Designer's Notes for

FRIEDRICH


When the idea for FRIEDRICH was born, there were two German states and computers had no hard disk memory yet. About Prussia I knew nothing, or even more than nothing. Then, one evening, I watched the TV series " Saxony's glamour and Prussia's glory" -- a GDR production to be seen in Bavarian Broadcast -- and suddenly the game arose inside my head. From the first moment it stood there, so accurate and clear, that FRIEDRICH has not changed in its basic concept, and only little in details since the first prototype. Why then this extraordinary long time of development? Because I wanted that players (not nations) have all the same chances on victory, without performing artificial and ahistoric levelling. A task which could only be solved with long test series and detailed statistics.

Basic concept. Life is writing the best stories. Therefore it was clear right from the start, that the principle Everybody-against-Frederick and the sudden death of the Tsarina should be the inner engine of the game. The Cards of Fate were born in the first minute -- and with them the possibility to spotlight en passant the fascinating figure of Frederick the Great and of the whole era. From this thought the second one can be easily deduced: Draw a historical accurate picture; but never stop being a game; have slim rules and avoid mechanical nightmares; but always offer the players a great depth and a lot of decisions to be made; and finally base everything on a novel concept. The novel concept is the unification of board and -- classical card game.

The map only seems to be a map. The borderlines are extremely simplified. In earlier versions the dozens of German Minor States had been given an individual colour each; now they are all one territory in yellow colour for the sake of clarity (although the existence of states like Waldeck or Anhalt had a lot of taste). Some cities were shifted significantly to preserve a minimum distance. And, I am ashamed to admit, some territories had to move as a complete block some hundred kilometers, just because of production constraints. The roads reproduce topography: Big meshes can be found at mountains (Harz, Erzgebirge), rivers (Oder, Bober) or marshes (the Warthebruch; swamps at Hanover). Notable crosspoints are located at major cities (Breslau, Prag, Dresden) or at important fortresses (Minden, Glatz). The main roads represent the interior line, which was used by Frederick the Great in masterful perfection. All in all it is the complex and irregular topology which gives FRIEDRICH its attraction: After playing the game now for more than a hundred times, one should think that I know the roads inside out now. -- But no way! It will happen every game, that, suddenly, Leopold of Daun or another bastard shows up in front of me, because I couldn't count to three!

The Tactical Cards were part of the game right from the start. Remarkable are:
1.) Only the precious "Reserve" can be used as a "1".
2.) The influence of the arrangement of sectors on the game balance is extreme; the strange skip of the three central rows is only for game balance.
3.) It took a long time to decide, whether I should use the traditional French symbols or whether I should introduce new ones (e.g. tricorn, sabre, boots, horseshoe). I decided for tradition. Reasons were: a) the French symbols started to establish themselves in the 18th century; b) French was the language of the era and especially of Frederick; c) Sentences like "I will enter horseshoe now" or "You tricorn; me boots" just sound ridiculous. d) Why should I invent the wheel anew and create unnecessary terminology and confusion? -- By the way, traditionally spades were a symbol for the sword, clubs were the power, hearts the church and diamonds the money.

The units are based on history. The number of armies are identical in its proportions to the time averaged real army force levels. The number of generals and supply trains is to be seen as a compromise between history and game balance. A lot of thoughts were spent on the decision whether France should receive 3 or 4 generals. She received 3, because France chances on victory would be extraordinary high with 4 generals; and because only 3 generals allow the elegant and roomy campaigns in Northern Germany, which were so typical for Ferdinand of Brunswick. The chosen generals were the outstanding leaders of the period -- or at least the ones with the most influence. One or the other name is missing in the set of generals for sure (e.g. Zieten, Hadik, Rumjanzew, Finck); and in the case of France and Sweden one could have easily made another choice (For France, d'Estrées, Clermont, Contades, Broglie had been alternatives. In Sweden the supreme command changed every year.) -- By the way, do not muddle up Richelieu with his namesake, the Cardinal.

