Dawn of Freedom


Designed by Ted Torgerson & Jason Matthews

Available from GMT Games

MSRP $65.00

1989 was a year in which the life of many people around the world changed forever. It was a time when the cold war was ending and new governments and nations were forming. The events of 1989 were to have profound effects on the world that are still felt today.

This was a time that was the historical turning point for Eastern Bloc nations. There were waves of revolutions that started in Poland and ended two years later with the Soviet Union dissolved. Collectively, all of these actions became known as the Revolutions of 1989.

What follows are key events that occurred in 1989 affecting the Eastern Bloc nations. These events were taken from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.

January 18 – The Polish United Workers Party votes to legalize Solidarity

February 2 – Soviet war in Afghanistan: The last Soviet Union armored column leaves Kabul, ending 9 years of military occupation.

March 1 – A curfew is imposed in Kosovo, where protests continue over the alleged intimidation of the Serb minority.

March 27 – The first contested elections for the Soviet parliament result in losses for the Communist Party.

April 7 – The Soviet submarine K-278 Komsomolets sinks in the Barents Sea, killing 41.

April 17 – Poland, Solidarity was again legalized and allowed to participate in semi-free elections on June 4.

April 21 – Students from Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and Nanjing begin protesting in Tiananmen Square.

May 2 – The first crack in the Iron Curtain: Hungary dismantles 150 miles (240 km) of barbed wire fencing along the border with Austria.

May 20 – Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: The Chinese government declares martial law in Beijing.

May 30 – Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: The 10 m (33 ft) high Goddess of Democracy statue is unveiled in Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators.

June 4 – The Tiananmen Square massacre takes place in Beijing on the army’s approach to the square, and the final stand-off in the square is covered live on television.

Solidarity’s victory in Polish elections is the first of many anti-communist revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989.

June 16 – A crowd of 250,000 gathers at Heroes Square in Budapest for the historic reburial of Imre Nagy, the former Hungarian prime minister who had been executed in 1958.

July 9–July 12 – U.S. President George H. W. Bush travels to Poland and Hungary, pushing for U.S. economic aid and investment.

August 19 – Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski nominates Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to be Prime Minister, the first non-communist in power in 42 years.

August 23 – Two million indigenous people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, then still occupied by the Soviet Union, join hands to demand freedom and independence, forming an uninterrupted 600 km human chain called the Baltic Way.

Hungary removes border restrictions with Austria.

September 10 – The Hungarian government opens the country’s western borders to refugees from the German Democratic Republic.

September 14 – An agreement of cooperation between Leningrad oblast (Russia) and Nordland County (Norway) is signed in Leningrad, by chairmen Lev Kojkolainen and Sigbjørn Eriksen.

October 9 – In Leipzig, East Germany, protesters demand the legalization of opposition groups and democratic reforms.

October 18 – The Communist leader of East Germany, Erich Honecker, is forced to step down as leader of the country after a series of health problems.

October 23 – The Hungarian Republic is officially declared by president Mátyás Szűrös (replacing the Hungarian People’s Republic).

November 7 – Cold War: The Communist government of East Germany resigns, although SED leader Egon Krenz remains head of state.

November 9 – Cold War: Günter Schabowski accidentally states in live broadcast press conference that new rules for traveling from East Germany to West Germany will be put in effect “immediately”. East Germany opens checkpoints in the Berlin Wall, allowing its citizens to travel freely to West Germany for the first time in decades (November 17 celebrates Germans began tearing the wall down).

November 10 – After 45 years of Communist rule in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Communist Party leader Todor Zhivkov is replaced by Foreign Minister Petar Mladenov, who changes the party’s name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

November 17 – Cold War – Velvet Revolution: A peaceful student demonstration in Prague, Czechoslovakia is severely beaten back by riot police. This sparks a revolution aimed at overthrowing the Communist government (it succeeds on December 29).

November 20 – Cold War – Velvet Revolution: The number of peaceful protesters assembled in Prague, Czechoslovakia swells from 200,000 the day before to an estimated half-million.

