You are Friday, an islander who’s trying to help the very weak, very stupid, very shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe get good at life, and survive long enough to get killed by the pirates – or to kill them, take one of their ships and get out of your life forever.
Sometimes your boardgaming buddies are busy. Or you just want a quick game by yourself, a private island of play. More and more games these days also serve as solo games, but some are made especially for only one player. Friday is one of those games.
In Friday, you’ll be drawing challenges to see what the island throws at you – from exploring the island or examining the shipwreck, to wild animals and cannibals. Each card has a white number showing how many free cards you can draw from the Robinson deck – representing your hapless visitor’s sparse capabilities and many, many flaws.
The traffic-light coloured numbers are the goal numbers for the various phases, showing you the score you need to beat the challenge. You start in the green phase, then reshuffle and increase to the next phase each time you run out of challenges.
Robinson starts with a lot of 0, 1 and -1 cards, with an occasional 2. So, even just aiming for a goal of 1 or 0 can initially be difficult to achieve without drawing extra cards. Each extra card costs you a life point, which can only be recovered 1 or 2 at a time from some card powers.
You’ll fail challenges a lot at the start. But that’s good. Robinson may learn something! You have to pay a life point for the difference between your card score total and the goal. If you drew a 1, 0, 2 and -1 against a goal of 4, you have to pay 2 life points. Here’s the good part: for every life point you pay, you can destroy a card you played. Goodbye 0 and -1!
If you win, you can’t destroy any cards, but you get the challenge card and flip it over into your deck, representing what Robinson learned from the experience, and also giving you some cool ability, like being able to exchange cards you’ve drawn with ones in the deck, or healing life points, copying card abilities, doubling the value of a card, and so on.
You’ll need these powerful abilities as the phases increase, and against the pirates.
Because of this, you may sometimes want to fail challenges, just to slim the dumb from your deck. You don’t even need to draw all your free cards if you don’t want to. As long as you’ve got life points to spare, getting rid of excess idiocy is often a great idea.
It’s always an interesting decision: win and get a new card, or lose and remove bad ones, but have that same challenge come around again later, but during a harder phase.
Once you reach the bottom of Robinson’s deck, you shuffle an aging card into your deck without looking, representing even more debilitating effects due to the stranded idiot now getting older as well. He’ll get hungry, scared, and more, shown by negative card values and effects that make you lose life points or ignore the highest value card you’ve played.
And that’s pretty much the game. Once you finish all three phases, you’ll face the pirates. They’ve got super-slow ships, so you can see them on the horizon from the very start of the game, and try to prepare your Robinson deck to combat these specific threats.
There’s a bunch of pirate ships in the game, with all sorts of powers, from extra draws draining more life points, to variable draw and goal numbers, to just really high goals to hit – like in the 40 and 50s. When your cards are more like 3s and 4s if you’re lucky, you’ll need to use a lot of abilities that let you draw more cards, double their strength or copy other card powers to get you through these final boss battles.
If you haven’t realise yet, Friday is a funny game. It’s Robinson art is just so derpy, and even when you lose, you often can’t help but chuckle when you set Robinson to a challenge only to draw: weak, weak, distracted, eating. I think Friday invented facepalming.
He’s so pathetic and idiotic that trimming the fat of -1s and 0s and shaping Robinson up into a lean, mean deck of 2s, 3s, 4s and powers feel all the more rewarding. Especially when you combo a dozen or so cards at the end and realise you can beat the pirates!
And if it all gets too easy, add in the -3 Very Stupid aging card, or try one of several difficulty settings included in the manual. Friday is like a training montage, of Robinson facing the same types of challenges over and over, getting slowly better until he’s ready – or not – for the inevitable finale which, excellently, always seems to come too soon.
Friday has good strategy and choices, like which challenges to tackle, when to lose on purpose to destroy cards, when to spend life points to stretch for a potential win, and how to manage your overall deck. Various pirates, difficulty levels and striving to beat your previous high score means the game has a lot of replayability, too.
If you’d like solo games or would like to try them, you can’t go far wrong with Friday. It’s a cheaply priced, very small box with fun, easy to learn mechanics, interesting decisions and some laughs along the way. If you ever find your crew’s not around and you’re stranded alone, you’ll have a much better time if you seek out Friday.