Freedom Fighters (1986)

OK, here’s another one. This is Freedom Fighters (1986), one of the last games released by Fantasy Games Unlimited. It was designed by the Keith brothers, who had previously produced a mountain of Traveller material for GDW, FASA, Gamelords and Digest. The introduction states an intention for complexity and realism. Eesh.

The root is pretty obviously Traveller, with character creation focusing on a randomly generated lifepath made of background terms, from which skills are derived. I can’t be bothered to dig too deeply into the 44 or so pages of combat rules, but they don’t actually seem egregious. They’re more than I want to deal with, but seem logical and don’t have any obvious spots where they might bog down. There are only five hit locations (less than RuneQuest!). On the other hand, there is a whole system that manages the simulation of verbal communication in place of just roleplaying it out, so I dunno. The verbal combat system is actually kind of entertaining, with a bunch of rhetorical maneuvers? I can’t imagine anyone actually using it though.

As with most of these types of games, I’m more interested in them as cultural objects. The campaign frame is scant (2.5 pages out of 208!) — the US has been conquered either by the Soviets and their allies (sort of like Red Dawn), an all-out alien invasion (a-la War of the Worlds) or a quiet alien invasion (like V or, later, They Live). In the face of this, players are tasked with fighting against tyranny to preserve the American way of life. This sort of thing seems to have been a cultural preoccupation in the ‘80s, but aside of some broad assumptions about the “American Way of Life,” the box set is weirdly free of the sort of Red Scare fear-mongering I expected. Rather, this seems to be an earnest attempt at taking a set of wargaming conditions the authors found interesting (they list many, many other occupations that could be used as a setting or could inform the main ones) and building an RPG out of them, without much concern for the political implications — it actually reminds me a bit of the COIN series of asymmetrical wargames from GMT in this regard. 

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