Theme and What is it?
The theme of The Grizzled is simply genius and unique among all other games about war. You play as French soldiers during World War I, but you won’t be doing any fighting.
Instead, you and up to 4 other players are trying to mentally endure the horrors of warfare. As you encounter trials and hardships in no-man’s land you and your fellow soldiers will have to encourage and support each other if you are to survive.
You might ask how it is possible to have a game about war without combat. That’s because the focus is on the mental and emotional status of the soldiers.
This is about keeping your unit in the fight despite a debilitating onslaught of horrors seeking to overcome the human psyche. This is added into the game by a deck of cards containing trials. Within this deck are threats and hard knocks.
The deck is split into two stacks. One has a peace card underneath and the other a tomb stone. Cards are drawn from the stack with the peace card in accordance with the leader’s choice of battle intensity.
Players must play threats or assume effects of hard knocks cards on their character. Battles are won when all players have withdrawn from the battle and before 3 threats of one type appear in no-man’s land. The game is won when the peace card is revealed and there are no more cards in anyone’s hands.
Each soldier has a unique lucky charm to help remove threats from the field. There are also speeches which can be earned that help encourage soldiers not to be afraid. Once they are no longer afraid, players can discard one of those threats from their hand.
If things aren’t going well for a soldier or they have no more cards, then can withdraw and support fellow soldiers. They do this by secretly choosing which other player they want to pass a cup of coffee.
If you lose a battle all the trials must be faced again. If you win, the cards in no-man’s land are removed from the game. However, you become demoralized before each new battle.
This happens by transferring cards from the pile with the tomb stone at the bottom to the pile with the peace card. The number of cards drawn are determined by how many cards were left in players hands at the end of the last battle. It thus becomes a race to bring peace before you all lose your minds.
I was initially drawn to the art work, small size, and cooperative aspect of the game. Don’t be fooled by size because this is an intense game! In fact, it took a few plays to really get the hang of how it works.
The instructions were pleasant and easy to reference when we got stuck with a question. Even so, I wondered if the game could be won. Yes, it is the challenge that keeps me coming back for more.
Game Build Quality
The production of this game is just exactly what it needs to be. It hasn’t been underproduced or overproduced. The cardboard pieces are all sturdy and a perfect size.
There is a small board with the game aid printed on it which is much appreciated for how often it needed to be referenced. The cards are sturdy, and the box is a great size to take anywhere and play.
The art work really brings a great deal to this game. The charm of passing a cup of coffee to another player to support them or a cartoon bubble when giving a speech is satisfying. The serious but endearing cartoon style brings real personality and life to the soldiers.
The rule book contains some actual hand-written excerpts from French soldiers during the war and the topic of the game is handled with respect. I also find myself lining up the threat cards in no-man’s land because they can be connected to create a kind of panorama of the battle field. It is nice they were created like this instead of containing just symbols of the threats.
The theme is rather serious, but the game is satisfying when having to work together to encourage each other. It has an interesting effect on players. Some must make great sacrifices in order to keep the unit going.
Even when playing with strangers a type of bonding takes place. Not to mention, I can’t say enough about how challenging the game is. It is what keeps me coming back again and again.
Age Range & Weight
14+. While this game seems to be simple on the surface there is some interesting strategy going on. My 13-year-old played but didn’t quite get the strategy.
But then, neither did I fully get it either. It doesn’t seem intuitive at an age younger than 14. I’d say it is a good challenge for adult beginners and gamers alike.
I’m tickled pink to have this game in my collection. I love how the psychological aspect of war has been woven into this game with comradery and friendship.
There isn’t another game out there with such historical significance and unique cooperative mechanisms. This is a game I don’t ever see leaving my collection.