Friedemann Friese


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Following his long going "Friday"-project, Friedemann Friese is spending time on fridays to create special games, and after the 2010-release Schwarzer Freitag (KOSMOS) he is now publishing his newest "Friday"-game Freitag under his own label 2F-SPIELE.

The game's name is based on Robinson's companion Friday from the book of Daniel Defoe, and the one and only player in this game takes the role of that character who is helping Robinson to leave the island where he was stranded. So Friedemann Friese has indeed designed a pure solo-game, and this seems to be a quite audacious move because many solo games which were released over the years could not meet the expectations and demands of the gaming market. Indeed, apart from Steve Jackson's and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy books solo games were most successful in the sphere of wargames, and here VICTORY GAMES' classic Ambush! spings to my mind as a quite perfect blending of a boardgame and a paragraph book. However, leaving the world of cosims aside, good solitaire versions of modern games are hard to come by, and as the Robot-version included in the first expansion for Race for the Galaxy has shown an author must be quite inventive to create a working set of solo rules with a good replay value.

Now it's Friedemann Friese's turn to prove whether he was able to create a solo game which offers a special kick which results in a high replay value, and as indicated he has taken the setting for his game from Daniel Defoe's classic story. And as deckbuilding games have found a growing followership after the initial release of Dominion, Friedemann's Freitag also comes as a modern deckbuilding variant, with the player starting out with a deck of 18-Robinson cards and 20 Lifepoints to face the dangers of his lonely isle.

The central mechanism of the game is fairly easy to grasp. Each turn the player draws two Danger cards from a randomly shuffled deck, chooses one of these cards for discarding and faces the remaining card. The deck of Danger cards is 30 cards strong, and each of these cards actually possesses three different strength values, because the cards get stronger when the deck of Danger cards is exhausted for the first and the second time. After choosing a danger card, the player may start to reveal Robinson cards from his deck, and here the maximum number of cards which may be revealed for free corresponds to yet another value which can be found on the chosen Danger card. Each Robinson card revealed by the player possesses its own strength value, and if the combined strength values of all revealed Robinson cards are higher than the strength of the Danger card the danger is considered to be overcome. In this case the card is placed onto the discard pile of Robinson cards together with the Robinson cards used this turn, and when the player should draw this card at a later point after reshuffling his Robinson cards he will be entitled to use the beneficial effects shown on the lower half of the card.

However, while this streamlined approach sounds fairly easy, such an easy solving of a Danger card is rarely the case in this game. Quite the opposite, the initial cards included in the Robinson deck often have quite low strength values, and so the player will need to use the special effects which can also be found on most Robinson cards. Thus, while facing the current Danger card the player is entitled to use once each special effect which can be found on his revealed Robinson cards, and here the beneficial effects may reach from gaining additional cards or Lifepoints to doubling a card's strength value or the exchange of revealed cards with new cards from the deck. Quite a few different special effects exist, and so a clever, well-timed use of such effects might tip the scales in the player's favour when facing a Danger card.

If the situation cannot be saved just by using card effects and strength values, the player also may choose to give up one or more of his Lifepoints, and in this case he will be entitled to draw one additional card for each Lifepoint which is spent. Lifepoints also are lost when the player looses the contest with the Danger card, but under certain circumstances even this situation might be helpful. Thus, the Danger card may not be taken and added to the deck of Robinson cards if the player cannot overcome it, but on the other hand the player may destroy cards from his hand up to the value of the Lifepoints which were spent.

It might sound strange at this point to talk about the destruction of cards from the player's own deck of Robinson cards, but during the course of the game the player will not only accumulate helpful cards by overcoming Danger cards, but also a negative "Clumsy Fellow" card will be drawn and added to the deck whenever it is used up and must be reshuffled. As fate falls, our Robinson tends to be quite unadept a the task of survival, and so these "Clumsy Fellow" cards actually display a negative strength value which must be substracted from the player's total strength if this card is drawn. Thus, the player will look for a possibility to get rid of such a card, and here it comes handy that cards may be discarded if a Danger card is not overcome.

Independent of the question whether the Danger is overcome, the player will begin his next turn in exactly the same fashion by revealing two new Danger cards from the deck, and once again he chooses one card which he wishes to face this turn. As indicated, the Danger cards get stronger each time their deck needs reshuffling, and when the deck is used up for a third and last time the player has reached the endgame. Now two very strong Pirate ship cards will appear at the horizon, and the player will need to face these two Pirate ships in exactly the same manner as any other Danger cards. However, due to the great strength value found on the Pirate ships, the player needs to be prepared for their arrival, and so he should have increased his decks' performance by the removal of "Clumsy Fellow" cards and the solving of Danger cards with good benefits.

Apart from the exact order of the shuffled decks of Robinson and Danger cards all other information is permanently available to the player, and so the game is not a contest for the player's memory but instead a challenge to make the best of the situation found each turn. Thus, it is quite important that the player ponders the order in which he wants to use the special effects of the Robinson cards revealed during the current turn, and often more than one approach may be found to deal with the currently faced problem. However, it needs a bit of experience to decide which move might be the wisest, and so a newcomer player does well to play his first game of Freitag at the beginner's level.

After a victory at that level the player can slowly increase his challenge by adding additional cards with detrimental effects and reducing his maximum amount of Lifepoints, and these simple adjustments result in a quite demanding challenge especially in the expert game (fourth and highest level). Keeping in mind that Freitag is intended for solo play, the possibility to make the game harder was a great idea to guarantee a longer enjoyment for the player, because my experience with older solo games has shown that a game without a real challenge quickly will loose all player interest.

While the naive graphics used in Freitag can be described as being rather homespun, the rules and playability of the game are situated at a much higher level. Friedemann indeed succeeded in creating a solitaire game which offers a variable degree of difficulty while at the same time keeping true to the chosen background story, and overall the game can be recommended without reservations for all situations where no other person is available to join a game.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany