Friday, August 22, 2008

Friedrich -- Review and comment

Friedrich is a historical wargame.

Friedrich is a historically themed euro game.

Can both statements be true?

Histogames' Friedrich, designed by Richard Sivel is clearly a wargame. Markers representing generals, armies and supply trains march back and forth across a map of eighteenth century central Europe fighting battles, conquering territory and enduring historical events.

Friedrich is clearly a themed euro game. The heart of the game system is a clever combat system using decks of standard playing cards (minus Aces) keyed to locations on the map. This system provides a unique and interesting way to resolve conflicts between the players with a lot of strategy -- but it bears no discernible relationship to actual battle tactics or conditions.

A note on the cards: While bearing Friedrich-specific artwork, the cards are basically a standard deck, less the aces.

Freidrich is a really different game design and one that's hard to pigeonhole. While it includes a handful of elements that have been seen before such as point-to-point movement and random event cards, it bears little resemblance to wargames designed over the last 50 years in the Charles Roberts tradition. There are no zones of control, hexes, squares, CRTs, blocks or even dice.

Like many euros it seems to be designed around an interesting game mechanic, in this case an elegant card-based combat system keyed to map areas that provides tremendous scope for bluff, strategy and resource management with a minimum of fuss. I couldn't come up with any explanation for how that mechanic might related to actual battlefield events except in the most tenuous and abstract way.

Another euro-like touch is the provision for players to take over minor powers as their major powers drop out of the war against Frederick. While there's country elimination in Friedrich, there's no player elimination. I'm not sure how often players parlay a minor power into a winning position, but there's at least the prospect.

It's a very charming game design, overall, whether considered as a wargame or a euro game.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, there *is* player elimination in Friedrich, if you're playing with more than two players. I was in a game where the French player was removed from contention fairly early thanks to the two event cards required coming up within four turns. Since the player had driven 45 minutes to play the game, he was *not* happy with being relegated to playing the HRE forces, which is like playing the Belgians in a World In Flames game.

    Which isn't to say that there isn't a good game here, just that all players should go in knowing that you could be relegated to benchwarmer fairly early in the game.