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• Designer: Antonio Ferrara, Sebastiano Fiorillo
• Publisher: Ares Games
• Players: 2 – 6 (Best with 6)
• Ages: 14 and Up
• Time: 30-120 Minutes
• Times Played: > 5
The Last Friday (which I’m going to call “Last Friday”) is a hidden movement, hunting, and deduction board game similar to Letters from Whitechapel or Scotland Yard, albeit with a clever twist. Depending on which of four “chapters” you play, the game’s goals change, creating highly engaging gameplay: in some chapters the maniac is trying to find the campers, but in others, they’re trying to find him.
Last Friday was one of my favorite games of Gen Con 2016, although I only got in a partial play at the convention. Now that I’ve played it a few times, here’s a full review.
In Last Friday, one player takes on the role of the maniac at Camp Apache, and the other players control the five campers who are repairing the camp in exchange for a free vacation.
There are five ways to play the game: the full playthrough of all four chapters (which I recommend), or playing any of the four chapters individually. Though Last Friday isn’t a terribly complicated game, it would take a while to walk through each scenario individually, as there are detailed rules about setting up for each chapter based on what happened in the previous one, plus even more rules if playing just a chapter individually. As such, I’ve written this review at a high level, giving the flavor of gameplay overall and in each of the four chapters.
Like in Letters from Whitechapel or Scotland Yard, Last Friday features a gameboard of numbered circles and un-numbered dots. The maniac will move around the numbered dots, writing down his location as he moves behind a secret screen. The campers will move along the white dots, moving two dots per turn.
There are also several special ways to move around the gameboard. The campers can take the boat in the center of the board, and once per chapter, the maniac can move underwater without the boat. The maniac gets an extra move if he kills one of the campers, and he can also benefit from secret passages in each of the cabins. He only gets access to these passages if he unlocked the cabins, and if they were instead opened by the players, there is a different side to place on the gameboard, with spaces that require the maniac to reveal if he is on the space.
At the start of the game, each camper picks a color and a camper card, which is basically their character. Each camper card comes with a clue token, which is discussed below. If a player dies in a chapter, they will come back in the next chapter with a different character of the same color.
Each chapter is played in fifteen rounds or less. Every third round, the maniac must reveal details about his location, although which details of what he reveals vary by chapter.
As mentioned above, the goals of the game shift based on which “chapter” you’re in. Here are brief descriptions:
Chapter I: Arriving at the camp. The maniac stalks the campers, and if he crosses over one of them, they die. During reveals, the maniac shows where he was three rounds ago. The campers need to locate keys among the tokens on the gameboard and then retreat to the safety of the cabins.
Chapter II: The chase. The campers attempt to catch the maniac, and if he crosses over one of them (or they over him), he dies. During reveals, the maniac shows where he is currently. The camper that killed the maniac — or, if he didn’t die, the camper that is the closest to him at the end of the fifteenth round — becomes “the predestined” (which matters for Chapters III and IV.
Chapter III: The massacre. The maniac tries to kill the predestined, while the other campers block as necessary. During reveals, the maniac shows where he was three rounds ago. If the maniac crosses over the predestined (or the predestined crosses over him), the predestined dies, and the game ends (i.e. there won’t be a chapter four). But if another camper crosses over the maniac, they die, but the maniac must reveal, and the other camper gets to move the maniac to an adjacent space.
Chapter IV: The final chapter. The predestined needs to find and kill the maniac. During reveals, the maniac shows where he is currently. The maniac may not pass over a camper during the final round, so the campers can try to box him in to help the predestined. If a camper passes over the maniac, he reveals, and all the campers move one step. If the predestined crosses the maniac, the campers win the game. If the maniac isn’t dead by the fifteenth round, he wins the game.
There are several tokens to assist in gameplay. There are five types of clue tokens, which are placed whenever the maniac reveals his location. Campers may collect these, but they also start with one each based on their character at the beginning of the game. Each camper can only hold one of each type, and each camper can only use one per turn.
• Acute hearing. The maniac must say if he is one of the adjacent spaces to the token.
• Bear trap. Campers can move freely on or around the bear trap, but for the maniac to move past it, he must end his turn next to it and reveal his current location.
• Lantern. All numbered spaces adjacent are lit by the lantern, and if the maniac is on it, he must reveal his current location.
• Shovel. Players normally can’t move past a corpse token, but the shovel lets them do so.
• Sneakers. A camper can move one additional white dot (i.e. a total of three).
There are also “welcome tokens” used at the start of the game. Five of these are keys for the cabin, two are corpses (which act as obstacles for the campers), one is a shovel (see above), one is a sneakers (see above), and one is a accute hearing (see above).
The maniac also has five tokens that assist him:
• Axe. Allows the maniac to break down the door of a closed cabin.
• Invisible. When a maniac is required to reveal, he may use this instead.
• Plot twist. After all players have made their final move, the maniac gets an extra turn.
• Shadow. This is similar to invisible, but it can only be used when a maniac is required to reveal after a third round. The maniac instead reveals an adjacent location to where he truly is.
• Supernatural speed. The maniac moves twice.
That’s most of the rules. As I said above, the set up for each chapter changes based on what happened in the previous chapter, and there are other rules if playing a chapter individually.
My thoughts on the game…
I’ve been impressed by Last Friday, and I’m glad I bought a copy at Gen Con. This game does fit nicely in the Scotland Yard and Letters from Whitechapel genre. While it won’t replace the streamlined classic that is Scotland Yard, now that I have a copy of Last Friday, Letters from Whitechapel is leaving my collection.
Like the games that came before it, Last Friday offers a fast-paced and tense gaming experience. Depending on the chapter, you feel like either the hunter or the hunted. But unlike Scotland Yard and Letters from Whitechapel, this game doesn’t often veer into frustration. The game will always reset — which completely different circumstances — after just fifteen rounds. This shift in gameplay is a welcome addition to the genre, and Last Friday deserves the praise it has received.
The artwork is excellent, and the components are nice. Every element of the game comes down to the Friday the Thirteenth theme (even if they can’t say those words), and the slasher theme fits especially well with the gameplay. This will be a game I pull out on a chilly fall evening each October.
The game shines if you play all four chapters, and that’s how I recommend doing this. If I have one quibble with Last Friday, it is that my group hasn’t enjoyed the standalone challenges. The third and fourth ones work well, and the second one does to a lesser extent, but we found the first chapter to be a bit unbalanced as a standalone game. Frankly, it feels like a tutorial.
But the game is exciting, and if you’re a fan of the pursuit-and-evasion problem, this is worth checking out. We’ve had some laugh-out-loud and tense fun with Last Friday, and I bet a lot of other game groups will too.