Designer: Don Bone
Publisher: Sagacity Games/Eagle-Gryphon Games
Price: $39.99 (Eaglegames.net)
Freya’s Folly, from Eagle-Gryphon Games, is designed by Dan Bone. Dan has also released Sunda to Sahul through Sagacity Games, which is a lightweight puzzle game.
Released in 2005 through Sagacity Games, Eagle-Gryphon later picked up Freya’s Folly, and is available to purchase from Eagle’s website.
I would recommend skipping this section. First, read the review underneath. Then return to this content guide. The subject matter will make more sense when you understand the gameplay and thematic interaction.
The game encourages light and rude trades between players, so expect lots of quips and vicious plays against each other.
There is some underlying Norse mythology, with Freya being a goddess of love and fertility. In the opening description of the game, the player-controlled dwarves are written as “choosing to bring her gifts for favors.” The game goes on to say the rest of the story is for another time.
Being the investigative journalist I am (because I watch Daredevil and other movies), I dug a little bit, and discovered Freya was actually a “party girl” among the gods. She received her pristine, gold necklace from the dwarves, and each night would receive another quarter of the Brisingamen (necklace) by marrying another dwarf. This, of course, was to the chagrin of her husband, Loki.
Needless to say, aside from her practice of manipulative magic, Freya was namely a goddess of passion, but also one of deception, infidelity, and impetuousness.
Assuredly, the reality of Freya’s foolish choices is masked by pick up and deliver gameplay. Nevertheless, the weight and cost of choosing to complete her necklace, in contrast with earning precious victory points from accomplishing the settings of dwarven jewelry is the struggle of the game. This bears an inanimate, yet thematic burden, while totally overstepping the true backstory, which isn’t a bad thing.
I think it brings up an interesting diversion in conversation, and makes questionable the moral decision making made by the dwarves throughout the game. No, I don’t wander in my mind about the psyche of players around the table, instead I wonder about the desperation of dwarves.
These dwarves are mining mindlessly, blocking each other, and weighing the moral ambiguity of serving the spoils of hard work to their own people, or to a goddess who promises fleeting moments of affection and lust. This goddess who grants points which may be pitiful, or could be incredibly valuable, depending on how many players satisfied her Brisingamen requirements before game end.
What a fascinating backstory to the game, which may not at all be the point of complexity in Freya’s Folly, but if so, how subtly and beautifully laid forth is this theme within the confines of the game.
Aye, I’ll spare ye another intro where I pretend to be a viking or a dwarf. Instead, let’s gab about this fun gem from Eagle Gryphon.
Freya’s Folly is a pick up and deliver game with some literal set collection and plenty of ways to mess over your opponents. Players are dwarves, who gain points from fulfilling card settings with jewels collected from the deep, lantern-lit caverns below ground. Each setting requires different cube combinations of both color and size.
Players can also choose to fulfill settings from Freya herself, who only requests gold cubes to complete the missing sections of her necklace, Brisingamen. These special cubes are more tedious to acquire, but once satisfied, will grant the player free action tokens, which can be cashed for valuable extra actions on that player’s turn, or for victory points at the end of the game.
In an interesting movement scheme, players delve into caverns, using a move action and going from lantern to lantern. A player can use a single action to move one space, but can also move past up to two dwarves at a time. This functions as a catch-up mechanism for players lagging in turn order, but also works as a slingshot of sorts for players trying to move quickly through the cave. As you might guess, nasty blocking can happen, where you can effectively bottle off an entire portion of the cave, disabling all movement in or out.
Once a dwarf collects gems from a cavern, he must emerge from the earth to turn in gems to a player’s “bank,” which can be added to fulfill a setting. Gems can also be traded on a black market, supplied by whatever gems are leftover from game setup.
What complicates cavern movement are abilities which provide multiple avenues to move, steal, block, and gather. Some cards make your dwarf huge and completely block movement past him for two turns. Other cards release a bat into the cave to gather gems of your choice, or give your dwarf super speed so he can move two spaces at once. While not completely obvious until a second play, abilities allow many paths to victory, and are immediately taken during players’ early turns, lest they are ignored, to the demise of that player’s strategy.
The game will continue until a player has completed as many settings as dwarves he controls, or when the Brisingamen is completed. Thereafter, players tally points from leftover gems, completed settings (which are worth negative points if incomplete), free actions tokens, and maybe points for triggering end game.
Being one of the first pick up and deliver games I’ve played, I was at first unimpressed with Freya’s Folly. The satisfaction and enjoyment from the game comes at higher player counts, wherein players discover the thrill of finally completing your first setting, and the despair of being blocked off for the third turn in a row.
Yes, cavern movement can take all life and fun from the game, but there is mitigation in different ways (i.e. making deals with players to let you through, or using a stealth ability). Dwarves can only take the stock of gems from one cavern space, so unless players have an ability that allows them two, they must carefully choose which cavern to plod towards. Of course, the most valuable and highest stockpiles of gems are further down in the cave. Approaching these treasures is obvious, and broadcasts to other players who will likely decide to congest your return path, making your delivery difficult.
Does a player decide to seek gold gems for Freya’s necklace, or focus on dwarven settings? These dwarven selections are guaranteed points, and easier to complete, yet Freya’s request will give you free actions, and potentially huge point payouts. The back-and-forth should be an early game tactical choice, and will prove mostly fruitless unless multiple players decide to fulfill her wishes.
Freya’s Folly would benefit from a facelift, as I can’t imagine Freya to gather much attention by her weak depiction on the front of the box. With weaker eyes than Leah from Genesis 29, Freya makes a stronger case to play Concordia by box art alone. Inside the cardboard case is less interesting. Cavern structure is clearly play-tested, and graphic design makes clear which gems should be randomly placed where.
The rulebook is ambiguous, with images seemingly contradicting game setup, which drives me bonkers. My preference is to bombard me with photos when explaining which pieces go where. Show me gameplay examples later, or not at all, just please don’t do it when I’m trying to figure out how to start the game.
Further down the rabbit hole is card art, which is mostly fine, but iconography on ability cards still makes little sense to me. Players receive hint cards to explain each ability, but leaves everyone more confused and better off with a custom-made player aid. Also, what do I even do with the provided ability tokens? Do I take them when I take a card? Do I put them on a dwarf token or on my player mat?
Speaking of ability cards, you are foolish not to take them. You should always take them… Well, unless you are playing with three, then two or more ability cards are worthless (stealth, strength). I’ve become a strong believer in playing this game with 4-5 or not at all. You can’t even begin to approach the hidden game motif, or complexity of interaction until you have more people at the table.
You should now read the content guide above, because Freya’s Folly is steeped in Norse lore, and the mechanisms absolutely reflect it well.
This game is worth your time, if not for anything else than to teach neat player interaction, both the good and the bad. Additionally, the pickup and deliver mechanism is worthwhile. If you can get past the art and annoying rulebook, there is a gem here, and I like it.
The Bottom Line
Freya's Folly is a solid pick up and deliver game, with plenty of "take-that" player interaction. Get past the dated artwork and you'll find a lot of fun at 4-5 players.