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Monday, January 29, 2007


My Stab at a Friedrich Strategy Article

I have been playing Friedrich quite a bit as of late. As I reported earlier I think it has the potential to be a classic game and spawn other games using the same system. I am not going to detail the game system, this post is a general overview of strategy that I found to work quite well for the Prussians, and some thoughts on countering that strategy. Do note that the Prussians have not yet managed to win any of our games, so taking advice from me may be akin to turning to Hillary Clinton for advice on sex appeal. However the game has occupied much of my thought lately and I do have some observations.

Much of my thought on the matter was provoked and influenced by this strategy article on Boardgamegeek. This post does not include my thoughts on the offensive Prussian victory option.

Prussia draws 7 cards every round which is more than any of her opponents. The opposing countries draw a total of 14 cards every round, so despite having the advantage against any one opponent, Prussia will get beaten down quickly without proper card management. Proper card management means only engaging each opponent in one and only one suit. By fighting each opponent in one and only one suit Prussia's superior card accumulation should give her an advantage against each individual opponent.

The longer Prussia can avoid conflict the more cards she can accumulate. Given the law of averages the more cards Prussia accumulates the greater her advantage over a given opponent. Prussia should use delaying actions to avoid major conflict for as long as possible, perhaps 4-5 rounds or longer.

Given the law of averages and a strong suit Prussia's opponents should try to go toe to toe with Prussia as soon as possible. If they can win a few battles and control Prussia's retreats they can force Prussia to fight in unfavorable suits. Given good cards Prussia's opponents might want to bypass certain objectives in an effort to push Prussia out of the suits he is likely to dedicate before he can out-collect them.

It is common after winning a battle against Prussia for her opponents to try and retreat the Prussian general out of supply with the hope of keeping him out of supply, or retreat him far enough out of the way to claim an objective. Both are short sighted. Provided Prussia is using the basic strategy outlined here it is much better to retreat Prussia out of his chosen suit and into a position where he can be engaged in another suit.

The longer the Prussian ally, Hanover, can avoid major conflict and collect cards the more flexible Prussia can be. Hanover only draws two cards every round, but the French only draw three. By engaging the French in only one suit Hanover will likely get beaten down, but will be able to soften up the French and drain him of cards. Hanover can then use all 3 other suits to buy more armies. The Prussian player must follow up in the same suit, but if he can do so successfully he should be able to hold off the French without breaking a sweat.

Hanover can challenge the French in any suit, with the possible exception of clubs. Given one weak suit early in the game Prussia should be able to use Hanover to buy itself time to draw more cards until it can challenge France in that suit.

When we first played Friedrich we noted that France won fairly easily. Now that we've played more it is apparent that Hanover should be able to harass the French indefinitely given one Prussian general with a suitable, Prussian collection of either hearts, diamonds or spades. In order to not be bled to death I feel that it behooves the French to quickly and directly challenge Hanover in which ever suit Hanover chooses. France must do this with an amassed army.

France has 20 armies to Hanover 12. In addition Hanover will likely have his armies split into two separate groups. If France can come at a lone Hanover general with all 20 French armies Hanover will have to expend at least 12 points of cards just to tie France. Even if France is playing in a weak suit he ought to be able to arrange to only lose an army or two, and even if he is playing a strong suit he should play to lose an army or two. On the next attack Hanover will be forced to expend another 10 or 11 points of cards just to tie France. In two rounds of play Hanover will be forced to play perhaps as much as 23 points of cards before France has to commit so much as a deuce.

This same principle of amassed armies should be applied against Prussia by her enemies where ever possible. If you can come after Prussia with 16 armies against 8, you force Prussia to burn eight points of cards just to tie. You should break off the engagement in the first round if possible, arranging to lose only one or two armies. On the next round you force Prussia to play six or seven points of cards just to tie. Again you should retreat, losing only one or two armies if possible. In two rounds you have forced Prussia to expend 14 or 15 points and it has cost you next to nothing. Prussia should try to force a tie if possible, because in this situation prolonged battles benefit him. If he can't force a tie Prussia should play large cards in order to force her opponents to continue to play cards. Prolonged battles favor Prussia.

