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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
"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).
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.
July of 2004
The rules for download