Saturday Crapshoot: Liberty Or Death

Richard Cobbett

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, give me Liberty or... wait, hang on. Being British, that would be most unpatriotic. Dispense Oppression AND Death, and give me a nice cup of tea and a biscuit!

The Glorious Campaign Against The Traitor Colonies. Day 1. So far, I don't think anyone has noticed that I have no idea what I'm doing. Splendid. How does one win a war against an entrenched force like this, anyway? I'm assuming that simply building a lot of tanks and rushing them will not work, partly because of the scale of the battlefield and difficulty of establishing the necessary supply chains, but mostly because they haven't been invented yet. I hope that expedition I sent to the Tiber River pans out. An ion cannon would be extremely useful, as well as really setting the appropriate tone for future Independence Days. But I digress. And should probably give some orders beyond "Try to win this."

Are you unschooled, sir?! Britannia rules the waves! All the waves! Except the Bermuda Triangle. Weird place.

But it's not easy. Normally at this point I would have lots of advisors and strategies and data to play off. Here, all I have is the Earl of Sandwich on speed-dial, and he's not taking my calls any more. "Sir," I said to him, "I require you to-"

"You're going to ask me to make you a ham baguette, aren't you?"

I was of course most offended by this insinuation. "I am going to ask you you make England proud. "

"So, with salt and vinegar crisps, and a four-finger Kit-Kat?"

"Please."

"Don't call me again."

So, that could definitely have gone better. But, I have to assume that His Majesty, Great And True, Protector Of Justice And Light Of The Empire would never have sent me if he did not, for some reason, have faith. Or syphilis. But since saying such would be treason, I shall not.

Tsk. If you can't trust an invading army bent on subjugation, who CAN you trust?

Primarily, it appears that my task is to allocate budgets, because war is thrilling like that. I have a budget of "4195" for the next few months, and can only hope that this is pounds rather than pence or little beads of glass like the ones we purchased half of the Empire with, or this is going to be a distinctly underwhelming counter-Revolution. I am instructed to use it Wisely, and to begin by deciding how much to pay my officers. I am informed that the dishonourable curs usually receive a salary of 906 - an insult! Surely they should serve for the pleasure of one day knowing that their commander has basked in his Majesty's presence and been told "Yes, well, job done," in the proudest traditions of loyalty.

They ask for 906. I give them 10. If I am tested, tomorrow I shall not be so generous.

AMERICA! TOTAL WAR!

Safe? Was this Empire of ours built on safety? I think not, good sir, most definitely not! Were we all of your yellow stripe, why, we would never have ventured from our septic isle and the sun would set upon the British Empire on a nightly basis; in winter, really bloody early. That would be- Sceptred! I meant sceptres! Phew. How easily does the corruption of treason and ingratitude work its way into the soul...

What? Sorry, missed that. But I've just worked out where in the world Carmen Sandiego is!

The Glorious Campaign Against The Traitor Colonies. Day 2. And the questions keep coming! How much to supply soldiers! Money for ships! Should we hire mercenaries? I do not know, sirs. Do they have the ability to show the slightest initiative? Then I shall have a whole cabinet of them!

No, no, no, if we start negotiating with people we've wronged, we'll never get anything else done.

Boston? Wait. Were they not the bounders and cads responsible for the waste of so much good tea? Fie, then fetch them torches instead of financial stability! Hoodlums! Bounders! Cads! TurboCADs! Someone use them to design and construct a warning to others, and-

But my power does not, it appears, stretch quite this far. Indeed, my righteous vengeance is limited to simply producing an illuminating pamphlet on how much their leaders, to use the common parlance of the locals, 'suck'. It slightly raises my support, and only costs 100 whatever units of currency I'm spending. 100! You could run ten armies on that!

Anyway. I have the men given some emergency training, and instruct them to begin construction to keep them busy. What feels like five hours later, I am finally done giving the Bostonians their orders, and finally, it is time to move on. To doing the same thing to the people of Three Rivers. And then Quebec and Montreal. Oh, Canada. However did you get mixed up in this treasonous folly? You always seemed so sensible, except of course for the French thing. But we were willing to overlook that! Well, I'm afraid that there's no way we can use you for those penal services we were talking about now. Australia, throw a dingo on the barbie, because you just made it to the big leagues! Just promise to never, ever beat us at cricket. Or export soap operas. You do those things, and it'll all be just grand.

Why is Boston surrounded by Zerg Creep? Is this part of some alliance I'm unaware of?

The Glorious Campaign Against The Traitor Colonies. Day 3. So, that happened. And I thought I'd been very generous to the people of Boston, not wiping them off the face of the Earth with the force of an angel flapping its mighty wings. Will I negotiate? Sure. What does he want? Bounty? Sir, you may have all the coconut chocolate bars that you wish. I will even throw in a Crunchie if you like.

