Along with a Saturday night's forecast of a gaming night came a well-known game enthusiast with a new game, called Friedrich. As I am almost always willing to try out new games, I'd have a go with it, alongside another freshman and an experienced player. Thus Friedrich met my eyes.
First glance on the board leaves you gasping for what will await you on learning the rules. Fortunately the initial deep look, it is quite a straightforward game for a game with much used war simulation type of mechanics.
Firstly, players get assigned a faction in the war against Frederic the Great in 1756. What parties are to be chosen then? First, the Prussian, under the leadership of Fredric himself, aka the agressor, the one that instigated the war in the first place by walking into Sachsen. The largest portion of the (beautiful I might add) board is of the dark blue Prussian type, and his job is to withhold the others from conquering a number (mostly around 10) victory point cities on the map. There is also an alternative way of winning with the Prussians, but let's keep focused on the basics of this game.
The first force up against the Prussians are the Austrians. They have the best means to engage against Frederic, but are also the ones that are most prone to be attacked first by the same Frederic.
Russia is the second one, and this one is in a good defense position, as there is only one Prussian unit close to be bothered with, but it also takes longer to get to the victory points.
Sweden and the Imperial Army are very small, but has easier victory conditions.
France is somewhat of the main sideshow (how odd may this sound!), next to Russia.
The armies of every party are represented by generals (wooden pieces) who can have 1-8 number of armies under their command. The exact number is hidden for the other players, written on a form to keep track of each army. The only thing players are allowed to correspond openly with each other is the total amount of armies.
This is important, cause the head objective for all the other (than Fredric) players is to throw down Fredric, while pursuing their individual victory conditions. Working together is essential, for the Prussians are too powerful to take on alone for each of the other factions.
Now, the generals (and the armies asigned to them with them) can move around (point for point) on the map, but limited by support, which every army obviously needs. Support is represented by square blocks, generals by round blocks. A general is said to be supported as long as it is on own territory, or on foreign territory, but then within 6 points from any of his support blocks.
A general is allowed to stand out of support for one turn, but if he doesn't have support two turns in a row, he is lost (starvation for the log).
Now generals may only move 3-4 (dependent of main roads or secondary roads) points each turn, whereas supports may move 2-3 points, which makes clear some of the logistic problems to cope with for each player.
Generals may also stack on top of each other to combine force of various armies (up to three generals).
Fight on lads!
Now, on with the fighting! Didn't I say this was a wargame?
If generals stand in close proximity (read: distance of 1 point of each other) a battle resolves.
The battle begins with each side announcing how many armies serve combined under his/her general (or generals). This number shows the start strength of each force.
Next it's on to the cards. Every turn, each faction draws a number of cards (specific to their faction) with number s on them from 1-13 or jokers, which can be valued from 1-10). Also, every card has 1 of 4 suits (diamonds, clubs, spades or hearts) which represent sectors on the board. A general in battle may only play cards which represent the sector in which he is standing at that time. This means, one general may play only clubs, while the other only hearts, but you can also be both in the same sector and play with the same suit.
The side with the disadvantage has the chance of bringing the strength difference to 0 or positive for him/her. In this endeavour he/she may lay down any number of cards.
He may also choose to take his loss and retreat. This retreat has a "funny" side to it: first of all, a number of armies are destroyed equivalent to the difference in strength at the time of declaring retreat. For example, if the Prussians have a strength of 20, whereas the Austrians have a strength of 25, and the Prussians declare a retreat, they will lose 5 armies. This must be secretly noted on the army log by the Prussian player. Secondly, the victor (in this case: the Austrians) gets to choose how the defeated has to retreat. Because the loss was 5 armies, he has to retreat 5 points away from the battle, but the victor gets to choose via which route. Always must this be in a direction away from the battle, but other from that it's the choice of the victor.
Instead of declaring defeat, the Prussian could have laid down a card of 5 to even out the strength, or play a 7 or higher to put the other player at a disadvantage. When strengths are even, the other player MUST play another card, if he is in a disadvantage (like with the 7), he can equally anounce to retreat, along the same path as the initial player.
