Live Free or Die House Rules for Big Base Liberators

Andrés Ferrari suggested I have a look at Live Free or Die: Tabletop Battles of the American Revolution. Not because I play the American Revolution, but because he thought these could be adapted to the South American Wars of Liberation. So I got the rules and now I have to figure out how to play them with my kit. The big question are my Big Bases but there are a few other points worth touching on so, where appropriate, I compare Live Free or Die to Liberators QPR because this is what the scenarios refer to. Using the concepts discussed here I have I’ve also written a Alternative Chacabuco Scenario for Live Free or Die.


In Liberators (Fletcher, 2005, 2006) units are classified as Peasant, Militia, Regular, Elite, and Guard. These map to the Live Free or Die ratings of 4th Class, 3rd Class, 2nd Class and 1st Class. There is no Live Free or Die equivalent for Guard, but I don’t see that as a problem as I wouldn’t rate any troops in the Americas like that.

Unit description Liberators Live Free or Die
Guard Guard N/A
Grenadier, Elite, Veteran Elite 1st Class
Regular Regular 2nd Class
Conscripts, Militia, 2nd Rate Militia 3rd Class
Untrained, mob, unformed mass Peasant 4th Class


In Live Free or Die, infantry can be in line or column or skirmish. Cavalry just have line and column. Artillery can be limbered or unlimbered. I can do those formations with my Big Bases.

But I’m missing the infantry square. This wasn’t a feature of the American Revolution but was a feature of the Peninsular War and the Liberators period. How about …

  • Squares can shoot from each side, either hasty (1d6) or volley (2d6) as circumstances dictate.
  • Squares get +3d6 in melee with cavalry
  • Artillery shoot at squares with +1d6

For Liberators, I typically field squadrons of cavalry as units rather than regiments. So 150-200 men and only one of my big bases. I think that is fine for Live Free or Die as the unit will just be in line all the time.


In Liberators (Fletcher, 2005, 2006) each figure is about 30 men. So infantry are about 90 men per base and cavalry are 60 men.

In Live Free or Die, each base is 50-75 men. Infantry units in this game have have 3 to 12 bases, with 6 being about average (about 375 men). Cavalry units have 2 or 3 bases. Artillery, Leaders and Lieutenants have one base.

Infantry fire 1d6 (hasty) or 2d6 (volley) per base when shooting. They roll 1d6 for every two bases in melee (rounded down).

A unit loses a base when it accumulates five DMZs.

So bases are a thing in Live Free or Die. Hmm, with my Big Bases all my infantry have two bases. So I’m going to need a way to track unit size separately from the bases. I can use my Resolve Markers from Tilly’s Very Bad Day. Or perhaps little skulls if I want to show losses. I also have numbered drops of blood and more generic numbered counters. So many choices. If I can print up unit labels, with the base size on them, I’ll go with the skulls – more dramatic.

Demoralization, disorganization, desertion (DMZs)

In Live Free or Die, DMZs reflect demoralization, disorganization, and desertion. DMZs are awarded due to the adverse results of shooting, melee, charging without contact, moving to the side or rear, moving through rough ground, interpenetration, turning about face (180 degrees), changing formation (Line to/from Column; Limbered to/from Unlimbered). Units recover DMZ through rallying by a leader and by redressing ranks. Accumulate five DMZs and you lose a physical base.

Right, problem, that means there are two currencies for the unit’s state: number of bases and DMZ. Mutter, mutter. Given DMZs can only go to up to 5 (and any more than that are ignored), I could use 1d6 for this. The Little Wars TV Learn to play Live Free or Die video, they used drops of blood for DMZs and I have some of those lying around. But I also have plain numbered counters. They’ll do … mainly because they are easy to find.

Leaders and Lieutenants

In Live Free or Die, Leaders command the army. They have a fixed number of command points and get a chance for more depending on their star rating. Fixed command points seem to range from 4 to 7.

Lieutenants are significant brigadiers or other officers. The scenarios seem to give each side a single Lieutenant, regardless of the number of brigades. Lieutenants get command points but only for those based on their star rating.

