Tag Archives: 1989: Dawn of Freedom

Walls Come Tumbling Down – 1989: Dawn of Freedom review

I remember very little about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Being 14 years old way back in 1989, I was far more concerned with comics, DJing in pubs (I started young) and girls. One thing I do recall is watching the video footage of the people standing on top of the wall itself, dancing away with pickaxes in hand, and the seminal shot of that chunk of concrete being pulled down. Since then, the world has moved on – the Wall itself is now just another tourist attraction and the struggle for freedom has headed into Africa.

Looking into the events that occurred in Berlin back at the end of the eighties is something that should be checked out by everyone. It’s the idea of people triumphing against The State that appeals to everyone, especially one Ted Torgerson who thought it such an interesting and turbulent time that he took one of his favourite games – Twilight Struggle – and rebuilt it from the ground up to replicate the fight between the Communist East and Democratic West. For a more detailed chat about how he did it, check out episode 37 of The Little Metal Dog Show where I talked with Ted all about how the game came to be, but for now, here’s my thoughts on 1989: Dawn of Freedom.

The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open the box (assuming you have any experience of Twilight Struggle) is how familiar feeling it all is. Production throughout is of the usual high GMT quality that we see with all their releases these days with a huge mounted board, plenty of solid feeling cardboard chits and some very nicely put together cards. Then, of course, there’s the mildly terrifying rulebook. Never the friendliest element of a GMT release, flicking through it may make newbies want to put everything back in the box and leave it alone. Fight that temptation. 1989 is worth the work you’ll need to put in.

The field of play. You will need a BIG table.

The premise is simple. Two players face off in a battle to gain or retain control over the countries of Eastern Europe. The Communist player is desperately trying to cling on to power in the six countries in which the game is played, while the Democratic side wheedles their way in with tales of freedom and Big Macs. The whole game runs in essentially the same way as TS with both players using cards from their hands to do one of two things; first, each card represents an event that focuses on one of the players – no matter who puts it down, the event will trigger, meaning that if you’ve got a handful of cards aimed at your opposite number, you’re in for a bad time… Thankfully the cards are pretty well balanced, meaning that you’ll invariably end up playing an equal(ish) amount of events per side.

The second thing is that cards grant you the ability to place Support Points. This is signified by the number in the top left corner and shows represents the amount of influence you can spread around the board. As the game progresses, both sides will struggle for control of cities and areas in the different countries, hopefully being the leading power when the scoring card for that area comes out. With the main focus of the game being on gaining victory points, being dominant in a country at the right time is crucial but by no means a guarantee of winning – especially if you’re the Democratic player. At the very end of the game, the Communist player gets a hefty amount of bonus points dependent on how many countries are still under their rule, so it often comes down to the very end.

And these are what you’ll use to mark your influence and keep track of events that occur. Functional, yes, but ideal.

While both players are fighting for to promote their way of life on the map, there’s also another area that needs to be monitored; the Tiananmen Square track. Investment of your cards will prove most beneficial to you, bestowing bonuses to your cards and dice rolls – as long as you remain in the lead. As with everything in Dawn of Freedom, everything is delicately balanced… going for a push on the track to try and gain some advantage could leave you well open to being ruined on the board.

And that is exactly what makes 1989: Dawn of Freedom such an incredible game. Sure, some may see it as a reskin of the masterpiece that is Twilight Struggle, but that’s so far away from the reality. While it’s true that they both share the same heritage, they’re telling two entirely different stories, filled with two separate sets of events that come together to create a pair of wonderful games. It may look utterly terrifying, but once you choose to invest some time in the game you’ll realise that it’s actually rather straightforward. The true skill comes in the bluff and double bluff of pressing your influence at the right time, looking for that gap in the opponent’s armour that you can exploit when they’re not expecting it.

It’s a game that will reward multiple plays, especially if you manage to put together a series with a regular opponent. While everything in Dawn of Freedom is built around the events of over twenty years ago, you’ll be creating a story of your own as you both learn the intricacies of the game. Now, while I don’t believe that this will usurp Twilight Struggle’s position as one of BGG’s finest, I am sure that it will run it close as time goes on. Already regarded as an excellent release from GMT mere weeks after its release, 1989: Dawn of Freedom’s reputation can only mature as more and more people get to try it out.

1989: Dawn of Freedom is a co-creation between Ted Torgerson and Jason Matthews, released by GMT in 2012. It plays strictly with two players, with your average game taking around three hours. If you want a copy for yourself, you’ll be looking to pay £40.99 from Gameslore


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Episode 37 – Triple Trouble

There’s three excellent guests on this latest episode of The Little Metal Dog Show! It’s mesmerisin’, tantalizin’, captivatin’ and devastatin’!

First up, Ted Torgerson; less a designer and more an appropriator of systems to adapt and make his own, he’s about to launch 1989: Dawn of Freedom through GMT Games, based on the legendary Twilight Struggle engine and developed in conjunction with TS’s co-creator Jason Matthews. Ted’s also made Free at Last, possibly the only game based on the Civil Rights struggle in America in the mid-20th Century, and we discuss the possibilities of learning through gaming.

Next it’s time to welcome Daniel Solis back to the show. Always an entertaining guest, Daniel’s a machine – he’s forever creating incredible stuff that puts most of us to shame! This time around we discuss his latest project based around Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century RPG system and look back at his Thousand Year Game competition that – after months of submissions and testing – now has a winner.

