Estonian Revaler published Farlander back in 2002, but now it’s out from Finnish Tactic. This pretty game is warfare as simple as it gets. The medieval theme is pretty stale, but actually the game is very abstract.
The game is split into two parts: setup and fighting. In the setup phase, players divide their troops to the 24 areas of the modular map. Each area can hold pieces from one player, up to five pieces per area. Players have enough pieces to cover each area they get (provided they are split even) with three pieces.
Then the fighting starts. Each player must attack if they can. To attack, you choose a target area. If you have more pieces in the areas that neighbour the area, you can attack. The victim loses all their pieces, while attacker loses nothing. Attacker moves in with up to five pieces.
Fight for mobility
Saying that attacker loses nothing is not true. Attacker loses mobility: when you have only one piece per area, you can’t attack, because to attack, you need to able to move in pieces and vacating areas is not possible. The game reminds me of Dvonn here: maintaining your mobility while limiting your opponent’s mobility is the key.
The game is over when nobody can attack anymore. Areas held are counted and most areas wins the game. The whole process is over in 10-20 minutes, depending on the slowness of the players.
Farlander is different game with different amount of players. I’ve tried with two and four. With two, the game is a decent brainburner, though I’m a bit doubtful how much play the game lasts before the strategies become obvious. Still, it’s fast and reasonably entertaining. I, however, would rather play Dvonn.
With four, the game is total chaos. There’s no planning ahead and the fate of your troops is in the hands of your whimsical opponents. Choosing who to attack can lead to kingmaking situation in the end and allows players to gang up on leader. I don’t enjoy that. I haven’t tried the game with three, but since it should fall between the two extremes, it might be pretty good.
Farlander is nice themed abstract. The simple rules make it easy to learn and teach, even children should have no problems playing the game. There’s some subtlety and depth, particularly in the two-player game, but there are better options. With more players, Farlander is quick, chaotic filler.