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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.

Great article, Brian! Ive sent the link to Richard, the author, and he found it interesting as well. I know Richard because he might publish my new game "siam" this year in Essen...
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