The following is a review I posted in my Blog a few weeks ago:
Last night we got to play FRIEDRICH at CABS. George "Bud" Sauer as Russia/ Sweden, Lind Pratt with the Prussians/ Hanover, Jim Reasoner as the French, and I have the Austrians and Imperial Army.
Early on the French lurch forward only to get a very bloody nose from the Hanoverians. We quickly learn that the way the battle system is set up, there is no shame in a graceful withdrawal. It took a while for the French to build back up from that early whupping.
Here's a quick look at the combat system. The map is point to point, but be warned there's an awful lot of points. There's a grid that is overimposed on that map. The grid creates around 30 rectangles that are divided into Spade, Diamond, Club and Heart areas. Combat is simple: when opposing generals are next to each other, each side reveals how many troops there are under the generals in question. Whoever has the fewest may now play a card or cards (card range from 1-13)that add to his army strength, until he matches or exceeds his opponents total. His opponent may now do the same, and back and forth it goes. When somebody declines to play a card, he loses the number of armies equal to the strength difference and has to retreat that many squares.
The catch is that you can only play cards that match the suit your general is in. So if your guy is in a Heart rectangle, you're playing hearts. It is possible you play in one suit and your opponent is palying another. There are Reserves that act as wild cards- you can use them for any suit, and for any number between 1 and 10. Reserves are a powerful card that will let you play it one or two points short of your opponent, thus giving you a short withdrawal with minimal damage. Or if you think your opponent is on the ropes, play it as a ten and gamble you can get the big kill!
Now obviously if the Allies are smart, they should all attack in areas with the same suit (all attack in Clubs, ie) and wear down the Prussians in one suit. Ah, but here's the clever part of the game design. Each of the Allies has cities that they need to capture. If one country controls all the appropriate cities at the end of a turn, that player (and only that player) wins. If your Russian friend is attacking in a clubs area (where his victory cities are) and as France your victory cities are in a spades area, what do you want to do? A clever way of depicting how the Allies are united but have their own agenda.
Back to the game. With France licking his wounds, Prussia makes a push South against Austria. I take a few hits, but not the knockdown that France got. Meanwhile the Russian have finally finished off East Prussia and are marching west. Lind starts sending troops north but it appears to late as Russia is one turn away from winning. But no, the Fate Card is shown, the Tsarina has died, and Russia is done!!
At the end of turn 6 and every turn thereafter, a Clock of Fate Card is drawn. some are minor annoyances, but there are cards that will severely affect each side. England cuts off money, the Tsarina died, France loses its American colonies, etc. The clock is ticking for the Aliies in this game, and no one knows when exactly it will go off, or who will drop out first. In this game Russia fell out kinda early, next game maybe its the last card in the deck. If France leaves or if both Russia and Sweden leave, then that player takes over the Imperial Army. Admittedly that's probably bit of a downer, but at least it gives you something to do. That also triggers easier conditions for each Allied country left, so it's not hopeless.
Now I know somebody's reading this saying to himself, "Well it comes down to who gets lucky with the fate cards." True, but IIRC in real life Frederick was on the ropes and got darn lucky that the Tsarina died when she did. The Fate cards do a good job of creating the tension of waiting for something (anything) to bail the Prussians out.
Back to the game. With Russia out the Prussians start heading West and South, but they have taken a beating. France has recovered to the point where he might make the big push, but soon the losses of India and America knock them out. At game's end it's Austria vs Prussia, but Austria has many cards while Prussia is running low. I was able to wipe out the Prussian army in Silesia and gobble up what I needed to win, with the Austria sues for peace card two turns away from showing up.
I found this game to be fun. I suspect the Analysis Paralysis crowd will have trouble- sometimes you will just have to trhow your guys in there and not wait for the perfect move, particularly if you're the Allies. The clock is running and just because you're strong in Hearts doesn't mean you can sit there and wait. And some will never get over the idea that your big army could just disappear on the turn of a card, one or two steps away from victory. Their loss. The designer Richard Sivel (sp?) says he spent a lot of time working on this game, and IMO it shows. I will play this again.
Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
I've had this game in my hands for a little while, but haven't had the chance to break it out yet. Thanks for the excellent replay!
I'm curious how long the game took to play out?