November 28 – Cold War – Velvet Revolution: The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announces they will give up their monopoly on political power (elections held in December bring the first non-communist government to Czechoslovakia in more than 40 years).

December 1 – Cold War: East Germany’s parliament abolishes the constitutional provision granting the Communist-dominated SED its monopoly on power. Egon Krenz, the Politburo and the Central Committee resign 2 days later.

December 10 – Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj announces the establishment of Mongolia’s democratic movement, that peacefully changes the second oldest communist country into a democratic society.

December 17 – The Romanian Revolution begins in Timişoara when rioters break into the Committee Building and cause extensive vandalism. Their attempts to set the buildings on fire are foiled by military units.

December 21 – Nicolae Ceausescu addresses an assembly of some 110,000 people outside the Romanian Communist Party HQ in Bucharest. The crowd begins to protest against Ceausescu and he orders in the army to attack the protesters.

December 22 – After a week of bloody demonstrations, Ion Iliescu takes over as president of Romania, ending the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu, who flees his palace in a helicopter to escape inevitable execution after the palace was invaded by rioters. The Romanian troops, who the day before had followed Ceausescu’s orders to attack the demonstrators, change sides and join the uprising.

December 23 – Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu are captured in Târgoviște.

December 25 – Romanian leader Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena are executed by military troops after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.

December 29 – Václav Havel is elected president of Czechoslovakia.As you can see, there were a large number of events that occurred which spelt the downfall of the Communist Eastern Bloc Nations.

You can see from this timeline, that once events began to unfold, they took on a momentum of their own that caused communist leaders to be deposed and nations to become democratic. Even today, we are still feeling the effects as the nations’ continue to grow economically, while finding their national pride and becoming one with the world. 1989 Dawn of Freedom explores this tumultuous beginning and provides players with an insight to the dynamics of what occurred during this historic year.

The Game Components

As you have come to expect from GMT Games, the components that make up the games’ contents are of exceptionally high quality. In 1989 Dawn of Freedom you receive;

  • Two Countersheets
  • A Rules Booklet
  • A 22” x 34” mounted map
  • Two Player Aid Cards
  • 110 Strategy Cards
  • 52 Power Struggle Cards
  • Two 6 sided dice


The Game Map

First of all, I want to state right from the beginning, that 1989 Dawn of Freedom is truly a fascinating game. While it may appear to be a complex game with a long learning curve, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not that it is a simple game, but if you follow the Rule Book, and Turn Sequence, and read the detailed example of play, it really clarifies most questions that you may encounter.

The gorgeous map is divided into six countries which are;

  • East Germany
  • Poland,
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Hungary
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria

There are spaces in a country on the map that represent not only geographic locations, but they also represent various Socio-economic segments of that countries society. The Socio-Economic icons that you may see on the map are;

Elite Space – (Limousine) The power elite of the communist society.


  • Bureaucrat – (star) these spaces represent those that are beneath the Power Elite but run the day-to-day operations of the socialist state.
  • Farmer – (sickle) these spaces represent the rural areas of the country.
  • Worker – (hammer) these spaces represent the largest portion of the population.
  • Intellectual – (typewriter) these spaces represent dissidents who provide leadership and a voice to democratic movements.
  • Student – (victory sign) these spaces represent the students who are the vanguard of protest against the regimes.
  • Church – (church) these spaces represent the religious institutions.
  • Minority – (Muslim Crescent and the Szekely Sun and Moon) these spaces represent important minority groups.

As you can see on the map, the name of the population center is noted as well as the type of space it represents.

Other important pieces of game play information that are on the map are the spaces Stability Number, whether or not the space is a Battleground space, and the interconnected lines. The Stability Number that is located in the upper right hand corner tells the player how much support is necessary to control the space. Support points are gained when a player plays a card. Battle Ground spaces are the ones that have a multi-colored background. When you control a Battle Ground space special rules come into play for country scoring. The Lines between the spaces interconnect once space with another which allows players to place Support Points in adjacent spaces that they control.