It can be hard to force or to bait Prussia into a battle with an amassed army, but if you or your opponents can do it in one area of the board, it becomes easier to do in other areas of the board. As Prussia is forced to dedicate suits to her opponents Prussia has less and less room to maneuver.

Back to Hanover.

If clubs are Hanover's strong suit the Prussian player might want to fall back on Hanover's next strongest suit. Neither Prussia nor Hanover will have an easy time challenging the French in clubs, because so few French objectives can be defended in clubs against clubs. Clubs is also a good suit with which to fight the Austrians.

That brings us to Austria. Prussia should make it a point to challenge Austria in either diamonds or clubs, whichever is stronger. It will be more difficult to challenge Austria in hearts or spades, but it could be done successfully. Decisions to allocate other suits to fight other opponents should be secondary to the decision of Austria. Austria is Prussia's strongest enemy. Austria draws five cards every round which is nearly as many as Prussia's seven.

Engaging Austria in spades and hearts will be difficult, because so many of the Austrian objectives in spades and hearts are far from the Prussian heartland. These objectives will likely fall early in the game. Austria will probably have to fight back through clubs and diamonds to get to a hearts and spades battle. But as I alluded to, the first casualty of war is the plan, if Prussia is weak in both clubs and diamonds he may need to make a stand in either spades or hearts, but that should not be impossible, merely difficult.

Prussia should plan to reserve both diamonds and clubs to fight the Austrians early in the game. As I stated, Austria draws nearly as many cards as the Prussians. If Austria gets lucky and out draws the Prussians in the suit Prussia had allocated, Prussia is screwed. It is best to have a second suit to fall back on. It is my opinion that the Prussians should take the war to the Austrians early in the game (maybe round 4) and fight them in either diamonds or clubs (whichever is Prussia's strongest suit) just to feel out the Austrian's strength in that suit. If Prussia is successful early in the game in the given suit the other suit (either clubs or diamonds) can be allocated to fight the Swedes and the Imperial Army, or be used to purchase more armies.

Both the Swedes and the Imperial army draw one card every round. One suit should be enough to stomp both enemies, and the stomping should occur before either country has a chance to collect a few cards and pull an upset victory out of his butt. However unlikely that is to happen statistically it seems to happen with regularity. The Swedes and Imperial army will normally avoid conflict like the plague until they see an opportunity. Given a half decent card draw in any suit both nations should be used by the controlling player to suck cards out of the Prussian player's hand, even if it is in a suit that benefits another player.

Hearts is probably the best suit to reserve for use against the Russians, but spades and clubs are viable alternatives. Hearts can be used to harass the Ruskies in both East Prussia and Prussia. Spades and clubs can individually be used with good effect in East Prussia and Prussia respectively.

With only one Prussian general in East Prussia the Russians should use the "amassed army" strategy quickly if possible. The Prussians have a lot of room to maneuver in East Prussia to avoid war, but significantly less room to maneuver if they are using the strategy outlined here. It should be possible to corner the East Prussians as soon as they are forced to dedicate a suit to the Russian invaders.

Drawing 7 cards to Russia's 4, Prussia is likely to have options when deciding which suit to dedicate to the Russian front, although Russia only needs to draw a couple good cards to out draw Prussia in a given suit, so again flexibility is needed.

Friday, January 26, 2007



This is why I wouldn't normally do this for under $30 (see previous post). It's been over a week since Steve got kicked out and I am still hauling his stuff around in the trunk of my car. I've talked to him twice, and he says, "Tomorrow, tomorrow I'll get my stuff."

His stuff is now setting in my woodshed.

I knew this would happen.

Monday, January 22, 2007


It could happen to you: This is why you should always tip your cabby

So I get a call to pick up at this old house that has been renovated into three or four different apartments. Two ladies came out with five or six duffel bags. After loading the bags into the trunk I opened the door for them to get into the back seat, but they ignored me and walked off. One lady said, "Take all that stuff to Steve* at the Mint Bar*."

