The Chaplain’s Retreat that I mentioned in my last post is over, and while there the Padre Geek Contingent played a lot of games. I got introduced to an addictive boardgame called Lords of Vegas, a kind of Monopoly meets craps game where cuthroat intrigue and strategy can stand or fall on the roll of a dice. There was a game about racing camels that involved shaking bespoke dice out of a cardboard pyramid. That was fun.
However, the game that hooked us all was a small card game called The Grizzled, a cooperative card game about soldiers trying only to survive in the trenches.
A game for 2-6 players, The Grizzled (an English translation of the word poilu, the French slang equivalent of Tommy Atkins or doughboy), features poignant artwork and some simple mechanics to create a quickly building sense of doom and menace. The object is for players to survive a series of missions and come through the war unscathed, so they can all go back to their village where they were childhood friends. As the missions surmount, players’ characters accumulate psychic wounds, called Hard Knock cards, that make it harder to survive. Between missions, players can try to benefit one another through kind acts in a phase called the Recovery Phase, to help heal some of these wounds.
It’s a hard game to win. We played it three times straight, and we lost each time, but there were many theories as to how we could have done better.
There’s a review of The Grizzled here. One sad thing mentioned in the review is that the lovely art for the game was done by Tignous, aka Bernard Verlhac, a French cartoonist who was killed in the Charlie Hebdou attacks in 2015.
The Grizzled isn’t a wargame, per se, but it is a very effective way to think about war and to empathize with those who have fought wars, which is one reason why many of us play these games. Highly recommended.