Wargame SITREP 230409 N4 Supply – Liberated gaming with Land and Freedom: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War by Alex Knight (Blue Panther, 2023)

My surprise game of the year to date has to be Land and Freedom: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War designed by Alex Knight and published by Blue Panther, LLC (2023). I signed up for a teach-n-play session at Circle DC in early April with no real expectation in mind. I can’t even really tell you why I signed up for this particular game because I didn’t actually have a plan except to get a ticket for a game Sunday morning.

Here is how Blue Panther describes Land and Freedom on its web site. While I had heard the game and seen some social media headlines, I actually didn’t read this description until after I played the game at Circle DC 2023. If you read this you will know more about the game than I did when I sat down:

1936: Right-wing Army Generals have rebelled against the Spanish Republic, aided by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy! To save Spain, three factions – Anarchists, Communists, and Moderates – must put aside their differences and forge an anti-fascist alliance. But can you trust your allies when your agendas are directly opposed?

Land and Freedom: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War is a card-driven tug-of-war game in which players are immersed in the dilemma of balancing this fragile alliance against their own political and revolutionary ideals. You must repel the Fascist attack on the 4 Fronts, while gaining the Initiative through tableau-building, deck management, and powerful Medallions.

If the war is won, the player with the most Glory will win the game and determine the future of Spain. If the war against the Fascists is lost … 40 years of dictatorship await, with death, imprisonment, or exile are the only choices remaining.

Land and Freedom from Blue Panther

I’m so glad I let Fate guide me to the ticket because she led me to a good place. Not having any real expectations for Land and Freedom actually liberated me when looking at and playing the game. What I found is an intensely engaging semi-cooperative, historical military-political drama that mixes several game mechanisms into an experience that naturally plays out the history while also encouraging players to explore how best to advance their individual position yet not lose their heads at the guillotine together.

In this first of two posts I’m going to unbox the game. I was going to do an unboxing for the Armchair Dragoons but Brant beat me to it back in February. Instead of a duplicative post there I’m just going to put my version here.

A New Land

The cover art for Land and Freedom does an excellent job of drawing the eye. The cover, counters, map, and cards are credited to Jose Ramon Faura. Mr. Faura worked on other titles I own including Empire at Sunrise (Hollandspiele, 2021), The Hill of Death: Champion Hill (Tiny Battles Publishing, 2022), and The Lost Provinces (Hollandspiele, 2018). I don’t know if the cover of Land and Freedom is an original piece of work as it is not clearly credited in the rule book but it appears to be derived from a similar poster I find through image searches. Below you see my first at-home walkthrough at the same time I am reading one of the recommended sources, The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction by Helen Graham (Oxford University Press, 2005).

Both book and game are excellent ‘short’ introductions

The back of the box for Land and Freedom is nothing special, though I note there is no attempt to put a difficulty level on here. While the age guide is helpful (I interpret 13+ as a bit of advanced reading required) it tells me more how difficult the rules are to read than the game is to play. I wonder if such guides help—or hinder—accessibility for new gamers?

Land and Freedom comes in a standard size but 2″ deep box. I have more than a few Hollandspiele or White Dog games printed by Blue Panther but this is the first time I’ve seen this deeper Blue Panther box.

The components for Land and Freedom are somewhat pedestrian looking…at first. You get your map, countersheet, rule book, player aids, and cards. Oh yeah, and a bag. A. Very. Red. Bag.

The mapboard for Land and Freedom is a combination battle map and faction tracks as well as play area for the Fascist Event cards. lt is printed on the Blue Panther ‘canvas’ which gives the game a very rich look and feel.

The single countersheet for Land and Freedom is double-sided. The counters separate from the sprue nicely and, like so many Blue Panther games, are maybe a tad too thick to try to round the corners. There are also a few counters that assemble into standees, a graphic element used too sparingly in hobby wargames in my opinion.

Countersheet front (left) and back (right)

The player aids in Land and Freedom are actually the player tableaus for the three sides. One side is for the player, the second is a bot. Although these might look a bit busy they actually are very easy to use. Truth be told, the game itself actually is pretty easy to learn and remember making much of the information presented on the tableau for reference during play and not necessarily needed every turn.

Player tableau (left) and bots (right)

The rule book for Land and Freedom is 16 pages. The font is readable though laid out in single column which makes skimming rules a bit harder for me (I prefer two columns as my eye ‘scans’ each column faster than having to scan across then back and down repeatedly). The back of the rule book is a helpful illustrated setup.

Land and Freedom is a card-driven game with, of course, lots of cards.

Actually, a good many of these cards are the yearly event cards. I’ll talk about those cards in my second Land and Freedom post but they are the key to the cooperation and conflict in the game.

Event cards including yearly Fascist Event cards on top row and player Event Cards on bottom

Music to Your Ears

In a move that is sure to make those gamers out there who are looking for more expressive games Alex included a Spotify playlist in the back of the rule book for Land and Freedom.

Spotify spotted

Revolutionary Gaming

When I step back a bit, I have to admit that the physical components of Land and Freedom are, as I said before, a bit pedestrian in look. I mean, they look fine and serve the game well but they don’t necessarily “pop.” That said I’m fine with the graphics; they compliment the game without getting in the way of game play.

It is not the graphics that makes Land and Freedom an incredible game to me but the gameplay. The mix of theme in war, politics, and history with semi-cooperative play, card-driven deck management, tableau-building, and even a bit of bag-building game mechanisms is fresh and inviting. That discussion will be the subject of my next Land and Freedom posting.

Feature image courtesy RMN

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2023 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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