Monthly Archives: June 2016

Survival Has A New Name


The Grizzled Review
Okay, just bought this recently and I already logged many plays over this one. So what is The Grizzled anyway? Truth be told The Grizzled is a cooperative game (yeah, I don’t like coop games, but this one is among the exceptions) that sets in the first world war timeline, where a bunch of village men (from France) were forced to take arms and go to war against their will. They promised that if they survive the war, they will get back together to their village. In case you don’t know, this one is based on a true story, historical! The game was published by Cool Mini Or Not (which is unusual for them to release a game without minis, hey it only has cards and some tokens) around 2015 and has garnered quite worldwide attention (a positive one).

The Theme
As you already know from the above description, The Grizzled set in WWI timeline, where some group of village men in France were forced to go to war. They had no choice, but fought for survival, not about winning the war, but how to stay alive together until the war ends. This story was told from the characters themselves, surviving the horror of life called war. And the game recreates that story, which they described as a living hell. In the game players will take up one of the roles of the characters, fight to survive alongside their teammates. They must survive until peace comes or one of them die before then or they lost their morale.


The Artworks
Simply authentic, since the game was adapted from famous graphic novel, it also used the same talent, Tignous. I did not familiar with the name, though maybe Europeans or French might. But whoever Tignous is, his works are amazing, the style is very fit to represent the era and situation. Warm but rough that represents familiarity and the hardship during war. Sadly, he had passed away in the Charlie Hebdo shooting, may he rest in peace.

The Game Components
Nothing special I must say, though the small box really suitable to say the least. The cards are good, with nice linen finish, but I advice to sleeve them since you will be required to shuffle them often. The tokens are good enough, no complaint. They also provide a square game aid board for reference but not that is really necessary. They also provide a stand we for leader player, a nice addition, though also unnecessary.


The Game Components

The Game Play
The Grizzled is one of those co-op games that shares partial information to the players, keeping them unknowingly about the situation of other players’ hand aside from what is on the table. Though not knowing other players’ hand, players can figure out some clues along the way, which I must say this one requires more subtle and advance deduction and card-guessing than games like Hanabi or The Resistance (well no bluffing though).
In the game, players will undergo missions and working together until peace is resolved (there are 25 cards form a trial deck on top of the peace card, they will removed these cards so that peace card is revealed and they win). The restriction is that no one get killed or before their morale runs out (which is a morale card beside the trial deck with some cards on top of it). These cards are their morale indicator, when the cards in this deck run out, they died.
At the start of the round, the leader will declare the mission intensity, which is how many cards that each player will be dealt from the trial deck. More cards they deal the faster they go towards peace, but more difficult to finish the mission.
Then starting from the leader, each players take an action. The action could be playing a card from their hand, using their lucky charm or speech token. Playing a card from the hand could be either playing a threat card (cards with threat symbols) to the No Man’s Land (center of the table) or playing a hardknock card beside their character card.


Using A Speech Token

When playing cards to the center of the table, players must play a threat card, nothing else. Threat cards are cards that consist of one or more threat symbols on them (there are 6 threats, Whistle, Mortar, Gas Mask, Night, Snow and Rain). These threats represent obstacles that the group has to overcome through the mission. If at any time there are at least three threats of the same kind present in the center, the mission is failed.
Aside from playing cards to the center of the table, players can play cards toward themselves, which is to sacrifice themselves by playing trauma or hardknock cards. Trauma punishes the group by adding virtual threat (depicted on the card) as long as the player is active on the mission, while hard knock punishes the group / player during mission in many ways.
Another actions are using a speech token or lucky charm. Players can spend a speech token they have to get rid of cards from their hands that share the same threat that they declare. Very handy but speech tokens are limited, so not to be used carelessly.
For lucky charm, each character has their own lucky charm preferences. Players can use their lucky charm (once) while their character card is still face up. Once used, the card is flipped face down and the lucky charm cannot be used again until they flipped it face up again in later turn.
If they cannot or do not want to play an action, they must or can withdraw from the mission. When withdrawing, they play a support tile (if available) face down and will no longer take part in the current mission. This means they do not take another turn and also their hardknock and trauma cards do not take effect.


