Freedom: The Underground Railroad

Freedom: The Underground Railroad – A Journey Through History and Strategy


Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a unique and engaging board game that takes players back to the era of the American abolitionist movement. The game is a cooperative experience, where players work together to help slaves escape from the South to Freedom in Canada. The game is not only a fun and challenging strategy game, but also an educational tool that provides a glimpse into a significant period in American history.

The game was designed by Brian Mayer and published by Academy Games. It is designed for 1 to 4 players, aged 10 and up, and typically takes between 1 to 2 hours to play. The game components include a game board depicting the United States in the 1800s, cards representing abolitionists and slave catchers, wooden cubes representing slaves, and tokens representing money and support.

Rules for playing Freedom: The Underground Railroad

The rules of Freedom: The Underground Railroad are straightforward but offer a depth of strategy. The goal of the game is to free a certain number of slaves, depending on the number of players, and to generate enough support to pass the amendment to abolish slavery. The game is lost if too many slaves are lost or if time runs out before the amendment is passed.

  1. Each player takes a turn in clockwise order, starting with the first player.
  2. On their turn, a player can take two actions from the following options: purchase an abolitionist card, move a slave, or generate support.
  3. After all players have taken their turns, a slave catcher moves towards the nearest slave, potentially capturing them.
  4. Then, new slaves are added to the plantations in the South, and a new round begins.

While these are the official rules, players can also introduce ‘house rules’ to adjust the difficulty or add new challenges.

How do you play Freedom: The Underground Railroad


The game board is placed in the center of the table, with the abolitionist deck shuffled and placed on its designated spot. The slave catcher tokens are placed on their starting locations, and the slave cubes are placed on the plantations. Each player chooses a role card and takes the corresponding tokens.


Players take turns performing actions, trying to move slaves from the plantations to Freedom in Canada while avoiding the slave catchers. They can also purchase abolitionist cards, which provide various benefits such as additional actions, money, or support.

End of the Game

The game ends when either the players have freed the required number of slaves and generated enough support to pass the amendment, or when time runs out or too many slaves are lost. If the players achieve their goals, they win; otherwise, they lose.

How to Win at Freedom: The Underground Railroad

Winning at Freedom: The Underground Railroad requires careful planning and cooperation. Here are some strategies that can help players win the game:

  1. Coordinate Actions: Players should discuss their plans and coordinate their actions to maximize their efficiency. For example, one player could focus on moving slaves, while another focuses on generating support.
  2. Use Abolitionist Cards Wisely: Abolitionist cards can provide powerful benefits, but they also cost money. Players should carefully consider which cards to purchase and when to use them.
  3. Manage Resources: Money and support are limited resources that need to be managed carefully. Players should try to balance their spending between freeing slaves and generating support.
  4. Avoid Slave Catchers: Slave catchers can capture slaves and set back the players’ progress. Players should try to avoid them whenever possible, using actions or abolitionist cards to move slaves out of their path.

Best Strategies for playing Freedom: The Underground Railroad game

While the strategies mentioned above can help players win the game, there are also some more advanced strategies that can give players an edge:

  1. Plan Ahead: Players should try to plan their actions several turns in advance, taking into account the potential movements of the slave catchers and the arrival of new slaves.
  2. Take Risks: Sometimes, it may be necessary to take risks, such as moving a slave through a risky route to free up space for other slaves. However, these risks should be calculated and taken only when necessary.
  3. Adapt to the Situation: The game can change quickly, with new slaves arriving and slave catchers moving unpredictably. Players should be ready to adapt their plans to the changing situation.
  4. Use Role Abilities: Each role has a unique ability that can be very useful. Players should make sure to use their role’s ability to its fullest potential.

Scenarios for Freedom: The Underground Railroad

During the game, players may find themselves in various scenarios, both good and bad. Here are some examples and how to handle them:

  1. Scenario: A slave catcher is close to a group of slaves. Solution: Use an abolitionist card or a role ability to move the slaves out of the catcher’s path, or to move the catcher away.
  2. Scenario: There are not enough slaves in Canada to win the game, and time is running out. Solution: Focus on moving as many slaves as possible to Canada, even if it means taking risks.
  3. Scenario: There is not enough support to pass the amendment. Solution: Purchase and use abolitionist cards that generate support, and use actions to generate support.
  4. Scenario: There is not enough money to purchase abolitionist cards. Solution: Use actions to generate money, and be selective about which cards to purchase.

Gameplay Themes in Freedom: The Underground Railroad

Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a board game that provides an immersive experience into the historical period of the abolitionist movement in the United States during the 19th century. The gameplay themes revolve around the concepts of freedom, courage, sacrifice, and teamwork.

1. Freedom: The game’s core theme is freedom, reflecting the historical struggle of slaves to gain freedom from bondage. Players work together, planning and executing dangerous missions to help slaves escape from the Southern plantations and reach freedom in Canada. The game’s mechanics emphasize the importance and value of freedom, including the risks individuals are willing to take to achieve it.

2. Courage: The gameplay also highlights the courage of the slaves and the abolitionists who risked their lives to help them. These risks come in the forms of slave catchers, who roam the board trying to catch and return runaway slaves, and the potential for public opinion to turn against the abolitionist cause. This theme of courage is prevalent in the tough decisions that players must make to ensure the safety of the slaves.

3. Sacrifice: The theme of sacrifice is emphasized throughout the game as players often have to make difficult choices, such as sacrificing certain resources or risking capture to achieve a greater goal. This reflects the real-life sacrifices made by those involved in the Underground Railroad, who often risked their lives and livelihoods for the cause of freedom.

4. Teamwork: The game is a cooperative one, requiring players to work together closely to achieve their shared goal of freeing the slaves. This theme mirrors the cooperative nature of the Underground Railroad itself, with its network of people working together to guide slaves to freedom. Teamwork is essential for success in the game, as players must coordinate their actions, share resources, and plan their strategies together.

5. Empathy: The game also fosters empathy by putting players in the shoes of the abolitionists and the runaway slaves. By experiencing their struggles and challenges in a game setting, players gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the historical events and moral dilemmas surrounding the Underground Railroad.

6. Historical Awareness: The game’s theme aims to increase awareness and understanding of a significant period in American history. The game incorporates historical facts and figures, providing an educational experience for players.

In sum, the gameplay themes of Freedom: The Underground Railroad are designed to not only entertain but also educate players about the history and significance of the Underground Railroad. It encourages players to reflect on the values of freedom, courage, sacrifice, and teamwork that were crucial during this historical period.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Freedom: The Underground Railroad game

Question: Can I move a slave catcher? Answer: Yes, some abolitionist cards and role abilities allow you to move a slave catcher.

Question: Can I purchase an abolitionist card and use it on the same turn? Answer: Yes, you can purchase a card and use it on the same turn.

Question: What happens if a slave catcher reaches a slave? Answer: The slave is captured and removed from the game, and the players lose support.

Question: Can I play the game solo? Answer: Yes, the game can be played solo, with the player taking on multiple roles.

Question: How long does the game take to play? Answer: The game typically takes between 1 to 2 hours to play.

For more information about Freedom: The Underground Railroad, visit the official game website here.