Important to note is that when strengths are even, the other player may only play one card, while at a disadvantage, a player is allowed to play any number of cards till he matched, toppled or closed the gap as close as possible (or desired).
It is also possible to destroy supports by landing on them with a general.
Every lost army or support can be rebuild with the same cards that you use for battle; 6 points for every army (I believe it was the same amount for supports, but that's just details), but since the armies are only the starting point in battles, and not too big a factor, one needs to observe if it is amendable to rebuild or to move on with the scratched army base he is left with.
This card side of the game is the main mechanic in the game, and it plays fairly quickly. It is important, cause Fredric has by far the superior INDIVIDUAL advantage with the cards (he may draw 7 every turn, while the others up to 4), while the others can make sure the Prussians lose as much blood as possible from their bouts so that he is weakened for a subsequent battle.
Along with every round in which every faction gets one turn, a marker is moved along an event track. The first five places are just events that do nothing, but after that it's on to the event card turning. Metaphorically these are marked with timeglasses, as it's only a matter of time before two things happen: Russia is kicked out of the game (yes, you can make a pot of coffee/tea, you're out of the game) or Austria is kicked out of the game. Besides these MAJOR events, there are a number of negative effects for the Prussian.
So, for the Prussian player, victory will be his if he gets Russia and Austria kicked out before any of the factions succeed in conquering their objectives, while the each of the factions wins when succeeding despite the troubles of the Prussian.
Now, how do we "conquer" these objectives? What are these objectives? They are simply a number of cities which have to be taken by generals of the corresponding color. Cities are taken if a general begins, moves through or ends in a city in one turn. There is one condition: if there is a defending general nearby (read: within 3 points from the city), that city is protected from being taken. An ennemy general can still walk through it, but it doesn't change hands.
The board and components are fine throughout, though some coloring on the board could be more distinctive (how many shades of green/yellow can you come up with?).
On the gameplay: it plays fast and easy once you have the relatively simple rules in your head. The only downside to it is that with the event cards, you wind up breaking the game quite abruptly (I mean really abruptly), which can also be a good thing, cause players are prevented from taking a waiting stance in the game. With the swords hanging over their heads, they are more likely to undertake action. For Frederic, it's a tough nut to crack, but not undoable, while it is imperative for the different opposing factions to work together, while still pursuing individual win conditions.
The secretiveness of the allocation of the armies is very much like simulation games, as well as the support and movement allowance, only much much more simplified in the most positive meaning.
Altogether an enjoyable fast and light wargame which can introduce a couple of basics in wargame tactics, and sits in about 1.5-3 hours (at the most).
thanks for the nice review.
i'd like to point out that there are some rules mistakes .... (note: i do this so that possible readers are not irritated, so it is in no way any sort of critics )
"Support" => supply (just terminology )
"while the others up to 4" => Austria gets 5 cards
"Russia is kicked out of the game (yes, you can make a pot of coffee/tea, you're out of the game)" -> Russia is out of the game, but NOT the player. There are more countries than players, so all players are in the game till game end.
"Austria is kicked out of the game." -> Austria is never kicked out of the game, but france and sweden may be kicked out of the game. (all in all there are 6 major events: kick out of russia and sweden (1 card each), kick out of france (takes 2 cards), reduction of prussian cards-income (2 cards) )
"Cities are taken if a general begins, moves through or ends in a city in one turn."
-> cities are never conquered when ending the move on them. You must move through or start on them and move away.
I too like Friedrich a lot and have played it a few times now. One issue I would have with your summary is the estimate of game length. In my experience three hours would be the absolute minimum, and then only if Russia is knocked out with the first couple of fate cards AND the allies have been playing badly, or, alternatively, The Prussian player has been playing far too aggressively or has taken on the offensive option and come unstuck. I really cannot see how this game could be played in 90 minutes with reasonably competent play on all sides. I would put the average playing time nearer 4-5 hours.
Flies by mind you!