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Subject: It finally happened - and it was amazing! rss

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Dennis Ku
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It finally happened.

I got into "these" boardgames one day after my birthday in September 2005. In early 2006, I ordered Friedrich on a whim, thinking it would be fun. I remember looking at its info on BGG and thinking, "Hmm...looks like a fun game that might also teach me some history." Unfortunately, it never hit the table. It almost made it once, but I think Arkham Horror got in the way (what a horror!). Finally (FINALLY!), after some passive-aggressive coercion on BGG, I convinced DarkCelt to play it. Raize soon joined, as did my friend Aaron.

It finally happened. There may or may not be tears dropping onto the keyboard right now.

A few things before the review:

(1) It’s 12:42 a.m. EST according to my computer right now. It’s late, and we’ve shared a few beer and about a bottle and a half of whiskey. The only reason I’m doing this now is because I’ve waited so long to play the game that I don’t want to wait to write about it.

(2) I’ve only played it once. You don’t like reviewers of once-played games. I don’t care. This is special.

(3) This is going to be a session report and review rolled into one. I could get extra geek gold if I did it separately, but at this point in the evening, I can’t even believe my fingers are moving.

To kick things off, Friedrich is atypical when compared to your run-of-the-mill family or euro-style games. It’s basically three against one. One person controls Prussia and Hanover, another takes the helm of Sweden and Russia, a third is the Imperial Army and Austria, while a fourth player controls France. At its most basic, The Prussian/Hanover player has to survive until France, Russia and Sweden drop out of the war, while the other nations need to conquer a various number of objective cities.

For this - our first game - I was Austria/Imperial Army, DarkCelt was Russia/Sweden, Aaron had control of France and Raize fought us off as the Prussians and Hanoverians (is that a word?).

For the sake of brevity as well as sobriety/sleep, I will say this about the mechanics: You draw Tactics cards, you move, you fight if next to a hostile general and his armies, you make sure your armies are supplied, and you reinforce your armies. All fighting and reinforcing is done with four decks of standard cards more or less. The board is divided into the four standard suits (spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds) and you "fight" by playing cards in the suit in which your fighting general currently sits. A "turn" consists of each country going through the aforementioned actions in this order: Prussia, Hanover, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Imperial Army, and France. After the fifth turn, one Card of Fate is randomly drawn. It can set into action any one of a number of historical events that will throw your game of Friedrich into chaos. Countries can abandon the war, generals are hindered or helped, and whiskey is poured into glasses (although that may only have been us).

At first glance, after set-up, one would think Sweden and the Imperial Army are vastly underpowered with only one general. However, as the game went on, a great thing dawned on me. What makes this game great in my eyes is that even as the weakest nation, a player can be victorious.

I think the best way to describe how great this game played isn’t to explain its rules, but to explain the game I experienced.

It started off with Prussia in clear control for the first three turns. DarkCelt ran Russia around in two stacks of two generals (you can stack them to reinforce one another) like a couple of scared, crying babies while Sweden actually tried to force the issue by venturing out slowly from its home country. Austria (me!) made an early mistake and lost a general and his eight armies right off the bat. The other countries did nothing of consequence - yet.

However, after the third turn, the screws tightened on Prussia. Nations attacked from all sides, often in sections of the board requiring the same suit of Tactics Cards. And that is where this game became great. There was some co-operation on the part of the allied nations. We were all wary of one another stealing the victory, yet recognized that weakening Prussia would help us all. Soon, Poland and the rest of the northeast quarter of the board was clear and Russia was ready to make its move to conquer its required objective cities. Suddenly, a Card of Fate turned up, removing Russia from the game!

The removal of Russia made Sweden’s winning conditions slightly easier, and it looked like it might have a chance. However, two turns later, another cruel Card of Fate removed Sweden from the board as well. Fortunately for the player, he assumed the role of the Imperial Army, which at this point was still making tentative yet brief forays out of its home territory.

Aaron, as France, seized the opportunity after Prussia’s hard-fought battles against Russia and Austria up until now. For several turns in a row, France was one move from winning the game. All that stood between her and victory was one, single, solitary city upon which Prussia had placed one, single, solitary general. Even the Imperial Army (controlled by me) had joined the fight in an attempt to push the Prussian army from its last stronghold. Amazingly, the Prussian Army fought back the French and reclaimed several cities.

Suddenly, the Imperial Army came from nowhere, appearing to have a shot at victory, while the Austrian army was also close behind, needing just two more objective cities to win. Unfortunately, having imbibed too much whiskey, the Imperial Army lost its supply train and could not hold its claimed cities.

The Austrian army, in one last desperate attempt at defeating the Prussians before the Cards of Fate dealt the allies a final blow by removing the French (and thereby securing a Prussian victory), attacked Friedrich II, the last remaining Prussian general in the way.

Finally, after four and a half hours of glorious battle, the Austrians were victorious.

If you made it this far (or scrolled down to the bottom of this so-called review), you’re probably waiting for a summary of my thoughts on the game. In short, the components are great. I love the board, although it’s busy and takes some getting used to. The rules are simple, with just a few exceptions to remember. I love the fact that it’s different from what I’ve played in the past and it’s basically three players against one. Sure, only one nation officially claims victory, but it’s great to see your fellow players take down the mighty Prussians. Finally, it’s a long game, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Downtime was interesting for me because I finally got to see the way the game unfolded. One nation attacking pulled another nation in a different direction, changing the game frequently.

A frequent complaint on BGG is the use of the Tactics Cards and the suits as they are divided on the board. I think it works well and allows for strategic play. I just thought of different sections of the board as needing similar supplies or having similar geography. If you devote a lot of energy and supplies fighting in one spot, it’s going to stretch your army thin elsewhere. Strictly historically accurate? Perhaps not. Fun and simple enough o pick up? Definitely.

In conclusion, I really do have to thank my friends for finally playing Friedrich with me after my years of griping, whinging and crying. It was worth the wait, and now I’m going to start moaning about how we don’t play it enough.

Now about Imperial...
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Paul O'Connor
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Yeah, this game is too military for Euro players, too abstract for wargamers, too obscure a subject for Americans, requires too many players, and is too long for everyone.


But I still love it. Wish I played it more (my kingdom for a VASSAL module!). Congrats on finally getting it to the table.
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Leonardo Martino
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Can u explain why is it so long???
 
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Dennis Ku
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Why did our game take so long? Well, I can't imagine it playing in under two hours unless one nation gets lucky and the Cards of Fate help it out greatly. We just talked a lot during the game. We like to drink and have snacks and discuss what's going on while we play. I could never play games with people who aren't social and don't like to talk about life while we play.

It's been a day since we played and I've sobered up. I still love this game.
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Tony Chen
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So you've played this game only once. Shouldn't this be a session report? If you are going to be making an opinion on the game, it is better to play the game several times. You may find flaws upon repeat plays.

Also, maybe Friedrich just happens to be your type of game, and meets your preference. Doesn't mean it's truly great, or that it is for everybody; it's just your opinion.
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Chris Brooks
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
So you've played this game only once. Shouldn't this be a session report? If you are going to be making an opinion on the game, it is better to play the game several times.


I think he covered this pretty well in his intro.

drunkenKOALA wrote:

Also, maybe Friedrich just happens to be your type of game, and meets your preference. Doesn't mean it's truly great, or that it is for everybody; it's just your opinion.


Where did he say otherwise? I read "I still love this game" and "it was worth wait", etc. Isn't every review just somebody's opinion?
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Mark Buetow
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Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
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kalevi1999 wrote:
Can u explain why is it so long???


It was the Seven Years Was, duh! laugh
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Dennis Ku
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
So you've played this game only once. Shouldn't this be a session report? If you are going to be making an opinion on the game, it is better to play the game several times. You may find flaws upon repeat plays.

Also, maybe Friedrich just happens to be your type of game, and meets your preference. Doesn't mean it's truly great, or that it is for everybody; it's just your opinion.


Nope - it's a review.
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Joel Langenfeld
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
So you've played this game only once. Shouldn't this be a session report? If you are going to be making an opinion on the game, it is better to play the game several times. You may find flaws upon repeat plays.


Perhaps so, but at least he was clear about what he was basing his impressions on. How many times have you looked at the ratings & comments of a game and seen something like "9: Still waiting to play this one, but it looks Kewl!"

drunkenKOALA wrote:

Also, maybe Friedrich just happens to be your type of game, and meets your preference. Doesn't mean it's truly great, or that it is for everybody; it's just your opinion.


Uhm... Are you suggesting the proper way to review a game is to first ask everybody else what they think?
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Iain K
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Hell of a review, I've had the game for a while myself and still haven't gotten a group to play it. You can be damn sure the next time this Habs fan is in T Town he'll be looking for you guys (along with his good friend, Jack Daniels).

Great review - keep your sticks on the ice guys!
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Tony Kerstan
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MidKentGamerUK wrote:

...
do I scream n scream until I make myself sick, or threaten to hold my breath until I pass out and possibly die so that they'll have to live with the guilt (or they finally succumb and play)?
...


ROFL!!
 
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