Game Buzz: Faiyum

I always like looking at Friedemann Friese games, and here’s his latest:

image by BGG user Henning

Faiyum is an Egyptian themed game designed by Friedemann Friese and published by his company 2F-Spiele. It was released last year at Spiel. It is a deck building and worker placement game where you are trying to build your reputation in order to gain the respect of the pharaoh. This is accomplished by building up the Faiyum basin.

The board for the game shows an image of the Faiyum basin, abstracted into hexes. A settlement starts on the red hex, and a road starts on the dam at the inner end of the river. A crocodile goes on every wheat and grape space (yellow and purple). Each player takes a color and all matching pieces – starting cards, a reputation disc, a 50/100 reputation marker, and an administration overview card. You reputation disc goes one 0, and you take your starting cards in hand. You’ll set up a draw pile, and put eight cards in the market in ascending value, with the first four each having a -1 discount token placed on them. Four other cards are mixed in with eight yellow-bordered cards to make a final turns stack. Players get $3-5 based on turn order, and you’re ready to go.

image by BGG user Henning

On your turn, you will either play a card from your hand, buy a card from the card market, or carry out administration.

PLAY A CARD: When you do this, you will either get $2 or take the actions on the card. There are four types of actions – harvest actions (gain resources), build actions (put settlements, workshops, or roads on crocodile free spaces, or upgrade settlements to towns), commerce actions (place a worker to get money), or other actions (which are other). When you’re done with the card, put it in your discard pile.

BUY A CARD: Take one of the four cards in the current market, paying the indicated cost with a discount if applicable. Then draw a new card. Place it in its proper ordered spot, which could move a card from the future market or not.

ADMINISTRATION: When you take an administration action, you first gain $3 minus the number of cards you have in hand. Then you take up to two workers from the board, gaining $1 each. Next, you take the top three cards from your discard pile into your hand, paying $1 for each additional card you want to take, remembering that you cannot rearrange your discard pile. There’s no shuffling in this game (beyond setting up the market in set up). You’re always going to get back your most recently played cards, but it’s going to be harder to get cards back that you played earlier.

The last step in Administration is to remove the lowest 1-2 cards from the market that have discount tokens, then place discount tokens on the remaining cards in the current market that don’t have discount tokens. Finally, you’ll replace the missing cards, putting the new ones in their ordered spots. These cards do not get discounts.

The game continues until the draw stack is empty. At this point, you move to the final turns stack. This stack has natural disasters in it, which go in the highest spots of the card market when drawn. Once the fourth natural disaster has been drawn and placed, you can’t take the administration action anymore, but can choose to quit the game instead of buying a card or playing a card. If you quit, you gain a natural disaster card, which gives you reputation. The last player to quit gets no reputation from their natural disaster. The player with the highest reputation wins.

image by BGG user MarcelP

This game doesn’t look pretty. The board is quite bland, and the colors seem quite generic and uninteresting. But gameplay seems quite solid. I’m intrigued by the deck building aspect. There have been deck building games in the past where you don’t shuffle your cards – I’m thinking Lewis & Clark or the Century Games, for one. However, this might be the first one where you don’t get your whole hand back by taking an action to do so. You just get part of it. You get them back in the order they were played, not oldest first, and that’s a fascinating concept. Beyond that, I see other Friedemann Friese hallmarks, especially in the card market which I’m sure will remind anyone of Power Grid. Overall, I’d say this looks like a pretty good strategy game, and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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