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Playings; 2 campaigns (17 hours), 1 British, 1 American win.
Give Me Liberty but give me the errata sheet. I had the benefit of the errata in the box plus the question and answer sheet in Schwerpunkt 1. Even so several house rules had to be written while playing the game. I enclose these as a discussion point for other players of the game, a warning to prospective buyers and an aid to myself for next time.
Supply: What are the supply rules for French units? I drew supply from friendly victory cities (like American units) but used the penalties for forage based on British units. This assumes that the Americans would supply their allies with powder and shot but all that perfume and powder makes them less hardy than the wild colonial boys. Can units draw supply across rivers where no crossings exist? Not in my games. This penalises both sides equally and cuts down the arguments about which boxes are on opposite sides of rivers and which are separated by the sea. Do blockaded ports block supply for American and French units? No, reading the rules closely should allow this but it goes against their spirit.
Retreat. Can American units retreat across rivers where there is no crossing? No, this helps the British, giving them some chance to catch the colonists.
Ignoring these problems Give Me Liberty scores as a good game falling short of being a great one because it is too big and too long. Big games are usually long but long games are not always big. Give Me Liberty could have been trimmed to 1 map and 300 counters rather than 2 and 400. It was probably kept at this size (common for 3W games) because maps are cheap and the buyer appears to be getting more for his dollar. Land only covers 1/3rd of the southern map, changing the direction of north on the maps by 90 degrees and cranking the scale down a notch would fit everything on 1 map. A single map is easier to leave set up for 8 or more hours and would see Give Me Liberty played more often. Reducing the map to 1 sheet would force reduction of movement to 2 and 3 instead of 3 and 4 plus the loss of some counters to prevent players filling the whole map with units. I am tempted to do this myself, having been suitably impressed by it.
Sticking to what you get in the box, movement and combat are very similar to A House Divided. 2 maps mean lots of boxes, most of which are just that, no terrain or settlement names (some of the map really was empty, not counting the Indians, which no one did.). Rivers run between boxes rather than connecting them. Some routes across rivers are connected by crossings, otherwise rivers take an entire move to cross. The map must consider terrain because there are some gaps in the network of boxes and lines, presumably from mountain ridges. Also lines cost 1, 2 or 3 movement points, it is quicker to move up rivers and along coasts, slower in the wilderness. Apart from swamp boxes none of this is represented, all you get is green wallpaper, rivers and blue sea.
Units are regular and militia infantry, artillery which is too slow to be much use and fleets. Both sides can raise militia every turn. The amount of militia raised depends on how many victory towns in each of 6 regions are occupied. The Americans attract far more militia but this total will be reduced if they do not control all the victory towns in a region. The British raise more militia (but not as many as the Americans) if there are no British units in that region. Militia is also limited by the countermix to what can be placed where. The British are unlikely to raise enough militia to worry about this. The Americans are only likely to run out of units in the South (Georgia and the Carolinas) and the North West Territories (south of the Great Lakes). Militia are good to hold victory point towns against small forces and to cut lines of supply. Every Winter all militia must roll their combat rating or less (3 or 4) or go home. The Americans have most militia and will lose most units but raise new militia quicker so can occupy boxes left empty by disbanding British militia.
Fleets move by sea and down the St. Laurance as far as Niagra. They have to return to port every other turn. I doubt if taking on supplies would last as long as 2 weeks nor that supplies would run out after 2 more. Ships should be able to stay at sea for months, this mechanism may be to restrict the ability of fleets to blockade. Only the British begins with fleets, the French bring a fleet with them and teach the Americans how to build ships. If left alone the French and Americans can build a fleet to match the British. In reality the British will pounce on foreign ships as they appear, keeping Brittania in charge of the waves. If ships keep to sea they have a good chance of avoiding combat but given time the British will find them and sink them. It is some consolation that ships hunting out the enemy will not be able to support armies holding out in ports. In the unlikely event of the Americans matching the British fleet Britain will no longer be able to zip troops up and down the coast (D10 units a turn). Also the Americans should consider some invasions of their own, landing in Canada by sea is tempting, it is very hard to invade by land.
Movement and combat are purely functional, they form the basis of 4 battle games but it is the big picture that makes the game. Plans of grand campaigns to conquer the continent are not going to work. The player can either move 1 stack per turn or roll on a table allowing up to 6 moves with the chance of no moves or the opponent having 1 or more moves before the rolling player moves. The size of stacks that can move depends on leaders. With no leaders only 1 unit can move at a time, commanders are each rated for a number of units to move, high level commanders can move their own troops plus 1 or 2 other leaders. The American has more leaders but many of these can only move 4 or less units. Commanders also give a bonus in combat, you can leave lots of generals in a box to aid defense but will have to split into valid stacks for movement. If a single stack is in danger of attack or lack of supply it pays to move that stack only and not roll. A roll allowing 5 or 6 moves can result in several forces combining or splitting up to cover more territory. Good play is based on putting the opponent in a situation where 2 or more stacks are in danger, forcing him to roll.
Victory points are awarded 4 times a year, a maximum of 2 each time. A player needs a surplus of 12 points or control of 5 out of 6 regions to win. Even with criminally bad play it will take 2 years to lose. Points awarded are read from a track of 13 boxes, only the 3 at each end yield points. The track marker moves according to control of the 6 regions and winning battles. Every Winter the British player also receives instructions from London to control 1 state (not region) before Autumn. Success brings the marker on the victory scale closer to the British end, failure moves it away. Some of these states are easier to occupy than others. Movement and combat occupy fortnightly turns (monthly in Winter) with all actions directed towards the next seasonal point count. Both players are aiming to control all victory point towns in each region, points are also given for clearing a region of all British or American units but this is unlikely. Given careful play both players will control some towns in all areas except Canada, a net plus of 1 for the away team. To place any new British units on the map the British must shift the track marker 1 or 2 spaces away. The British need to build up troops on the continent so will go for the shift. Adding this lot up, the box will start at 0 and stay there unless the players fight battles and drive the opposition from chunks of the map.