But that appears to be a mistake. No sooner have I acquiesced to his request than all my Generals begin doing the same. Luckily, I am able to quieten them all with little effort, though I soon realise I shouldn't have bothered. Low morale or not, what kind of officer permits his men to become mutinous? One who does not deserve the chocolate in his gob! But that is fine. I have an easy solution - if any garrison complains, that garrison will be sent straight to the front line, with no food, provisions or money!

Unrelated, I really need to find where the Yanks keep getting all those reinforcements from.

Quick! Begin researching a Wonder of the World! Like that Turducken they had on Epic Meal Time!

The Glorious Campaign Against The Traitor Colonies. Day 4. Finally, some action! The town of Springfield attacks Boston, though sadly the Simpsons are nowhere to be seen, and nor are the rest of their troops as yellow-bellied as we had been left to believe. D'oh. On the other hand, whoever called war an uncivilised pursuit clearly knew little of which they spoke. It looks almost exactly like Civilization! Only with the ability to move units around in the tactical map instead of merely the strategic one, and a distinct lack of spearmen being able to somehow take out futuristic battletanks. Again, note to self, futuristic battletanks would help. I'd even settle for a really big Tesla Coil.

For now though, I merely have my soldiers, armed with bayonets and enough Command Points to engage in a damn good scrap. Glancing at the opposition, I do somewhat unfortunately seem to be outnumbered... some ten times over, in fact... but there is nothing that the domineering English spirit cannot withstand, except slight cold snaps in winter, too much heat in summer, and being out numbered ten to one. I'll be honest, I just added that one on the list, after experience in the field of battle proved its worthiness. Poo. On the plus side, nothing important was lost. Just Boston, and from a certain point of view, it did rather bring this on itself, did it not? Those tea-spoiling terrorists. No sympathy at all.

I'm sure the King will see it my way.

Denounce all you want, we're not taking it seriously after the pigeon sat on your hand.

The Glorious Campaign Against The Traitor Colonies. Day 5. So, anyway, I was just fired. Turns out that His Majesty, in his infinite wisdom, has decided that fresh blood and new ideas are required; specifically, the revolutionaries' and someone more qualified's. It would seem to be foolish to argue with the corpulent old windbag, so I generously and under orders step down to permit someone else to continue the campaign in my stead. It is not as though I do not have hobbies, not least of them writing letters to the many generals who ended up arrested and imprisoned while following my orders. Apparently many of them were displeased to hear my response "Well, at least they're paid for." I may need to avoid the military bars for a while. And indeed, possibly the rest of England.

But. I feel it important to point out that it is not only King and Country who should feel left out.

I never even got my bloody baguette. And does anyone care? No, sir. No, they do not.

Well, that's lucky. Winter IS coming. He could be useful.

Ahem. Liberty or Death has always been one of the more popular games about the American Revolution, and not without cause. It was made by Koei, meticulously designed and researched, and most surprisingly, not restricted to PC. Versions were available for both the SNES and the Megadrive - yes, I'm calling it that, because that is its name - though I can think of little more compelling than playing it on those platforms. It's just not really a 'sofa' or 'kicking back in bed' kind of game, despite the attempts to jazz it up with some bouncy music and cheery character portraits. (The PC version benefits from a much higher resolution, and so doesn't have to separate things like its maps and menus, as well as just feeling more at home.)

Amongst the more interesting elements of the game were the idea that the battles should stem naturally from the situations - simply playing leading, in some form, to the major battles of the American Revolution, with factions both on land and around it playing their parts in the whole. (In the actual historical battles for instance, the French played a massive part in stymying the English at sea.) You don't take much control over the navy, but you do get to have a say in it, with the strategic layer bleeding extremely well into the tactical side and turning the conflict into grand strategy rather than simply a collection of skirmishes linked by a map screen.

Is it a good game though? Well, if you can get into it, so I'm told. Trying to approach it cold is like running head-first into a brick wall and wondering why it hurts so much, and that's certainly not its fault. It doesn't do a very good job of showing why you should want to keep doing it though, unless you've already brought your special grognard-hat to help deflect the blow, and there's not a vast amount of reward for the phenomenal amount of time that it takes to get anything done. While much more trivial to the point of parody, I've gotta say that my favourite take on the American Revolution is still the end of Colonization, when you pull the trigger to declare independence and then have to weather the fury long enough to be taken seriously. It's not exactly a tactical experience, but it was a really cool and very fitting endgame of the kind I'm sorry the Civ games haven't really explored since in their single-player modes.

Even if you did have to play as the baddies . Harrumph.

"Back again, Lockjaw? I'm sure it's just a coincidence rather than an agenda." "Woof!"

Oh. But happy Independence Day. (And just for the record, the offer to return home still stands. Just as long as you bring the real Netflix catalogue, we get to send Michael Bay to the Tower, John Oliver agrees to do the British version of The Daily Show he was literally born to do, and everyone agrees that the words 'could care less' are to be punished by vicious horsewhipping and a good roll in the salt. Not too much to ask for, I think. Just drop a line to the Queen when you've decided to do the right thing. Any time.

Really, no rush. No hurry at all.

Any time you're ready.

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