Star ratings seem to be 1 star, 2 stars or 3 stars. The star rating affects an attached unit for rallying, shooting, melee, and morale tests. For rallying, recover the star rating in DMZs. For infantry shooting (but not artillery shooting), add dice equal to the star rating. For melee and morale tests, add dice equal to the star rating.

Units with a leader do not suffer DMZ losses for movement complications.

In Liberators (Fletcher, 2005, 2006) generals are classified as abysmal, poor, average, good and excellent. Fletcher also offers some special rules for each general.

The follow table shows a likely mapping from Liberators QPR to Live Free or Die for the named South American generals.

Liberators Generals (Fire/Melee/Morale) Royalist Generals Patriot Generals Live Free or Die
Leader Fixed CP Star Rating
Excellent (4/4/4) 7 ***
Good (5/5/5) Colonel Jose Ordonñez (5/5/4; +1 initiative)
General Jeronimo Valdez (5/4/5)
General Jose Canterac (5/5/5; +1 initiative)
Brigadier General Joaquin de la Pezuela (8/8/51)
Lieutenant Colonel Diaz Velez (5/5/5; +1 Initiative)
General Jose de San Martin (5/5/5/; always sets up second)
6 ***
Average (6/6/6) Colonel Antonio Quintanilla (6/6/6) General Manuel Belgrano (6/6/6; -1 Initiative)
General Andres Santa Cruz (6/6/6)
Director General Ramon Freire (6/6/6)
Brigadier General Jose Manuel Borgoño (6/6/6)
5 **
Poor (7/7/7) Brigadier General Manuel Goyeneche (7/7/6)
Brigadier General Pio Domingo Tristan (7/7/7)
Brigadier General Rafael Maroto (7/7/7; -1 Initiative)
Mariscal Marco del Pont (7/7/8; -1 Initiative)
General Antonio Balcarce (7/7/7)
Brigadier General Jose Rondeau (7/7/7)
General Bernardo O’Higgins (7/5/7; attached automatically charges2)
General Rudecindo Alvarado (7/7/7)
Brigadier General Jose Miguel Carrera (7/7/7)
4 *
Abysmal (8/8/8) Brigadier General Mariano Ossorio (7/8/7; ; -1 Initiative; given as the example of “Abysmal”) 3 * or perhaps no stars

(1) Fletcher (2005) rates Pezuela as “Good”. Fletcher (2006) describes him as an “old man with a sharp mind” and downgrades his ratings to “Abysmal” (8/8/5) but with a compensating special ability. I think it is easier to count him as “Good”.
(2) O’Higgins was only a passable general but he was very brave. I like the idea that, in Live Free or Die, a unit he is attached to charges with no CP cost (normally 2 CP), although it still pays the movement cost.

Command Points

I’m going to need a way to track command points and/or the orders that result. The orders are:

  • Move Brigade
  • Move Regiment
  • Rally
  • Charge
  • Bayonet Charge

I have green and red arrows. Perhaps green is move and red is charge. Rally is obvious because the Leader or Lieutenant moves to the unit to rally.

Actually, the Little Wars TV Learn to play Live Free or Die video seems to just put dice next to the units under command.


Live Free or Die doesn’t have rules for multi-player games. The play tests on YouTube show that it is clearly expected and possible. But nothing explains how. So more the moment, just one player per side.

Where to get Live Free or Die

You can get the rule from Little Wars TV: Live Free or Die. This is what they have to say about the game:

Live Free or Die is a fast-playing, 4-page set of wargaming rules designed to allow players to fight the most famous battles of the American War of Independence. In this game, the regiment is the basic tactical maneuver element and the role played by heroic leaders is emphasized. Whether you’re a new player or veteran gamer, Live Free or Die is easily played from a single-sided quick reference sheet!

Live Free or Die are an updated version of a free set of rules that Andy Callan published in Wargames Illustrated in 1987, called Loose Files & American Scramble: Wargaming Battles of the American War of Independence. Callan’s article is available on-line.


Callan, A. (1987). Loose Files & American Scramble: Wargaming Battles of the American War of Independence. Wargames Illustrated, 1, p. 26-29. [Available on-line]

Fletcher, J. (2005). Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Fletcher, J. (2006). Liberators! Supplement 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Little Wars TV. (n.d.) Live Free or Die: Tabletop Battles of the American Revolution. Author.