"Ummmmm, is he expecting this stuff?"

"Yes, he is expecting it."

"Who's paying for it?"

"It's his stuff. He will pay."

Looks like Steve is getting the boot, I thought.

"He's not expecting this stuff is he?" I asked.

"He'll pay."

"Are you kicking him out and expecting me to break the news?"

They laughed and disappeared into the apartment.


This is what would have normally happened at that point.

First there is a ten dollar minimum delivery charge that needs to be paid up front.

Second I ain't gonna break the news to someone that they are kicked out of the house for less than twenty bucks.

That's a total of thirty dollars up front. If you can't come up with thirty dollars on the spot I'm depositing everything back onto the porch.

Third for a measly thirty dollars I ain't gonna try very hard to find Steve. If I can't find him in under two minutes I'm dropping everything off at the police station, telling them how it came into my possession and that I suspect it is all stolen.

For fifty bucks I'll look for Steve. If I can't find him I'll drop everything back off at the apartment. It can't stay in the cab. If I have taxi business on Fort Wainwright and there is a bag of weed, or a prescription pill bottle in his bags I can get into a lot of trouble. On Ft. Wainwright drug possession would be a federal crime, and the gate guards do search vehicles from time to time.

Fortunately for Steve I know him. Steve is a nice enough guy. He only takes short cab rides, but he is always pleasant and tips.

I drove down to the bar. Steve works there, and the bar was packed. When I walked in Steve asked, "Who ya here for?"

"I'm here for you actually."

"I didn't call a cab."

"Are you expecting a delivery?"


"Well....," What could I say? I just shook my head and said, "I think I have everything you own in the trunk of my cab."

I got a puzzled look in reply.

"I think your old lady just kicked you out. I have five or six bags in the trunk that she says belong to you, and that you were expecting them."

Steve took the news pretty well. I don't think the news was a big surprise. He just shrugged and said, "I can't keep it here and I don't know where I can have you take it this late at night. I'll have to get it from you in the morning."

"I have to get it out of the cab in case I need the trunk space. I guess I can put it in the trunk of my own car until tomorrow."

"I'll get it from you tomorrow."


And four days later the stuff is still sitting in the back of my car. But Steve is a nice enough guy, I'll see that he gets it.

That is what a small tip on a regular basis will buy you.

* Names have been changed.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Game Notes: Star Wars, Imperial, Antike

My vow to work fewer hours each week in favor of family and gaming has been a smashing success. Last weekend we had a huge game day at our house, this weekend I was able to play with a fellow I met on BGG, and there have been a few other games scattered here and there.

Oh. And my wife is happier too.

First off let me reiterate a point I made several months ago. Star Wars Miniatures is the bomb. It is a fun game and pretty damn cool to boot. Too bad it is collectible. If you know someone who collects the figures I have to advise you to give it a try.

Think HeroScape without the Lego-like terrain but much cooler.

Star Wars Miniatures is played on a large paper "board" depicting terrain or the inside of a building. Numerous "boards" are available. Each player controls a squad of several characters. There isn't much nuance in the game, players simply move their characters around the board attempting to kill the opposing characters. If your squad is eliminated you lose. Attacks are conducted with a 20 sided dice. Each character's abilities vary so widely as to be difficult to encapsulate in a short review. Suffice it to say that there have been some very interesting characters developed for the game in addition to the standard storm troopers and jedi fare that you were expecting.

Had a chance to play one game of Imperial two weeks ago. Despite utilizing very similar mechanisms to Antike and having a feel much like Antike, Imperial is a very different game from Antike. Antike is a straight forward Civ-lite civilization-building/limited-war/expand-your-empire-for-victory-points game. Imperial is a game of investing in various countries. Players are free to invest as much as they choose in as many countries as they choose. To determine the winner at the end of the game your investments are multiplied by the number of points each country scored during the game. In fact in Imperial no player actually has pieces on the board. The player who has the largest investment in each nation gets to control the military and finances of that nation, but control can change many times in the coarse of the game.

