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Subject: Red Player One Reviews The Grizzled rss

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Curt Frantz
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Pennsylvania
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The Game

The Grizzled is co-operative game where players take on the roles of soldiers during World War I who are relying on the savvy and perseverance of their companions to survive the many trials they face in the trenches. This is a quick game for 2 to 5 players that has become very popular since its release, so let’s take a look at how the game is played and whether or not I think it stands up to the hype.



The Components


There really isn’t much to this game. There are grizzled cards, one of which is distributed to each player at the beginning of the game. This will be that player’s role for the game. The card is double sided; the starting side includes a ‘good luck charm’ to be used once during the game.



There are 59 trial cards, which will drive the game and the players’ strategy. There are a few different types of trials card, 58 of them are bad and one of them is good (seriously!). There are 39 ‘threats’ and 19 ‘hard knocks’. The threat cards show some number of threats (often 2), which are gas masks, shells, whistles, snow, rain, and night. Some cards also contain traps, which appear at the bottom of the card as barbed wire fence inside a red-framed box. The hard knocks are conditions that the players will gain as the game is played.



The use of the 16 support tokens will be critical throughout the course of the game. Players must use these wisely. One misstep and they might cost the entire group their lives.



There is a first player token called a mission leader token 5 speech tokens which may be used during the game. The trial cards will be stacked on the peace and monument cards as explained below.



The Gameplay

Each player will choose a grizzled cards with the good luck charm side face up. They will also take 3 support tiles, one indicating 1-right, one indicating 1-left, and one random tile.

25 trial cards are placed face down on the peace card, while the rest are placed on the monument card. Symbolically, this is to represent the group’s morale. If the monument stack is ever depleted and a card needs to be drawn, the team loses.



The game will take place in a series of rounds until either the players win or are overcome by trials and hard knocks. The players win if the peace card is visible and no player has cards left in his or her hand. A mission takes place in 4 steps:

1. Preparation

It’s in this step that the mission leader evaluates the situation and determines the intensity of the upcoming mission. The intensity is the number of cards that each player will be dealt. If the mission leader decides that the intensity should be 3, then each player is dealt 3 cards, starting with the mission leader. It’s important to note that some players may have cards left over from previous rounds, so they won’t necessarily be starting with the same amount. In the first round, the intensity must be at least 3.

2. The Mission

This is where the bulk of the game takes place. Starting with the mission leader, each player will take one action. Their options are to:

a. Play a card: If it is a threat card, it’s played into ‘no man’s land’ in the center of the table. If 3 of the same threat are present in no man’s land, the mission is lost. If the played card is instead a hard knock, it must be attached to the player and its active or passive effects applied. If a threat card ever has a trap symbol on it, an additional card must be drawn from the trials pile (on top of the peace card) and immediately played.

b. Use a good luck charm: Each player starts the game with a good luck charm. This allows them to discard any one card from no man’s land that contains the threat indicated on their charm. The grizzled card is then flipped over.

c. Make a speech: If a speech token was acquired by the player in a previous round, they may make a speech. This means that they’re able to protect their brothers from 1 of the 6 threats. The player names one of the threats out loud, and each player may discard one card from their hand containing that threat. If a player is already withdrawn, they do not take part. The speech token is then removed from the game.

d. Withdraw and play a support token: If a player is unable to play another card without losing the mission, they must withdraw. They must silently choose one of their support tokens, indicating which player they will be supporting, and play it face down. The rest of the players will continue to play cards until everyone has withdrawn. All hard knocks of the withdrawn players no longer affect the current mission. In the example below, the player cannot play any more cards without failing the mission, so they must withdraw.



The mission ends in one of two ways:

- Success! All players withdraw, even if they have cards left in their hands or,

- Failure! 3 of the same threat are played into no man’s land, including phobia and trauma cards attached to players who aren’t withdrawn.

In either case, all unplayed cards remain in the players’ hands and all hard knocks remain attached.

3. Support

At this point, the players reveal their support tokens, giving their token to the player they chose to support. If a player has received the majority of support, they are able to either,

a. Remove 2 hard knocks from their character or,

b. Recover their good luck charm

If, however, no player receives a majority because support is tied, no one gets support. If the mission was failed the support phase is still played, but a player may only remove one hard knock card.

If, after the support phase, any player has 4 hard knocks cards still attached, the game is lost for all players. If the trials pile (on the peace card) is empty and no players have cards left in their hand, the game is over and the players are victorious!

If the game is not yet over, phase 4 occurs.

4. Morale Drop


A number of cards equal to the number of cards remaining in all players’ hands is moved from the moral reserve (on the monuments pile) to the trials pile (on the peace card). This is a minimum of 3 cards. This signifies more trials the team must survive in order to win. If the moral pile is ever empty, the team is defeated.

If the players make it through this phase, the mission leader token passes to the left and the previous leader gains a speech token to be used in a subsequent round. A new mission is begun!

Final Thoughts

The Grizzled is a very stressful kind of fun, but it’s very fun nonetheless. There a number of interesting decision points that I’ll highlight below.

1. “How ‘intense’ should I make the mission?”


