Friday accessibility teardown

Friday (2011) – Accessibility Teardown

Game Details
NameFriday (2011)
ReviewMeeple Like Us
ComplexityMedium Light [2.12]
BGG Rank344 [7.19]
Player Count1
Designer(s)Friedemann Friese
Artist(s)Harald Lieske and Marcel-André Casasola Merkle
Buy it!Amazon Link

Version Reviewed

English second edition

Introduction

It’s not really all that unusual that we take a contrarian stance with our reviews. Friday is a generally well respected solo deck-builder but we could only find it in our hearts to give it a single star accompanied by a begrudging half. That’s what we do here – we bring you the Hottest of Hot Takes, seven years after a game is released. We’re not in thrall to Big Cardboard. We can’t be bought. To be honest, that’s just because nobody has actually tried.

This is a game though that is comfortably fortified within the walls of the Top 500 of BGG and thus is largely immune from the effects of our criticism. You’re here, after all, because you want to know if you can play it and you wouldn’t be doing that if you weren’t contemplating the possibility. Let’s get a sharp stick – we’re going to poke the hell out of this weird game in the hope there’s something worth eating within.

Colour Blindness

Colour blindness is a minor issue within play – the difficulty levels on each card are red, yellow and green and the first and third of these are going to be a problem for some. However, much like with traffic lights there is a fixed position here that means it’s an annoyance rather than a genuine impediment to play. Red is on the top, green on the bottom, and they are ordered in line with the escalation of difficulty.

Colour blind cards

The only place this is likely to be an issue is in the tracking of the current difficulty level because this is done with colored cards which, while not identical are mainly differentiated by colour. However, you’ll get rid of a card with each new difficulty level and as such it’s possible to know where you are in the game by counting how many cards are left to be discarded. In any case, the cards also show a pair of eyes for each level of difficulty so the more eyes you can see the harder the game is supposed to be.

Colour blindness and difficulty

As such, we’ll strongly recommend Friday in this category. It’s not perfect, but there are no serious barriers to overcome.

Visual Accessibility

The font used on the cards is a little more ornamented than I would like, but it’s rarely the case that its genuinely inaccessible and in any case is just there for flavour. It’s well contrasted, with white letterboxing behind the black text. The key numbers you need to consider in play are in a consistent location each time – along the right hand side for difficulty levels and along the left hand side for the number of free cards.

Ah, but there’s a problem because the hazard cards have two roles they play – one as a difficulty to be overcome and one as a resource you add to your deck if you successfully defeat the hazard. That means orientation becomes very important and the cards are visually busy. It’s reasonably easy to tell which way a card should be oriented because your resources have a big number in the top left and hazards don’t. It will likely add a certain awkwardness to play though, and it could well be frustrating. Especially since as this is a solo game there’s going to be nobody (probably) to assist in getting a deck properly in order before cards are dealt.

Card effects at least are very brief, and the text is short and precise. ‘1x destroy’ or ‘+1 life’. There’s no fluff or flavour there – it’s just the facts ma’am. These will always be in the centre bottom of the card, and in the case of the standard cards you get as part of your beginning deck the large wooden fence behind which Crusoe is standing ensures a consistency of the layout.

Cards in Friday

Life points are indicated with actual tokens, and this is ideal. However, the cost of discarding cards (such as aging cards) is indicated only graphically. One nice idea here is that the more expensive cards have a different background for the cost icon but in practice it creates a visual inconsistency that may interfere with quick scanning via an assistive aid.

Finally, since this is a card game with few tactile tokens, play is going to be very difficult for those for whom total blindness must be considered. Impossible, in fact, without the use of a conversion kit. However, it could also be played as a CYOA style game in a two player setting if someone was happy to narrate the action. The problem there is – why wouldn’t you play a game more effectively focused around that kind of dynamic?

We’ll recommend Friday in this category because its problems likely won’t prevent people with minor to moderate visual impairments from playing. They’ll just add a low grade frustration to an already frustrating game.

Cognitive Accessibility

Most of what you’re doing in Friday is working out which hazard you are best able to defeat, and that depends on knowing approximately what you’re likely to get when you deal out your free cards. If you know you’ve gotten rid of all your bad cards you might be willing to try out a riskier hazard than you would otherwise Memory here is stressed quite highly although you can always look through your discard pile if necessary. You can’t though look at your draw deck because that would obviously tell you in advance what you were going to draw. However, in the end you can get a long way in Friday by simply picking the easiest option. That won’t be optimal in terms of getting you the strongest card for your deck, but it will be reliable in a way that memory problems may not otherwise permit.