Samples of Threat Cards

The mission is over if it’s completed or fail. Players completed the mission if all players have passed. In other hand, they failed if there are 3 or more threat icons of one kind present in the center of the table. Failed mission is not the end, it just makes the road to peace is further away, which lead to morale drop. Check support tiles, the player who receives the most support tiles this round will get the benefit to either remove 2 hard knock cards or refresh their lucky charm. If they failed the mission, the player only able to remove 1 hard knock card and cannot refresh their lucky charm.

After support phase, there is a morale drop. Each mission the group will always remove 3 cards from the morale deck and place it on top of the trial deck. If the sum of cards in players’ hands more than 3, for each excess card, players add a card to be removed from the morale. If the morale deck runs out, the group lose the game.


Sample of Hardknock Cards

My Thought of The Game
I think the game is very refreshing, unique but stays simple and easy to learn. You can explain the game in 5-10 minutes and start playing the game. The game also plays quite fast, 15-20 minutes per game and you can play back to back if you have more time. I usually don’t enjoy cooperative games (mostly because of the decision making and alpha male issues) but this one is different, players do not share all the information and they were kept in the dark about other players’ hands. I like the simple idea by playing cards with symbols on it, and the catch is easy, they failed the mission if there are 3 symbols of one kind present in the game. This is a controlled situation (mostly) since they have full control what cards to play (aside from the trap effect). So given the situation, there are many times that players were forced to play bad cards to themselves or withdraw even they still have cards in hand.
The interesting part is they need to determine how they treat the missions, either they want to reach the peace in a hurry (but risky) or keep calm and do small steps. This is interesting since players cannot just fooling around since there’s a morale deck that keep on reduced on each mission. But if players rushing it in, the difficulty rise up. So they need to find a way to keep the balance and survive. Yep I haven’t told you before about it, the game is about survival. And the game play really reflects that in many ways.
I just like how they integrate such a small and simple game into a theme with strong flavor and very immersive from it’s characters’ point of view. I find the game to be relaxing and fun playing with friends or family (nope, never try with family before) disregarding the theme context of war. It’s about survival and nothing is bad from that.


Sample of Trauma Cards

Replay Value
I don’t think there’s many replay value in the game, but of course since the beginning the game is not really that easy to win, so players will struggle to take up on winning and with different players, there are different feels. But the good thing is that there are some modules and variants to keep you entertained for some time, enough until any expansions released (wait, there is an expansion). The expansion will greatly add replay value to the game, haven’t tried it yet but looking at the preview, it surely damn interesting.
In fact the game’s difficulty can be adjusted, though I am sure the default difficulty is hard enough, it’s good to know that even if you and your friends beat the game at default difficulty you can step up on the game with harder ones (moving cards from morale deck to trial deck).


Characters that you can play in the game


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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Card Games, Reviews


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You Can Get Choked Drinking This Potion


Potion Explosion Review
Warning, choke hazard, if you drink any potions on the game! They come in marbles, colorful marbles (okay only four colors, but still…)
Potions do explode, which based on my experience, I know none of this thing, never ever I brew a potion, worse make it explodes. So, when a potion explodes, what that leaves us, a good thing or not? In this game, explosions are always good if it’s your turn. Others, not so much. The game is about making potions (that’s obvious). The game had been on my wish list since last year, which the game had made it’s debut in Essen 2015. Finally I got the game from an online store in Italy (it’s an Italian games, so that explains), which I gave up to wait for English version, and got the Italian instead.

What made me drawn into this game anyway, aside from the marbles? Well, the marbles, I mean the dispenser (they call it that) that hold all the marbles looks spectacular from my seat or anybody’s. The dispenser is unique not also in form and shape, but also how it works. It holds all the marbles and can slide them over for game purpose, so a design with purpose is always a plus on my side. Plus the game play seems simple enough to produce fun with casual friends (when I don’t do heavy Euros but need something to occupy my time around 60-90 minutes).

