Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Grizzled Review by Cool Mini Or Not a cooperative WW1 game of survival and Friendship

Through what tragedies can Friendship endure? The Grizzled is a fast-paced, fully cooperative card game for 2 to 5 players that takes place in the trenches of World War I. Already a best seller in Europe, The Grizzled is an elegant game of avoiding threats and leading a team, and is regarded as one of the finest cooperative games ever made. Featuring beautiful art by French artist, Tignous, The Grizzled’s outstanding art is the perfect complement to its message of peace and enduring friendship.
 Its a cooperative card game for 2-5 players.  It comes in a small box, so is nice and easy to transport.  The art on it is fantastic, its done by Tignous, who was sadly killed in the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January.

 The back of the box does a good job explaining the theme.  This is set in WW1, so is a war game, but you don't do any shooting or killing.  The idea is to survive, following the journey of your characters through the horrors of the Great War.
On the side of the box nice and clearly marked are the suggested age range 14+ players 2-5 and time frame 30 mins, which seems about right having played it with 2 and 3 players, more players should not effect the time too much.
When you open up the box you are greeted by something you rarely see in games, interior artwork

inside the box.......

You have the double sided support tokens, as with everything with great art on them.
 You have a double sided reference card, of good thick cardstock, and a set of speeches and a punch out soldier to use as the mission leader token.
 The Game aid is just a nice quick reminder of the flow of the game.
 the reverse of the game aid.
Here is our squad leader token built.

You also get several sorts of Cards.
 Here we have "The Grizzled" the 6 characters you can choose from, these are double sided, with a lucky charm symbol, and what it effects on one side, and plain on the other for when you have used it,.
 You also get the two ending condition cards, the peace symbol, and the War memorial.
 Now we look at the main cards you will encounter.  There are different types with symbols on them, a whistle, a shell, and a gas mask.  Also condition's, night, snow, and rain
 The barded wire symbol means a trap as well, so these are extra unpleasant.
 The cards can have a mix of symbols and conditions of them.  The mission is over if there are ever three of the same down, so three snow cards, three gasmasks, 3 night cards etc.
 Here is an example of  the hard knock cards mixed in with the others these provide adverse effects to your soldiers, get 3 hard knocks and you are out, if one person is out, everyone looses so you need to keep your friends alive. The effect these cards provide can hit you in different ways, fearful for example forces your soldier to withdraw if only 2 matching cards are out effecting the rest of your team, hardheaded wont let you withdraw if you have 2 or more cards in your hands.  These add to the theme nicely, you can imagine a soldier fearful of shelling from years in the trenches  survives 2 bombardments, but cant take it anymore so leaves before the 3rd.
 You also have Phobia and Trauma cards, again these fit the theme, afraid of a whistle? well its not a whistle in my mind, its going over the top to attack, a terrifying prospect for anyone, or a phobia of artillery, or gas attacks after seeing the horrific effects gas had on soldiers.  If your soldier has a trauma, it counts as one of them, so a shell trauma adds 1 to the shell count making it harder to get through the mission.  These cards all add up to give each soldier different character traits and foibles as the game progresses, and you begin to feel for what they have been through.
 The Rules manual, is only small, though full colour, and with everything the art work is a joy to behold.
 Diagrams are placed where needed so you should not have any trouble learning the game.
 Here it shows the 4 main actions you can perform a turn.  Play a card from your hand to "no mans land" if its a Hard knock card it goes by your soldier.  You can use your good luck charm, each soldier has one with a corresponding symbol on, when you use it you can remove one card form no mans land that matches that symbol, then you must flip him over so the symbol has gone.  This can be vital to getting through the game, you can do things to get your charm back later.  You can make a speech if you have one, you use the token declare a symbol and each player discards one from their hand with that symbol on it.  Sounds easy, except in game you are not allowed to communicate with other players about what is in your hand, so you have to think ahead look at the cards and judge it to your best ability.  Lastly you can withdraw and play a support token.  This provides support to your allies, but you must keep the cards in your hand for the next mission.  When everyone has played their cards or withdrawn you see who has received the most support, and they can either refresh their lucky charm, or remove a hard knock.
 The way to win is to get all the cards from the Trials pile in play and gone showing the peace symbol meaning your soldiers have survived.  Each turn though, 3 more cards from the morale pile get added to the Trials pile as the war continues.  The mission leader decides how tough the mission will be going from drawing 1 card each to as many as you want, though the problem is if you play slow, the moral deck will catch up with you faster, and that shows the memorial stone meaning a loss of the game.
The back cover shows our soldiers in civilian clothes, just a gentle reminder they where people just like you and me, these aren't soldiers from some kind of kill it all war game running Rambo style with machine guns, these are men with fears and traumas, and hopes who just want to live to go home again.