The level of numeracy required in Friday is reasonably low – you have wooden tokens that translate arithmetic into an act of physical manipulation. The rules are mostly clear, although they do come with some caveats and exemptions. Mostly though play is:

  1. Deal out two hazards
  2. Pick one you think you can defeat
  3. Deal out cards
  4. See if you did

Friday though is a solo game, and one of the core assumptions we make of games in this category is that there is adequate support from the table to deal with questions and queries regarding how the game works and what different parts mean. In Friday, the assumption has to be that this is a solo experience, like playing a game of Solitaire. In that respect, some of the jargon in the game is unhelpful and can be difficult to parse. For example:

1x double: You can double the fighting value of 1 of the other drawn fighting cards. You can only double a single fighting value once per fight. If you have multiple copies of this ability, you must use them on different fighting cards, this ability is not cumulative! This ability is only activated at the end of the fight, when you compare your fighting value with the hazard value.

For someone with cognitive impairments, by themselves, this is a lot to unpack. It’s quite jargon heavy, full of provisos (each of which adds a memory burden), and doesn’t give a lot of guidance as to what this actually means. For most players this is going to be fine. For a player impacted by the kind of issues we discuss in this category, perhaps not.

This is a deck builder game where you don’t need to worry overmuch about synergies – they exist, but they’re very shallow and terminate relatively quickly without much explosive effect. There are no tight interdependencies, and arranging a deck so that you get the right cards at the right time isn’t really a problem. Instead, you just want to get as many good cards while getting rid of as many bad cards as possible. It’s a race rather than a puzzle. That greatly reduces the usual cognitive overload we might consider in a teardown – while that was a big reason for the game’s poor rating in our review, it’s a considerable blessing here. At least it would have been in a game where the assumption of support from the table could be relied upon.

Game flow is consistent, and all the key points at which it transitions from one phase to another are linked to properties of the game. For example, Robinson ages when he runs out of fighting cards. The game moves on a level of difficulty when you run out of hazard cards. Physical and visual prompts are given for all of this.

Various friday mats

We’ll tentatively recommend Friday in the fluid intelligence category, and recommend it a little more confidently in the memory category. I’m not sure I’d be willing to suggest someone with cognitive impairments plays it solo, but if it could be played with support from an otherwise uninvolved player it would be an easier sell.

Emotional Accessibility

Friday is a very difficult game, but it’s difficulty that comes from the deck being stacked against you from the start. Luck is intensely bursty – you might get all your good cards to begin with and then nothing but horrors from that point onwards. You might get all of your bad cards when the consequences are lowest and then are well set up for the more difficult challenges ahead. Your deck though is visibly weighted against you, and until you overcome a few hazards and indulge in a bit of deck curation you are going to have limited options that don’t come without a cost.

The use of life-points to overcome challenges gives some degree of ability to trade off future health against current needs, but when coupled with the cruelty of your deck it can end up being counter-productive. You spend life points to draw cards that get you no farther towards your goal and in the end you give up considerably worse off for your efforts. Worse, the negative cards in the deck mean you can often find yourself farther away from your goal than you started and that can be infuriating. Winning a game of Friday is tricky , but it often seems like the game is challenging only because it’s given you a fifty quid stake in a hundred dollar ante game of poker. You lose because the game is unfair, not because you don’t play well. That’s an emotionally challenging form of difficulty and it’s likely to exacerbate feelings of despair because your fate is often arbitrary. Worse than that, your fate is often known but unavoidable because early encounters can have a massive impact on future game state. A few good turns set you up well. A few bad turns set you up poorly. In essence, the chaos of the deck is unmanageable from the perspective of a player. That’s true in a lot of games where the difficulty level is high, but most of them are better at hiding it and make it more fun to fail. You lose in Friday as an accumulation of bad luck, not as the result of a risky play that just didn’t go your way when it mattered.

Coupled to this Friday undercuts all your sense of progress by threading negative cards into your deck every time you use it up. These simulate the accumulated decrepitudes that Crusoe is picking up the longer he stays While this is nice and thematic it means that players are essentially robbed of progress. Drawing one especially bad card there can undo a massive amount of hard work that went into deck curation. For example, the ‘scared’ card turns your highest value card in a hand to a zero. The ‘suicidal’ card gives you a -5 to your fighting score. The best you can hope to do with deck building is to hopefully offset the worst that’s coming.

The game escalates in difficulty constantly and these cards mean that you usually can’t realistically keep pace with it. You rely on luck rather than you own decision making to deal with these cards when they appear – you hope it happens when you can take the hit but you have limited tools to actually ensure that. Even then you rely on them all coming out in the same hand. It’s great if you get ‘suicidal’ and a destroy card in the same draw. It’s worse than useless if you get them in two separate hands and it’s not up to you when that happens.

We don’t recommend Friday at all in this category. Its challenge is unfair and arbitrary and driven by luck more than decision. Itt ultimately succeeds in its goal to be a ‘hard as nails’ experience by stacking the deck heavily against the player. Being a solo game, it’s not even as if you can blame your result on anyone else.

Physical Accessibility

Like all deckbuilders, there is a fair amount of dealing out and shuffling of decks. Unlike most deckbuilders, it’s a solo game and as such the expectation will be that the physically impaired player will be doing this themselves. Unless there is a passive player on hand to do this regularly (and that will essentially require them to be collocated with the player rather than simply doing their own thing) then those with fine grained motor control issues are going to find this difficult to play with no obvious compensations.

