Two years ago, I wrote a little post called Three Basic Tips for Twilight Struggle. I hope it helped a few new or intermediate players of Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games) to improve their strategy. Intricate strategy advice can be overwhelming for a beginner, but everyone can remember and apply three tips! As the post was quite well-received, I’ll make an (irregular) series out of it – „Three Basic Tips“.
I have borrowed the idea from someone else: My friend F. and I did not only play board games, but also pick-up soccer. In one game we were up against a much better team and had conceded ten goals in the first half already. F. rallied us during half-time saying, „Guys, it’s just three simple things“ – and when we stuck to the three things he then told us, our performance improved markedly (conceding only two more goals).
Today, the game which I will try to help you win is Friedrich (Richard Sivél, Histogame). This euro-wargame hybrid set in the Seven Years‘ War is one of my overall most-played games, and I especially like it for its seamless blend of strategic, operational, and tactical decisions. Therefore, the three tips will refer to your strategic posture, its operational implementation, and the tactical restraint needed to prevail. As Friedrich is a strongly asymmetric game, this post will only deal with one of the four roles – that of Friedrich’s Prussia. For new players that might be the biggest challenge to face off against three opponents at once, but it’s also the most fun and rewarding to pull it off successfully.
Strategy: If nothing changes, you win
It’s easy to get megalomaniac as Prussia. After all, you have more armies and more cards than anyone else. And so you might be tempted to use them to hammer your enemies into submission. Don’t. Remember that all you need to do is run down the clock until Russia, France, and Sweden have dropped out of the war. If nothing changes till then, you win. It is up to your opponents to change the status quo, not you. So, as Prussia, avoid battle often. While you shouldn’t give up your objectives too easily, remember that in the end, you only need to keep one against every single attacker. And, one last psychological tip: Your opponents might be intimidated by the large stack of cards Prussia amasses in the beginning. This fear is your best friend. The longer they wait to attack you, the bigger that stack gets. Not only does that further intimidate them, you also retain all the flexibility regarding how to use the cards.
Operations: Three enemies, three card suits
Flexibility brings us to the operational art of Friedrich: Which cards to use against whom. You draw 9 cards (7 Prussia, 2 Hanover), your enemies 15 (one of which France discards). There is no way you can win against this overwhelming power when combined. Therefore, split it. As long as you fight in one card suit only against a given enemy, you retain a card advantage. Ideally, you keep your options open for the first few turns, so that you can adjust if the card draws indicate so (say, you wanted to defend in spades against Austria, but then don’t draw any for three turns in a row).
What is the fourth suit for then? – Sometimes one enemy will overwhelm you in your chosen defense suit, and then you need a reserve suit to fall back upon. And, especially in the later part of the game, you might need to recruit new armies.
Then you only need to align the distribution of the suits in your card draw (it’s a good idea to fight Austria as your most powerful enemy with a suit in which you are very strong) with the possible defense positions (see map above):
- Against France, you can only defend the Prussian objectives with hearts or spades
- Against Austria, diamonds and spades work well (and to a lesser extent clubs)
- Against Russia, clubs or spades are preferred (but hearts and even diamonds can work as well)
Just make sure that you are not accidentally positioning your generals on a sector border, so that they have to fight in your chosen defense suit while the attacker uses another one!
Tactics: Win big or get out fast
As laid out in the strategy part, the onus of attack is on your opponents. The more battles they fight against you, the more often they can bring the numerical superiority of their armies to bear. So, you want to keep them from attacking repeatedly – because even if they lose, as long as they attack next turn again, they exchange their armies for your cards until you are exhausted. Therefore, ideally you want to have only a few battles, and win them big. One way to do that is to counter your opponents by playing repeatedly to 0 in battle. Then, they cannot retreat and have to play another card instead. If you can keep it up, at some point their cards of the given suit run out, and the battle is over. Then, on your turn you can attack them again and, against their depleted hand, win by a large differential!
If you think you cannot win (or would rather not fight the battle, for example when an opponent is attacking you in a suit that you don’t want to spend against them), get out of the battle as soon as possible with a small retreat. Repeated -1 retreats only lose a little ground and can keep a superior attack force busy for several rounds – often just enough time for you to win the game!
Which tricks do you use to win in Friedrich – especially as Prussia?