The Theme
This is very abstract, so don’t expect much but it’s theme is applied perfectly. Players are chemistry students learning about the reaction of mixing potions. Now the test begins and they will compete with each other to prove that they’re the best among many in front of the professor. Player with the most points at the end of the game wins the game to be the most talented student of the professor.


Inside the Box

The Game Components
Marbles (of course), the dispenser, some tokens and potion tiles. The marbles come in four colors (blue, red, yellow and black) and the colors are not solid, so they are kinda different from each other. The game comes with two extra marbles for each color, substitutes if you lose a marble or two, a nice gesture from the publisher. The potion tiles are fun to look at, colorful, but a bit thin than it should, but then again, if its thicker than it is, the pile would be very high and won’t fit into the inserts. Sadly the holes in the potions weren’t cut perfectly in place, many misses that some OCD players will find them annoying. The marble dispenser need to be assembled for the first time, and it’s quite fragile, so glue it down is a good solution, since you can store the assembled dispenser back into the plastic insert (yes they provides a very useful insert) without the need to disassemble it again. And the in-game issue I have with the dispenser is that, your playing surface need to be totally flat, a degree tilt makes the marbles deviate slide through one of the slots.  One last thing is, the box quality is not very good, I own the first Italian edition from Ghenos / Horrible games and it’s kinda thin, flimsy and easily torn, luckily the game is not that heavy.


Playing The Game

The Game Play
It’s very simple, on your turn you must take one marble (ingredient) from the dispenser, and you take any explosion caused by your action (2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other and explode). These marbles go into your hand and you must allocate these marbles onto your available potions (which you will always have 2 in your brewing desk) based on the matching color. When a potion tile is complete (all the slots are filled with matching marbles), you flip it face down and remove it from your brewing desk and return all the marbles on it back to the dispenser.
This complete potion can be consumed (aside giving you points at the end of the game) to gain it’s effect (which could be varies depends on the potion types). Once you consumed it, you turned it upside down to remind that you already drink it.
You also can (once per turn) ask help from the professor, which allow you to get additional ingredient from the dispenser (but keep in mind, no explosion will happen even if 2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other) to help you finish your potion during your turn, but of course it’s not free, you must take a -2 token which will count against your points at the end of the game.
You can also get achievement token by completing 3 potions of the same type or 5 different potions. Each achievement token will give you 4 points at the end of the game, and these achievement tokens also what trigger the end game aside from the available potions from the pile. So once the game end is triggered, each other players will have one final turn, including the player who triggers it.


Brewing Dry Potions

My Thoughts
It’s a very fun game, light and easy to play. What you do is take a marble and see the magic from marble explosions. Then try to complete your potions, maybe with the help of the professor or your own arsenal of potions. Though its quite straightforward, there are some way to arrange your moves to get the best chain combos outcome, timing is essential. Either by asking help or using potions in the right time can change the outcome  of your actions big time. Because of this reason, some might found this game prone to AP players. Personally I take this game as it is, a light game that you can play with your family, non-casual gamers and other friends who thinks winning is not the real purpose but to have a great time playing and seeing marbles explodes (not literally). I found the game to be very easy (or not punishing) since you still count the points from completed potions even if you already consumed it for its effect. I think you can try the game without counting the points from used potions, that could be more challenging.
But not to ignore the fact that there are many interesting combos based on the mixture of player’s action, potion uses and professor’s help which timing plays a great part of it. So given the small scope of constraints in the game, players can really work the game out based on what options shown in front of them, a very good plus if you are into that sort of combo thing.
Talking about practical time for setup and tear down, I think this one has a problem (at least for me), since preparing the game is kinda fiddly and long when it comes to sort all the potions when you randomize potions to use in the game. There’s no other way, you have to choose either take more time to setup or more time to tear down. Or maybe you can play it with all the types (in which I don’t know how it affect the balance of the game).

Replay Value
The game comes with 8 different kind of potions and you only play it with 6 potions, so 2 random potions won’t be in the game. Aside from that, there’s no other element to add the replay value.


8 kinds of potions

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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews


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