Finally, Rob Daviau has had his name on many excellent games – you may not be aware of him, but you’ll know his games. With the likes of Heroscape, Star Wars: Queen’s Gambit and Buffy The Vampire Slayer on his CV, he’s now also responsible for the new hotness that is Risk Legacy. Introducing brand new concepts to the gaming world is something that seems to drive Rob’s creative brain, and in this Guaranteed Spoiler Free interview we cover how the game went from idea to sitting on the tables of many gamers around the world.

Grab the show from iTunes or directly from here: http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/zit3me/LMD_Episode37.mp3

Be sure to check out this episode’s sponsors:

Chicken Caesar, the new release from Nevermore Games, available on Kickstarter… well, very soon indeed. Link to come!

VivaJava: The Coffee Game from the lovely folks at Dice Hate Me, also on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dicehateme/vivajava-the-coffee-game?ref=live

Other Show Links to follow!

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State of the Union 2011: Part Three – The Future

And so, here we are – the first day of 2012. What better thing to do than to look forwards at some of the cool stuff that we’ll be getting to our tables this year? There’s already a frankly ridiculous amount of stuff that I’m hyped to get my hands on, from demonic deckbuilders to stunning steampunk affairs. Here’s five that I’ve got my eye on.

I am gutted – GUTTED – that I missed out on the Kickstarter for Miskatonic School for Girls. A deck building game with a twist, players create not only their own decks but also contribute to their opponents’ stacks. You collect genteel young students while dropping as many faculty members on the opposition – but why would that be a bad thing? Well, the staff are all barely disguised Lovecraftian beasties intent on driving the girls to insanity – literally. With each player running one of the school’s houses, it’s a case of the last man standing – whoever stays sane the longest is the victor. It also helps that it’s an absolutely gorgeous looking game – the artwork is beautiful. So, it looks great, it’s got Cthulhu and his mates all over it and I love the spin on the format – when can I get a copy?

Not exactly a full release, but how could I ignore an expansion to one of my favourite games, Alien Frontiers? The first add-on, Factions, is due for release around March and having been lucky enough to try out the prototype version last year I’m very excited to see the finished product. Each player now has an additional mini-board representing one of eight in-game factions, each one offering two new opportunities for dice placement – one specifically for you, the other for anyone else who’s willing to pay you for it. There are also secret objectives to try and complete – if you’ve played the original you’ll know that scoring is open, but this new addition will keep people guessing who’s won until the end. It adds a fifth (purple) player into the mix as well and – thanks to the huge amount of cash that Clever Mojo raised during the campaign – the wooden M&Ms used as tokens will also be replaced with really lovely little biodome sculpts. An already wonderful game will be made even better. Oh yes.

After speaking to Stephen Buonocare from Stronghold Games about their remake of Crude (also known as McMulti), how could I not want a copy of this one? Now officially called Crude: The Oil Game, this one brings together tile placement and a heavy economic element as players become CEOs of petroleum companies. By investing, selling and distributing at all stages of the process, it’s all about making as much money as possible while dealing with a rising and falling markets at home and abroad. Of course, the usual Stronghold level of quality of to be expected – if you’ve seen and played anything they’ve released before, you know that this one is going to look amazing. The game has a legendary pedigree and the story behind it is a tale to behold – the moment this one is released, I’ll be picking it up. It deserves its time in the spotlight, albeit thirty-five years after it was first released.

Pick up and deliver? Got a few of those. Route planning? Check, plenty of them too. Not many that combine them, though, and none that are based in a Steampunk setting – but now Tasty Minstrel are releasing Kings of Air and Steam. Players pilot airships to grab goods from factories then distribute them through rail networks. While it may seem a little dry to some, I like that they’re taking a punt on it with an interesting theme and want to add something to my collection along the lines of Brass or Age of Industry. That’s the vibe I’m getting from this one and, assuming that it ticks all the boxes, I’d really like to try it out. I sadly didn’t put in for the Kickstarter campaign as shipping was more than the actual game and money was tight – a minimum of $95 was just a little too much to pledge – but when retail copies arrive, I want one.

I first posted an interview with Bryan Fischer from Nevermore Games pretty much an entire year ago about Chicken Caesar – a game that both myself and Chris from Dice Hate Me were looking forward to playing in 2011! It’s still not out but the release is getting closer; pictures of the board are now available and more information is leaking out about how the game will play. Political intrigue in a chicken coop is a somewhat unique premise, with players needing to combine lowly ranking officers (responsible for money and force) with higher  powered fowl that gain fame and notoriety. Throw in some bribery, corruption and plain bloody murder and it could well end up as this year’s Pret-a-Porter – a stunning game with a truly odd theme. Kickstarter for this one begins this February and I’ll be backing it for sure.

There’s so many more games to look out for as well; there’s bugger all information about AtomPunk but I’m still keeping an eye on it (that Steampunk thing again), while 1989: Dawn of Freedom (the spiritual successor to Twilight Struggle) is also due. The whole Merchant of Venus situation should be sorted out sometime soon, though who knows where the dice will fall? Whoever finally gets the rights, either Stronghold or Fantasy Flight will hopefully do a good job with it – there’s a lot of people out there waiting impatiently for it! Fancy a truly intriguing theory though? How about the rumours that a new version of Blood Bowl is going to hit our stores? With it being 25 years since the original release and Games Workshop / FFG having previous form with the luxury 20th Anniversary reissue of Space Hulk, we can only hope our wishes come true…

Whatever happens, 2012 has got a lot to live up to if it’s going to make as much of an impact as last year did in the world of gaming. It’ll be a hard one to follow but you can’t help but feel that the many production companies out there are going to do their best to put out some great games – and we barely know anything that they’re planning. It’s going to be brilliant.

Happy New Year – and happy gaming!

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