Friedemann Friese

2F SPIELE 2010

No. of Players:
2 - 5



Over the last years Friedemann Friese has succeeded in establishing his own small publishing house 2F SPIELE as a label for both interesting and unusual themed games, and he has shown a great ability to work with different rules concepts for each new product, so that each of his games is rather different from the titles which were published earlier. So, today Friedemann Friese has returned once again with a game going into a new direction, and in Fürstenfeld the players will find some elements of classic construction and trading games which he has spiced up with some unexpected twists.

Looking at the construction element found of the rules, it should be mentioned first that each of the players possesses his own, identical deck of 28 building cards. The majority of these cards shows some buildings with beneficial effects, but the decks also include a total of six Palace cards, and the winner of the game will be the player who first succeeds in building all six Palace cards contained in his deck. The building process itself is fairly easy, since all a player has to do to play a building card from his hand onto his own display board (i.e. to "build" it) is to pay the building's monetary costs. If the costs can be paid, the building may be laid down into the player's display without any further ado.

However, the tricky part of the game begins with a look at the players' displays, since each player's display only offers a total of six building slots. Thus, a player may have a maximum of six buildings in his display, and this in turn means that the players will have to discard older buildings in order to build new ones when all building slots are occupied. So, the players are faced with the basic dilemma which buildings they should keep and which buildings should be destroyed in order to make room. Unfortunately, destroyed buildings do not go back into the players' decks, but instead they are removed from play, and so their special abilities will be lost once and forever. These problems are even worsened by the fact that the Palace cards - although they are the key to win the game - do not offer any kind of special ability, and so the players will have to consider carefully whether they have earned enough money in order to start the endgame by placing the first Palace cards.


However, during their turns the players are not free to choose a fitting building from their whole deck, but instead each turn sees a player with a limited choice of four cards which he may build. A player may only keep one meagre building card for his next turn, whereas all unused cards will be placed in a self-chosen order below the player's deck of building cards, and at the beginning of the following turn the player will have to draw three new cards from the top of the deck in order to have a fresh hand of four cards for his upcoming turn. Thus, apart from the one building which may be kept the players will have to live with their drawing luck each turn, until they have finished the first circle through their decks. At that point the buildings will start to re-appear in a more deterministic order, and so a long-term strategy is possible when it comes to returning unused cards to the bottom of the deck at the end of a player's turn. In addition, to allow everybody a fair start into the game, the players receive a hand of six cards for their first turn, and if they want to have an even stronger strategic influence in the game they can agree to use the expert rules which increase the hand size for the first turn to up to ten cards. Nine of these cards will be placed below the deck, and so the players can start into the expert game knowing the order of cards for the lower third of their deck.

The next question which comes up at this point is how income can be generated, and here the players will have to check the demand of the different brewery buildings at the main gameboard. The players can sell resources which have been generated by some of their building cards, and at the beginning of the game each player's display board features a fixed start of three buildings which will produce one unit of hop, one unit of barley and one unit of spring water each turn. This production will continue until the slots of these fixed buildings have been covered by building cards.

Each of the breweries has its own price board for the aforementioned three kinds of resources, and at the beginning of a round each brewery is randomly assigned a market card which shows how many resources of each type the brewery does need for the round. Starting with the player who had the lowest income in the previous turn, the players now are allowed to sell resources to a brewery of their choice, and the price they will receive for these resources depends on the current values given on the price table of this specific brewery. However, there is a correlation between the resources' pricing and the brewery's market card, since a brewery which was not delivered all required resources during the whole round will offer higher prices at the beginning of the next round. On the other hand, if a player delivers more resources than the brewery needs, each resource delivered in excess of the demand shown on the market card will result in an instant reduction of the price at the end of the current player's turn, and this may result in lower prices for players who come later in the turn order. In extreme cases, a late player may not be able to sell at all to a specific brewery, since the offered price has gone down to zero. This is hard luck, since no resources can be stored by the players from one round to the next.

However, it is up to the players to decide whether they really want to sell all of their resources, since it might be wise to retain a resource or two in order to generate less income and thus take a better position in the player order of the following turn. Thus, the process of selling resources to the breweries involves a good balancing of income and strategic positioning, and it also involves some degree of speculation how the other players will proceed with their sales. Considering these different motives and the fact that the pricing tables of the breweries need constant adjusting it comes as a rather nice surprise that the whole market mechanism runs astonishingly smoothly, and it also makes up a great deal of the game's attractiveness since the players watch each other with a certain degree of anticipation when it comes to selling resources.

As indicated, the money earned by sales can be invested in the construction of new buildings or parts of the Palace, and apart from the Palace parts all other buildings will give the players beneficial effects like additional resources (money, cards), the possibility to retain additional cards or resources at the end of the round or a rebate on the cost of later buildings. However, each of these benefits remains active only as long as the building still is present on the player's display, and once the building has been destroyed the player will be cut off from these profits. In addition, the game contains two specific building cards which are reserved for the expert game, and these cards are a "Ragpicker" which allows instant destruction of some of a player's handcards (they must not be returned to the bottom of the deck), and a "Tourist Guide" who will actually generate some income for each finished part of the Palace. Just like the increased size of the starting hand, these other expert elements greatly contribute to a stronger strategic orientation of the game.

So, here we have a game where resources are sold to a market with varying prices, and the money gained form the sale will be invested into buildings which bring new resources, other special abilities and which - ultimately - will lead to victory. This single sentence summarizes the basic playing mechanism of Fürstenfeld quite well, but it would be fatal to think that the game, despite some superficial similarities to already existing games, does not offer its own kind of charm. Quite the opposite, Friedemann Friese's clever use of the limited number of building slots available on each player's display puts the players under a great pressure to constantly optimize their buildings to their current needs, and a construction game with such a high "replacement rate" is a rare find indeed. Even more, the mechanisms associated with each player's deck of building cards challenge each player with a basic deckbuilding task, and although this element is not as pronounced as in Dominion or Thunderstone the players nonetheless have some possibilities to influence their fate on a long-term basis. Overall, gamers should not be put off by the somewhat down-to-earth artwork of the game, but instead the facts and observations listed above should be more than enough to wet a gamer's appetite for the somewhat unusual playing experience which can be found in Fürstenfeld!

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany