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"Observations about Live Free or Die" Topic

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Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 9:02 p.m. PST

Last weekend, I dusted off the AWI collection and ran a game of Live Free or Die, the new AWI rules by the Little Wars TV guys. I had planned to play one of the larger scenarios from the scenario book, so I settled on Brandywine. The book scenario only covers Howe's main assault on the North end of Washington's line, but I got a more enthusiastic response from the club than I expected, so to accommodate extra players I created a second table to play Knyphausen's attack across Chadd's Ford (albeit a bit bathtubbed – just Hessians, Scots and one British brigade against Greene and Wayne and a battery of 12-pdrs).

Here are some observations about the game system, in no particular order, positive and negative and constructive all jumbled together willy-nilly:

The rules are very simple, the wording lean and direct. It didn't take long for the players to catch on and get the hang of the rules. Even better, there is a lot of game packed into only 4 pages and a QRS, with a good amount of elegance and subtlety built into the mechanics which I liked. However, "simple" rules inevitably turn out to be simple because they leave out all those "complicated" rules that cover corner cases or prevent gamey tactics, and LFoD has quite a bit of this going on. 4 of the 6 players were veteran horse & musket gamers (and a couple horse & musket game authors) so it wasn't hard for us to fill in the gaps, but less experienced gamers would have more trouble.

In the design philosophy section, the authors claimed to want a system that was more morale-based and less bloody, which sounds great to me. However, both games I ran were extremely bloody, and looking back, I'm not sure how they wouldn't be. Units only take morale tests when they lose a stand; good units tend to pass morale tests; there is no "routing" morale result, just "stand", "run away one move", and "destroyed". On the North table the Americans lost 28 stands and the British 25 stands, and several British units were still fully operational at 50% or greater casualties. I didn't get exact counts for Knyphausen's table, but it was similar.

Toward the end, one of the players commented that the rules really need brigade and/or army breakpoints, and in retrospect, I concur. There was really nothing stopping a brigade or even an army from fighting to the last stand.

Despite the rules and design philosophy claiming to emphasize bullets over bayonets, charging and melee were the tactics of decision. There were melees everywhere, lots of them. Worse: one of our players decided to charge everything in column, and we discovered that the rules do little to prevent dense blocks of side-by-side columns from ganging up on single units in line. This is a typical and very old problem with horse & musket rules that's been beaten to death in places like TMP, and is a very gamey and ahistorical tactic that destroys suspension of disbelief. A few days later I came up with some house rules that might elegantly address this problem, but I'm still thinking about the right way to defuse the problem while keeping the game's spirit of "fast, simple & elegant".

The C3 system is simple but elegant and works really well. In our games, the Americans were on the defensive and never really short of CP, but the British had to think hard about where to concentrate command focus to keep the attacks moving. Even better, there are a few different layers to the C3 system, so there is nice potential to tune scenarios without having to resort to special rules. The one problem I found was that it was unclear if Command Points were to be allocated in the first phase, or could be spent ad-hoc during the turn. There are rules in the text that imply both.

The rules are extremely murky about how artillery units fight in melee. We basically had to make it up on the spot.

A personal nit: The rules are built around 2-rank stands of 4-6 figures, but my infantry are based 2-3 figures in a single rank on 1"x˝" stands. This makes small units of 3-4 stands really fiddly and hard to play with, and at Brandywine scale there were a lot of 3-stand American units.

Live Free or Die is a great start, but needs a little bit of sorting.

The brevity and simplicity of the rules makes it a very approachable game, which is immensely appealing and a very low barrier of entry to players wishing to play the period. If there is a group of players who want to keep playing it, I'll keep running LFoD games.

That said, I think I still prefer Regimental Fire & Fury. RF&F is decidedly more complicated, but fully playtested, clear, concise, diagrammed, and elegant. There just aren't any corner cases that the rules don't cover.

I also think I prefer Guns of Liberty. GoL is a somewhat less simple game, but not exactly a tough slog, and it does a much better job making AWI combat low-casualty and morale-focused.

- Ix

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 9:06 p.m. PST

Side note: I wanted to bring up the above rules issues (and more) with the authors, but I can't find any forum anywhere for doing so. TMP will have to do.

Wargamorium23 Oct 2021 2:49 a.m. PST

Very interesting and helpful. I have just purchased a set and am keen to try a game soon.

I understand the basing issue. All of my bases are 11/2" or 40mm but I don't think it matters as long as both sides are the same. Multiple base units are fiddly though.

The authors have an e-mail address on their website and they also have a Facebook page. I have contacted them already and they responded very quickly.


Prince Alberts Revenge24 Oct 2021 2:15 p.m. PST

Thanks for posting your observations, I listened to their patreon podcasts on design, play test and revision of the rules. From what I recall the prevalence of charges and bloodiness were two things they saw in play testing and attempted to address in the revision phase. It seemed to be a challenge to do that without making major changes, increasing clunkiness or adversely affecting other aspects.

It sounds like the changes that were made weren't enough to discourage charges or emphasize the morale aspect over infliction of casualties.

I like Maurice for 18th century combat and used it for Brandywine with good results. I purchased LFoD from Little Wars TV and will have to give it a go as well.

codiver25 Oct 2021 11:53 a.m. PST


Interesting read about your experience with LFoD. I haven't tried it yet. I'll admit to being a little reticent as LFAAS didn't do much for me, and while I started AWI with BG, the fiddly DPs is one of the reasons I moved away from it. I hope you post your house rules somewhere (other than Facebook – won't go there with a gun to my head).

