reviewed by Moritz Eggert
From time to time, a game comes along that tries to approach "real time" gaming, i.e. games that play in a frantic hurry, like the early "Zaster" or "Falling" by Cheapass Games. In these games there is not a strict turn order in which each player patiently awaits what the others are doing, instead everybody plays at once.
This is especially true of "Frantic Frankfurt", a new offering of "Kronberger Spiele". The game plays like a collective patience, each player has to get rid of his/her cards as quickly as possible. Each player has 4 decks of various cards in front of him/her of which only the upper one can be seen. One important element is that each player plays with only ONE hand (the other presumably holding a mobile phone to buy stocks), so one has to play a card before looking at the next card. Players play on open decks on the table, with only two rules: if you play a different coloured card, it has to be higher than the card you play it on, and if you play an equal coloured card it has to be even if the card below is odd, or vice versa.
One would be astonished how difficult it is to follow these two easy rules during actual play. In fact, each player experiences what I would call a "player's" block often, being completely paralyzed for the moment because the others hectic play foils all your plans or simply overwhelms you. As the first four cards in front of you are open, the first plays can be planned pretty well, but after that chaos reigns.
Players will fall in two categories: Those who are slow and play their cards correctly, or those who simply play the cards as they come without correcting mistakes. And herein lies the big problem of the game - as everything happens simultaneously (to the extent that cards AND hands might get damaged in the process) mistakes do happen and it cannot always be reconstructed who the culprit was. In fact it is a valid, even successful strategy to play your cards very quickly without any care before anybody can react. In the worst case, somebody else notices it and then both you and s/he spend some time arguing while somebody else wins instead. This would work as a computer game if their is an infallible neutral instance, but as a multiplayer game this game mechanic might be questionable at best, especially because the game doesn't really use any kind of punishment for discovered mistakes (like stopping the game and drawing an extra card, for example).
In Essen the person who presented the game simply said to me "The moment you think about playing a card wrongly you already lose time". In our experience sloppy play was thoroughly rewarded, as the game played so quickly (one round can last under a minute) that it is nigh impossible to keep track of the mistakes of your fellow players.
Nevertheless, the game created some enjoyment and excitement at the game table, although one simply gives up after a while, as it is too much for the brain to handle. The unsuccessful graphics evoke some kind of stock market frenzy, but luckily, the game plays too fast for you to really bother looking at the cards. After one play the cards already showed some sign of damage, although one should think that for a game like this they should have been designed sturdier.
"Frantic Frankfurt" can be frantically explained in under 5 minutes, a series of games (several rounds) plays in 10-15 minutes.
©2005, Westpark Gamers