A to Z Gaming: The Grizzled

We tried to survive World War I in the trenches in The Grizzled, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: The Grizzled
Players: 2-5
Time: 30 Minutes
Designers: Fabien Riffaud, Juan Rodriguez
Artists: Tignous
Publisher:  Sweet Games

The Grizzled is a cooperative game about a group of friends who vow to help each other survive the war. Through a series of missions, players attempt to empty the pile of trials in order to make it to peace before their morale drops too far, revealing a monument to their failed heroic efforts. All players win or lose together.

Players start the game with a character and three support tiles–one right, one left, and one random. The trial cards are shuffled and separated into two piles–the Trials pile goes on the peace card, the Morale pile on the monument card. The trial cards each depict a combination of threats (night, snow, rain, mask, shell, and/or whistle). Speech tokens are placed near the card piles and the first Mission Leader is chosen and given the Mission Leader token (the rules suggest the hairiest player get it).

The game is played in a number of rounds – or missions. The Mission Leader chooses a mission difficulty, though in the first round it must be at least a difficulty of three. Then they deal out a number of cards from the Trials pile to each player equal to the difficulty level and starting with the Leader themself.

On their turn, again starting with the Mission Leader, players can play a card from their hand, play a speech, use their good luck charm, or withdraw. When they play threat card, it goes to the middle of the table and adds to the current active threats. If at any time there are three identical active threats, the group loses the current mission. If the card played is a hard knock, it is placed next to their character. The hard knock cards make the game harder – some of them represent traumas that add an additional threat of a specific type to the active threats until that player withdraws, others represent character traits that may prevent the player from withdrawing or cause them to withdraw early.

When giving a speech (which are gained when the Mission Leader marker passes), the player announces a threat, and each other player can discard a card from their hand that depicts that threat. Good luck charms are shown on one side of the character card and represent one of the threats. When used, the player discards one of the active cards showing that threat and turns over their player card. To withdraw, the player choses a support token, keeping it secret, and places it on their character card. Their traumas no longer count as active threats.

The mission ends either when everyone has withdrawn or there are three identical active threats present. If the mission succeeded, the threat cards are discarded; if failed, they are shuffled back into the Trials pile. Any unplayed cards are kept in hand and hard knocks stay in place.

Then players reveal their support tokens and give it to the chosen player (this only happens for players who withdrew before failing the mission, if it was a failure). If a player is given the majority of support, they are able to either get rid of two hard knocks (or one if the mission was a failure) or recharge their good luck charm. Finally, morale drops. The number of cards still in everyone’s hands is moved from the Morale pile to the Trials pile, with a minimum of three cards moving each round.

If players are able to make it to the bottom of the Trials pile–revealing the peace card–with no more cards in anyone’s hands, they win. If they reveal the Monument card at the bottom of the Morale pile…they lose.

We were introduced to The Grizzled when a friend brought it to one of our game nights. That night we ended up playing it several times….losing each time, if I recall correctly. It’s a grim game, but even so, I enjoy trying to puzzle out the best way to get rid of the cards in my hand while still leaving some room for other players to do the same. In fact, we enjoyed it so much at that game night that we sought out the game for our own collection.

It doesn’t actually come out very often–I assume due to the somewhat depressing theme. But when it does come out, we have a good time….even though I’ve only won once(!).

How is it as a 2-player game? The Grizzled works well as a 2-player game. When we saw that there was a dummy player in the rules, I was not terribly happy, but this player only comes into play during the Support phase of each mission. I suspect this is necessary to add a bit of unknown to the support phase. We also forgot that we weren’t supposed to play with the double-right and double-left support tokens, but it didn’t help us at all, since we still lost.

How about the art and component quality? The art in this game makes it – it takes it from something that would be completely depressing into a game that is depressingly charming, as the characters are all a bit hapless-looking. The iconography is clear and the cards are good quality. I also like the cardboard support tokens and speeches.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. It is a small card game, and we do enjoy pulling it out from time to time.

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