Friday, June 22, 2012

It's a Good Friday

I'm always on the lookout for a good solitaire game. I often find myself in the mood for a good game, but no one to play with. It was because of this that I decided to pick up Friday: A Solo Adventure, designed by Friedmann Friese and published by 999 Games.

A Shipwrecked Theme
Friday is based on the story of Robinson Crusoe, the victim of a shipwreck who must struggle to survive on a strange an unforgiving island. The player takes the role of his companion, Friday and must aid Robinson in overcoming a series of hazards to build up his strength. The game does a great job of relating to the theme as you can actually see your own strength and power increasing as the game progresses. What would have been impossible tasks at the beginning of the game can become minor nuisances with smart gameplay. But at the same time, the hardships on the island slowly whittle away at your life points, forcing you to accept your own mortality and (mostly) inevitable demise.

Starting cards
Gameplay: Deckbuilding With a Pinch of Push Your Luck
Friday falls into the deckbuilding genre of games, pioneered by Dominion. The premise is that you start the game with a small deck of fairly weak cards. Through the game you will use these cards to acquire new cards to add to your deck. These new cards will be stronger, more valuable, more useful and allow you to obtain even better cards. In addition, you also hope to shed as many of the starting cards as possible in hopes of having a deck with as many strong cards and as few weak cards as possible.

Hazard Cards
The starting deck of Friday contains cards with a value that ranges from -1 to 2. At the start of each turn, the player flips over two cards from the hazard deck and pick one to attempt. These cards allow the player to flip over a certain number of cards for free from your deck. If your cards have a value that equals or beats the goal number on the card, then you can add that card to your deck. On the bottom of each of hazard card is the reward that you may get. This can range from having a higher value, or allowing you to draw more cards for free or regain life.

If you fail to beat the hazard you have two choices. You can pay life points to draw more cards in hopes of beating the card or you can accept defeat. If you still fail to match the goal, then you can have the same choice: keep drawing or accept defeat. If you accept defeat you still lose life points equal to the difference between your target number and the value of your cards. But the upside is that if you accept defeat, you can also eliminate cards from your deck. This means that there will be many times early in the game that you are happy to lose because you can shed some of your weaker cards.

Aging Cards
The Twist: Aging
I mentioned above that you hope to get rid of cards from your deck to have a slim, powerful set of cards. But the catch is that if you slim down too much, you will be punished. Every time you run out of cards in your deck, you must add an aging card to it. These are the nastiest cards in the game. They can have a value of up to -4, make you lose life or make your most valuable card equal 0. This adds another balance point that you must always consider.

End Game: Ahoy!
The game continues until you go through the hazard deck three time. Every time you go through it, they get hard to beat, but still offer the same rewards. After the third time through you face the end game bosses, two pirate cards. These cards follow the same formula as the hazard cards but they are tougher to beat. If you are able to successfully defeat both pirates, then you win the game. If at any time you lose a life point, but you have none remaining, then you lose.

The game includes a scoring method to track how well you did. If you feel like you're getting pretty good, then there are also multiple levels of difficulty. However, the game is punishing even on the 'easiest' level. I have played around a dozen time and have only beaten it a couple times. It requires some good strategic and a bit of luck as it can easily go from bad to worse in the draw of a card. But even when things are going horribly, the game never feels unfair.

This has become my favorite solo game for the time being. It has a fast set up time, a relatively small footprint and can be played pretty quickly (especially if you lose). If you are in the market for a solo game, then I recommend trying to track this one down.

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