I have played this several times now,  and enjoy it each time, buts hard to win, but then, it feels like it SHOULD be hard to survive the Great War.

 Here's some shots from a 3 layer game we had,  to give you an idea of how it plays.
 We each picked one of the soldiers, and placed 25 cards on the peace symbol that would form our trials deck.  The rest went into the morale deck.  We added 5 speeches to the pool and the required support tokens by each player.  The first mission has to be 3 cards so 3 cards are dealt to each player .  The contents of your hand are to be kept secret from each other, also what support tokens you play are secret.
 The first player is the hairiest which was me, it could causes problems if you are playing with female gamers, but in this case was no issue.  I played down a shell at night card
 
 Play continued, until a fellow soldier used his charm to get rid of a card with rain on.
 Charles took a Hard Knock, meaning any support token he would play would go back on him.  Another example of the theme of the game, I look at it like a soldier who has had enough, hoarding and not sharing the few precious smokes he has left, or not sharing the last bites of his food as he is so hungry.
 The support tokens are flipped over, and Charles ended up with the most, allowing him to get his ucky charm back.
 In another mission I used a speech to get rid of Gas masks , you gain a speech token if you have been mission leader before.  I feel you should use these and make a small speech yourself just for immersion.  "All together we will be able to resist the gas, look to your masks, and each other, stand firm and we will prevail.  I look at it as the men shedding their fears of it due to the inspiration from there leader.
 Coming near the end of the deck all the soldiers are hurt badly, with a mix of hard knocks and traumas, showing the trials and tribulations they have been through so far.
 I played a Merry Christmas on another players soldier to get rid of a Hard Knock, it was much needed, things where close and we where on the final mission
 A speech was played to clear a Gasmask form each players hand.
And Victory was ours, finally.  it had been hard, and long, and rare as well, but we had all survived, all scarred and traumatised, but we would return home none the less.  Unfortunately too many men returned home broken from the battlefield into a world that did not know what to do with them, and could not imagine the horrors they had endured.
 
The theme of the game is so evocative, when you look past a single symbol, and look at what it represents the terror of going over the top at the sound of the whistle, the cowering in fear of artillery shells, the panic of gas.   The game is so strong in its delivery of it, and the need to look to your brothers in arms, even though they may not talk openly of their own fears (in terms of cards they have in their hand).  it is not easy to win as I said before, but each time we haver played we have all enjoyed it, the challenge of it, the thought involved,
 
If you want a game with beautiful artwork, and a strong theme, that can be used to teach as well , showing  the life of a soldier of the great war now 100 years ago,and so far from our current generations.  This will show Olivia what her ancestors did, and many others.  It will hopefully light a desire to learn more, and always keep their memory alive.
 
Do not expect to get this game and be running around killing Germans, they don't make an actual appearance, its not what this is about.  This is about surviving, experiencing, well trying to some of the trials the soldiers in ww1 suffered.  In my family we have relatives that survived, and some that never came home from it.  Its effects can still certainly be felt, everywhere in the UK at least, most families had a relative or know someone who had a relative that fought, memorials are in many towns and villages, schools, and old factories, where men joined together as friends and many never returned.  I pass this one nearly every day, and always look and remember.
 
 
 
RRP £16.99 and can found in your FLGS here, and its frankly worth every penny.
 
 
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.