Feierabend (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer:  Friedemann Friese
  • Publisher:  2F-Spiele
  • Artists:  Lars-Arne “Maura” Kalusky
  • Players:  1 – 6
  • Ages:  12 and Up
  • Time:  45 – 75 Minutes
  • Times Played: 3 (On Review Copy from Publisher)

Friedemann Friese’s Feierabend, also known as Finishing Time, is an “after worker placement” game in which the players have a team of workers that just want to relax.  When the game begins, working conditions are awful — the players are poorly paid, work long hours, suffer from a gender pay gap, all of which creates a high degree of stress — but over the course of the game, they find room for some leisure and relaxation, while also improving their working conditions.  At the end of the game, the most relaxed team wins.

I once heard Friedemann Friese described as a “mad scientist” game designer, and while I think he defies labels, I think that’s perhaps the most fitting description I’ve heard.  He jumps in and out of different game mechanics — from the economics of Power Grid, to the trivia game Fauna, to numerous trick taking games — always innovating along the way.  Feierabend continues his trend of making engaging games in novel ways. 

Feierabend is, to me, one of Friedemann’s cleverest designs in years: the gameplay is simple yet deep, and the player interaction is quite high for an economic game.  Feierabend game is easy to play, but hard to master, and with no randomness at all, it is likely to appeal to the crowd that prefers “no luck” in gaming.  

The Gameplay

Players have 7 workers on their team.  On their turn, they can take one of three actions: (1) place up to three workers on the house board, (2) place a worker on a different board, or (3) go on strike.

The house board has three locations, and each can hold an unlimited number of workers.  The home space simply earns 1 relaxation point (the victory points) per worker placed there.  The bar has two options: at one space, you can have a drink, where you pay $1 to earn 2 relaxation, or on the other space, you can work the bar, losing two relaxation, but also gaining $2.

The other boards include the leisure board, the amusement board, the vacation board, and the union board.  

On the leisure board, you can place workers to earn points, and none of the spaces cost money.  Going fishing earns 2 relaxation; using the fitness track earns 3; and going on a motorcycle ride earns 4, but that action can only be taken with a partner.

On the amusement board, you can also place workers to earn points (or attract partners), but that board costs money.  The theme park costs $3 for 5 relaxation, $4 for 7 relaxation, or $5 for 9 relaxation, but you get 2 bonus relaxation if you go with a partner.  The blind date spot costs $2, but you gain 1 relaxation, and your worker has a partner that joints them for the rest of the game.  At the motel spot, which must be visited with a partner, you pay $1 to gain 6 relaxation.

The vacation board, showing each player with a worker that has gone on a two-week vacation (which they can do according to the vacation marker in the background). A couple of the workers took a partner!

The vacation board is the most complicated, but in line with the rest of the game, it is still straightforward.  At first, players can’t use it.  But as they go on strike, they can use their strike tokens to earn the ability to go on 1, 2, or 3 week vacations.  A one-week vacation costs $1 for 3 relaxation, a two-week vacation costs $2 for 6 relaxation, and a three-week vacation costs $4 to gain 9 relaxation.  Partners are allowed on vacation, of course, but the cost (and the relaxation) are doubled.  This board, unlike the others, has spaces to move your workers as they advance through their weeks of vacation: if a worker is on a 3-week trip, for instance, you’ll pull all of your workers back 3 times before you get that worker back.  

Lastly, players can go to the strike board.  They don’t pay any money, nor do they earn relaxation: instead, they gain three strike tokens.

The strike tokens are used when you go on strike.  At that point you can pay as many tokens as you have to improve working conditions.  You can seek better pay, reduce the gender gap, get more vacation, gather union support (which earns additional strike tokens each round), or reduce working hours.  Thus, throughout the game, you’re building an engine to a better life.  

When your last worker is placed, you have to immediately pull all of them back (or move the ones on vacation forward a week).  At that point, sort of like returning to work, you incur some stress, but also earn some rewards.  You get your pay (less the gender gap) and some strike tokens (from your union support).  But you also immediately lose some relaxation: fighting for better working hours reduces the stress incurred, and at the start of the game, you lose 16 per work week.  If you go too far backwards, your only option is to visit the bar until you’re relaxed enough for other activities.  

At the top, you see the home board, showing a space to get a drink, a place to work the bar, and a place for a nice evening at home. The bottom tracks represent weekly wages (middle row), the gender gap (bottom left), and the union support (bottom right).

The game end is triggered when a player earns 40 relaxation.  Then everybody plays out their remaining workers (and players who have exhausted theirs earn a relaxation point per turn they wait).  At that point all workers go back to work one last time (i.e. everybody’s score is reduced by the work hours track), and the player with the highest relaxation is the winner.  

My Thoughts on the Game

My favorite Friese game is Power Grid — in fact, it is in my overall top 5 games of all time — because I find the internal economics of it fascinating.  And Power Grid has always, at least to me, been a game about timing.  Though Feierabend is a quite different game, those two Power Grid features — the economics, and the timing — are captured quite nicely in Feierabend.  And that leaves me with a game reviewer conundrum: the two games are nothing alike mechanically, but to my enjoyment and surprise, they have a very similar feel. 

