I've started a new project where I write a review and pictorial session of the games I own. Here's Gruff!
Preamble: I hope to relate just enough of the rules/mechanics that you can get a feel for the game. I'm not going to re-type the rulebook; I respect you, the publisher, and the designer too much for that. I include the pictorial session because I always find myself wishing I could see the game played, in a sequential, pictorial fashion.
Game: Gruff is a quick-playing tactical deck-composition card game. You probably know the type; you compose your deck before the game starts, and then slug it out with your opponent, hoping to reduce your opponent's life to zero before they do the same to you.
Only this time you're fighting with all sorts of wild, mutated goats (gruffs) and their increasingly insane shepherds.
(pic borrowed from Andrew Helton)
Cut to the chase: I really like Gruff; for these reasons: It plays quickly, and it's easy to get your head around the card/gruff/shepherd interactions; making it easier to iterate on your deck, or change it entirely. Half the fun of these kinds of games is composing a deck; and Gruff lets you have that fun.
Additionally, Gruff is fully complete in the box; unlike other LCG's, where you have to buy two base games at at least one expansion before you have a 'complete' set, or where one of the factions is incomplete or hamstrung until the next expansion. Gruff doesn't do that, and that's the publisher respecting you as a player, and as a customer, to sell you a fully complete game.
After playing a couple of games, I look forward to tweaking the starting decks, and then going and creating whole new ones from scratch; again, and again, and again.
Details, details: The game comes with 7 Shepherds, 15 Gruffs (goats, or what's left of them), and 15 cards that belong to each gruff. To compose your deck, you pick a shepherd, pick three gruffs, and then pick eight cards from those available for each gruff. Just from those numbers, you can see there is great variety in the ways the game elements can be combined.
As you may have guessed, Shepherds and Gruffs are differentiated by having varying stats and special skills. Most shepherd's skills activate when their life falls below a certain threshold; but some have a high threshold, feeling like getting into second gear; and some have a low threshold, feeling like a last-ditch effort. Some gruffs have skills that mesh well with the cards of other gruffs, and some have cards or skills that mesh well with a shepherd's skill.
To add to the plethora in the box; the game also has rules for a 4-player draft tournament, where you draft shepherds and gruffs, and then compose your decks. And you don't have to buy an extra copy of the game to have 4 people playing.
Session: The starter game setup suggested in the rules does a really good job of showing this meshing; and that's the session I’m going to show now.
Here's the start of the game, we have Grimwood facing off against Gristle:
Grimwood fields Skitters, Zumberg, and Bubbles. The first two have a lot of cards that harm your shepherd for some benefit; and so it feels like playing a Lich, doubly so because Zumberg gains +1 Weird when a Shepherd takes damage.
Gristle fields Gusto, Gaptooth, and Ol'Darby. His gruffs mesh well together, as Ol'Darby gains +1 Mean and +1 Weird whenever he's moved; and Gusto has a bunch of cards that move the Gruffs around. Gristle is true to name; tough and hard to chew; as his skill returns 'Protect' and 'Block' cards into your hand when his health falls below threshold, and ya' know who has those cards? Gaptooth.
By the middle of the game, Grimwood was already down to two health, while Gristle was still above his threshold. I blame that on my own subpar play. Zumberg's about to attack, but it wont' be enough.
Here's the end, with Grimwood taking a sound beating.
We didn't use the demo-opening hands for the second game, but the second game went much the same way. Grimwood died poised to deliver a massive eight point attack that would have defeated Gristle; but couldn't hold out long enough.
I look forward to tweaking these starting decks, and then going and creating whole new ones from scratch; again, and again, and again.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks. I'm looking at the Rage expansion on Kickstarter right now, and your description makes it clear what I'm considering getting into. I value the fact that it's a complete game in a box. I want to avoid hunting down rare cards and waiting for the next wave of a game.
This looks light enough, interesting, teachable, and fun.
What an excellent and thorough review!