It is the middle of a delightful multi-course meal with the amazingly casual and funny Friedemann Friese, and we are talking about the Fast Forward Games, his new game Fast Sloths, and a few lessons learned along the way.
DTD: I mean, your game library is really impressive, the Fast Forward games. I think they are really fun. They’re just impressive. There’s so many of them and just the nature of them.
FF: Yeah. There’s just, as you said. It’s just another experiment.
DTD: It worked well.
FF: Yeah. One day I was late to a game night and I was kind of tired and, I forget the name, I had this pirate game, which is like [Reiner] Knizia’s Circus Flohcati but with pirates, where you’ll turn over a card and if you have two of the same, being busted.
FF: No, no, no. no. Not that game. It is, uh-
DTD: Oh, I think I do know, um-
I am 99% sure the game we were talking about was Dead Man’s Draw…
FF: The pirate thing with the swords or these treasures.
I’m just going to say I am right.
FF: And something like that. I was just like, “Okay, I’m tired. I don’t want to explain.” I just put the board and the deck of cards on the table and said “play”.
The main courses hit the table like a fast forwarded movie of flowers blooming. I would wager that the room lights dimmed, a greek chorus exclaimed in delight, and a heavenly gaggle of seraphim began to sing. Fish and beef, look good.
FF: Exactly, yeah. And, I just started playing with this game. I did not explain it, I just played it and just turned over the cards. And what I do, yeah, this card is that and if you turn it over, it’s the same as well.
DTD: Just play without thinking about it.
FF: And play without knowing the rules.
DTD: Yes, yes, of course.
FF: And then I came, back at home. I was just like, “Hey, it was a good experience. Maybe I make a game out of this experience.”
DTD: And I’ve seen other games claim that you just open it and just play but it’s never worked before. I mean, even very recently, didn’t… When Charterstone came out with Stonemaier, they said you just open it and play, there’s no rules but then it changed.
FF: Yeah, yeah.
DTD: It’s so fantastic. What you need to do now is, there’s so many 4X games, you need a 2F game to compete with 4X.
The 4 X’s (Don’t complain. I didn’t make this up):
FF: [laughs] Oh, what should be the 2F’s?
DTD: What are the 2Fs?
DTD: Well, definitely fighting but that doesn’t translate well.
FF: Fight and Funding, I don’t know.
DTD: Fighting and funding! You need to get the money and then beat people up. Come on, that’s global domination.
DTD: See? I will charge you just a very minimal consulting fee for that.
FF: Oh, okay. [laughs]
DTD: Hmm, this restaurant’s wonderful. This is going to be my interview restaurant from now on. That’s my new plan.
The food tasted just as good as it looked. I had the monkfish, which for the inexperienced, is one of the ugliest creatures on this earth, but tastes like fine lobster when done right. This… was done right.
FF: [laughs] It’s great, yeah.
Friedemann certain had no beef about the beef. Sorry, couldn’t help it.
FF: It’s a pick-up-and-deliver game. You are getting ‘picked-up-and-delivered’ game.
DTD: You are being picked up and delivered.
DTD: First, as a sloth, you’re going to sit still. And it’s good time [for it]; people love sloths.
FF: Yeah, yeah. That was kind of good fate. It’s just like—the idea is, of course, to get picked up and delivered.
DTD: Right. By the different animals, and different animals have different abilities to pick you up and deliver you and some are better at it and some are worse at it.
FF: They are all, I try to design them, that they are all similar but different. But it was the idea to have first of all this pick-up-and-deliver stuff. They pick up and deliver the same thing every time and you have to make a race out of it and not—pick-up-and-deliver is normally ‘the goods are there’ and—yeah, when the good is there, and you do it again. This was the first idea.
DTD: But, again, pick-up-and-deliver, sometimes it gets a little tedious because you’re doing the same route twice. You’re going out there to get it and then coming back to deliver it and something. Some games do that poorly, but this is a one direction pick-up-and-deliver. You’re delivering yourself.
FF: Yeah, this was the idea. It comes a bit from, the Baton Races of Yaz, I think from somewhere, I don’t know. It is in the Dragon magazine box from the ’90s. There was a Dragon magazine game, the Dragon magazine that had games in that. There was a box of, I think, six games in that box. There was a boxing game [Ringside], and there was this Baton Races of Yaz which is a baton race with fantasy creatures, with two players and you have to-
DTD: I think I remember that.
