David Seddon
United Kingdom
Congleton
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Friedrich

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/12891

Summary and overview by Paul O’Connor (Goldenboat)



The Forward Observer group has asked that I write a few words about Friedrich, the terrific Seven Years War game from Histogame. While I am far from an expert in this game, I have played it enough to know that it is a tight and entertaining design, and I can without reservation recommend it as a solid choice for a group of gamers looking to get started in wargames.

Friedrich is a multi-player wargame of the Seven Years War, famed for the campaigns of the Soldier King Frederick the Great, who led Prussia against a shifting series of enemies in a war characterized by maneuver, sudden diplomatic reversals, and climatic battlefield engagements. This is a colorful and fascinating period of history, but it has been largely overshadowed by the many games covering the Napoleonic phase of “horse and musket” warfare. While the Seven Years War will probably never match Napoleonics for popularity or breadth of titles, in Friedrich the period now has a very enjoyable game that gives a good feel for the conflict, playable in a longish evening.

Unlike some of the starter games recommended by the Forward Observer group, Friedrich is well-known and well-represented on BoardgameGeek. Rather than rehash what others have already written, I’ll point you toward the many excellent reviews, comments, and resources already available on BGG if you want to learn about the components, systems, and strategies for this game. Of special interest are the notes of designer Richard Sivèl (http://www.histogame.de/e_friedrich.html), where he details the origins of the game, and the intent behind many of the game’s elegant systems.

Friedrich engages both sides of my gaming brain. As a “Euro” gamer (and substitute whatever term you prefer for that imprecise “Euro” label), I enjoy Friedrich for its ease and speed of play; the high level of interaction; it’s agonizing series of difficult decisions; the tension that comes from bluffing and card management play patterns; and for the very nice components (excepting only the disappointing control markers). As a wargamer, I enjoy Friedrich for touching on the history of the period; for depicting some of the challenges of maneuver warfare (particularly in terms of showing the importance of protecting your line of supply, while threatening the supply of your opponent); for being a very entertaining and balanced multi-player wargame (of which there are relatively few); and for the asymmetrical strategies required of each player.

This last bit deserves a bit of explanation, as it is what lends the game much of its depth, while at the same time offering possibly the greatest hurtle to beginning players. Wargamers expect unbalanced starting positions. Practically every wargame sees one side having more of something than the other, or being right up against it in an outnumbered or surrounded position. We’re often willing to sacrifice game balance and ease of play to simulate the peculiar characteristics of an historical campaign, whether we’re the out-gunned Red Devils at Arnhem Bridge, or the Germans trying to break-out in the Battle of the Bulge while determined Allies bend without breaking, hoping for the chance to themselves go on the offensive.

Fortunately, Friedrich delivers an asymmetrical starting premise while sacrificing little in terms of balance and historicity. Each nation faces different challenges – the Prussians are in the middle, and have to use their interior lines to fight on several fronts at once; the Russians face a vast frontier with widely separated objectives; the Austrians are on a knife-edge, with a high density of objectives in a small region, and are challenged to decide if they’re going to play defense or take the fight directly to Prussia; and the French may have to content themselves with a methodical advance using their limited resources, always alert for the opportunity to extend themselves with a sudden, slashing try at victory. A host of minor ally nations have their own strengths and foibles, while the “Cards of Fate” system ensures that the endgame will rarely play out the same way twice.

The result is a game with some level of chaos that requires the players be on their toes at all times. A bit more is demanded of the Prussian player than the other positions, as his actions will set the tempo for the game as a whole, and the relationships between the event cards and your position on the map will not be fully understood until several games are under your belt. In this, Friedrich is a game you’ll have to botch a time or two before you start to truly understand what you are doing, but this is a common characteristic of many games (and one in no way limited to wargames). You can reduce the learning curve a bit by reading up on strategies, but it might prove more fun to discover the secrets of this game on your own with your own group of new players.

This group requirement should be noted – this was designed as a game for three or four players, and while the two-player variants available on the publisher’s website are reputed to be solid (I haven’t played them yet), by the designer’s own admission, Friedrich is intended as a multi-player experience. If you’re looking for a two-player game, you might want to look elsewhere. But if a smoothly-designed game of maneuver and sudden reversals is attractive, and if you have even the slightest interest in the period (and aren’t put off by what could prove to be a four-hour game, particularly for new players), then the time you invest in Friedrich will be well-rewarded. Good luck, and watch your lines of supply!

Editor's Note:
The forthcoming Forward Observer #1 Discussion about Intro Wargames thread will explain why this game was chosen as our CDG and which other CDGs were mentioned as possibilities. This thread will be out within a week.
 
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David Seddon
United Kingdom
Congleton
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To put this review in Context, you may wish to read the FO Overview here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/90762
 
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Michael Graf
Germany
East of Munich
Bavaria
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Admiral Fisher wrote:
Friedrich is a multi-player wargame of the Seven Years War, famed for the campaigns of the Soldier King Frederick the Great


A minor historical quibble: "The Soldier King" was the byname of Friedrich II. "the Great"'s father, Friedrich-Wilhem I. He acquired it by, among other things, dropping the aristocracy at his court in favour of his generals, and by doubling the size of Prussia's army during the first five years of his regency.

Friedrich was, in many ways, the opposite of his father. Wikipedia goes into way more detail than I could possibly here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_II_of_Prussia
 
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Merv D
United States
Unspecified
Texas
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Although the asymetrical powers intruiged me, I wasn't really enthused about the time period. But then I played Friedrich. Very cool. Extremely fun, especially the with the pressures of being Prussia. There's some chaos and luck but plenty of room for clever tactics.

I've now ordered Wilderness War (which I wasn't enthused about either) to be a compliment to this game. What does that say about this game? Fantastic.
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Paul O'Connor
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MJSchuelke wrote:
Admiral Fisher wrote:
Friedrich is a multi-player wargame of the Seven Years War, famed for the campaigns of the Soldier King Frederick the Great


A minor historical quibble: "The Soldier King" was the byname of Friedrich II. "the Great"'s father, Friedrich-Wilhem I.


You are right. Thanks for the correction!

Any comment on this game or the reveiw?
 
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Alex Brown
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Greenbelt
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I've played once and love the game; highly looking forward to the next.
My question would be: what in the wargaming world could I play that would give me the same feel as Friedrich? ie Since I love Friedrich, what should I try next?
 
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Paul O'Connor
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AlexBrown wrote:
I've played once and love the game; highly looking forward to the next.
My question would be: what in the wargaming world could I play that would give me the same feel as Friedrich? ie Since I love Friedrich, what should I try next?


For the multi-player dynamic, you might look at Successors, Napoleonic Wars, or the recently-released Wellington.

For the "can you top this?" style of combat resolution, you might enjoy We the People or Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage.

For a game of maneuver you might enjoy A House Divided.

I really can't think of a game that brings all these elements together as elegantly as Friedrich, though.
 
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Kevin Moody
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Edmond
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Alex, see if you can sit in on a game of Wellington. From all accounts by people I trust it sounds like a very good choice.

Kevin (Friedrich fan)
 
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Michael @mgouker
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Pembroke Pines
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Wellington is good fun. Also, I recommend Sword of Rome - it's an awesome game where the flavors of the tribes are really well done.
 
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