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This is the second game in GMT's "COIN" series (COIN = COunterINsurgent), the first being the acclaimed ANDEAN ABYSS.

CUBA LIBRE (FREE CUBA I believe) is the game of Castro's insurgency and thus, of course, depicts the famous headshot of
Che Guevara on the Rules Booklet. The game is designed by Jeff Grossman and Volko Ruhnke and published by GMT.

Sorry, I am getting ahead of myself.  The box art looks like an oil painting and is quite unique in its depth and perception; Castro
stands out, almost in 3D when viewed from a distance. Also before opening you will notice the weight; the box is heavy which is
often known to give the impression of lots of components and of course this is also relative to the rrp: £55.00

            

On opening the box indeed does look full to the brim, but once you have removed the Playing Area (Board), 2 booklets, Rules and
Play Book, one sheet of solid card die-cut counters and the 7 Player Aid cards what remains is a deck of cards and a bag of bits. Oh
there is also a number of zip-loc bags that allow the pieces and counters to be stored separately and safely. The box itself is bulked
up with a folded card insert. The box itself is both heavy and deep (insert excepted) allowing for future expansions perhaps ?

CUBA LIBRE is for 1 - 4 players; the sides being The Government, M26 (or 26July), Directorio (or DR) and the Syndicate, being
either the Government or M26 when playing solo where the idea is to prevent any of the non-player factions from winning.                          

                      

There are 4 Player Aids, one for each player, that are very well organised and documented with necessary game-play information.
The other 3 Player Aids mentioned in the Component list are a Sequence of Play / Random Space Die Decision Sheet and 2  Non
Player Reference Sheets that have 4 sections, one section for each Faction. Heavy duty card stock and clear printing as well as being
easy to follow and use make these reference sheets of major import to both new and experienced players.
 

                                

The Map board keeps up with the quality of GMY game components by being of extremely good, strong, heavy card and nicely appointed
with clear player area boxes located around the edges. The map is of Cuba split into several spaces, each of a different sort - Provinces,
Urban Cities, Economic Centres each of which show either Population or Economic value.


The above illustration shows the wooden pieces that are used for the various Forces - there is a limit to the number of these that may be in play
and this is listed as a Chart on the back of the Rules booklet. This back page also contains the General setup, Deck Preparation and Standard
and Variable Deployment of the Markers and Forces.

For my first game I tried playing solo and although the mechanic works well enough I didn't find it satisfying; this is an indictment of myself and
not of the game. I liked the idea of the Cuban revolution, Castro and Guevara against Batista and wanted it to be a good challenge. I found out about
myself that I am not disciplined enough to enjoy solo play as such, but I did find the notes to be an invaluable history lesson
Although I have never seen myself as the Guevara  type I was a little disappointed  that there are no playing pieces to represent these giants of revolution,
though amongst the deck of cards there are El Che, Echeverria, Meyer Lansky and Anastasia with the omission of Castro and Luciano but to the delight
of many, the introduction of Sinatra, mainly of course because the Syndicate are all about making money and thus Casinos are amongst their greatest
assets.

Two player games are more cat and mouse, and three or four player games are good because there everyone is out to win for themselves and there are no
real advantages for collectively binding together and picking on a single player - the cause for winning is different enough in each case that cooperative
play to begin with doesn't work, at least not with the back-stabbing guys I play with.

The rules themselves are quite difficult to comprehend without experience in the COIN series, thus no matter how many players there are it is most sensible
to begin by not opening the Rules  booklet but instead starting with Page 2 (inside cover) of the Play Booklet. Here you will find the complete walkthrough
on how to setup and how to play, only every so often are you required to read a paragraph or section from the Rules before continuing with the tutorial.

The game is card driven to a point and as such there is one deck of Event cards plus 4 Propaganda cards. Instead of players having a hand of cards though 2
cards from the prepared deck are shown face up, one for the current turn and the next to allow you to perhaps plan for the following turn. Because some of
the cards are useful to more than one of the Factions players often have the dilemna as to whether to use the first Event card or wait and use the second. Of
course this also means that the game can slow down as players tend to take time weighing up their options and the options open to other players who may
find the card of use, especially with 3 or 4 players. If you have already played Andean Abyss then you will have a good idea of how the game system plays,
therefore the authors have included a summary page that outlines the differences between COIN 1 Andean Abyss and COIN 2 Cuba Libre.

Reading some articles and books on the history of this period of Cuban change as well as the potted history provided in the Design Notes (Play Booklet) will
give you a good idea of the tactics and strategies you should be looking to emulate. The game allows for you to be forceful and diplomatic (less on the latter)
and with the differences and personal goals between the 4 Factions there is a lot of scope for many different games and outcomes. Whether it is the way we
play or approach each situation or whether it is the really good way the rules have been written to allow players to learn as they play and then flow with the
game I am not sure but we have yet to find a regularly dominant winning Faction.

This is a far more interesting period than most people would give it credit for, and this is emphasised very well throughout the rules, play book and history.

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© Chris Baylis 2011-2015