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Subject: Another Successful Euro/Wargame rss

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Bill Herbst
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Friedrich is another excellent entry into the new genre of Euro-style wargames which combine historical simulation with well-crafted, relatively simplistic rule sets that greatly enhance playability. In Friedrich, 3 players control a total of 5 European powers who battle a fourth player, who plays the role of the Prussian mastermind Friedrich the Great, for control of Europe during the period of the Seven Years War. The game allows one player to control France, another to control Austria and the Imperial army, and a third to control Russia and Sweden. The fourth player controls the Prussians and the forces of Hanover.

In the standard game, the three allies each have certain victory objectives that they must obtain before the clock of fate runs out on them. The "clock of fate" represents the historical reality that Friedrich was able to defeat his enemies by outlasting them until circumstances beyond the battlefields led his opponents to cease fighting him. In the game, the "clock of fate" is a deck of 18 cards that contain a total of four cards which combine to end the game in Friedrich's favor when they are randomly chosen. The "fate" cards are drawn one per turn after the 6th turn of the game; while they each have an effect there are only four of them that advance Friedrich toward victory by causing the elimination of his opponents. Thus the game can last for 24 turns if the fate cards are not kind to Friedrich and his opponents have not defeated him prior to that point. In practice most game will end earlier through card draw or through the opponents achieving their victory territories.

A full game turn consists of each nation taking its own individual turn which begins by drawing a prescribed number of tactical cards(The tactics cards are suited like a standard deck of playing cards from numbers 2-13) . The number of tactical cards drawn is a reflection of the relative strength of that nation. Friedrich's Prussia begins the game by drawing an impressive 7 cards which go a long way toward keeping it secure in the face of threats by the 5 invading nations. Minor nations like Sweden and the Imperial Army only draw one card per turn and thus are dissuaded from engaging in direct conflict with Prussia. After drawing the cards, the player may then maneuver each of his generals. Each general is assigned a specific number of armies (up to a maximum of 8) which is noted on a sheet and kept hidden from his opponents. These generals may be stacked with others to combine forces for an attack or may work independently. All generals must also be able to trace a route to a supply train if they are on ground outside of their original starting areas (and attempts to destroy supply trains is always a key feature of one's opponents' maneuvers) A player may only take control of a victory space by moving a general over that space during his turn (each general moves 3 spaces per turn with one extra space granted if he moves entirely on a large road). In addition the seizure of the territory is prevented if there is a defending army within 3 spaces of the territory in question. In this instance, players usually must engage in combat in order to force the defending units to retreat beyond range to defend the disputed spaces.

Combat is handled in a unique and interesting way in this game. First each player identifies the number of armies that accompany the generals involved in the combat. The player with fewer armies must play a tactics card whose "suit" symbol corresponds to the regional box where his general is located and of a value at least equal to the deficit in armies for the fight to continue. The defender then has the opportunity to play one or more tactics cards until he at least matches the opponent's value in the suit. The battle continues according to this pattern until one player cannot or chooses not to match his opponent at which time the combat ends. The loser must remove a number of armies and retreat a number of spaces equivalent to the number that he fell short.

Although the highly abstracted nature of combat and movement would seem to detract from the historical simulation, the game does provide one with a feeling for the historical difficulties faced by each of the participants through its highly detailed map, the colorful descriptions of historical events on the "fate" cards and the general allocation of resources to the different countries based on the relative strengths of their military forces. Two concerns have been voiced about Friedrich and both were in evidence in our recent playing in LIBO. The game would run longer than the intended 3-4 hours if it goes all 24 turns and it seems particularly difficult for Friedrich to win. Both of these concerns can be addressed by frequently adopted house rule in which 6 of the random fate cards are eliminated from the game, a solution which limits the number of turns to a maximum of 18 and thus also aides the beleaguered Prussian player who consequently need not hold off the invaders for quite so long. Most wargamers should enjoy the opportunity to take some time off from pushing around chits to enjoy the strategic puzzles this game offers without having to learn a complicated chrome filled ruleset. Friedrich is a also a good choice for those who appreciate heavier and longer Euro games and can tolerate a war themed game that might take a bit longer to complete than Die M├Ącher.
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richard sivel
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thanks william for this very nice review

Some comments (in order to avoid confusions for potential readers )

* The game can last for a maximum of 23 turns (5 + 18). (The first fate card is drawn after the 6th turn, so the last will be drawn after the 23rd turn.)

Quote:
The player with fewer armies must play a tactics card whose "suit" symbol corresponds to the regional box where his general is located and of a value at least equal to the deficit in armies for the fight to continue.


==> That could sound irritating ... The player can play a card LESS than the deficit in armies. He has then the choice to play another card or to stop the combat with a retreat.

* Regarding your houserule suggestion: For experienced players, i think that removing cards from the fate deck will make Prussia's life too easy.
(see statistics of the friedrich world championship for chances on victory: http://www.histogame.de/e_friedrich-wm.html; follow the link to "statistics" then).
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Bill Herbst
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Thanks for your clarifications to my review. I really enjoyed my first opportunity to play Friedrich.

I'm sure you're right about the house rule making the game imbalanced for experienced players. I will probably never have the opportunity to play the game with the same group of players enough that I'll ever play without someone at the table being new to the game. I am going to try the variant out the next time that I play and see how it goes. I suspect that it will help an inexperienced player survive as Prussia longer than I did in my first game.
 
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Mark Delano
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It is probably best to play with the most experienced player as Prussia. Not because it requires the most experience to play well, but one critical mistake can spell an early collapse. All the other countries have a chance to make a comeback or at least influence the result as long as the deck of fate doesn't remove them. Prussia is doomed if it spends its armies and cards fruitlessly however.

I've played it several times now, and I think it's marvelously balanced between the countries as is. Removing cards might be ok to ensure a shorter game, but as a balancing mechanism it could go awry.
 
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Crazy Bob
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Quote:
==> That could sound irritating ... The player can play a card LESS than the deficit in armies. He has then the choice to play another card or to stop the combat with a retreat.


That's why you would play a reserve for less than 10... ooohh...

 
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