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Subject: We'll Always Have Languedoc rss

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Jim Cote
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Ostensibly a game about the French Revolution (1789-1799), Liberté transcends theme and mechanics in ways that only Martin Wallace can manage. Instead of each player assuming the role one of the three factions (Royalists, Moderates, Radicals), players compete for control of all factions in a way analogous to the stock systems in Acquire or Imperial. Rather than detailing and analyzing the rules as I usually do, I'm simply going to discuss the various major systems of the game.

Area Majority

Describing Liberté as a simple area majority game does not do it justice. In El Grande, for example, the player with the most cubes in any given region scores the most points. After scoring is complete, the cubes are left as-is. This means that whoever got the most points in a given scoring round is at an advantage going into the next round. Liberté goes many steps further.

One, the resolution of each province does not score points for players. The winning faction scores a point in the election (one to three points in Paris), and the player who controlled that faction in the province collects a faction block per point scored. In this way, players "conspire" to make one faction win, and compete to have the most influence in that faction.

Two, blocks come off the board as a result of the election process. If you outright win a province, the block you collect comes from that province, making you weaker for the next round. A stack of 3 blocks becomes a stack of 2 blocks. It's only worth 1 point towards the faction, but its power may last more than one round. 3 winning single blocks in 3 different provinces are worth 3 points, but all come off the board after the election leaving the provinces empty.

Three, blocks cannot be added at will. You must have a card of the appropriate region (or Club card) and of the appropriate faction. Most cards are taken from a face-up set of three, allowing the other players to see what your future options are. Drawing from the deck keeps your cards secret, but you get what you get. Also, there is a maximum of 3 players in a province. So you can be blocked.

Card Play

On your turn, you may either play a card or draw a card. Not both. The round ends when any of the 3 piles of faction blocks is used up (a la Through the Desert). This means that everyone wants to make sure they play as many cards as they can before the round ends without knowing how long they have to do so. But if they rush to play early, they will have to commit to a specific combination of factions. This creates a very dynamic pacing with players sometimes just drawing cards for a few turns waiting to see what others might do, and sometimes playing as many blocks as they can.

Players may keep up to four played cards (sometimes five) in front of themselves. These serve not only to resolve ties and battles, but also may be picked back up into the hand for the next round if any remain. There are some very tough decisions here as to which region, which faction, and other properties to keep.

There are also some nasty special cards which remove blocks from the board, or cards from players' displays: Bread Shortage, Emigration, Guillotine, Purge, Religious Problems, and Terror.

Ties

If elections were sure things, Liberté would be pretty dull. In every province where there is a tie (even a tie between blocks of the same faction controlled by two or three players), players may use the cards in front of them to break it. The order of province resolution is fixed. Looking ahead at what ties exist, in what order, which players are involved in which ties, and who has cards of which faction(s) is key to making good choices here.

Ties are really the essence of this game, especially since no player may have more than three faction blocks under his control per province. You have to plan for ties to occur, and decide which ones are important to you. There are four areas where ties can occur: province resolution (Paris is a special case), which faction wins the election, which player controls the winning faction, and battles.

Using a big card early in the election phase--perhaps the only card of that faction in your display--means that you are more restricted for later ties. The combination of region/province order and player turn order makes for many difficult decisions.

Cards used to break ties are discarded. At the end of each round, players add their remaining display cards to their hands, discard as many cards as they wish, and draw back up to 7. So using many display cards to break ties reduces potential hand size for the following round.

Limited Control Tokens

The tokens used to indicate control of faction blocks, as well as those used in the battle box, are limited. It's not uncommon for a player to simply run out of them, and no longer be able to create new stacks of faction blocks. At this point, you are limited to playing faction cards only to increase existing stack size. Thus, the other players know what you cannot do, and will not help you correct your "mistake".

Since all tokens are left on stacks from round to round (unless there's a tie, or the stack is eliminated by a special card or election win), running out can have bad long-term effects. This is especially common in 3- or 4-player games. It's difficult to avoid the lure of using a valuable 3-block card to place 3 stacks of a single block each in a region. Do this 4 times in a round and you are in serious trouble.

Sources of Victory Points

The main election process nets 5 and 2 VPs for the most and second-most control in the winning faction, and 3 VPs for the most control in the second place faction. On rounds 2 through 4, the winner of the battle gets 4, 3, and 5 VPs respectively. On rounds 3 and 4, the winners of 4 specific provinces on the board get 1 or 2 VPs.

Turn order is set based on current VPs, so players behind others get to act after them. This is a fairly big advantage. If you get too far behind...

Alternate Victory Conditions

Other than the completion of 4 full rounds, there are 2 ways in which the game can end, both completely ignoring VPs.

A Radical Landslide occurs when the red faction goes off the top of the election track (17+ points) during an election. The trick is that the winner is now the player with the most red points--blocks on the board, blocks in possession (from the election), and all blocks on cards in hand and on display. So when you contribute to a Radical Landslide, you better have been watching what cards the other players have been picking up. Of course, the players who gain red blocks is still likely to be dependent on the breaking of several ties.

A Counter-Revolution occurs during the 3rd or 4th round when the white faction controls 7 or more CR-labeled provinces. If no player wins the battles during rounds 2 through 4, each counts as a CR as well. The counting of white points functions as above, but in this case, the Counter-Revolution occurs immediately during the action phase when any player announces it. So if you see it, but don't think you will win it, then you keep your mouth shut. Ties do not count, even between 2 or 3 white stacks with the most blocks.

