Friedemann Friese


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Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

The new game Famiglia by Friedeman Friese is a mafia game for two players. Compared to other games by publisher 2F Famiglia as a small, pure card game without a board is quite out of the ordinary. Famiglia comes in a small box which is designed like a cigar packet, alluding to the Mafia theme.

Each player controls a street gang and tries to recruit mighty gangsters from four different families. Consequently, all cards show the portraits of gangsters the players can recruit during the game to work for their gangs. The cards feature the well-known 2F art work. It is a quite funny comic style and each of the cards is a unique one. But 2F games are not only famous for their distinctive design - game author Friedeman Friese also enjoys a very good reputation as an inventor of clever game mechanisms which - once understood - allow the players to take major advantages. In my eyes, 2F games - although quite simple in general - all feature a certain clever spin and differ a lot from other games. Keeping this at the back of my mind, I was quite curious about playing this small card game Famiglia for the first time.


The rules of Famiglia are quite simple: At the beginning, each player gets a level 0 gangster from each of the four families. With the gangster cards in their hands, the players try to recruit more and stronger gangsters from the street. The street is a display of up to six gangster cards in the middle of the table and is open to all players. All gangsters have levels from 0 to 4.

In the real world, you might want to have a little chat with the gangsters, promise them more money or even buffalo them one way or the other in order to 'persuade' them to join your gang… However, Famiglia is just a game and the players interact perfectly civilized. In order to recruit a gangster from the street, the player has to play two identical gangster cards assigned to the very family the gangster he or she wants to recruit belongs to. These two cards must show gangsters who rank at least one level lower than the gangster the player wants to recruit. This means, a gangster with level 0 may be taken for free. This is important at the beginning of the game since - as you will remember - the players start with only one gangster from each of the families and hence are not able to present two gangsters from the same family in order to recruit a higher-level gangster from the street. If a gangster is successfully recruited, those two gangsters (cards) which helped with the recruitment are exhausted - this means, the player takes back only one of those gangster cards, the other card is discarded to the player's own storage in front of him or her and can only be picked up with help of a special action.

If you are successful as a Mafia boss, your gang should grow stronger and stronger in the course of the game since you will find ways to recruit more and more powerful gangsters. Starting with level 0 gangsters you will soon be able to recruit level 1 gangsters. If successful, you can hire level 2 gangsters with the help of your level 1 gangsters and so on. Finally, the player who commands the most powerful gang will win the game. The gangs are ranked according to the victory points of their members - the higher the level of the respective gangster, the more victory points the player receives.

So far, according to the above description the game seems to be rather simple and possibly a little boring. Well, this might indeed be the case if it wasn't for the different families' special skills. First, the Brutes: The members of this family have the ability to intimidate other gangsters in the street. This means, the player can play a gangster card featuring a member of the Brute family before the recruitment phase. As a result, the level of the gangsters in the street is temporarily reduced so that the player can recruit the intimidated gangsters with the help of two gangster cards the level of which might otherwise not have sufficed for recruiting the gangster in question. The family of the Bookkeepers allows the player to take back discarded gangster cards from his or her own storage. This ability is particularly useful as the game proceeds since it allows the player to quickly revive otherwise useless powerful gangster cards from the storage. The Mercenaries are to be considered a joker. This means, gangsters of this family may be played as gangsters belonging to any other family. And, finally, there is La Familia. Gangsters belonging to this family are the elite of all the gangsters and score higher than the gangsters of other families at the end of the game.


I have to admit that I was rather disappointed when I gave Famiglia the first try. At first glance, I did not realize what exactly was innovative about Famiglia and the game did not wow me at all. However, the subsequent heats impressed me much more because by then I had become familiar with the different families' special abilities and I was able to make strategic use of them, plan my next moves and the game became faster and more interesting. Nevertheless, I am still of the opinion that Famiglia does not hold ready many surprises and thus the game does not fully satisfy me. Surely, Famiglia is definitely worth a try - given the very fancy game design, the short duration and the easy to remember rules. From time to time, as a distraction between two other games or for a nightcap, when most of the guests (all except of one) have left the house, the game might come in handy. And, last but not least, the nice little box cuts quite a dash on the game shelf.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany