Strategically Thematic: The Grizzled

June 7, 2017

Strategically Thematic is a segment featured on The Dice Tower's bi-weekly Throat Punch Lunch videos about games where the theme and mechanics go together really well.

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Hi, this is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and this is Strategically Thematic, a segment where I talk about theme in different strategic games. This time, I’m talking about The Grizzled.

The Grizzled is a cooperative card game where you’re trying to survive the horrors of trench warfare in World War I. In the game, each player is a soldier, but instead of focusing on the fighting of warfare, you’re focusing on the fears and trials being felt by the group as you try to survive different missions.

The goal of the game is to reach peace - a lone card that is buried under a stack of trial cards. Each card represents a different trial, and players take turns playing them to the table. When there are too many of the same trial out on the board, you fail the mission, and the cards go back onto the stack, making it even harder to make it through the war. Some of the trial cards are Hard Knock cards, which represent different traumas, fears, and character faults that the soldiers are going through. The cards change the mechanics of the game to fit that specific trauma. For example, a Prideful soldier won’t allow himself to withdraw from the mission when his friends are still fighting.

The only way to survive a mission is for everyone to withdraw from the mission before it fails. And when you withdraw, you can offer up support to one of your friends through these support tiles. If someone gets the most support, they can remove the Hard Knock cards, since their friends have helped encourage them through the tough times. Another mechanic that adds hope to the game is speech tokens. Giving a speech gives players the chance to discard a card from their hand, bolstering spirits and bringing everyone closer to peace.

The rulebook has a letter of intent that states, “Without ever touching on the warlike aspect, “The Grizzled” offers each player the chance to feel some of the difficulties suffered by the soldiers in the trenches. Thus the emotions around the table will often be intense. The path to victory may seem difficult, but don’t get discouraged - persist and survive the Great War!” The Grizzled has succeeded in this intent - all of the mechanics work together to make players really want to help each other through tough times. If one player is suffering, everyone else will band together to help support that person. You don’t want to bring your friends down by playing cards that could hurt the mission, and sometimes you even make it harder on yourself in order to make sure your friends can make it through.

The Grizzled does a great job of handling this heavy theme and making you feel some of the difficulties of war. Thanks for watching Strategically Thematic! Let me know what you think in the comments!
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