iOS, Android •
I’ve heard people mention three web-based boardgaming sites often: Brettspielwelt, Yucata, and, um, Bootyjew (that’s what I’ve always heard it called, and I am proud of myself for finding a link despite that). BSW has always sounded the strongest, but it wasn’t enough for them–now they’re coming for our mobile devices, as well. Their first foray: Friedemann Friese’s Friday, a sterling choice. It’s a well-regarded solo game with complexity just a bit above Onirim‘s, so they avoided the twin bottomless pits of development effort: AI and multiplayer, like Pitfall Harry. I looked it up–that’s actually the name of the character from Pitfall! I’m not excited about it, it just seemed like a waste of punctuation to end a sentence with “Pitfall!.”
Friday is a solo deck-builder in which you, as Friday, try to help Robinson Crusoe survive. He’s quite the liability on his own, and, each time you run through your deck, he gets a new card which handicaps him, a reflection of the depredations of age. I honestly don’t know why Friday bothers–maybe Robinson introduced him to pizza? I’ve always thought it cruel of Gene Roddenberry to have the Prime Directive forbid the broadest possible sharing of pizza [and yet the Klingons were free to spread gagh around the alpha quadrant -ed.]. Anyway, the cards in your deck provide you with points to meet various challenges, as well as simple special abilities like “double another card’s value”, “remove a card from your deck”, or “+2 life”.
There are two sort of unintuitive elements to the game: the first is that the cards which represent the challenges Robinson faces also represent the benefits gained from defeating those challenges. So, each turn, you choose one of two cards to face. Each of them defines a number of cards you can draw from your deck for free, as well as a target difficulty which escalates each time you run through the challenge deck and reshuffle the discards and failed challenges. You can spend a life point to draw an extra card, but the faster you run through your deck, the quicker you age (sort of the reverse of relativity). Sometimes it’s better to fail a challenge than keep drawing cards until you succeed.
That’s especially true because of the second unintuitive element of the game. Each time you fail a challenge, you lose life points equal to the difference between the total of your cards and the target. But this also gives you your main method of thinning the deck–as those life points depart, they effectively become a resource you can spend to remove your dross. While it can be thematically weird to see cannibals as an opportunity to become more competent at island life, or failing to overcome them as a good way to avoid being distracted or weak in the future, this structure leaves you with some marvelous decisions to make. You might, for example, choose a difficult challenge in the hopes that you’ll be able to draw lots of terrible cards, fail badly, and eliminate those cards from your deck. Certainly other deck-builders have trained us that a svelte deck is ideal for maximizing your quality cards, so that seems like a solid strategy. However, it also means you’ll be running through your deck faster, which means you’ll get more terrible aging cards. You might want to slow down, instead, because once you get through the challenge deck three times (if you live so long), you’ll face two pirate ships before you can win by escaping the island.
The hurricane season to this tropical paradise of a game is that the app feels very much like a first release, even coming from a company with an impressive history in another medium. The tutorial information is fractured and incomplete, the interface frequently laggy and inconsistent, and even the treatment of the game’s rules is unreliable. Sometimes, you can’t do stuff you aren’t allowed to do. Other times, you get a warning, and yet other times you’re free to cheat and might not even realize you’re cheating. We can hope Brettspielwelt are on the case for an update to address these issues, but they’re serious.
At this point, I wouldn’t recommend the app to anyone. Friday has the misfortune to launch during a period in which we’ve seen a raft [how’s that for thematically appropriate? -ed.] of excellent mobile card games which fill a niche similar to Friday’s, so there’s just no need to deal with its problems. I quite like the game as a solo tabletop experience, and it’s satisfyingly difficult, but the app needs more time in the fire pit. Should it patch these away, it’s a great fit for mobile and will please many a Stately Play reader.