So its Thursday, and I’m going to rave a bit about a game called Friday, that I actually first played this past Sunday. As the weather warms up and the bugs start to hatch on the rivers, I spend most of my days off knee deep in fresh cold running water casting at feeding trout. When the sun sets on the river, though, the casting must end, and I need something to do for an hour or two before bed, otherwise my mind races with excitement for the next day of fishing. Games on a tablet device or games that can be played solitaire are perfect for these moments, and last Sunday I discovered an excellent solo card game called Friday, by Friedemann Friese (of Power Grid fame).
In Friday, you are helping a poor fellow named Robinson shortly after he was shipwrecked on a lonely island. On the horizon, two pirate ships approach, and you need to help Robinson develop his survival and fighting skills so that he can fend off the pirates, take their ship, and leave the island.
Friday is a deck building game. This means you will have a starting deck of cards that you’ll draw cards from to play, you’ll be acquiring helpful cards that will go into your discard pile, and when your deck has no more cards, you will shuffle the discard pile to make a new deck. In Friday, your starting deck is terrible. But as Robinson successfully explores the island and faces hazards, the hazard cards become reward cards that get added to your deck.
Each turn consists of drawing two hazard cards, choosing which one to face, then drawing a number of cards from your character deck as instructed by the hazard card. If your total fighting points match or exceed the hazard value, you win the hazard card, if not, you will lose some life but also have the option to destroy some of the terrible cards in your deck. In addition to fighting values, some of your character cards have actions you can perform, and this is where the game gets very interesting. The actions may allow you to draw more cards, rearrange the top 3 cards of your deck, gain more life, destroy cards, and a few other options. These actions can be performed in any order, and the play order is often very, very important. Unfortunately, all of the exploring and fighting takes time, and when you need to reshuffle your discard pile to make a new deck, you also add a horrible aging card to the deck that ruins a great offense when it shows up later in the game.
I’ve tried out a few solo games on my fishing trips, like the Lord of the Rings Card Game and Roll Through the Ages, both excellent games (If Mage Knight were more compact it would easily be the only game I played). Friday, though, is a near perfect game for my needs. It is compact, plays in about 30 minutes, and it is very challenging with fun choices. So if you find yourself in lonely situations, I highly recommend helping Robinson escape his own in a game of Friday by Friedemann Friese.
Dominion is a wonderful game of deck-building, or constructing a small efficient engine out of a deck of cards. For some though, the term deck-building induces facial micro-expressions so powerful you don’t have to be Cal Lightman to sense the revulsion. Well, for both loathers and lovers of deck-building, two new games have hit the shelves that herald the next generation and are worth at least 10 or more trys: Eminent Domain (designer Seth Jaffe, publisher Tasty Minstrel Games) and A Few Acres of Snow (designer Martin Wallace, publisher Treefrog Games). Both of these games use deck-building as a single mechanic within a multi-faceted game experience.
In Eminent Domain, players are attempting to colonize or attack planets in order to expand their space empire. A large empire alone can win you the game, or you can use the planets to produce and trade resources, or acquire advanced technologies. In addition to deck-building, Eminent Domain combines role-selection (a la Puerto Rico, Glory to Rome, and Race for the Galaxy) with tableau development (a la Race for the Galaxy and 7 Wonders). I’ve played this puppy too many times to count and I still want more. Beware though, the role-selection aspect of the game throws many people off, so if that is a new element for you, approach Eminent Domain with extreme caution.
A Few Acres of Snow takes deck-building in a slightly different direction by combining it with area control in a region of North America during the time of the French-Indian War. Deck-building is accomplished in a standard fashion, by buying cards, but settling territories on the map also leads to the acquisition of territory cards, which often junk up your deck the same way Dominion property cards do. You’ll be using your cards during the game to collect money, develop territories, and, oh yeah, siege and raid opponent occupied locations. A Few Acres is 2-player only, and it has a certain cigar-smoking distinguished feel about it, like a chess duel. Oh, and the box art is stunning, you could face this baby out in your art gallery!