Generally, if you ask a crowd of guests who wants to pretend to be a group of French soldiers in a trench in WW1, not a lot of hands will go up. Understandably so — that shit’s depressing, right? But for those willing, the alchemy of games transforms this gruesome tableau into something engaging, suspenseful and even touching. This is The Grizzled
is a cooperative game that sees up to five players taking on the roles of French soldiers. The goal? Survive and get home together. The stakes? Everybody comes home or nobody does.
As such, it works nothing like a typical wargame. None of The Grizzled
’s mechanics revolve around the minutiae of moving or attacking; rather, players join together in a race to empty their hands of "trial" cards representing various weather conditions, assaults (over the top, boys!), mustard gas attacks and artillery bombardments. There are also "hard knock" cards representing the psychological wear and tear on the individual soldiers in the platoon: These cards are numerous and gradually force players to constrict available options as their soldiers start to make irrational decisions.
There are up to six soldiers to play, each with a name inspired by an actual veteran of The Great War (some were actually distant relatives of the game’s designers). Together, players strategize to empty their hands of trial and hard knocks cards before draining the card pile revealing a monument with all your soldiers' names on it,
in which case you lose. Empty the other card pile revealing a dove and you're platoon has survived in one piece!
Like all good cooperative games, The Grizzled
feels like running uphill in fine sand — while you’re holding hands with four other people. Getting beat down by the game is a common occurrence, which makes it all the more gratifying when you can work together and eke out a win.
The game is tense, tough and offers quite the bonding experience — a beautiful abstraction of the camaraderie borne of terrible events. If you want a unique experience on your game shelf, give this one a look, mes amis