Liberation – Button Shy Games – Review


Warning!!! Liberation is not a relaxing, kick back and relax game. I loved the way the tension ratchets up during game play. Each decision has a long term effect.

Mike Kerrey, Guest Writer


Publisher: Button Shy Games

Designer: Jon Simantov

Artist: Sara Beauvais

Game Type: Hand Management, Take That, Variable Player Powers, Area Control

Initial Year of Release: 2018

Age Range: 13+

Expected Playtime: 20-25 min

Number of Players: 2

Liberation - Button Shy Games - Review 1

Theme and What is it?

Liberation is a rebel vs the oppressive establishment space game.

The rebels are the Liberation while the establishment is the Dynasty.  Liberation takes on a Star Wars feel as the Liberation tries to move its secret base from planet to planet to evade the expanding Dynasty.

The Liberation uses stealth to survive.  The Dynasty uses brute force to occupy bases, launch attacks and expand its area of control.  

Liberation is an asymmetrical game of tension, area control and strategy.

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Gameplay Mechanics

Liberation is a wallet style game (4 cards make up the galaxy map and 14 city cards). Liberation packs a ton of strategic decisions in a quick 20 minute game.  

The four double sided map cards are shuffled and arranged in a 2×2 grid creating hundreds of possible map layouts.  Each map card contains three or four cities and connector lines within the card and across cards that connect connect cities.  These connections are critical to game play.

Most actions require you to expand, attack, occupy or move only between connected cities.  

Each city card contains a cool picture of the city and a Liberation mission and a Dynasty mission (color coded in gray and brown).  Most missions have a cost that is paid by discarding cards or turning an occupied city sideways which is called exploiting.

The Liberation’s base secretly occupies only one city which is kept face down.  The Liberation has an evade action which allows it to secretly move their base to a connected city.  Liberation also uses stealthy missions to set back the Dynasty’s expansion.

The Dynasty occupies cities by playing city cards face up.  The Dynasty’s power and area of control expands through the galaxy by occupying more and more cities.  

The game is over when either the city deck is gone through three times or the rebel base is attacked.  The Liberation wins if their base survives to the end of the game. The Dynasty wins by attacking the Liberation’s secret base.

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Initial Impressions

I was super excited to play my first wallet game as I love small box games.

At first, we had trouble kicking off the game and understanding the rules.  Liberation is quite possibly the most asymmetrical game I have played…which is very cool.  Asymmetrical means that each side has different actions/powers/ways of winning. We approached it like a normal game however…setup and read the rule book.  And struggled. Then we put aside the rule book and each of us just went from their own faction’s player guide and the game play took off!

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Game Build Quality

Liberation is my first Button Shy game and I was impressed with the quality of the cards and wallet.  Tiny does not mean poor quality. The 18 cards are of good thickness and slickness. With the wallet to protect them we should get years of fun play from the game.

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Artistic Direction

The cards are clean and bright.  Each card has a unique picture of a city or planet.  The pictures aren’t overwhelming so the information on the card stands out.

Card design is darn near perfect.  

For example – in addition to the city name each city also has a letter code (A, B, C etc).  This ties the city cards to the map and really aids in game play. It allows players to refer to their actions by a simple letter rather than having to pronounce futuristic city names.  

Also the color coding of Liberation versus Dynasty missions and rules is a huge benefit for game play.

Creating a unique player guide for each player was a stroke of design genius.  It greatly simplifies learning and playing Liberation. The color coding continues through the player guides.

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Fun Factor

Warning!!! Liberation is not a relaxing, kick back and relax game.  I loved the way the tension ratchets up during game play. Each decision has a long term effect.  

For example – the Dynasty increases its power and area of control by occupying cities (playing city cards face up).  However each occupied city reduces the number of cards in the city draw pile which reduces the amount of time the Dynasty has to stop the Liberration.  So each time the Dynasty increases its power it also reduces time it has to find the Liberation.

The fun comes from surviving and outwitting your opponent.  A true hide and seek game on a galactic scale delivered in a tiny wallet.

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Age Range & Weight

Simplicity of design produced a game that my 10 year old grandson could play with ease and have a lot of fun.  

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Don’t be fooled by the small package size – Jon Simantov packed a ton of fun and strategy into 18 cards.  Our first game was fun. And that level of fun increased with every game we played. Liberation earned a place in my backpack.  

Liberation is one of those games where I finish a game and rethink my strategy and decisions.  I want to hop right back into this galaxy and start playing again.

Go Liberation! Boo Dynasty!


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