Most recently I've been trying out Rebels & Patriots, including using R&P units as battalions. Shows promise…


Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2021 10:48 p.m. PST

I know Live Free or Die was originally based on Loose Files and American Scramble, but I think it's wandered pretty far off the reservation. Overall, I think of LFoD as a new game written in the spirit of Loose Files.

The DPs remain (renamed DMZs), but little else does. Loose Files was so vague in places I had a hard time figuring out some basic operations; LFoD is pretty clear and easy to figure out (with occasional small exceptions, as noted in the OP above). Also, I remember just about all movement in Loose Files being randomized, but only charges are randomized in LFoD. I'm sure there's more, but it's been almost a decade since I last played Loose Files, so… memory fails.

- Ix

barcah200107 Nov 2021 3:28 p.m. PST

I would be very interested in hearing about any house rules that you are using—-more complexity is good here!

Wargamorium09 Nov 2021 3:38 a.m. PST

We played our first game and found the rules to be simple but yet quite subtle. We are going to play another game this Friday.

We did find a few things which needed clarification and so I sent our few queries to Little Wars TV for their ruling. They are usually very responsive.

barcah200109 Nov 2021 4:04 a.m. PST

I would be very interested in the response you get. I asked them if they had compiled a series of personality traits and effects—haven't heard back yet.

Wargamorium13 Nov 2021 3:08 p.m. PST


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but I haven't got a response from the authors yet which is unusual as they normally respond quite quickly.

I will keep you informed.


barcah200113 Nov 2021 6:58 p.m. PST

I understand. The most urgent need is for brigade and army breakpoints. A simple way by army would be 50% losses British, 40% Americans. By brigade: 1st class 50%, 2nd class 40%, 3rd class 30% 4th class 20%. You could alternatively borrow the Polemos Ruse de Guerre AWI approach which takes a cohesion test counting -1 for shaken and -2 for routed units.
I would like to know how the commander's command points are calculated for each battle. Also still interested in those personality characteristics-were they thinking of use the traits from their US Civil War rules?

Wargamorium14 Nov 2021 11:34 a.m. PST

You have a few points that we have not raised. Maybe you should put them to the authors by e-mail or even on their Facebook page.

We played the Camden scenario (not finished yet) and it is developing very well and true to the actual outcome. We had considered breakpoints but now after two games we no longer feel the need for them.

Overall we find the rules to be very satisfactory, especially as AWI is not our main period, and we would not like to add too many extra complexities.

barcah200114 Nov 2021 1:55 p.m. PST

Wargamorium, why don't you still think there is a need for breakpoints? I would think British units would go on to the last man.

Wargamorium15 Nov 2021 11:51 a.m. PST


So far we have played two scenarios and we have found that the short number of moves allowed to reach a decision is sufficient. Perhaps as we play more we may think again about the need for breakpoints.

Maybe you might take the matter up with the authors and let us know their response. I have still not got a response to my queries which is both unusual and disappointing.

barcah200115 Nov 2021 4:56 p.m. PST

Thank you. A really bloody confrontation really could make the need of cps. Haven't had that yet. I have asked the authors a series of questions. Let's compare notes when we here back.

Wargamorium16 Nov 2021 9:20 a.m. PST


Good idea – we will do that.

I have still not heard back from Little Wars which is unusual.

We are finishing the Camden scenario this week and intend to insert our own answers to our queries so that the game can proceed. This is unfortunate as we had hoped for definitive rulings from the authors.

In the meantime let's keep in touch. I am at mobertrclean at if you want to discuss outside this forum.


barcah200116 Nov 2021 1:47 p.m. PST

What have you asked them about—I'm curious. I use the optional morale check for charging and only allow volley fire if the unit has not moved.

Wargamorium16 Nov 2021 2:00 p.m. PST

Why not send me an e-mail and I can give you the list.

We do not use the optional morale check before charging. Firing comes before movement so if you volley fire you cannot move. We allow 3rd class to volley fire only if they have a leader or lieutenant attached.

Our queries relate to CPs, Field Guns, Melee Factors, Closing Fire, Initiative and Retreat and Morale.

barcah200116 Nov 2021 2:14 p.m. PST

I'm at Let's compare notes.

Wargamorium16 Nov 2021 2:49 p.m. PST

OK. I will write to you tomorrow.

It is late here now in Belgium and I would rather assemble my notes and queries before I send them to you.

Look out for my mail tomorrow.


barcah200129 Nov 2021 6:16 a.m. PST

Wargamirium and I have been exchanging ideas for filling in some blanks for this excellent, but brief ruleset. We both have questions posted to Littlewars TV but have yet to hear back. So far I like these additions:
1. Class 3 and 4 units receive an extra DMZ for formation change
2. Bayonet charges are limited to British units (not German or Tory) and elite continental units such as the combined light units led by Wayne and Lafayette
3. Infantry and light guns get 1D6 against charging enemies, field guns 2D6
4.Class 4 Indian units are counted as class 2 in melee if they make contact
5.I'm adopting a version of the Polemos breakpoints.
6. I use the optional rules for a morale check before charging
7. Volley fire limited to class 1and 2.
Still interested in how to calculate the commander's cp count and information on the leader traits option.

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