Hello everyone, time for a new first time playing post. These posts aren’t intended to be comprehensive reviews but to offer a sense of game play so you can figure out whether it’s something you might want to pick up.
This time we take a look at The Grizzled which is a cooperative card game set during “The Great War”, also known as “the war that no one in the U.S. understands because we only ever learn about World War II” and occasionally known as “World War I”. Ironically, playing The Grizzled is a rather peaceful affair, but our group also found it to be rather challenging. (Starting with a missed rule, which seems to be commonplace for us…)
Let’s begin. Our first time playing actually became our first 1.5 times playing. Grant and I started the morning as the only 2 players but spent much of our time reading through the rules and then playing a couple of hands face up to talk through the approach to the game. Then Alexander arrived and we took a mulligan.
It’s a card game where the cards represent threats to all of the men’s safety or a hard knock which impacts the player or their compatriots in some way. The goal of the game is to play through all of the Trials cards to find peace (literally a Peace card). A standard game starts with 25 Trials card on the peace deck and the remaining 34 Trial cards are placed in a separate morale deck (a draw pile). Cards move from the Morale deck to the Trial deck at the end of a mission. The Morale deck sits on a card picturing a monument commemorating the sacrifices made in war. But if you ever see this Monument card, you’ve lost the game.
Each hand in the game is referred to as a mission. Players take a number of cards from the Trials deck as decided by the mission leader. Take more cards and the mission is difficult, but if you take fewer cards the Trials deck will continue to build and the overall win will be more difficult. In the first mission, the players start with 3 cards. Note that hands are kept secret which is a significant part of the challenge.
Once you have your 3 (or more) (or less) cards in hand, the mission begins. The goal of each mission is the same. Play as many cards as you can before withdrawing from battle. Cards are played in one of two ways: (1) place a threat in No Man’s Land or (2) place a hard knock card next to your soldier. Every time you pay a card, the group is one step closer to victory, but if there are ever 3 of the same threats showing on the table at any one time, the mission is lost but the game will continue.
The threats are pictured on the right and imply the associated violence without explicitly depicting in. As mentioned, this is an ironically peaceful game to play. And somehow, war-tested soldiers are afraid of the night. No Man’s Land gets tricky to manage because the threat cards display multiple threats (one card depicts all 6 threats) and some of the hard knocks cards display a threat.
A mission ends when 3 of the same threat are displayed or all the players have withdrawn. You can withdraw at any time when it’s your turn. When you withdraw you keep all of the Trials cards currently in your hand for the next mission. Withdrawing also allows you to play a Support token which I’ll describe in a minute.
Beyond playing a card, there are 2 other actions but they are rarely available. On each player’s character there is a Lucky Charm showing one of the 6 threats in the game. Playing the Lucky Charm as an action allows that player to remove a matching threat from No Man’s Land, making the mission a bit easier to continue. After you use your Lucky charm you flip your character card over and no longer have access to that action. The other action is to make a speech. There are a very limited number of Speech Tokens in the game – mission leader will receive one after each mission until all the tokens have been distributed. When giving a speech as an action, you have to have the token and you have to choose one of the 6 threats. The OTHER players still active in the mission then remove ONE card from their hand that matches the declared threat. These can be useful but are not guaranteed to have an impact. Once played, a speech token is removed from the game.
Finally, the support tokens and the end of a mission/hand: After withdrawing you play a support token which will have a cup of coffee on the front and 1 or 2 arrows on the back. After the mission ends, all players reveal the direction of their support tokens and hand them to the corresponding player 1 or 2 spots to the right or left. The player who receives the most support tokens gets to choose 1 of 2 benefits. They either flip over their character card to refresh their lucky charm OR remove 2 hard knocks from their character. Any time the support round ends and 1 player has 4 or more hard knocks, the game ends in a loss. Strategically played Support is key to a victory. But how would I know? We lost.
What rule did we miss? During the first half game we couldn’t figure out how to clear out No Man’s Land because the only action that makes it possible is using the Lucky Charm action. It quickly became impossible. However, after each mission you are supposed to remove all cards from No Man’s Land and discard them. The new mission starts with 0 threats. (Duh.)
There is certainly more to explain, but you can check out the rulebook here. The Grizzled is an interesting game and generally I’m a fan of mixing in Coops with our gaming group for variety. That said, it was a bumpy beginning and then a frustrating ending when we had no chance to win. It is worth another play with a larger group (>3) and to try and win. But I’m not counting down the days to the next play.
My instant reaction:
I want to play again… right now!
I want to play again next week.
It’s a keeper, but I might not play for a month or so.
Let’s trade this one away!
And a holiday treat on theme for WWI.