When I first started gaming, the idea of gaming solo never crossed my mind. Board games, in my mind, were meant to be a social experience. Then I thought about all the card games I used to enjoy as a kid, and one of my favourites was Clock Solitaire. My grandmother taught me how to play and I used to sit there for hours playing it, hoping that fourth King wouldn’t come out, but it inevitably always did.
Remembering that time spent playing a game by myself gave me a whole new perspective on solo gaming. I began to play a solo card game that I found on Board Game Geek called The Lonely Dead. Then I moved on to games with solo modes, like Tiny Epic Galaxies.
Friday by Rio Grande Games was the next step up on the ladder. A purely solitaire game designed by Friedemann Friese, Friday puts you in the shoes of Robinson Crusoe’s right-hand man. You and you alone can help Robinson escape the island. How do you do that you may ask? Well, here’s a little run down.
Friday is a deck-building game, and like most deck-building games, the player starts off with a standard set of specific cards. These cards are referred to as fighting cards. The values of the 18 cards in the starting deck range from -1 (distracted) being the worst and 2 (genius) being the best. These values, again, like a standard deck builder, are what will help you gain new cards for your fighting deck.
What’s different about Friday from a typical deck-building game is that instead of a hand, you draw the fighting cards one by one. As well, instead of having new cards out to purchase, you must instead fight to gain them. The cards that become new fighting cards for your deck start off as a hazard card. Hazards range in difficulty with “With the raft to the wreck” being the easiest and “Cannibals” being the most difficult. When defeated, the cards are flipped upside down to show the fighting card side (with a picture of Robinson). The more difficult the hazard, the stronger and better the fighting card will be. The cards from this deck tend to also have special abilities, ranging from exchanging a card or removing a card from the game to allowing you to giving you more life points (more about those later).
To win one of these cards to add to your fighting deck, you must, well, fight them. You draw two and choose one to fight. The rejected hazard goes into a discard pile. The white spot on the side indicates how many cards you are allowed to draw for free to fight the hazard (more about this later). The colours on the side indicate the score required to defeat the hazard, depending on what phase of the game you are in. Phases start on the easiest level (green). Then once the hazard deck is exhausted, the phase goes up to yellow, and then, red.
When you draw cards against a hazard, you are given a certain number of cards for “free”, as previously mentioned, If you want to draw cards past this number to try and defeat the hazard, you must pay a life point. The player starts with 20 of these little green life points and while you can gain some back through card abilities, you tend to end up losing them quicker than gaining. As well, if you don’t have enough points to defeat a hazard and add it to your deck (equal or more points than what the phase dictates), you must give up life points equal to the difference between your points and the hazard. You can have no life points, but once you owe any and can’t pay, the game is over.
One last thing are the aging cards. Aging cards have negative effects and scores that must be applied unless negated by a different card effect. These cards are added to the fighting deck once that deck is exhausted. For an easier level of difficulty, the rules suggest removing the -3 (very stupid) aging card from the deck. As well, the three most negative aging cards are placed below the rest of the deck so it makes it a little less daunting.
Whew. That was a lot. This may seem daunting and to be perfectly honest, I knew I played wrong the first few times I played. However, once you get into the rhythm of the game, it becomes really engrossing and you’ll want to keep playing to get to the final level. After the hazard deck is exhausted in the red phase and you are somehow still alive, you then fight two pirate cards that are chosen at the start of the game. The pirates work very similarly to the hazards with a free card drawing amount in white and a designated amount of points to defeat them.
For such a small box, Friday does take a fair bit of room on the table. There are three boards that hold the aging, hazard, and fighting decks. As well, there needs to be room for discard piles for both hazards and fighting cards. There are also the phase cards and the pirate cards, and life points. Thankfully the rule book is very helpful in guiding the set up.
I have very few complaints with this game. Despite having never reached past the yellow phase, I enjoy the game and the challenge it provides. I will usually end up playing 3 or 4 times in a row because I get so determined to do just a little bit better than I did before. It’s just as engrossing to me as Clock Solitaire was when I was younger.
The artwork is cartoony but I think it fits the overall mood of the game and is well done. Of course, there is a lot of green in the game, being a Friedemann Friese design, but it doesn’t take away from the game. It actually makes sense since there’s a lot of jungle on the island. As well, the components are pretty good. The highlight are the wooden life point pieces. The boards for holding the decks are made of thick cardboard and are very sturdy.
The only issue production wise I have is that you can’t tell the types of cards apart from the backs, which is a necessary design element since you’re adding the other cards to the fighting deck and having a different back would give away which type of card is coming up. My solution to this is to store the cards separately by type with the phase cards on top of the hazards and the pirate cards (which have a different back) on top of the aging cards to help tell the stacks apart.
I would recommend Friday to just about every level of solo gamer, from the beginner to the expert. It provides enough of a challenge that those who play solo often will like the idea of trying to solve the game and strategize, but the mechanics and overall play are simple enough that someone who isn’t necessarily familiar with solo gaming or gaming in general won’t feel too intimidated.
Please ignore the strange colouring on some of these photos. For some reason, most of the photos had a blue tint to them and I had to try and fix them to make them look a little more normal.