As to verbalisation, well – it’s a solo game. That’s something that is coming up a fair bit here in the teardown. By definition there is no other player to handle this, athough if there was it would be easy – just indicate which hazard and then you can do it blackjack style. ‘Hit. Hit. Hit. Hit. Damn’. You could certainly play this as a guided experience, with one player handling the interaction with the game for the active player. As I said in the section on visual accessibility – why wouldn’t you go for a two player game in that case?

We don’t recommend Friday in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

There’s only so far you can go in terms of representation with a game focused around Robinson Crusoe and a character called Friday. However, it’s a shame that we never actually see a character that would match Friday anywhere in the game. Having said that, given the art style of the often grotesquely racist contemporary portrayals of Friday that might be a blessing of a sort. You’d think though that some effort would have been made to at least give some screen time to the character for whom the game is named. The manual at least doesn’t default to masculinity, but there are a few cards in the deck that adopt offensively ableist jargon (like ‘moronic’) or treat sensitive subjects as a punchline (‘suicidal’).

Friday box

I bought Friday because I had a rogue voucher for the US Amazon store, and so I wanted something that the voucher could cover (which wasn’t much) while also handling the shipping (which was). Friday was one of a handful of candidates, but I’m not sure I can really even recommend it on the basis of cost. It has an RRP of £20, which for a solo game is – well. It would be okay if I thought you’d get your money’s worth but as you might expect from our intensely critical review I don’t think that’s the case. That said, a solo game does have the ability to be played alone (obviously) and that by itself has a considerable socioeconomic benefit for those that find it difficult to arrange groups, or have friends who are not interested in the hobby.

So, a game named after a Venezuelan, presumably one of the Kalina people given the setting and conventions of the book. A game that doesn’t show that character in the art and opts instead for a range of gruesome portraits of the very white Robinson Crusoe. It’s expensive for what you get, and it won’t really sustain you for long in my opinion. And it adopts some lazy and offensive terms in the cards. We don’t recommend Friday in this category.

Communication

Friday is a solo game, so as you might imagine communication doesn’t really factor into it. There is some need for literacy though, but most of that could be dealt with via a crib sheet. There’s limited flavour text and once the different special powers have been memorised there’s no need to worry about reading anything again. However, you also have to contend here with the fact there will likely be no other player to help explain or remind of rules if it become necessary for a refresher. You’d be stuck going to the manual.

We’ll recommend, just, Friday in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

The issue of Friday being a solo game has come up a fair bit here, and that’s not surprising. The expectation that nobody else is playing complicates things from wall to wall. Accessibility is in many respects a collaborative activity – everyone at the table often has a role to play. That’s not going to be possible if playing Friday as intended.

Otherwise I see few real intersectional issues that aren’t already covered by the individual categories. A communication impairment that intersected with a physical impairment or a visual impairment might impact on the ability to play Friday as a two player, guided experience. Once again I say – you should just play a game designed for two players in those circumstances.

Games of Friday are reasonably short, but in the end if a player wants to drop out the only person it impacts is them. As such, the usual issues regarding the ease of that are irrelevant. Barring accessibility considerations a game of Friday can probably be completed in half an hour, although often shorter since you’ll die. That’s unlikely in and of itself to exacerbate issues of discomfort. If it does, there’s no reason to worry about spoiling anyone else’s fun.

Conclusion

I think this is the first solo game we’ve looked at on Meeple Like Us, although not the first that can be played solo. Still, even as we are well into our third year of operation we’re still finding games that introduce new and unique accessibility considerations. This really is a wonderfully interesting domain for analysis.

Friday, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
CategoryGrade
Colour BlindnessA-
Visual AccessibilityB
Fluid IntelligenceC
MemoryB
Physical AccessibilityD
Emotional AccessibilityE
Socioeconomic AccessibilityD
CommunicationB-

Unfortunately, while a solo game has a certain useful agility when someone has no group with which to play (temporarily or otherwise) – it doesn’t do the accessibility of the game any favours. We didn’t have a lot of positives here, and many of the criticisms we levelled simply wouldn’t have come up if it were possible to assume a table of other players can pitch in with accessibility support when needed.

We didn’t much like Friday, as our one and a half star review probably clearly indicates. We also think the unique intersection between its design and its player-count means that a lot of people who might have expected to be able to play will be prevented. Unless that is they have someone else ready to step in without otherwise being involved in the game. It’s not really all that much of a loss if you ask me, but there is a whole legion of people out there that would disagree in the strongest possible terms.

 


A Disclaimer About Teardowns

Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.

Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then this will not be the blog for you. We will not debate with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.

Teardowns are provided under a CC-BY 4.0 license. However, recommendation grades in teardowns are usually subjective and based primarily on heuristic analysis rather than embodied experience. No guarantee is made as to their correctness. Bear that in mind if adopting them.

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