There was a point when I would have considered the idea of a Board game specifically designed for one player ridiculous. The thought of making a game with actual physical components solely for one person when it could have been easier developed and produced as an app was confusing and seemed like an incredibly poor decision. Sure there might be a market for it, but digitally speaking, getting it to the masses seems the right route to take. However, I decided to give a fairly inexpensive solo game a shot, simply because of the sheer amount of praise it got. I took a chance and had my entire opinion changed by Friday.
As the story goes, you play as Friday, Robinson Crusoe’s native helper on the undiscovered island. Your sole mission is to get Robinson strong enough to survive and eventually leave. The problem is that Robinson is incredibly inept. He starts with a deck of cards with numbers -1 through 2. You then are forced to face off against ever increasingly difficult challenges in the form of a separate deck. This “challenge deck” consists of two halves on the same face of the card. The top is the challenge you face in which it tells you the number of cards from your own deck you may draw for free and a number threshold that you must cross when drawing from your deck. The second half of the card is reserved for if you beat the challenge. If you can manage to scrape in a higher number than the one on the card, you flip the challenge and add it to your deck, using it to your advantage in later rounds. As the game goes on you get stronger, but you also get older, which causes some major issues along the way. Balancing life with time and taking actions to get rid of detrimental cards is pivotal to success, because at the end of the game (should you make it that far) you face off against two randomly drawn pirates. If you defeat them, Robinson leaves the island and the game is won.
First off, I still stand by my original opinion that this game would make a fantastic app. It would remove setup time and all the scoring and life tracking could be kept automatically so you could play it smoother and faster. However, something I should have known after getting into this hobby is that you can’t replace the tactile feel of a physical game and it was a welcome pleasure when giving this a go. The game is hard, so hard that I’m somewhat tempted to call shenanigans on just how much luck saturates the game. However, if I’m honest the luck doesn’t shroud it near as much as I want to admit. You are forced to make difficult but shrewd decisions regarding your deck. It cost life to remove bad cards from your deck, but you need to remove cards in order to stand a chance in the game. You also can’t remove cards from your deck unless you lose one of the challenge cards. This means that purposefully losing a particular challenge isn’t only a good idea, at times it’s necessary, which sucks because your life drains so fast in this game. I’ve played this game. In 13 plays I’ve only just won, dying a pretty terrible death each time before.
Holy smokes is the game addictive. You have that need to win but the game isn’t going to hand it to you. You also know that it’s less about luck than it is about the poor decisions you made early on. You’ve got to know when to push your luck and when to run away. For such a small game it packs the theme in there strong and the difficulty and desperation makes it feel like you’re struggling to survive. And when you lose, you may find yourself, as I did, setting the game back up to try again. It would be a fantastically wonderful app, and maybe by the time you’re reading this it already is, but there is no replacing the feel of the cards and the sound of your life points being dropped into the box after you’ve decided to lose a challenge. Friday was the best introduction into solo gaming I could have hoped for. Wooden bits, cardboard boards and cards filled with unique mechanisms. All of these aspects come together to make an incredibly interesting and fun little game that you can sit down alone and play for a solid 30 minutes. The tension makes it so the game doesn’t drag, which, let’s face it, if you’re playing a solo game you’re doing so to avoid boredom.
I can’t recommend Friday enough, it’s become not only my favorite game to play solo, but one of my favorite games in general. I really wasn’t into the thought of solo gaming but the validity of it is proved in this little box that you can pick up for like $12. Sometimes getting away to your own deserted island is as simple as pulling a box off the shelf.
- Plays quickly without being simple.
- Unique mechanics that flow really well with the game.
- Well made components make it feel like more than a card game.
- Single player only.
- You might find the moving pieces excessive and unnecessary (you’d be wrong).
- It’s a difficult game, even on the “easy” setting.