If two players have 3 cards in hand and two players have no cards in hand, it can be a difficult decision. Do you make the intensity 3 or 4, knowing that the two short-handed players will likely be withdrawing earlier, leaving the other two players to do their best? Or do you take the more conservative approach with an intensity of 1 or 2, hopefully allowing the players with 3 cards to ‘catch back up’. There are times to ratchet up the intensity and there are times to take it a bit slower. Knowing the difference is key.

2. “Who should I support?”

Table talk regarding support is not allowed in this game, so it’s important to be on the same page as your companions. Just because one player has 2 hard knocks and another player has 1, it doesn’t necessarily mean the player with 2 should be supported. It depends how crippling those hard knocks are. This is the single most critical part of the game. If support is tied during a critical mission, the players are often doomed going forward. Sometimes support is failed because a player only has one support token left, meaning they are forced to play it when they withdraw and other times because players are not on the same page regarding who most needs support. Either way, it’s not good. This game is already difficult and failing to support a player even once makes it even more challenging. This can make playing with beginners somewhat frustrating, if the ‘proper’ decision isn’t made. But, it’s only a 30 minute game, so if the team loses, there’s no reason you can’t just start anew.


Don't be selfish


3. “When should I use my speech token?”

It’s tempting to use these as soon as possible, but because turn order passes left, by the time you get your next turn (after acquiring the speech token) players might not have that many cards in hand. It’s most useful to use these when players’ hands are full of cards, increasing the amount of threats that will likely be discarded. If you wait a couple rounds, you may be in a better position to use it.

The Grizzled kicks you in the teeth around every corner. It’s a very grueling game. As I mentioned above, there is one good card in the entire deck, so don’t be expecting any help from the deck. As with most co-operative games, you’re more likely to win with a group of experienced players, but I’ve had a lot of fun with all the groups I’ve played with. This is a very satisfying game to beat!

How easy is the game to learn?


While it’s easy to learn how to play, understanding how and why some hard knocks cards are much worse than others sometimes takes a game or two. Occasionally there is some confusion with new players around the mechanics of some of the hard knocks cards as well.

Will it be easy to find players?


Absolutely! This game is quick, easy to learn, and lots of fun. The theme is very immersive, and everyone likes a good challenge, right?

Is the reward worth the time spent?

As highlighted above, The Grizzled has some very interesting decision points for a 30 minute game. I couldn’t ask for much more in terms of a strategy to play time ratio.

How much fun is defeat?*

How satisfying is victory?

The feelings experienced after winning a game of The Grizzled vs. losing are very different. If my group loses, we almost always want to jump right back in and try again. Sometimes you’re right on the cusp of victory when disaster strikes, and nothing is more disappointing. On the other hand, winning is awesome! It’s rather uncommon, and the sense of teamwork and accomplishment felt is similar to other co-op games, but in only about 30 minutes.

Overall score

*I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!


If you enjoyed reading this review, feel free to check out my other game reviews HERE
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Michael Carpenter
United States
West Virginia
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Can you elaborate on why you think satisfaction of winning is 5, and fun in losing is 2.5... It feels like this is the kind of game that can produce fun even in defeat because it can engage you with its theme and make you sweat on every flip of a card. It's only a personal opinion of mine that being engaged in the game can make me enjoy it whether I win or lose, especially in a short game that this but I'd like to hear your thoughts on why this one doesn't do that for you. Is it because what I'm expressing is included in your satisfaction of time spent?
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Curt Frantz
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I only rated the feeling of losing a 2.5 due to a few reasons:

1. When you lose, you're often on the cusp of victory. Being so close and still failing can be frustrating.

2. Sometimes when you lose, it's because another player made a 'wrong' decision/action (i.e. had different opinions of whom to support). To win, you're very much relying on your team to play correctly, but table talk is limited so you can't help them out. This can also be frustrating.

3. The game is brutal. It's a game of survival, so there aren't many cool or positive things you can do on your turn. It's simply about making it to the next round. Because the theme is so immersive in such an undesirable environment (which is great!), much of the joy/relief/celebration is reserved until victory is achieved. Similar to a real war, eh?

The good news is that the game only takes ~30 minutes, so if you DO lose, you can jump right back in and try again. The joy of victory is worth it!
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Michael Carpenter
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tribefan07 wrote:
I only rated the feeling of losing a 2.5 due to a few reasons:

1. When you lose, you're often on the cusp of victory. Being so close and still failing can be frustrating.

2. Sometimes when you lose, it's because another player made a 'wrong' decision/action (i.e. had different opinions of whom to support). To win, you're very much relying on your team to play correctly, but table talk is limited so you can't help them out. This can also be frustrating.

3. The game is brutal. It's a game of survival, so there aren't many cool or positive things you can do on your turn. It's simply about making it to the next round. Because the theme is so immersive in such an undesirable environment (which is great!), much of the joy/relief/celebration is reserved until victory is achieved. Similar to a real war, eh?

The good news is that the game only takes ~30 minutes, so if you DO lose, you can jump right back in and try again. The joy of victory is worth it!


I can see where you're coming from. I definitely see the way the game can be related to a real war but don't really feel that wear and tear on my overall mood. If I am making meaningful choices and everyone is working together or enjoying themselves, I am content. I seldom play very "hard" in board games. I typically play to see what the game offers in a variety of strategies and approaches. I am apparently the exact player that would frustrate you in this game. whistle

Nonetheless, thanks for elaborating. Looking forward to your next review.
 
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