Friday boardgame and app.

The boardgame Friday is a bit of a unicorn, pun intended, as a truly solo boardgame – there isn’t even a coop mode shoehorned on to it as in some other one-player titles – in a field of games that really play best with three or more. Taking a Robinson Crusoe theme, the game forces you to build your deck in large part by destroying it, working to remove unfavorable cards (but at a cost) so that your deck is strong enough to survive the greater challenges you’ll face at the game’s end. The game is now also available as a fantastic app, one that handles the nuisance of accounting for points and is a perfect experience even on the small screen of a phone, available for iOS devicesand android.

All cards in the Friday deck have two functions, shown at the top of the card and the bottom. The top gives a point total you must match to obtain the card – like a challenge to defeat – by drawing cards from your deck and adding up the values from the bottom. The bottom parts of most cards also include special abilities, like regaining lost life points, destroying a card you’ve already played this turn, doubling the value of a card you’ve already played, or drawing two more cards from the deck. The totals on the top of the card come in three colors, representing three rounds; in each round, the number you have to match with your drawn cards to ‘defeat’ the challenge card increases by a lot, so if you haven’t dispensed with most of the negative-value and 0 cards in your deck by the time you reach the third round, you’re probably screwed. And if you survive that third round, then you have to defeat two pirate ships in the same fashion.

Each card you have to defeat also comes with a fixed number of cards you can draw to try to match its point total. Up to that number, every card you draw is free, but beyond that you must give up one of your “life points” to draw each additional card. The number of points you have at the game’s start varies by difficulty level, with the app giving options from 16 to 20. If you succeed in defeating the card, you get to take it into your deck. If you fail, you get a certain number of points to use in destroying cards you’ve played that turn – usually your negative-value cards first, then the zeroes. The basic deck has mostly cards with -1 values and I think one -2, but higher difficulty levels add cards (with fun titles like “very stupid”) with values of -3 or worse.

You can’t win without making frequent use of the special abilities on the cards in the deck, and learning how to use them and combine them is a big part of the game. The Vision card lets you see the next three in the deck and rearrange them however you’d like, so you can do that and follow with an Equipment card that lets you draw the next two – or one of the destroy cards if you want to ensure your next draw is a card you need to trash. Destroying cards is particularly powerful, but most destroy cards carry 0 point values for the direct approach to meeting a challenge, so you need to strike some balance in deciding which cards to acquire and when. There is a particularly powerful card that lets you use the point value of a challenge card from a lower round than the one you’re in (first-round value in the second, second-round value in the third), but that also carries a 0 value.

The app lacks sufficient undo functions if you tap the wrong thing, but otherwise is an excellent adaptation that takes the annoying accounting aspects of the physical game out of your hands – especially in terms of ensuring that, for example, you’ve used all your potential to destroy cards when you fail to defeat the challenge. I’ve also had some issues with resuming games if I switch out of the app for any reason, but it doesn’t seem to be a consistent problem and I’m not sure what triggers it. I’d still recommend it but would only try to play it when you’ll finish a game (10 minutes or less) in one shot.

Onirim.

Onirim is a solitaire card game app from Asmodee Digital, based on a solo or cooperative card game previously published by Z-Man (now part of Asmodee’s growing empire). It’s simple to learn and very quick to play, but calibrated to be reasonably challenging through several plays, especially with the Glyphs expansion. It’s available for free on iTunes and Android with in-app purchases of expansions for $0.99 apiece.

Onirim is played with a single deck of cards that, in the base game, contains cards of in four different colors with three shapes apiece on those colors (sun, moon, key), as well as eight door cards (two in each of the colors) and ten “nightmare” cards. Your goal is to unlock the eight doors before the deck runs out of cards, working with five cards in your hand at any given time. Every time you play or discard a card, you replenish your hand by drawing from the top of the deck.

You can unlock a door by playing three consecutive cards with the same color but different symbols – sun-moon-sun is fine, but sun-sun-moon is not – or by playing the correct color of key card from your hand when that color door appears from the deck. You can also choose to discard a key card to look at the next five cards in the deck, rearranging any four of them and restoring them to the top of the deck while trashing the remaining card. When the next card you draw to refill your hand is a nightmare card, however, the trouble begins, and you can dispense with it in one of four ways:

* You can discard all remaining cards in your hand.
* You can discard the next five cards from the top of the deck. Nightmare and door cards are ‘recycled’ rather than discarded, but color cards of any shape are gone from the game.
* You can discard a key from your hand.
* You can recycle a door card that you’ve already unlocked.

When you unlock a door, the remainder of the deck is reshuffled, so if you played a key and knew what was coming, well, now you odn’t.

The game is balanced enough that I could win comfortably more than half of the time, but rarely won by much (going by the number of cards remaining in the deck, which is one of the ways the app determines your score). Onirim requires sacrifices; it gives you enough ways to unlock doors that you can plan around the nightmares, but have to make tough choices, often discarding cards you were about to use because a nightmare appeared. There are more sun cards than moon cards, and more moon cards than key cards, so you’ll probably find yourself ditching sun cards to get something better in your hand, or playing a moon card just to ‘reset’ the board, since the last card you played in the preceding triple (to unlock a door) still factors into the rule that you can’t play two consecutive cards of the same shape.


So far I have only tried the Glyphs expansion, which adds a fourth shape, glyphs, to the deck, but also requires you to unlock twelve doors rather than eight. You can use a glyph as you might any other shape card, but you can also discard a glyph card to reveal the next five cards in the deck. If one of them is a door, you can unlock it immediately, regardless of color. All non-door cards then go to the bottom of the deck, which can be good (nightmares!) or bad (that moon card you were waiting for!). Unlike the rules for doors unlocked with keys or card triplets, the deck isn’t reshuffled after you open a door with a glyph. Playing a key card and then a glyph can be powerful if the key shows you a door in the next few cards, but doing so knocks out two cards that might otherwise have been useful in completing sets of three. The expansion makes the game a few minutes longer, but I think it’s better; there are more decisions to make and the challenge of completing that many doors is harder, while recycling an unlocked door becomes a much more reasonable choice than it is in the base game.

There aren’t many good solitaire boardgames out there, and only a few I know – Friday is another, and I’ll review that soon – so Onirim would be an easy recommendation even if it weren’t free for the base game. The screen layout is different on the iPhone vs iPad, but both work – the iPhone makes good use of the space and I preferred having the doors laid out along the topic so they were always in sight. The publisher really could get away with charging a buck or two for this given the amount of time I’ve already spent playing it.