FF: -you give it to another creature who travels with it and the creatures are still on the board so they can fight or can—because you have to travel, like, so you can go over and beat the next player, next person to get it and I always find this interesting but I always dislike that being a two players game and—It was just one little idea in that game that—therefore, I was thinking of it. And the other point is, I was a bit disappointed about the game market, and it is so rare to have a real board game where the board supports the game. We have so many games where the board is not full. In Wingspan, you only put your birds on it, but there is no board function.
DTD: It’s a structure for the board game.
FF: You do not need the structure of the board. Even in Power Grid, you only build the network and not really travel on the board, you don’t really use the board as a-
DTD: Without it, it is Illuminati.
FF: [laughs] So, therefore, I was kind of looking maybe I could make a real board game again where you traveled around. And together with this idea, so I made this and I started this team traveled by this [sloth].
DTD: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
FF: -something like that was just like, “How could I do that?” And, then I think two, three player… I came up with this is, “Oh, yeah.”
DTD: I love the idea, it’s like-
FF: Oh, yeah, it’s very good.
DTD: That’s wonderful.
FF: I could pick different animals and, oh, yeah, great, I can think of ideas for animals.
A brief pause whilst we finish the artfully presented glass bottles of water. Yeah, “whilst”.
FF: So it was- then you use the animals, so you can build up ideas and look for an animal that matches, or you can look at the animal and find an idea that’s directly from that animal.
FF: So both ways worked on that game, so I was really happy.
DTD: So, the numbers on the animal cards, is that how far the animal can travel?
FF: Yeah. Yeah, it was like very interesting because I made a randomless game out of it. There’s no random, the card decks are not shuffled, they’re sorted and you start with a number two card.
DTD: So you start with—You have to use the animals close to you in the beginning and then farther from you?
FF: Yeah, and you start with the two and then get over to a card with a three on it, and later on and after one five-
DTD: And after your turn, you can pick any of the cards?
FF: No, no. When I use the cards, I just put them under the deck, just at the time. It becomes, after the five, then the cards show up in the order they were played in the game.
DTD: Yeah. I love that.
FF: You couldn’t remember that? No. I don’t, not anybody—will do that. I think it’s not a memory game.
DTD: I don’t put that much thought when I play. Those are the people who sit there for a half an hour. I tend to play very quickly and very stupidly. There’s always the argument of strategy versus tactics.
FF: Oh, yeah.
DTD: Do you react instantly or do you think about it five moves ahead and…
FF: Yeah, but with the first [card] last it’s so interesting, because first of all… You could, because it’s randomness and no luck, and so you can’t plan that. It is obviously given, you sit there and can plan your next five turns but the other players are moving the animals too-
DTD: -and they might put a little taxi next to you that’s just perfect.
FF: Yeah, or they or they get away with the animal you want to use. So, planning ahead over more than two or three turns is stupid. You don’t need to, um-
DTD: It’ll change too much.
FF: -you don’t need your manpower to, you don’t need to work on that. So, if you have some people with the A.P. [Analysis Paralysis] thing they are—they even know that they should not do that, because they fear that-
Analysis Paralysis /əˈnæl ə sɪs pəˈræl ə sɪs/ noun: The condition wherein a board game player becomes so engrossed in thought and indecision, that they are unable to finish their current move, or often enough, unable to move at all.
DTD: It won’t work.
FF: It won’t work. So normally the people with A.P., they do it because they have a benefit out of it. And not doing it, because they do it. They do it, but if you get no benefit out of it, you don’t do it anymore. So it is a game with luckless, but it’s still fast because the turns are fast.
DTD: It’s coming to the United States, right?
FF: Yes. Stronghold picked it up.
DTD: Stronghold has it? I’ll have to yell at Stephen [Buonocore].
FF: Yeah. Four weeks ago, five weeks ago, I don’t know, it’s still on the Atlantic, I don’t know where, somewhere.
DTD: [laughs] Oh, good. I’m gonna look for it. It sounds wonderful. Can you talk about what’s coming next? I ask everybody and sometimes I get, “No, I won’t talk about anything,” you know, but sometimes-
FF: Maybe even a time out, I don’t know.
DTD: All right, all right. See, if I got you a beer, would I have got more answers? [laughs]
FF: [laughs] No. We have to look what comes afterward, so…
DTD: Sure, and then, oh, well. It’s doing well at the show, people are excited?
DTD: Good, good.
FF: It’s like, a bit it feels like the Fabled Fruit year. Fabled Fruit was—I came three years ago and it was success, so it’s similar.
