Friday (Game Review)

Friday box


As I said in my Origins re-cap, Friedemann Friese’s Friday is the first deck-building game since Dominion to truly work, and it does this by not trying to copy Dominion at all. Most notably, you don’t hold a hand of cards. After choosing a challenge to fight against, you draw a certain number and see what total strength they provide. Winning gives you that card in your hand – half of the card describes the challenge, while the other half has a fighting strength or special power to use later. If the drawn cards aren’t enough to win, you can either pay a health point to draw another, or you can give up, losing one health per point that you lost. But these losses are an important part of your strategy, because for each health lost in this way, you can trash one drawn card. With a theme based on Robinson Crusoe, you start the game very healthy, but weak. The goal is to get rid of the bad cards you start with and gain stronger ones, essentially turning into a tough survivalist who is just a few accidents away from death. Every time you go through your deck, a bad “aging” card gets shuffled in, adding another threat to stay on top of.

The middle of a game of Friday

The deck-building mechanic isn’t the only clever aspect, though. Friday is also a solitaire game. While some new games come with optional solitaire rules, this is the first modern one I’ve seen intended only for one player. As such, it’s a little difficult to judge. One friend I loaned it to pointed out that the various things you needed to keep track of felt too fiddly, and he’d rather use a computer if he’s playing solitaire. Personally, I thought the fiddliness was much easier to handle when I’m just counting points and special abilities in my head instead of justifying them to the table. Obviously, though, opinions about Friday will depend on factors different from multiplayer games.

I will say, though, that if you want a strategic solitaire game, this seems like the right approach. It’s inexpensive, can be packed in a purse or laptop bag, and plays in about thirty minutes. (If you lose, it may end more quickly.) On top of that, the four difficulty levels keep the game challenging but winnable for all players, as well as making sure that you experience the full arc of the gameplay in those early learning games.

The gameplay is streamlined but offers some worthwhile choices. Like a good deck-builder should, Friday works because its strategy involves more than just taking whatever you can. That 0-strength card that lets you draw two more for free is pretty good in the late game, but useless in the beginning when the cards it draws will probably also be 0s. Balancing the need for fighting strength with the cool powers that some cards have is a major tension, even more important than the balance between destroying bad cards and retaining health.

I don’t see this becoming a Dominion-style juggernaut. You play with the same cards every time, get the chance to put almost every card in your deck, and I haven’t found a better strategy than the one that I figured out early on. But there’s a good deal of replay potential within that strategy, and I can play Friday at times when other board games just aren’t an option. Friday is a good game regardless, but if I also give it credit for filling a new niche and doing deck-building right, then this is obviously a must-play.

Grade: A-

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