The thing about these 2 alternate victory conditions is that they are not specifically opposed to the normal endgame. For example, you can be shooting for a Radical Landslide, and still hope to win a normal red election for 5 VPs. The only time when an alternate victory is a must is when it's your only chance of winning. But in that case, you may have either all the players fighting actively against you, or another player trying to do the same thing you are. They are best kept as subtle as possible. There are enough things going on, enough province ties to resolve, enough cards to track, that players get lazy and stop calculating out the knowables. Use that to your advantage.

Final Word

I've had Liberté rated highly since I first played it, but only recently raised it to a full 10. It's meaty, and has a lot of things going on--obvious and subtle. The actions are simple (draw a card or play a card) and the interactions complex. The wooden bits are large with bold solid colors. The board is functional. There's a serious color mismatch between the cards and the board in a region (purple/pink); I always show this to new players right away. The rules are typical early-century Wallace rules--not good.

Components:
Rules:
Fun:
Luck:
Complexity:
Replayability:

Overall:




*The title of this review was in reference to a game played--among others-- with my girlfriend. We were tied in Paris and Languedoc. Another player added 3 blocks in Paris, and over the next few actions, proceeded to knock blocks from our stacks. When it was clear we could no longer battle for the win in Paris, I looked at her and said, "We'll always have Languedoc." No one got it.
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Manuel Pasi
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Somehow this game has never gotten on my radar....until now!

Very nice review that makes one wanna go to the FLGS right away!
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Jim Cote
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Good luck finding a copy. Although you might be better off paying extra for an OOP copy than waiting for an almost certainly (more) flawed reprint from VG.
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Richard Young
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ekted wrote:
Good luck finding a copy. Although you might be better off paying extra for an OOP copy than waiting for an almost certainly (more) flawed reprint from VG.


Whoa! What is that assertion based on? Of course you can never please everyone, but the response to the reprints of Republic of Rome, Hannibal and Titan were overwhelmingly favourable. Container while not a reprint was also very well received. My guess is that the reprint of Liberte would be eye wateringly gorgeous - maybe the problem about the colour purple or pink or whatever would finally be solved. I know that bashing Valley Games has become an indoor sport for some but the games themselves have, in the end, been uniformly well done. Seriously.

This isn't about missing generals or something is it?
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Eugene
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I've played only a half game of Liberté. The fear of constant calculation and re-calculation with the addition of each influence marker makes me hesitant to spring this one on my main game group. Is my concern unjustified?
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Jim Cote
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Bubslug wrote:
Whoa! What is that assertion based on?

Just personal taste. It's my review thread; I can have an opinion. Note that I didn't say anything about Titan, but I will name Container, Municipium, Hannibal, Die Macher, and Republic of Rome. I find in those games that they made terrible choices, or accepted the terrible choices of their artists and graphic designers. I just don't think they can tell the difference between good and bad. This is based on careful inspection of the mentioned games, as well as comments and replies from VG of feedback.


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Jim Cote
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garygarison wrote:
I've played only a half game of Liberté. The fear of constant calculation and re-calculation with the addition of each influence marker makes me hesitant to spring this one on my main game group. Is my concern unjustified?

It's not anywhere near as severe as in Automobile. If a player modifies a stack, you merely have to note how the factions changed in that one province, keeping a rough idea of the balance. At various points, you do a quick estimate. Usually, you can't do any better than an estimate because of the tie-breaking process. This actually mitigates some of the burden of calculation. If you really are worried that this could be a problem, you should try before you buy.
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Brian Robson
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This really is an excellent game, probably my favourite Martin Wallace design.

We usually play Stuart Dagger's suggested variant which stops the draw piles becoming clogged up with value 1 cards and means there are fewer blind draws taken by players.
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brian
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ekted wrote:
Good luck finding a copy. Although you might be better off paying extra for an OOP copy than waiting for an almost certainly (more) flawed reprint from VG.

If I have anything to say about it, there won't be any flaws.

But alas, everyone has an opinion so I am sure someone will think a better choice could have been made. Whether it be art or choice of words in the rule update. But if playing the game is what is important to you, the Valley edition will be worth the wait.

But back on topic: Excellent review!
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Aaron Silverman
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I will definitely have to try that variant. IMO the potential to get badly screwed by not acquiring useful cards is way too high for a game of this length and depth. Aside from that one issue (which has really spoiled a few sessions), it's a great game.
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dave
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Great review. Thanks. This really is a great game which deserves a 10 rating.

ekted wrote:

The tokens used to indicate control of faction blocks, as well as those used in the battle box, are limited. It's not uncommon for a player to simply run out of them, and no longer be able to create new stacks of faction blocks. At this point, you are limited to playing faction cards only to increase existing stack size. Thus, the other players know what you cannot do, and will not help you correct your "mistake".


Hey, is this right? Counters are limiting? It doesn't happen too often but we just get out another color. This could really change things. I've got to get a copy of this so I can read the rules whenever I want!


ekted wrote:

*The title of this review was in reference to a game played--among others-- with my girlfriend. We were tied in Paris and Languedoc. Another player added 3 blocks in Paris, and over the next few actions, proceeded to knock blocks from our stacks. When it was clear we could no longer battle for the win in Paris, I looked at her and said, "We'll always have Languedoc." No one got it.


This is a great story--sounds like a keeper to me. (now if I could only pronounce that province!)

 
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June Hwang Wah
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This was my first Martin Wallace game, and led me to other titles such as Age of Steam and Princes of the Renaissance. Fatigue led me to stop chasing new releases, but I am eying the recent Waterloo (and Gettysburg) release.

Highly recommended.
 
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Robert Leopold
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Friends,

Some of you may get this:


Thanks a heap,
Bob
 
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