7 thoughts on “Live Free or Die House Rules for Big Base Liberators”

  1. Thanks for mentioning me 🙂

    Of the three rulesets you’ve
    considered with Liberators, which would you say gives the best game? To me “best” means as fast paced as possible, focusing on fun and not on needless details, but with some period flavor (i.e. like Crossfire).

    I realize you probably haven’t played Live Free or Die yet, but what are your thoughts on QPR vs Liberators HoTT?

    • Well, we won’t play Live Free or Die again, we have stopped playing Liberators QPR, and although unhappy with them, we continue to play Liberators HOTT. But really none of them hit the spot for me.

      I have a pile of Napoleonics rules about 1 metre high and they could all be adapted. I have tried out a few e.g. 2 x 2 Napoleonics and March Attack. Plus I’ve done a lot of thinking about Lasalle. I’ve even had a go at converting Crossfire to Horse and Musket. But I’m not in a rush to do try any more out.

      I’m now tempted to write a version of Tilly’s Very Bad Day for this period. I’m pretty sure it could also cover the Carlist Wars and smaller actions in the Peninsular War.

  2. Hi Steven,

    I read this post when you first put it up and enjoyed it, as I usually do.

    Though the South American wars of liberation are not conflicts that I have any particular interest in, your comments about struggling to find a satisfying set of rules for the game set me thinking (because I’m a rules geek).

    By your accounts the battles are quite small, in terms of numbers involved, so maybe the usual black powder rulesets aren’t going to work well for them because they’re pitched a magnitude higher (many thousands) than the game you’re trying to create (many hundreds).

    Also, most of the crop of adaptable rulesets are a bit bland, whereas your descriptions of the battles and backgrounds have quite a cinematic storyline feel to them. A bit spaghetti western, perhaps?

    Taken together, those two thoughts led me to remember a set of rules that I first read about two or three years ago but only bought last year and, of course, still haven’t played. These are “Scum of the Earth”, by Ivan Sorensen aka Nordic Weasel Games.

    Here’s the brief description from the introductory section.

    “Scum of the Earth” is a set of tabletop war game rules covering quick, low level engagements in a “horse and musket” environment.
    The rules focus initially on the Napoleonic wars and American revolutionary war but could be extrapolated to many similar conflicts before and after.

    My main reasons for suggesting them as a possible option are that they’re deliberately written with smaller battles in mind, they’re quirky, like your setting, the mechanisms seem sound but Ivan’s rules are very tolerant of tweaking, a key feature of the rules is the ability to assign traits to units that are distinguishing characteristics.

    Now that was all I was going to say, especially as I’m not writing from experience, but then I remembered that Alan Saunders has tried them out several times and at least two games were in a Liberators setting. So I went over to Alan’s blog and dug out a few relevant links, in case that’s helpful. Here they are.

    Alan’s original review and test game, which is in a Liberators setting

    His second test game, also Liberators based

    Alan also has several other posts on the topic of these rules but these two are probably the most relevant for you.

    I’ll leave it there but I hope that’s helpful, or at least vaguely interesting.



  3. Good oh! 🙂

    By the way, I’ve just noticed that the current version of the DBA “Humberside Extension” rules (DBA HX 3.0) also covers these conflicts.

    If you don’t already know it, the Humberside Extension was originally developed by Tony Barr of the Humberside Wargames Club to extend DBA 1.1 into the gunpowder era. That incarnation kept pace with the development of DBA up to v2.2, I think. Development then stalled for a while but 5 or 6 years ago an enthusiastic DBA player in the Netherlands, Robert Madrigal (see his blog Storm within the Empire at did a lot of work to bring the amendments into line with DBA v3. That version is now available for download via the DBA enthusiasts forum, Fanaticus, or this link will take you to document on the Fanaticus Wiki Note, the link may not work if you aren’t regstered as a forum user.

    I realise you are likely already to have considered these and probably have them but I thought I’d add the details for other readers of the Balagan.




Leave a Reply