I don’t like cooperative games. They’re not for me. I used to really enjoy them. When I first learned about Pandemic I was in love. It was crazy to think a board game could be cooperative, despite playing tons of video games throughout my life that were cooperative. But as time went on, my interest in cooperative games waned. I’d still try them, and some are more interesting than others. One of these was the Grizzled.
With the Grizzled, it was a simple game. Didn’t require much thinking, but it was reactionary. Because I can’t talk to the other players the problems of quarterbacking fade away, and I’m left to determine what I think they’ll do next. It’s a bit like a secretive puzzle where you hope the pieces line up to where you all win the game. But my problem with the Grizzled is the two player. It’s not fun. It’s really quite hard. Because at the end of every round of the Grizzled, you pass support tiles around the table to try and help another player out. This is great when you can look at your tiles and guess what your teammates will do with theirs. In the Grizzled two player variant, the extra 3rd player called the Chapalain grants their support at random. You have no idea what’s going to happen with them and it can be incredibly frustrating to do anything with it. Many times we’ve ended up granting no support because the random draw of the Chaplain made it so no one got support.
We recently got the expansion At Your Orders which claims to have an improved rule set for two players. It was cheap and the idea of the missions sounded interesting for playing with three or more players, so we grabbed it. I’m glad we did because the new rules greatly improve the experience. In the expanded two player ‘Duo!’ ruleset, players have a new third player known as the Novice. This player starts with a Hard Knock already that can’t be removed. Their hand of cards is played face up and the Mission Leader selects from these each time it comes around to them. Then once they withdraw, a support tile is still chosen at random, but is now played face up. This allows the players to know where the Novice will send their support and allow them to better plan for that. It doesn’t always mean it will work perfectly, but it’s a far improved system and allows for better planning instead of just hoping things go well.
There also is a single player ‘Solo!’ mode which I finally gave a try. It’s got it’s own support system where you play as three Grizzled that are given support at random from a selection of four tiles. Each of these tiles are used once, then reshuffled once they’ve all be used. This means it’s still a bit of luck with getting them to the right Grizzled, kind of like how the support system used to be in the old two player rules. But because there are only four tiles, once they start going away, you can plan a little bit and hedge your bets as to which will end up getting support. I found the Solo! variant to be harder to win. I only played one game of it, so maybe a second time around I could do better. I have a few ideas for how I could improve my play style next time.
These changes brought the Grizzled from a small box that I kept tucked in a drawer, to a game I would consider playing at home with just Rachael on a more regular basis. The expanded Grizzled is now a game I’ll take with me on vacations in my Quiver, which is something I wouldn’t have previously done. I still haven’t tried the missions with more than two players, but I imagine they’ll do well in that setting too. Overall, I’m glad I bought the expansion, and it’s a case where an expansion makes the game better instead of just adding things for the sake of adding things.