Monday, 15 March 2010

Funny Friends

Funny Friends, by Friedemann Friese (Power Grid, Fearsome Floors, Factory Manager) and Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle (Attika, Meuterer, Taluva), has been called "a gamer's party game" and "A Game of Life for adults". It has a recommended age of 17+, which is unusual for boardgames. Friedemann Friese's games almost always have an interesting or quirky theme. Although his games tend to be more misses that hits for me, I find that I am usually at least interested to try them. And I like Power Grid a lot. Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle does not have many games, but I tend to like his games, my favourites being Attika and Taluva. I wish there were more people who like Taluva.

The Game

The objective of the game is to be the first to complete five life goals. Each player gets a board which is used to track the attributes of the character he plays, and the relationship his character has with other player or non-player characters (there are always 10 characters in a game). Every player character has 9 attributes, e.g. how heavy a smoker you are, how rich you are, how religious you are, or how fat you are. In terms of relationships, you can have regular friends, you can be in relationships, you can have divorces, you can have anonymous sex, you can have kids, you can even be celibate.

The goals in the game are all described by various attributes and/or personal experiences that you've had. So throughout the game you try to steer your attributes and life experiences towards these goals. Sometimes you may have conflicting requirements between different goals. You can try to complete them at different times in a particular order which allows you to meet the requirements at the necessary times. Or you can swap goals.

The gameplay is all centred around auctions. The currency is something called "time". There is a tongue-in-cheek statement in the rulebook saying "time is money". The game starts with a puberty round, where the players can already start adjusting their attributes by claiming life cards. Every life card represents some life experience that changes your attributes and life history on your player board. After puberty, you step into "real life". Life cards are now auctioned, and you bid "time" to win them. The game goes through multiple rounds. Whenever you pass in a round, you don't participate in any more auctions, but you do get some "time" when you pass, which you can then use in the following round. The earlier you pass, the more "time" you get. The game ends immediately when a player completes his 5th life goal.

The Play

I played a 4-player game with Afif, Sui Jye and Jing Yi. They probably wanted to fulfill some secret fantasy, because they all chose to play characters of the opposite sex... hmm... Sui Jye (a hot-blooded young man in real life) even chose a pink player board. Throughout the game (first time for all of us), we enjoyed the humour of the cards, especially the artwork and how it portrays the event described in the card titles (e.g. drawing of a huge hairy arm draped over a shoulder for the card "One Night Stand"). Quite often the effects of the cards are also quite humourous (e.g. joining a bridge club makes you fat).

In our game most of us were mostly focused on our own boards. We didn't really try to mess up others boards, or try to guess what the others were trying to achieve (which we'd need to do to try the former). Sometimes we competed over certain life cards, but that was most of the interaction that we had. For friendships and relationships we usually just pick the non-player characters, because picking those do not need us to spend our Offer tokens. Offer tokens are limited so we were quite stingy, probably overly so in hindsight. These can be used for forcing someone to bring you to an event, and are also the only way to get to know a fellow player character.

Jing Yi was the one who literally had too much time on her hands. She made some very big bids that noone could beat. Unfortunately her first goal achieved was Celibacy, which restricted her options afterwards a bit. I think we only had 3 rounds of "real life" before I won the game. It was quite close, because Sui Jye would have won on his next turn. Actually I only won because he unintentionally helped me at the end of the previous round (after I had passed) by forcing me to join him in an event. At the time I needed one more friendship in order to complete my Write A Memoir life goal. None of the life cards available in the next round allowed me to gain another friendship, and I would not have won if Sui Jye hadn't befriended me. Aaahh... a friend in need is a friend indeed.

I had just completed my first life goal of being a Workaholic, which required me to be a light drinker and moderately sick. Being a Workaholic caused me to end my relationship with Peggy (a non-player character), and to become depressed (drooping flower icon). The cards below my player board are the life experiences that I had had. The red ones are the puberty cards.

How the table looked like during the game.

I was a Workaholic, then I got Totally Wasted, and now I was Enlightened. I had a One Night Stand (after I was Enlightened) with Mary, and we later had an Offspring.

My attributes and personal history (left to right, top to bottom): I was a light smoker, heavy drinker, moderate drug addict, dirt poor, very healthy, slightly plump, quite depressed, slightly religious, and moderately well-educated / wise. I never had any anonymous sex, with man or woman. Mike was my friend. I was in a relationship with Mary. We've had sex, and even had a child (pacifier token), but we were not even engaged yet. Peggy was my ex-girlfriend.

The Thoughts

Having played the game, I think it is just a very simple auction + secret goal race game. There isn't a lot of meat, and if not for the quirky theme, it probably would be rather boring. So I'd say it's an experience game. You play it to see what kind of alternative life you lead. It's something I'll play once in a while, but not regularly.

The game in a way portrays things like smoking, drinking, and drug use as positive things. They are often goals that you try to achieve. Some people may be offended, but I think if the life goals were more serious things like education level, social clubs you join, charity work you do, your position at your company etc, the game would be rather dull. However I do not recommend playing this game with people younger than 17, lest we send the wrong messages to our youngsters (e.g. it's OK to have anonymous sex).

I think the game needs 6 players (the max number) to be good. In our 4P game, we had too little player interaction. I suspect even with 5 players it's not good enough. It may be just due to the way we happened to play. It was our first game afterall. However even on BoardGameGeek most people recommend 5 or 6 players. We probably should have paid more attention to other players' attributes and tried to mess one another up more.


wankongyew said...

Hmm, this looks like an interesting game that I'd like to try. Like a boardgame version of The Sims or Kudos, a small life simulation game by an indie developer.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Just treat it as an experience game rather than a competitive game, and you'll enjoy it. I don't remember whether Chong Sean has it though.

Chong Sean said...

Fluch der Mumie is also by Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle, and Attribute, Julchen und die Monster, Monstermaler.

I don't have funny friends...

I have a 16+ adult game,
"The Difference Between Women & Men", a party game 16+ by Uwe Rosenberg!

Passerby said...

hi, do you know where i can get this game?

Hiew Chok Sien said...

my copy of funny friends was a gift from a taiwanese friend. i did a quick search of online stores in malaysia and singapore and couldn't find any. you can try to contact to see whether they can order a copy for you (i assume you are in malaysia, this is a malaysian site). else try searching there are many online stores in usa selling it i think.