Very interesting game. I will report back with a better informed opinion after a few more plays.

After numerous games of Antike with 4, 5 and 6 players I have to report that it is an upper tier game. The rondel mechanism was a stroke of genius. By limiting players to a single action each turn play was streamlined without over simplifying the game. I stand by my earlier analysis: With no down time to speak of, Antike is the civ-lite game that makes you feel like it is always your turn. If you need to take a bathroom break make it quick 'cause it will be your turn before you get your zipper down. Antike may be the best of the civ-lite genre.

Next time: Why you should always tip your cabbie.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


A resolution that just happened to be made around the time the New Year was upon us

Part I: Personal

I decided that I would work no more than 50 hours each week.

Of course that means only working four 12 hour days, or three 12 hour days and an 8 hour day, which will probably lose me my claim on a regular cab, but oh well. I'll just drive whatever car is available, if any. I'll continue to work my secondary job as they need me, usually a day or two each week.

Don't confuse this with a New Year's resolution, because that had absolutely nothing to do with it. For me the breaking point was having to admit that I couldn't contribute bi-weekly to the Gone Gaming blog. I didn't have the time to compose a good bi-weekly post, nor had I spent much time playing games with my friends in the last several months. My days and weeks have been spent either working or sleeping. I found that if I took a day off I mostly wasted it sleeping.

I was even tempted to go back to work for my old employer for a good wage and a regular work week, but common sense prevailed. I did some research, discovered that the same bitches who drove me away in the first place still worked there, and decided to not subject myself to that agony.

Part II: Gaming

Since I made my resolution I've played a few times and have learned The Great Dalmuti, End of the Triumvirate, and Capt'n Clever.

If it were a horse race I'd have to give the race to Capt'n Clever by a length.

The first is a card game. It is a fun, but no better than average filler. It might shine as a game for non-gaming social events such as a family get together. The second is another soulless euro specifically designed for 3 players. It might be good, but so far I am ambivalent. I have played twice, which isn't enough to offer an enlightened comment. The third is a children's game that my kids seem to love.

I don't feel particularly impressed to comment further on any of them. I would recommend Capt'n Clever as a good game for children up to 12 years of age.

Since our last visit Friedrich still impresses me as having the potential to be a classic wargame, perhaps even spawning other wargames using the same system. Only time will tell. So far the Prussians have not won any of our games, but they are doing better. Requiring the Prussian player to state at the beginning of the 3rd round if he will try for the offensive win seems very iffy to me. There will be no or very, very little combat on the first round. There might be a couple minor battles fought on the second round and before the Prussian player takes his next move he has to decide which option he will choose to win? I would have given him until round 5 to make that decision.

Part III: Taxi story

Passenger: "Can I have a drink of that?" Motioning to my Dr. Pepper from Taco Bell.

Me: After giving him a long side long glance, "Do you have money?"

Passenger: "You're going to charge me for a drink?"

Me: "No. Do you have money?"

Passenger: "Of course I have money."

Me: "I need to see it."

Passenger: "I have money. I wouldn't have called a cab if I didn't have money."

Me as I pulled the car to the side of the road: "I need to see it."

Passenger: "What? You don't think I have money?"

Me: "Show it to me."

Passenger: "You're kidding?"

Me: "No. I need to see it or you need to get out."

Passenger after a long pause: "Well I don't have money, but my uncle is paying for the ride when we get there."

That is what people always say when they don't have money. Sometimes it is the truth.

Me: "What's his number? I need to call and confirm that."

Passenger: "Man. He doesn't have a phone."

Me: "How do you know he is paying?"

Passenger: "I don't believe this. He will pay. I'm telling you he will pay."

Me: "If I can't talk to him you need to get out."

Passenger getting out of the cab: "How did you know I didn't have any money?"

I never did answer him, but instead of asking to drink from my soda a person with money would have said, "Can you stop at that convenience store right there so I can get something to drink?"

Actually, if memory serves, I picked him up at a convenience store.

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