The Grizzled is Top Notch! A Card Game Representing the Human Experience of World War I
The Grizzled Game Review.
Publisher: Cool Mini or Not (CMON Limited) Designers: Fabien Riffaud and Juan Rodriguez Artist: Tignous
Passed Inspection: Gameplay: Simple, direct, intimate. Playing through the game once will be enough to continue play without much additional learning. Artwork: The art stands out on the box and cards as elegantly simple and eye catching. It has a comic strip style and appeal with an intimate personality that suits the game perfectly. The art brings this writer to the mind of the Valiant Hearts –The Great War 2D video game. The same setting, different artists yet the style feels exactly right.
Failed Basic: The instructions for The Grizzled is not actually a fail. Instructions are always one of the toughest areas to get perfect in any game and one of my pet peeves. The Grizzled gets most of it right through organization and simplicity, but there are a couple of areas of game play that could benefit from some additional clarification. I seem to find the one or two things that need a better explanation to make the game work right. It could be that I failed basic instead and just over think this stuff. Yeah, let’s chalk it up to that mostly.
This 2-5 player cooperative game provides tension while encouraging players to support each other during this World War I era game. Although difficult game to win, but the game is rewarding to play win or lose.
Players will find their characters facing the darkness of night, the difficulty of rain and the biting cold of snow. These elements are as hazardous as an artillery barrage, the whistle of an infantry attack and deadly gases. Players will face all of these conditions and threats during the game. They must deal with them both as individuals and as a group to succeed at each mission in an effort to survive the war. Player characters have their resolve tested with phobias, panic, traumas and other hard knocks that make surviving any mission a real problem, much less surviving the war.
One of the intriguing facets of this game is that the intensity that it can produce in the players with each decision. It puts the player in the position of being alone in their own decision making while trying to support and encourage their group. The Grizzled is a simple yet emotionally charged game that pays homage to the memory of the those who had faced that trying time.
The Grizzled provides a simple mechanism which I call anti-matching. The incredibly simple, yet deceptively difficult mechanic. It works basically like this, don’t allow more than three of the same images to show up in No Man’s Land at the same time.
Characters Cards. Each player chooses or randomly gets a character card. Each character is basically the same with one ability that works the same but for a different threat when used called a lucky charm.
Support Tokens. Each player receives three support tokens which will be used if a character withdraws from a mission.
Speech tokens. These will be set out and available based on the number of players.
Trial Cards and The Peace and Monument Card. There are six “threats” to deal with in the game from two categories: Items (a gas mask, a whistle, an artillery shell) and environmental elements (snow, night and rain). There are also threats called hard knocks that are applied to the characters. All the trial cards are shuffled together and placed on two marker cards: the peace card (dove) and the monument card (statue). 25 cards go on the peace marker and the rest on the monument.
The goal. Player must remove all the trial cards from the peace marker to survive the war. This will win the game if it is revealed and no players have any cards left in their hands. If the cards are removed from the monument pile before, then the players have failed to survive the war and a monument is left in their honor.
Beginning play. With characters chosen and cards placed on the markers, three trial cards are dealt to each player from the peace pile. Three is the minimum of cards for the first mission. On future missions the leader will determine the number of cards given to each player which controls the intensity of the next mission. The leader will choose 1-3 cards from the peace pile. Players may still have cards in their hands which would affect the leader’s choice of intensity or number of cards to pass out.
Player Turn. Players take one of these actions on their turn. Play a trial card from their hand. Use a good luck charm. Make a speech. Withdraw and secretly place a support tile face down.
The mission. The leader starts the mission and takes an action. Each player then takes their action trying to play as many as possible before the mission ends. Play ends when the mission fails, someone played a card that matched two other threat images already in play or when everyone has withdrawn indicating a successful mission.
Withdraw and support. During a mission each player must withdraw and secretly play a support token and wait for the mission to end. At mission’s end all players reveal and pass their support token. The player with the most support tokens given to them can remove a hard knock card or reset their lucky charm. Support is very important.
