Friedemann Friese. In fact, I hardly dare admit it, but I've never even played what is arguably his magnus opus, Power Grid. I know, the shame! (go ahead and convince me I might like it!) But I have played some of his newer releases, and my purpose today is to shine the spotlight on a couple of Friese's games that were released at Essen 2010, and haven't got a great deal of attention here on BGG.
They may not be considered `hot' by BGG standards, but perhaps there's a good reason for their somewhat lukewarm reception, and it's not that they're bad games. In my experience with Friedemann Friese's games - at least, with two of his most recent ones - it seems that they can take a couple of plays to properly appreciate or `get'. This means that most people getting a single taste-test of them at a game convention aren't likely to be raving about them in their first impressions, being too quick to wander away in search of other candidates that might satisfy their taste as part of the cult-of-the-new. The result is that the unassuming Friese games tend to fly under the radar, with less noise being made about them. So let's make some noise, shall we, and get to the games!
Fürstenfeld, which first appeared at Essen 2010, and is now available in English from Rio Grande Games. To use the designer's own words, "This is a deck-building game but in a different kind of way." I call it "deck-unbuilding", because you start with a deck of 28 cards and slowly thin it as you buy and build various building cards from your deck onto your farm.
The brewery theme isn't the deepest, but I like it because it's somewhat non-conformist. Players manage a farm which supplies ingredients (spring water, barley, and hops) to local breweries, which in turn will earn players the finances to better develop their landholdings and eventually build a palace. The aim is to generate enough income to buy and build the six Palace cards (akin to the Province VPs in Dominion) from your deck, and the first player to do so wins the game. But in addition to the requirement of careful hand management and deck management, the real appeal for me was the interactive and clever market system that drives the financial aspect of the game - prices for goods vary depending on supply and demand.
It's not a deep or heavy economic game by any means, but for something that plays in 45-60 minutes, it offers a considerable dose of fun. Particularly with the advanced game (which is how Friese designed the game to be played), there are more decisions and more control than meets the eye. I think the game has suffered somewhat of a bad rap from people dismissing it too quickly as depending on luck-of-the-draw after only playing the introductory and beginner form of the game - which was intended only as a temporary stepping stone to the `real' game.
Want to learn more? See my full review on Furstenfeld: Friedemann Friese unhinges Dominion-style deck-building by adding beer
Famiglia is a clever little card game for two players that also was released at Essen 2010, and the chief notable feature of the box is that it looks like a cigar box. Very amusing and clever! I admit that I was initially very sceptical about the game, and the mafia theme and artwork didn't help matters. But if you can overlook the fact that cards with tattooed mobsters might not be ideal candidates for a family-friendly game, there's a remarkable little hand management game to discover here. It has deck-building and set collection elements, offers fresh mechanics, and comes in an attractive package.
The cards feature four families, and players try to recruit more powerful and higher point scoring cards using a type of pyramid scheme: the usual way this works is that you need two cards of the same value and colour, in order to get the card of the next highest value in that colour (e.g. you'd need two yellow 2s in order to take a yellow 3 from the Street). The basic concept of the game may seem rather simple, and it would indeed be boring if that's all that the game offered - but what really makes this game shine is that three of the four families have special abilities which allow you to exchange cards, reduce their value, or act as wild cards.
It can take a few plays to click, but when it does, you may find yourself playing multiple sessions in row! The theme and artwork won't please everyone, but those who aren't put off by this will find something that rivals some of the best of the Kosmos two-player series. Famiglia is certainly one of the best new two player card games I've played in a while. And yes, Aldie and Derk's names really are featured as characters in the game!
Want to learn more? See my full review on Famiglia: Friedemann Friese's deck-building pyramid scheme (featuring Aldie & Derk)
Turbo Taxi from 2005, and Fast Flowing Forest Fellers from 2008.
Turbo Taxi was originally released in 2000 with a different theme and with the name Flickwerk. It's a puzzle-like Ubongo style of game, and in the newer rethemed version players race to place tiles representing streets into a fixed 3x3 grid, so that the streets align and so that two taxis can get to their respective destinations. You can become very skillful at playing, and some people are just better at puzzling than others - I tend to get trounced when playing this in competition with the nimble fingers and quick minds of all the females in the house.
Fast Flowing Forest Fellers is also a race game, but of a more casual and family-friendly sort. Players are racing to get their two lumberjacks to the end of the river the quickest. It's card driven, but features lovely components, even lumberjack meeples, who are riding logs and must dodge various obstacles and shove other players aside while taking advantage of river currents in their quest to get to the end first. Over the last couple of years we've owned this, this has proven to be an excellent gateway game, and it's often come out with non-gamers - several of which have gone on to buy it for themselves.
Want to learn more? See my full reviews:
If you enjoy real-time or simultaneous puzzle games, you'll love this! (Turbo Taxi)
Fabulous and Fascinating Floating Fun For Families and Friends From the Famous Friedemann Friese Featuring Fearless and Frolicking Forest Fellers Flowing Furiously Fast (FFFF)
Join the discussion: Are there more games in the Friedemann Friese stable that I'm yet to discover and enjoy? Perhaps, and by all means tell me which ones you think I might like. Which Friese games are your favourites, and why? And while you're at it, perhaps take a closer look at Furstenfeld and Famiglia to see if any of them might be right for you.