My brain often struggles to grasp even simple concepts. Making sure my shirt’s the right way round is often the most difficult thing I do of a morning, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve sleepily burnt myself grabbing the kettle I’ve just boiled to make tea. Give me a while and I’ll eventually wake up, but yeah… a lot of the time, you could probably say that I’m in a world of my own.
Then games come out, and immediately it’s like thousands of years of evolution suddenly kick in. The higher functions of my brain start to spark, synapses begin to flicker into life and the uber-Michael rises. And believe me, when you play Petroglyph’s Guardians of Graxia, you need to be 100% aware of what’s going on.
Petroglyph originally made video games (you can listen to the interview with Mathew Anderson from the company on Episode 6 of the podcast) and have recently moved into board games. Accompanied by the deck-building Heroes of Graxia, Guardians is a more strategic fantasy-based affair that is also available as a PC game. However, it’s always better to have those cards in your hand, so what’s in the box?
The answer is plenty. First up, you’ll notice there’s no game board – the whole thing is built (depending on the scenario you’ve chosen) using satisfyingly hefty large tiles, each one depicting a different area or type of terrain. There’s also a huge stack of cards representing units and spells – these are your weapons that will be used to take your opponent out. Along with the usual batch of thick card chips to show character status you also have a few plastic miniatures (the Guardians of the title) and a large board to show Victory Points, work out battles and show mana. On top of that there’s a (detailed but wordy) rulebook and a (very useful) sheet giving you a rundown on how to fight.
The rulebook has a selection of adventures for both solo and VS play – not many, it must be said, but enough to get you used to the methods of the game and how you can go about creating your own scenarios. After setting up the tiles (which are apparently floating continents) each player takes a predetermined set of cards and the game begins…
The objective of the game is actually dependent on what you’re doing. Sometimes you might simply have to get a certain amount of points, while other times might see you have to destroy a certain character controlled by your opponent or complete a mission. This variety of tasks gives Guardians of Graxia a good replay value – plus as there’s often a couple of ways that you can win, so your options are always open!
Despite the very detailed rulebook (mainly packed out with descriptions of every card available), the core game is actually quite simple. Each unit you control moves about the board attempting to attack enemies. Having friendly units adjacent gives you extra support, while the terrain your prey is skulking in could ramp up their defence. There’s often a lot of quick maths to do, but it doesn’t drag the game down – battles actually resolve quite quickly once you get the hang of things. Take an attack number on your unit’s card, compare it against the defence of your opponent then work out any modifiers. The handy Battle Grid will have a couple of counters shooting up and down a lot, especially when you throw in a few spells. Eventually units will be wounded, points will be scored and the whole thing switches around with the attacker then becoming the defender… Having only a limited set of cards doesn’t detract from the game – in fact, knowing the kinds of things your enemy potentially has in their hand means that you’re not worrying that they could have something that’ll smash everything you own to bits. You can just get on with playing, coming up with strategies and adapting to what they throw onto the field of play.
Games – though initially a little daunting – don’t take too long to play. Even the larger two-player efforts shouldn’t take you much more than an hour. Obviously your mileage may vary, especially if you’re looking at homebrew scenarios. Having played this a few times now, I’m finding that it’s quite enjoyable (not that I wish to damn it with faint praise). It’s kind of a combination wargame and CCG – there’s very little luck in there (apart from the cards you draw, of course) so you find that any errors are down to a bad call – not the game being mean. Quite unlike anything I’ve played in a long time, Guardians of Graxia is a very intriguing beast that certainly gets my brain going – I can’t help but think it’s been designed with expansions in mind though…
Guardians of Graxia is a brand new Petroglyph Games release and is available now. For one or two players, it was designed by Chuck Kroegel, Daniel Kroegell and George Chastain. You can find more information about it at the game’s official site right here.