The second Essen release from Friedemann Friese to hit the table. I had the pleasure of playing this one at the hotel we lodged at in Essen and we played with 12 players spread out over three tables. You see, the extremely unique mechanism involved in this game is the ability to have several games in progress simultaneously, with players jumping from table to table during the course of play. I was very skeptical when I first heard about this idea, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that it works quite well and really adds some nice tension to the game.
I originally purchased just one copy from Friedemann, but after playing it at the hotel with multiple-tables, I just had to purchase another copy. You see, if you want to play with multiple games in progress, you must purchase multiple copies of the game … or have friends in your gaming group do so! This isn’t just a clever marketing ploy as the game truly does shine when played in this fashion. Each set is labeled ‘A, B or C’ and comes with unique pawns, so if you do order multiple copies, make sure you specify which sets you desire.
A bizarre story (should we expect anything less from Friedemann?) tells of a fairy princess who is being held captive by a frightful prince. Players are charged with the task of collecting goods which they can trade for the prince’s favorite fetishes. The first player to collect three fetishes can ransom them for the princess’ freedom.
The board depicts an area of Finland (well, at least that’s what the story tells us!), complete with fjords, and containing twelve different merchants and traders. The merchants offer various goods for sale and will also purchase various goods. The traders aren’t interested in sales, but prefer to exchange goods for the items they desire. There is also the fetish dealer, who will glady offer you a fetish for the right combination of goods.
The basic idea of the game is to scurry about the board, purchasing and trading various goods, ultimately obtaining the correct combination to exchange them for fetishes. The first player to acquire three fetishes released the princess and claims the victory. If playing the with ‘multiple-table’, then a fetish must be acquired from each table, meaning players will be jumping from table to table during the course of the game. Thus, there is a ‘race’ aspect to the game and players are obliged to execute their moves swiftly. The ‘slow but steady’ tactic will NOT win in this game.
When purchasing or trading goods, each transaction will also trigger other events as listed on each merchant and trader placard. These effects can result in the prices of goods to rise, increase the availability of certain goods or allow for the switching of goods markers … or even the merchant or trader placards. Further, when players sell goods to a merchant, the market becomes saturated and the price of that particular good will drop. Thus, the game incorporates a clever economic ‘supply & demand’ system, forcing players to employ economic savvy when executing their actions.
On a turn, each player is limited to 3 movement points. As mentioned, the board is bisected by several fjords, which are navigable via the use of several ferries. The movement rules and board layout encourage players to be creative in the use of their action points, frequently causing your opponents into unfavorable movement situations, causing them to move in a less than efficient manner. This can be quite nasty, especially when combined with a preemptive purchase which denies them the goods they were seeking.
At its heart, the game bears similarities to games such as Bazaar and Goldland. Players must collect certain types of goods and trade or sell them for other types of goods, all with the goal of obtaining the proper combination with which to secure fetishes. In this, sense, the game does have a familiar feel to it. However, the rest of the game system is quite original, so one doesn’t derive a sense of ‘déjà vu’ for the overall picture. Indeed, the ‘multiple table’ aspect of the game gives it a feel unlike any game I’ve played previously, which was the game’s main appeal for me. Although Friedemann insists that the game plays equally as well with just one game in progress, I have suspicions that it would lose some of its novelty and excitement. Still, I’m anxious to give the game a try in this fashion in order to better judge for myself.
Last year, Friedemann offered the gaming world Funkenschlag, which was a wonderful game that married aspects from several different types of games … even crayon rail games. The game has considerable depth and was widely hailed by gamers. If you are expecting another offering on that level, you will likely be disappointed with Fische, Fluppen & Frikadellen. Although the game does have some depth and ‘meat on its bones’, it is clearly not in the same realm as Funkenschlag in terms of strategic depth. However, don’t let that be a deterrent as the game is exciting, tense and quite fun to play.
To my surprise, nine Westbank Gamers expressed interest in playing, so we had enough to split into two tables. Elizabeth, Jim, Spouey and Geoff began at one table, while John, Willerd, Keith, Michael and I grouped at the second table. In spite of performing miserably at the first table, I was the first player to switch tables, even though I had only collected one fetish. My board situation was so poor at my start table that I figured it couldn’t be much worse at the second table. I was correct in that I quickly acquired my second fetish at my new table and was within reach of acquiring the correct combination of goods to secure my third fetish when the game ended.
Ultimately, it was John who proved the swiftest in acquiring the three necessary fetishes to free the princess and capture the victory.
Finals: John 3, everyone else 2, except Willerd, who managed to collect only 1 fetish
Ratings: Elizabeth 8, Jim 8, John 7, Willerd 7, Spouey 7, Michael 7, Greg 7, Keith 6.5, Geoff 6.5