Bursting with historical goodies, Friedrich is a recently re-released board game from Rio Grande Games that recreates all of the tension, glory and tactical maneuvering of the Seven Years' War.
Between 1754 and 1763, war raged in Europe and North America. The war was not officially declared until 1756, thus the conflict was officially dubbed the Seven Years' War (or the French and Indian War in America). In central Europe the Prussian king, Frederick the Great, fought a coalition of enemies determined to humble Berlin's power.
Though receiving heavy subsidies for his army from Britain, Frederick fought a valiant defensive struggle against Russia, Austria and France that he nearly lost on several occasions. Playing for time, Frederick won a series of brilliant victories but was finally saved from certain defeat when the Czarina Elizabeth of Russia died unexpectedly, leading Russia to offer a ceasefire.
The board game Friedrich (German for Frederick) wonderfully recreates the conflict as players take on the role of either Prussia, Russia, Austria, France or minor nations. Prussia plays defense as the coalition players each try to win the game by invading Prussia and gaining their objectives. This is easier said than done, however, as Prussia starts the game with the biggest armies and is allowed to draw the most tactical cards.
Players assign various numbers of armies to different generals. The game board is divided into grids, with a different playing card suit in each. During battle, players can only play cards from the suit grid their general occupies. Cards are played back and forth until the general with the highest number wins. No dice is needed for combat.
Another fun mechanic is the supply trains, which move like armies. They do not fight or take control of regions, however. Rather, no army can ever be too far away from supply trains, lest they run out of supply. Having your forces tethered to their base this way makes for some truly engaging play and tough tactical decisions.
After six game turns, players start drawing from the Hand of Fate deck, which simulates the historical possibilities that occurred during the Seven Years' War.
This is a wonderful mix of traditional wargame and the more-interactive/less-chance style of Eurogame that have become so popular in the last few years. There is some level of chance in the cards drawn, and it does affect strategic decisions, but not as much you might think. Players will also enjoy the wide range of strategic options presented by numerous cities on a beautifully rendered game board depicting central Europe.
Overall this is a very fun and engaging board game with a fantastic historical theme. I have no problem calling this one of the best war games I have played in a long time and can't wait to take another crack at it soon.
The Rio Grande Games edition is billed as an anniversary edition to mark the 300th birthday of Frederick the Great, who was born in 1712.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org