Freedom: The Underground Railroad Review

freedom the underground railroad review

Year: 2012 | Players: 1-4 | Minutes: 60+

This Freedom: The Underground Railroad review was made after playing the game five times


What is Freedom: The Underground Railroad?

In Freedom: The Underground Railroad, your goal is to help end slavery in North America by moving slaves from plantations in the south to Canada. You must evade slave catchers, gain support, raise funds, and make sure things keep moving along as more slaves are brought into the plantations.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad was created by Brian Mayer and published by Academy Games.


Freedom: The Underground Railroad Gameplay

freedom the underground railroad board game review

Everyone selects role cards at the beginning of Freedom: The Underground Railroad, which tell you the special abilities that you will have throughout the game. Together you need to move slaves – represented by cubes – from plantations in the south across the United States and into Canadian territory.

During the slave catchers’ turn, they make a random movement based on the roll of a die. The slave catchers move if their color is rolled and will catch slaves if they end up on the same space. When slaves are caught, they are moved to the Slave Market. If the Slave Market is full, then those slaves are “lost” and are moved to the Slaves Lost card. If the Slaves Lost card is ever filled up, then the players have lost.

Players need to be fundraising, gaining support tokens, and gaining conductor tokens throughout the game. You also want to use some of your actions to buy cards, which can help you accomplish your goals faster. If the players do not move enough slaves across the border within eight turns, win enough support, or lose too many slaves, they lose the game.

That’s a very brief overview of the game. If you want to learn exactly how to play Freedom: The Underground Railroad, check out the official rulebook (PDF).



Pros

  • This is a very thematic game. The detail in which the historical information is integrated into the game is very impressive, and tastefully done. It’s great that the cards come out during the right time periods and that the text on the cards lets you know who each of the people are and how they impacted the movement. It’s educational, but it definitely isn’t boring!
  • There’s also plenty of cooperation. The theme makes everyone want to work cooperatively to save as many slaves as possible. It’s the Pandemic effect times 10 since you know that these terrible things happened in real life and you really don’t want to let the bad guys beat you.
  • The game has a nice, distinctive look to it. It’s not flashy, which is good, but the images on the cards really do help to get people into the game. Plus, the tokens blend really well with the board to keep that uniform look.
  • Freedom: The Underground Railroad has plenty of replayability. The puzzle is going to be different every game, so even if you beat it, you aren’t guaranteed to beat it again since the randomness will ensure that each game plays out differently.
  • It also scales really well for different player counts. You save different numbers of slaves and you make other minor changes during setup to ensure that the game is equally challenging at all player counts.

Cons

  • This is a difficult game to beat, which some people won’t like. People who have played and enjoyed other difficult cooperative games will probably love the challenge, but newcomers might want to check out some other games first.
  • Some folks also won’t like how the card randomness can impact the game. For example, you can draw some cards at the perfect time to set up a win, but those wins might not feel as great because the cards weren’t really part of your strategy. For the most part the games are intense and satisfying, but that little bit of randomness can dull the experience a bit.
  • The theme in Freedom: The Underground Railroad might not work for some people. This game covers a very dark part of human history, which does take some time to adjust to. There were two people in my group who liked the game for the most part, but they hated the fact that they had to “sacrifice” some slaves to save the others.

Final Thoughts

Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a solid educational co-op game that deals with a really heavy time period. If you enjoy (or like the idea of playing) historical games and/or ones that make you work hard for your victory, this will be right up your alley. It might not be a game that you will play a lot, but it’s a cooperative game that most people would be happy to own.


Freedom: The Underground Railroad Links

BoardGameGeek | Amazon | CoolStuffInc | eBay


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