Feierabend is a tense and engaging push-and-pull puzzle.  Players can simply dispatch their workers for the highest-value leisure activities, but ultimately, that isn’t a winning strategy, because they are going to have to lose much of their progress as their team returns to work.  If they aren’t improving the working conditions, then they aren’t going to advance much towards getting higher on the relaxation track.  So the strategic question becomes how to best do that.  

In my plays, players (including new players) have intuitively sought to use the union board as often as possible early in the game, even though it affords no relaxation.  But from there, strategies have emerged, with different branching paths about which working conditions players fight to improve.  Some players immediately aim for better pay (or reducing the gender gap), while others go for union support, and others yet try to reduce the pullback in relaxation by reducing the work week.

The individual strategies matter, not so much for the underlying economics, but because they control the timing of the game.  And timing is everything here: Feierabend appears to always have a tense ending, because you want to have a full set of workers when somebody triggers the end of the game.  Another key aspect of timing is grabbing the 3-week vacation spots: these are also exceptionally valuable (especially with a partner), but because some players don’t exhaust their workers as often (keep in mind that you can use 3 workers at once to speed through rounds), grabbing one can be a real challenge, but also a great reward.  

The result is a game with a surprising — and refreshing — amount of interactivity for an economic game.  There is no randomness in Feierabend whatsoever (which will likely make it a hit with the “no luck” crowd), but games will go quite differently based on how the players are implementing their strategies and seeking to block other players.

The game plays quickly — turns are fast — and we’ve played with 3 or more players.  A solo mode is included (and I haven’t tried it), but I can say that the game works well at a wide variety of player counts, which is a nice plus.  

Our games have been under an hour, and I think that will likely be the norm, except at higher player counts, or with players who want to over-analyze the math.  Feierabend can be taught quickly, especially given the functional and intuitive iconography, both of which are aided by a theme which tells a story that new players appear to grasp intuitively and with ease.  

The only downside I see to Feierabend is that, because there is no randomness, it likely will not have as much replayability as some of 2F-Spiele’s other classics.  This is still as much a game about solving the puzzle as judging other players, and the puzzle itself won’t change much.  But I haven’t tired of this yet, and I think it’ll take me several more plays before I’ve explored what Feierabend has to offer.  

Overall, I’m highly impressed.  As I said above, I think this is one of the cleverest designs Friedemann has released in recent years.  I’ve now played with three different groups, and all of them really enjoyed it, certainly improving the amount of relaxation in everybody’s lives.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Yu – 2 plays, on copy provided by publisher –  Overall, I have enjoyed my two games so far.  I agree that it is simpler than Funkenschlag, but there are a lot of similarities. For me, the biggest thing is the importance of timing.  At the start of the game, players tend to need to reset around the same time, but they will spread out as the turns go on.  Having the right workers (and significant others) free at the moment when a juicy action spot comes free is key.  This could be the difference between going on vacation for 18 or having to settle for a workout for 3 relaxation.  Sometimes, it is helpful to end a round early by sending a bunch of your team to sleep or the bar – just to get off cycle with the players who are currently occupying the high relaxation value spaces.

The board is static, and while I have heard some other workers grumble that this may make the game feel old – I haven’t seen that yet.  Yes, the actions don’t change, but you still have to figure out to build your engine (or whether you’re even going to worry about the engine at all).  In my two games, I have seen someone win using a relax-whenever-possible strategy, and I have also seen someone win by aggressively reducing the work hours and increasing the vacation time.  For me, that balance of relaxing versus engine building still has a lot of room for exploration.  Additionally, this is the sort of game where I feel that the interaction between the players, especially in the aforementioned timing of space availability, is the crux of the game.  You don’t need a constantly changing variety of action spaces to create a different game each time…

I like it for now, and I am not quite sure if this will elevate to “I love it” status or not.  It’ll need a few more plays to see whether it remains interesting afterwards or if the puzzle has been mostly figured out.   I agree with Chris that this is “one of Friedemann’s cleverest designs in years”.

Joe Huber (2 plays, one as a prototype) – I fear that for me, this game suffers from being, at the heart, a worker placement game, a genre that usually is not a favorite of mine.  It does all work smoothly, but results in a game which feels too mechanical to rate better with me.  Still, a pleasant enough game that I might well play it more, and it’s likely to appeal more to those not bothered by the worker placement element. 

Brandon Kempf (1 play) – Theme tying in with mechanisms in a game this seamlessly is honestly something you don’t see that often. The push/pull, or seesaw, balance of your relaxation is felt, the longer the work week, the more relaxation is going to be needed in order to bounce back. The idea that if you go so far back on relaxation that the only place you can seek solace is the bar may be a bit dark for me, but it works. As everyone else has mentioned, timing is of the utmost importance and knowing when to cut relaxation time short in order to capitalize on other’s work weeks can make or break things for you. All in all, after one play, I want to play it more, I want to see if a dominant strategy shows up, and I want to see how others try to adapt to that. Which is something that I worry about in a worker placement styled game with zero luck involved.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!  Chris Wray, Brandon Kempf
  • I like it. James Nathan, Dale Y, John P
  • Neutral. Joe H.
  • Not for me…
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