I figured I should wait until Friday to talk about Friedemann Friese’s solo deckbuilding game, Friday, which is a result of his Freitag blog project. Black Friday was also a product of this weekly endeavor, but I’ve only played it once and I was really really bad at it.
I’m not usually a big fan of solo games, but this one is an exception. Friday was published in 2011 and is available in the US through Rio Grande Games. I believe it may be the only game in my collection that was exclusively designed for solo play. A game will take less than half an hour, and shouldn’t be played by kids younger than 10, cause, you know, they cry and have jam on their hands.
Friday is a deckbuilding game where the player takes on the role of Robinson, who must survive the perils of his island home and eventually fights some pirates and escape. I’ve never read Robinson Crusoe, otherwise I would make some witty literary remark here. (If you’ve read it and have a witty remark prepared, insert it here.) Ha ho! That’s rich.
Friday comes with 72 cards, which are slightly longer than a normal playing card; 22 life tokens that are shaped like a leaf, which are exactly the same height as a normal leaf shaped life token; and three player boards that feature some useful iconography. Setup is very simple and the rules are fairly well written. I would have appreciated a few more examples or a FAQ. Luckily, my friend Joe is a Friedemann Friese expert and was able to answer all of my questions. Thanks Joe!
Robinson begins with a deck of cards, called your fighting cards. This initial deck is very weak because Robinson is inexperienced. You use these fighting cards to deal with hazards from the predictably named hazard deck. The hazard cards, if defeated, become a part of your fighting deck, making you stronger and often giving you special abilities. If you do not defeat the hazard, then you must sacrifice life points; however, you can spend these life points to get rid of some of your weak cards. In the early part of the game, you will most likely choose to not defeat the hazard, just so you can thin out your deck. The only problem with a thin and efficient deck is that each time you reach the end of your deck, you must insert an aging card. These aging cards give you some major hindrances and are more expensive to get rid of than a regular card.
There are so many clever design features to this game! It’s all about balance and yet each choice seems important. Here are a few mechanisms that I think really make this game enjoyable:
- At the end of the game, Robinson must defeat two pirate ships. These two ships are chosen at random at the start of the game, and you get to look at them. You can tailor your strategy specifically to deal with this threat. I really like that. It gives me an immediate starting point, rather than just developing my strategy solely based on card draws.
- You get to draw two hazard cards and then choose which hazard you want to face. This not only allows you to make strategic choices but it also tells a story. I think that’s essential for a solo game. Do I fight the wild animals and learn to use a weapon, or do I fight and yet learn a valuable lesson? The weapon card is a reward from winning, and the lesson is the card that I may be able to remove from my deck after losing.
- You have to face the hazards in the hazard deck three times, and each time the hazards become more difficult. You are thinning out the hazard deck by defeating them and moving them into your fighting deck, but it’s very important to consider just what hazards you are leaving behind. If you always skip the difficult hazards, then you are more likely to find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place later, or in this case, between wild animals and cannibals.
Friday is really good. It doesn’t take that long to set it up. You have to make some good choices, but there is still enough randomness to keep things interesting and challenging. It’s well worth the small price point, and I recommend it highly.