DTD: I played it a lot of times, and I feel a little bad because I’ve played Fabled Fruit from the beginning, maybe 30 times, but all the way through the deck, maybe twice. I have to keep teaching new people.
FF: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, it is… I think the problem is… Fabled Fruit is, there is this first game. The first game you need to get into this content, but the first game itself it’s not very interesting, game-wise.
DTD: Yeah, right. But I love the way that Fabled Fruit self-organizes the deck. And the more you play into it; it gets just so interesting. The order that that deck becomes.I like that in Fine Sand also.
DTD: I really enjoyed Fine Sand. It came out, and I looked at it, and I was like, “That looks good.” Then Stephen [Buonocore] said, “No, you have to sit down and play this game.” And so we played it, and then I bought it.
FF: [laughter] There’s the campaigning in Fine Sand which is very cool, with these three cards coming into, and other three cards randomly came out, so you get a different deck. And it is like overlooked, I guess. A lot of people really played it and liked it, but it’s not a successful company.
DTD: It came out the same time as a lot of the Fast Forward games and I think maybe it was a little too many all at once and-
FF: Yeah, but Fine Sand came last year and, the Fast Forwards were just a year before.
DTD: Were you—I remember their being in the mix in America recently.
FF: Yeah. The Fast Forward is the same, is just like very interesting. People get it and they play it once, and they play twice, and again they play a third. And at the end of the evening they are through it, and say “Oh no, it was not good.” I don’t get it, I don’t get it. There are people sitting there, cannot stop to play a game because it explores something, and they say, “Under a rational view, this is not a good game.”
I say, “Hey, you had a complete evening, you had—I gave you a game you cannot stop playing. Yeah, what do you tell me, huh?”
DTD: I know. Well, the culture now is so strange that gamers…You have the “serious gamers”. And you know that the serious gamers never play any game more than two or three times now.
FF: I know, but they want a game they theoretically can play 100 times. I know that. But on the other hand I am very similar to that to other games, so it’s just like I cannot…
DTD: Do you think design has changed? ‘Cause I would say 20 years ago you would make a game that would be one of two games someone owned and they would play it constantly. And now you make a game, and it’s someone who owns a 1,000 games will buy it, and they’ll play it once or twice.
The waiter returned, deservedly very proud of himself, and asked the purely rhetorical question of whether we enjoyed the food. Faces and shirts stained, we blearily looked up from damaged flatware, and just managed to nod an affirmative. Actually I answered gratefully, eloquently, and in perfect German. Really.
DTD: So, do you think that when designing a game, you think differently about it because it might be a one time experience?
FF: Yeah, you should, because in the old days… Maybe in the old days you want to play pick-up-and-deliver, yeah? In America, you should play Merchant of Venus, or something like that, but there was nothing else. So you want to play pick-up-and-deliver? OK, maybe another pick-up-and-deliver which is not science, or sci-fi, or something like that, or there are three different. But by now, if I want to play pick-up-and-deliver, I have a choice of 100!
DTD: Yeah. 100 new ones just at Essen this year.
FF: Whatever it is, I don’t know what the trend this year is. I cannot tell. But there’s always something, very often at Essen.
FF: I had this with the, Fast Flowing Forest Fellers with just this race game and it was the year where 13-14 race games came out from different [publishers], and I was only on the number four of interests. So it was just like gone, yeah? Because there was Snow Tails coming out, Powerboats coming out; they were all in the same range, small little race games with a twist.
FF: And I had a small little race game with a little twist and, it was not so accepted as the other three over me, so I just failed. So, of course, this is the reason to really think of how to let the people get in the game, because last year we made this Futuropia.
DTD: About the experience, yeah.
FF: Yeah, and in Futuropia we made the mistake that the first game you play, should not be the game you put in the box, okay? It was just like, you put it either way to play the box, but this version is a bit more repetitive than it could be, because if you take the next step where you use the B sides of the first buildings, then you have different strategies in there—you already you have the game.
FF: I thought okay, we need this first step and it was a mistake to take this because a lot of people see only this, and say no.
DTD: No. We’re tired of it.
FF: Repetitive and it’s okay, the idea is good but it is repetitive and but if you, and by now if we demo it, and we show it, we show always just B.
FF: We should have done the last year and then we would have more success with the game. Because, yeah, if you have something exciting.
DTD: To be fair, I have actually heard reviewers talk about the intro game versus the advanced game, and you should play the advanced game. I mean, I’ve heard that before now.
Next time on the Friedemann Friese festival of fun, we discuss worker placement trivia games, highlights of the Essen Spiel, and the complexities of ordering drinks.