After adding victory points each season new troops appear based on a die roll. Hessians cause a single victory shift against the British when they first arrive but not thereafter. Continental troops arrive for free as do French once they commit to the campaign. The number of units varies greatly with the die, 1 to 4 units of Continental troops, 1 to 7 British. Shifting 1 extra box will only bring 1 or 2 extra British troops, it is not worth the price unless the victory marker is already in the American end box (things won't get any worse). Continental troops arrive in any box, instant armies. British, Hessian and French forces arrive in ports, control of all ports along a section of coast will restrict where they can land. If the French are present they go home every Winter, the turns between the Winter and Spring interphases is a chance for the Briton to move the victory track a few spaces.
Battles give an immediate shift of 2 on the victory track, plus another 1 if the enemy supreme commander is killed or wounded. Also the defeated force will retreat, gaining the victor territory. Units fight by rolling equal or less than their combat factors (2 to 6) on a D10. First the defender rolls, then the attacker. If neither player retreats (forfeiting the battle), combat continues with simultaneous rounds until 1 side bottles out. It is possible to go to the last man but if a player is clearly losing it is better to leave after the 1st round and have some army left for later use. The mechanics are such that a unit factor 7 has a greater chance of hitting than 2 of 3 but the 2 units have the advantage that they have a chance of inflicting 2 hits. 1 hit flips a unit, reducing its strength for the duration of the battle, 2 hits eliminate. If an army can distribute all hits by flipping units, it will be as good as new after the battle, eliminated units are lost. If a side takes any hits, Indians will run away (be eliminated) on a 3+. If any militia unit takes a hit, other militia units of that side desert on a 3+ (half strength) or 4+ (full strength). It is wise to stiffen even the smallest force with regulars to take the first loss and allow the militia to hang around. Large forces of militia can desert after a single hit. Victory in battles not only brings the victory point advantage but allows 1 unit to be upgraded to experienced (+1 combat factor). There is no limit to army size except the countermix. It pays the Briton to upgrade Hessian units instead of British because the smaller Hessian unit mix will be exhausted first.
American units can retreat when an enemy enters their box so cannot be brought to battle unless all adjacent boxes are filled with British and allied units. To win an attacking battle against Americans the Briton will need to waste troops in surrounding the enemy. This is like dropping off troops by helicopter to surround guerillas while sweeping them off the ground, right idea wrong period. Give Me Liberty does not quote a scale but I estimate 20 miles for the length of a box. Enough space for a small army to be pinned (or not) within the confines of 1 box. American units could be given a chance of escape, failure or desertion (militia only) when British units enter their box but this would disadvantage the American player. Roll D10, 0 or less, desert (caught if friendly regulars present), 1 or 2 caught, 3+ escape. Add 1 American leader rating, subtract 1 British, +1 all moving units are British militia, -1 all moving units are experienced, - (British) or + (American)1, Indians present.
The American can fight 1 battle, win it and with luck catch the survivors in another battle next turn. The British can do this against the French who cannot retreat. The big shift for winning battles makes them worth winning but not worth risking. Battles involving less than 4 units, at least 1 British or Continental (only, surprisingly not French) do not count. Naturally forces of this size or less become common, this is also the limit for avoiding the supply rules.
The campaign begins with American units surrounding the British in Boston. Obvious first action is for the British not to roll but move 1 unit elsewhere on the map. If the Briton rolls and the American is allowed a move the Bunker Hill mob will bug out. In combat the Briton will attack and, with the aid of the fleet in Boston harbour, win. Victory point marker 2 spaces towards Britain. Before the next interphase the British must place 1 unit in each region. The Americans will have to pull back their main force but contest British moves in other areas. In time the Americans will raise a large enough army to defeat the British and bring in the French, probably before their historical arrival. If the Britain can get good reinforcement rolls he can spread out and gradually (2 or 3 years) control enough areas to win. Militia stacks might as well retreat as try to hold towns against British (not British militia) stacks, they will only lose, retreat is better than death. Supply forces British units to operate close to the coast, 4 victory towns are out of British supply lines. American units can be put out of supply by the British occupying all victory towns in an area, this forces British units to spread out, easy prey for a big American army. Big battles will be rare partly because players will keep some stacks too small to qualify for major battles. The loss is less if battles are fought just before a seasonal interphase, with luck lost units can be replaced with the next reinforcement roll. Most action consists of smaller stacks moving back and forth over victory point boxes. Large armies sit a few boxes away, the British often on the coast supported by the fleet (useless inland). If the British spreads out too much or the Americans can build up a significant size advantage, they should attack. A lost battle which significantly reduces British strength will at least slow down the British advance, too many victory track shifts and they won't need to advance.
The rules list special abilities for the majority of the leader counters. In general this favours the American, although 5 British commanders do gain increased abilities. These rules are optional and verge on the rule for every counter. I did not use them, historical addicts should take a look but they do result in a lot of hunting around the map to find where the generals are and fitting the best man for the job. Real historical C in C stuff but adding time to an already overlong game. The American side is the easiest to play, building up troops and retreating from strong attacks comes pretty natural. The instinct of the British player is to find the enemy, kill him then occupy his territory, this is a sure way of bringing about a defeat (you will only catch the American when and where he wants to be caught). The American does not need the advantage of the leader rules to win unless the opponents are uneven or in the case of repeated solitaire plays (there are other ways of spending free time).