Allow yourself to travel back in time for a moment. It is August 1914. Austria-Hungary was at war with Serbia. Germany had declared war on Russia and had already entered Luxembourg, most likely to make invading France and/or Belgium easier. France and Belgium had mobilized, but like Britain they were not involved in World War I yet. This is the setting for the cooperative card game called The Grizzled. In this game, you and up to four other players will play as a group of friends, facing the grim reality of war, and trying to not only survive, but all come back alive. Let’s get to the setup.
1. Each player chooses a Grizzled card (character) and places it with the Good Luck Charm side (indicated by a four-leaf clover) face up.
2. Each player gets three Support tiles – one left tile, one right tile, and one random tile (the random one could be left, right, double left, or double right.)
3. Place the Peace card (looks like a dove) and Monument card (looks like a statue) to the center of the table.
4. Shuffle all the Trials cards together. Deal 25 face down on the Peace card. This will form your Trials pile. The remaining 34 will go face down on the Monument card. This is your Morale Reserve.
5. Place the appropriate number of Speech tokens between the Peace card and Monument card (Five tokens in a 2-3 player game, four in a 4 player game, and three in a 5 player game).
6. The Mission Leader token (first player token) is given to the hairiest player, and the game begins.
The objective of the game is to complete a series of Missions, trying to empty the Trials pile. The game is won if the Peace card is visible and all players have no cards left in their hands.
1. Preparation – Determine the number of Trial cards each player will be dealt from the Trials pile, with a minimum of one per person. (Note: On the first turn, each player must be dealt three.)
2. The Mission – The players (starting with the Mission Leader) may take one of the four actions:
a. Play a Trials card from their hand to the center of the table known as No Man’s Land. Mixed within the Trial cards are Hard Knocks cards which will go next to the player’s Grizzled card.
b. Use their Good Luck Charm by flipping their Grizzled card over and removing one card that has a matching Threat symbol (Night, Rain, Snow, Mask, Shell, and Whistle).
c. Make a Speech – use a Speech token by naming one of the six Threats. Each player may discard one card with that matching symbol from their hand.
d. Withdraw from the mission and play a Support tile. Your Support tile is played in secret face down and determines which of your fellow players gains support.
The Mission will end in Success when all players have withdrawn. The Mission will end in failure if there are three matching Threat symbols. With a failure, the cards in No Man’s Land are shuffled back into the Trials pile.
3. Support – At the end of the Mission, players reveal their Support tiles and give them to the appropriate player. If someone received a majority (no ties) in Support tiles, they can get rid of two Hard Knocks card or recover their Good Luck Charm (if the mission was a success) or get rid of one Hard Knocks card (if the mission was a failure).
4. Morale Drop – Count the number of cards in all the players’ hands and transfer that number of cards (minimum of three) from the Morale Reserve to the Trials pile.
5. The Mission Leader then gains a Speech token and passes the Mission Leader token to their left.
The first thing I noticed about this game was the artwork. It is drawn in a cartoon format, but not a silly type of cartoon, more like political cartoons. This spurred me to do a little investigating, and I learned that the artist for this game was Bernard Verlhac, also known as Tignous. Mr. Verlhac was a cartoonist for the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He was killed in the attack that took place in Paris in January 2015. As if this game wasn’t depressing enough, this added another layer to it. However, just like war is ugly, sometimes, life is as well. The theme of this game is a very somber one, but it is this real theme that permeates the entire game. The biggest example being that some of the characters in the game were real people.
The mechanics of the game are deceptively simple. Play a card and try not to make a set of three on the table. This simple mechanic is complicated by the fact that cards have multiple symbols on them. Add in the Hard Knocks cards, which also add symbols or just create additional hurdles, you must overcome, and you’ll find that you lose this game more than you win it. This frustrated me to no end the first couple of times I played it, because I lost every time. I eventually stopped playing just to win the game and to enjoy the experience. Once I started doing that, I finally won a game. That’s not to say I’ve solved the game. You can make all the right moves in this game, but sometimes the cards just don’t fall like they should, and you still lose. (Another true to life theme)
About the only thing I didn’t like about this game was the 2-player mode. It required the use of a dummy player, and it just came off a bit clunky. Luckily, there is an expansion called The Grizzled: At Your Orders. This expansions help improve 2-player experience and also adds solo play and mission cards of varying difficulty. Ramping up the difficulty is always good for people who find themselves winning too frequently.
When I received this box in the mail, I was surprised by the size of the game. The box is approximately 5.25″ x 5.25″ x 2″, which is quite small for board game boxes. Don’t let the size of the box fool you, though! It is the perfect size and contains components that are beautifully simple and simply beautiful. The game also carries some weight to it (both in strategy and emotional toll). Even though you are just laying cards down, it still transports you back in time and makes you weigh each decision you make. Will your friendship be enough to get you through the war? Or will the war claim more victims, be it physical, emotional, or psychological? If you are looking to be introduced to the world of cooperative gaming or looking for a new challenge, I strongly encourage you to spend the $20-25 and pick up a copy of The Grizzled. You won’t regret it.
This game was provided to me for free by CoolMiniOrNot in exchange for an honest review.
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Copyright 2016 Stuart Dunn