Moral drop and the next round. The leader token is moved to the next player after each mission and the previous leader gets a speech token to use on future missions. The number of cards left in all player’s hand after the last mission are counted and that number is moved to the peace pile. There is always a minimum of three up to a maximum of six moved. New trial cards are dealt based on the leader’s choice of intensity and a new mission begins.
Hard knocks. During a turn a player will play one card to No Man’s Land which is basically the battlefield. If the player plays a hard knocks card that gets played on their own character instead. It remains in play until removed by support. If a player gets four hard knocks cards on their character then not only does the mission fail, but the game is ended. The war was too much for the group to handle. There is one card that counts as two hard knocks so be careful how you play these.
Traps. Some cards have traps. Don’t play this during your first couple of games. When you have learned how play works add the trap mechanic. A trap card makes the player draw another card from the trials pile and play it onto the No Man’s Land immediately. Traps create intensity and frustration, but make the game more challenging to play and more rewarding if you can survive.
Lucky charms and speeches. Players can use a lucky charm on their character card as their play instead of a card. This would remove one threat card from No Man’s Land, not all of that type, just one card with that type on it. Players can also give a speech instead of playing a card. This will remove one card of the type of threat chosen from active player’s hands or from a hard knock that has that type of active threat indicated. Players that have withdrawn are not active and will not be affected. Used speeches go back in the box and are not reused.
Talking and sharing. While it is nice to talk a chat during the game and I encourage the comradery and the war stories, hinting and giving clues about what is in your hand before playing it will diminish the games intensity and enjoyment. The game is about brotherhood and comradery, but it is also about the loneliness of decision making and the feelings behind how our decisions affect the fortunes of others.
This is my favorite cooperative game. Simple and easy to play. It has a small box and small footprint. You can pull it off the shelf and be playing in minutes. It doesn’t have a large time print either as you can play a game it 30 minutes. This is a gem of game design and is a step toward allowing gaming to become an art form. I have never played a game that involves the emotions and intensity of a group going through a trial as much as this game does. It does not have pieces to move and damage charts or shoot’em up type of play. Instead it puts you into the emotions and mind of the soldier dealing with their situation. If you are looking for a cooperative experience this would be a good choice. Let me share some of the comments of those who play tested with me seeing this game for the first time.
“Innovative concept. Looks more at the psychological effects, the cohesion of a unit of people in war time without looking at the combat situation.”
“The game captures the heartfelt trials and tribulations of a soldier and how they endured all these different battle conditions and the only thing that they had were their comrades, each other, and without helping each other there was no way to get through it.”
“Aside from the incredible artwork that is instantly appealing, I think when you get your hand and you realize that no hand you ever get throughout the game is going to be good. You realize that it almost feels like wartime in that sense that nothing you do is going to have a positive effect as far as the cards you play and having to deal with that and trying to figure out the best way to not ruin the mission. I think that is probably my favorite part of the game.
“The cooperative nature of the game makes you feel like you really are a team as you’re playing trying to complete the objective.”
The game designers wanted to pay homage to the people who lived through this tragic period and included some real people and ancestors as characters from that time. I know you will enjoy this game and look forward to your comments. While The Grizzled was released in 2015 I didn’t get introduced to it until earlier this year, 2016. The expansion came out this year and I will have a review for it soon as well.
Added notation: Sadly, in the different kind of war that exists today, the artist for this game, Bernard Verlhac known as Tignous was killed in France at the Charlie Hebdo shootings January 7, 2015.
Armchair General Rating: 95%
Solitaire Rating: 1 (1 not for solitaire, 5 suitable for solo)
About the Author:
Greg Johnson works as a professor in Higher Education in the areas interdisciplinary art, photography, web and graphic design and development. He also records music, audio and is a singer/songwriter. Greg and his wife Lisa are involved in board game design with their business. An avid gamer Greg enjoys a variety of games from classic board games to table top miniatures.