The nations all have a specific taste. FRIEDRICH is here a little bit like roleplaying. Playing France is totally different to playing Prussia, totally different to playing Austria; and it is not less a challenge because France has so few units to move. In chess, the endgame is not easier than the opening, too. There will be days where you feel fit to play the role of Frederick with all its mental stress; on other days you like to conduct a campaign with the French, which can be compared to a fleet-footed foil fencer; and there will be even days when you love to feel the sword of Damocles hanging as a sudden death over your head, then you will long for Russia ...
In contrast to history one should never smile at the minor countries! Of course, Sweden and the Imperial Army are no militarical factor (during the first ten game turns they should avoid combat consequently!), but they can become a great danger in the long run, if they perform a clever tactic of "look-and-run". This is especially true for the eased victory conditions: If they control all their 1st order objectives at the moment victory conditions are eased, they will win immediately -- without giving Prussia the chance for a countermove. -- The additional perfidy is in the case of the Imperial Army, that she switches players then! Maria Theresa has done the job, but Pompadour earns the glory and the crown. -- Is there a better way to represent the German sectionalism?

Simulation? Without being a strict simulation, FRIEDRICH recreates the nature of the Seven Years War quite excellent. During the first four turns Prussia outmatches each of her opponents significantly. The temptation is quite high to fight them all at once in a wild batting -- this, however, is a perfect plan for a fast Prussian defeat. Instead, the key for a Prussian victory is the well targeted use of her primary superiority. Remember what Frederick wrote to d'Argens early 1759: "Until now my enemies had never coordinated their activities. This year they want to attack concerted. If they succeed, you can start to prepare my epitaph." -- Translated into game terms the Prussian dictum is: " Never fight a nation with more than one TC-symbol!" Doing that needs a lot of discipline (just casually this cliché of Prussian virtues shows up here). On the other hand: If the attackers manage to unite their generals in one sector, Prussia is really doomed! But who will be the winner then? Well, this is a complete different issue! -- The dissension of the coalition saved Frederick 250 years ago; it will be to Frederick's advantage in the game also (depending on character of players). Furthermore the necessity of maintaining supply will be the main problem for the realisation of the easy Unite-in-one-Sector-strategy. Saltikov and Kunersdorf are saluting here!
On a first view the TC system looks very abstract and arbitrary. But, in its simple mechanics you can find: The shortness of Prussian resources and population (the Prussian stack will constantly decrease, while the Austrians will finish the game with a full hand usually); the strangling of Prussian movement patterns beginning around game turn 12 (approximately the 4th year of the war), situations of siege (although no fortresses exist); motionless entrenchments (Bunzelwitz), threatening the supply lines (Henry's move to Görlitz in 1759); the breakdown of supply (Laudon's coup at Domstädtl); encirclement to enforce a decisive battle (Liegnitz, Torgau, Hochkirch).

The Fate. Based on the knowledge of their own Tactical Cards, players make their plans. Maybe they will succeed, maybe not. A sudden end, however, is set to all effort by the Tsarina's death or by France's bankruptcy; by something which cannot be influenced, because it lies outside the game. This is frightening. This is a radical and violent game mechanic. It will irritate for sure, and maybe one will think that the Cards of Fate are nothing else than purest luck ... But they work! They are playtested over and over. And, most importantly, they make FRIEDRICH like the life itself: Today I feel so alive and I have pretty wonderful ideas how to build my house, and tomorrow a brick will fall on my head ...

Now, the German state is united and computers have gigantic hard disk memory. After a period of ripening which lasted more than double the time the picked theme did, FRIEDRICH is released to the world now. If your fun playing the game is only half my fun designing it, then you will love the game and its elegance, I am sure. And maybe, you will be touched by the thought, that the world is quite okay as long as states can be outlived by game-ideas.

Richard Sivél
Kunowice (Kunersdorf)
July of 2004



The rules for download
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