a strategic gaming system accompanied with a tactical simulator. So you can have your 4,000 troops head out to invade Boston and when they get there you can jump right into the battle and direct your troops.

Good Graphics Ė well for 1993, these were pretty cool graphics. Nowadays with todayís technology we can make animations and art that are jaw dropping, but back then they didn't have such sophisticated software.

Actual Troops Numbers - many games, including ones still being developed today, canít pick up on this (in my opinion) key feature. When I have 500 troops attack and inflict 100 casualties on the enemy Ö those are figures I can understand. I cannot get why developers make games where they use artificial numbers for their units. I donít understand when I look at my Regiment and it has 300 power. Whatís 300 power? Is that good?

Detailed Commander, Unit Information - this game has a lot of info for both officers and their units. From the level of leadership an officer posses to the amount of small arms a regiment is supplied with. I greatly appreciate this level of detail, as it immerses you into the game.

LOTS of Information - what I love about this game is threes so much data you can go over. You can see how each state views your cause, and over time this opinion will change as you make decisions throughout war. Or you can find out who's running your government and which ones you can trust.



Not 100% Historically Accurate - generals did not lead regiments in The Revolutionary War, but in this game they do. Itís not a big issue but itís something I notice.

Canít Tell Which Units are Which in Tactical Combat - when youíre in tactical combat all the units look the same, so you have to go one by one to find the regiment youíre looking for.

How Much Food & Powder do you Bring to Battle - before you attack the enemy you have to decide how much food, powder and money to bring. Question is how much is enough for a 4,000 man army? You donít have any idea how much food a regiment will consume or how much powder a regiment needs to fire a volley. You have to make your best guess.



After 20 years I still enjoy playing this game and I still hope that KOEI one day would make a modern day sequel. And if not KOEI, perhaps an independent developer who's looking to make a kick ass American Revolution game. I give big props to KOEI for making such a revolutionary and innovative game, and doing it at a time when gaming technology was still in its infancy.

If youíre looking to play Liberty or Death, unfortunately KOEI doesn't sell it anymore. Itís not available in any retail shops, but if youíre dedicated enough you can find copies on eBay, but that would require you to haul out that old Genesis system you have locked away in the attic. Letís hope it still works Ö