Finally, there are the Scoring Boxes. The scoring Box provides the player with the Countries Scoring Values once they control that country.


The Turn Sequence

You would think that a game that is a Socio-Economic simulation would be a long game with a complex Sequence of Play. However, in the case of 1989 Dawn of Freedom, you would be wrong. First of all, the game is only 10 turns in length. Next, a typical Sequence of Play during a turn can be a minimum of 4 steps and as many as 7 steps, with a few steps possibly having multiple phases. Lastly, mix in a very interactive Card Driven game design and you have the making of a game that is easy to learn, not overly complex, and a blast to play.

The Turn Sequence of a typical game turn is as follows;

  • Deal Strategy Cards
  • Play Action Rounds
  • Make Extra Support Check (if applicable)
  • Verify Held Cards
  • Celebrate New Year’s Eve Party (if applicable)
  • Advance Turn Marker
  • Calculate Final Scoring (after turn 10)

Action Rounds

At the start of each game turn, each player is dealt cards so that the total size of their hand is 8 cards. Once both players have their cards, we move to the Action Rounds. The Communist Player is always the first player in the Action Round. During an Action Round a player plays one card from his hand and performs the actions that are on the card. Following this, play then alternates to the other player and he plays one card and performs the actions. This Action Round alternates back and forth so that each player executes a total of 7 rounds. Once the 7 rounds are completed, play then proceeds to the next phase in the Turn Sequence.


The Cards

There are 110 Strategy Cards and 52 Power Struggle Cards that can be used in this game. Typically a player receives Support Points when a Strategy card is played during an Action Round. These Support Points are used to control spaces. To control a space a player must have more the Stability Number plus the number of Support Points you opponent has in the space. So, if the Stability Number of a space is 3 and each player has 2 Support Points in the space, as soon as one player has 5 Support Points in that space they control that space.

Country Scoring is based on the controlling of spaces. If a player controls at least once space in a country it is said to have a Presence. A player is Dominant in a country if he controls more spaces and more Battleground spaces than the Opponent. Control of a country occurs when a player not only controls more spaces than their opponent, but also controls all of the Battleground spaces in that country. Victory Points are awarded for every Battleground Space that a player controls.

There are 52 Power Struggle Cards that are used in the game. The Power Struggle deck comes into play whenever a countries Scoring Card is played from the Strategy Card deck. One thing that you must remember about the Scoring Card is that it must be played on the turn that it is dealt. If it is left over at the end of the turn that player immediately loses the game. There is a 5 step process for resolving Power Struggles. These 5 steps are;

  • Deal Cards
  • Raise the Stakes (Optional)
  • Play Cards One At A Time
  • Aftermath – Penalties and Rewards
  • Scoring

While Power Struggles occur intermittently in the game, they can have far reaching effects that can directly affect which side will come out victorious.

Victory Conditions

There are four different ways in which a player can win a game of 1989 Dawn of Freedom. The four Victory Conditions are;

  • A player Scores 20VP’s
  • An illegal card is held when Verifying Cards
  • New Year’s Eve Party conditions are met
  • Final Scoring based on countries

As with all of the other facets of this game, the Victory Conditions may sound simple to achieve, but working towards them is all the fun of the game.


As you can imagine, it is the interaction of the cards that are played that make this game so engaging and interesting. It is the see saw action and the strategy in which players play the cards that makes the game exciting. When I first saw the title for this game, it didn’t excite me. However, having played a few rounds I can tell you it is a unique game that is easy to learn and one that will take years to master. If you are a grognard and want to look at a different type of game I can tell you that you will not be disappointed. I never thought that I would say that a Socio-Economic game is stimulating, engaging, challenging, and because of the back and forth interplay exciting as either the Democrats or Communists try to rule the Eastern Bloc Nations. Can you change history?

Available from GMT Games