Hi folks! This write-up of a new historical game (designed by a fellow library worker and successfully Kickstarted last month) was submitted for this month’s game genre write-up, but it sounds so interesting that I’ve decided to post it separately so it doesn’t get lost.
Name: Freedom – The Underground Railroad
Publisher: Academy Games
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Play Time: 90 Minutes
Age Range: 12 and up (suitable for middle and high school classroom use)
Return on Investment: High
Format: Tabletop Game
Freedom – The Underground Railroad is a cooperative game in which players are working together as abolitionists to help bring an end to the institution of slavery. Players have two goals they are working towards during the game. First, they need to help slaves escape from plantations in the southern United States, carefully helping them move northward along the Underground Railroad while trying to avoid the slave catchers that are roaming the board. The second goal is to raise and contribute funds, helping the Abolitionist cause grow for political change. The players win if they are able to achieve both goals before the end of the game.
Each player starts the game with a role that gives them a certain amount of abilities each turn. The roles reflects a key type of personality that positively contributed to the Abolitionist movement. The abilities these roles receive reflect the resources and influences they would have had available. As an example, The Conductor and Shepherd are more adept at helping slaves as they move northward, the Stockholder raises funds more efficiently for the cause, while the Preacher wields political influence to help make change.
Each round, players work together, using their roles along with a combination of tokens and cards to try and win the game. The tokens allow players to help move slaves, to raise funds or draw more support for the Abolitionist movement. The cards on the other hand are a mixed blessing that have a broader impact on gameplay. Each card features an event or individual that played a part in the history of the Abolitionist movement. While all the cards have an impact, not all of them are a positive one. Mixed into the Abolitionist Deck are a number of cards that work against the players’ efforts. Part of the challenge for players is dealing with these obstacles while still working towards the goals of the game.
Freedom – The Underground Railroad brings a very high Return on Investment. Not only does it immerse players in an important time in American History, it also presents a tense and challenging game that requires cooperative play and teamwork. While the topic of abolition carries some sensitivity, the game handles the subject matter well. Slavery is not something that any one player controls. Instead, it is what they struggling together against in an effort to bring about change to a grim, bitter period in our past. In addition to participating in civic change, Freedom also introduces players to key historical figures and events of the period, including primary source photographs and images for each. In the end, Freedom – The Underground Railroad is a historically rich game that is sure to leave a lasting impression on players.