Friday – A Condensed Review

In this short review me and the cats briefly share our thoughts on Friday, a highly regarded deck-building game for one player, designed by Friedemann Friese and released in 2011.

All the cards and tokens for the solitaire board game Friday.
The contents of the small box.

In this 20-30 minute game you take on the role of Friday, right after the utterly incompetent stranger Robinson Crusoe suddenly shows up on your island. Robinson badly needs your help to stay alive. The game revolves around two decks. One represents Robinson – his skills, weaknesses and needs. Each card in the Robinson deck has a number in the corner, ranging from -1 to +2. The other deck represents different hazards Robinson faces on the island. These cards have a difficulty level ranging from 0 to 5 in the first stage of the game. The Hazard cards also have a number indicating how many Robinson cards the player can use to try to deal with that hazard. If the sum of the Robinson cards you play is equal to or higher than the difficulty, you succeed. The sum total of all the starting cards in the Robinson deck is 0, however. He’s pretty weak! But for every challenge Robinson overcomes, he learns something.

At the start of every turn you draw two Hazard cards, discard one and try to deal with the other. If you are successful the Hazard card is turned 180 degrees and added to the Robinson cards, now representing a skill instead. If you fail, Robinson loses some life points and the Hazard card is discarded. But failure is a good teacher, and failing sometimes allows you to get rid of one of the negative cards in the Robinson deck.

A game of Friday in progress on a birchwood kitchen table.
See the Hazard card in the middle of the bottom row? If Robinson succeeds in dealing with the hazard, turn it 180 degrees and it becomes a skill that improves the Robinson deck.

In this manner you hone the Robinson deck, teaching Robinson to survive on the island. When you run out of Robinson cards you reshuffle them and add a negative card from a face down stack, representing his aging. Every time you run out of Hazard cards you reshuffle them and the difficulty level increases. The third time this happens you’ve reached the climactic end of the game: the island is attacked by pirates and you have to use more or less every single card in the Robinson deck to defeat them. If Robinson survives this, he sails for home on one of the pirate ships, finally leaving you alone.

There’s more to it, of course, but that’s the gist of it. To learn more about the rules, check out this excellent instructional video by Ben Miles.

Pros

+ Lots of game in a small box for a modest price.
+ Challenging from the get-go and you can increase difficulty if you seem to be winning too often.
+ The rules and the story make sense together, for example when Robinson overcomes a challenge and you add a useful card to the Robinson deck.
+ Components are good and artwork is excellent. For the most part (see Cons-paragraph below).
+ Playing through the three stages of the game, improving the Robinson deck and finally facing the pirates brings a sense of progress, escalation and climax.
+ The game is fairly easy to learn.

Cons

An annoying sense of goofiness pervades the game. This can be seen in the pictures of Robinson, where he comes across as a moronic halfwit, and in the names of some of the cards (“Stupid”, “Very Stupid”). This comedic tone is a turnoff for me.
The “Storage Boards” – three square boards to put stacks of cards on to keep them apart and to keep track of the reshuffling process – are superfluous, in my opinion. Just excess cardboard. A real player aid would have been more useful, because:
The rule book is laid out in a confusing way, and whenever I wonder about some rule or card, I have to flip back and forth a lot. Annoying but totally manageable. Everything you need to know is there, you just have to look for it.

Target Audience and Final Thoughts

I think nearly anybody above the age of ten who enjoys solitaire games should give Friday a go (although chances are they already have). I might fall outside the target audience, though, since my preferences are bordering on so utterly nerdy that I need either orcs, laser pistols or at least vampires to feel comfortable (that’s a slight exaggeration, really, I probably just have a problem with humor in games). Despite this I have to admit that Friday is a very clever and well designed game, and it deserves to stay in print for another eight years at least.


As you can see in the picture on top, Mysan is quite fond of the life counters. I hope that you enjoyed this short review, and who knows, perhaps you would enjoy this game as much as Mysan does! Thanks for reading!

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