Theme and What is it?
This review covers both Grimslingers and the Northern Territory expansion. The Northern Territory comes with new rules and cards that update and enhance the original Grimslingers. I will be doing the review as if the two games are one, because the expansion treats them that way.
You have been turned into a Grimslinger by the Iron Witch who is a mystical creature of great power in the Forgotten West. As a Grimslinger, you are now a magical being that has been enhanced with metal and machinery. You can control powerful elemental magic. You must use that magic against other beings like yourself as well as a host of enemies in order to become the witch that your maker wants you to be.
I am a HUGE fan of Stephen Kings’ Dark Tower Series. That made me instantly intrigued by Grimslingers. A spaghetti western theme infused with horror and sci-fi elements was exactly what I was looking for. Grimslingers has two ways to play. A verses mode where players participate in a free for all or team battles. The other option is a co-op story mode with a solo variant.
Grimslingers is a strategic card game with a twist on the gunslinging duels of the Old West. Players select a Grimslinger. In the Northern Territory expansion, each of the Grimslingers have unique skills that make the game more varied than the base game. Each player is assigned a color. Each player begins with a standard hand of elemental spell cards and four of their Grimslinger’s eight skill cards chosen when the Grimslinger is picked. If playing with 3+ players, each player also receives a targeting deck. The targeting deck lets you pick which player you will target/duel and cast a spell towards. The players reveal their target cards all at the same time in order to show who they will be dueling. This is where the strategy comes into play. After the target cards are revealed, each player must then decide, depending on if they are being targeted or not, which spell cards to play. Once decided, these cards are also revealed at the same time. Elemental spell cards have strengths and weaknesses when compared to each other. These strengths or weaknesses help to determine the outcome of the duel. The game is played over a number of duels. The goal of the game is to be the last Grimslinger standing.
Co-op mode in Grimslingers employs many of the same elements as the versus game. Once you are familiar with the versus rules you will have a much easier time digging in to co-op. A few differences. In the co-op mode new cards are acquired as you complete the story and level up. You can then spend Progress Points to obtain new spells and skills. In co-op you can also find legendary and regular items as you explore the Forgotten West and as you kill enemies. You create a map with a deck of playing cards and two manuals guide you through your journey. One helps you know what the cards of the map represent and the other provides the story and objectives you need to complete. You will battle monsters and less savory members of the Forgotten West as you discover treasures and level up to gain more power. The Northern Territory expansion is a must if you are getting the game for co-op. It builds on the original co-op idea making it a much more in depth and varied experience that feels more immersive.
Right when I saw the front cover to the game I knew I wanted it. I will talk more about the art in a minute. That cover spoke to me and said, “hey you should play me.” So when I was able to get a copy I made sure to grab it without hesitation. I was willing to only enjoy the art of this game even if I didn’t care for the gameplay. Lucky for me once I had a chance to play it, I really enjoyed it. The instructions recommend you play the verses mode a few times before attempting the co-op. That is what I did.
There is quite a bit going on in Grimslingers and it took most of the first game to really feel like the group understood the mechanics. The aiming mechanism can be daunting at first and I spent most of the first game with my nose in the rulebook to make sure we were doing everything we needed to do. We didn’t use all of the card types, which was suggested by the rule book. For the second game we played with the complete setup. Even with the new additions, the second game went much smoother than the first and played very quickly.
The first game of the co-op took about 20 minutes to set up. It uses more cards than the versus mode, and I had to find them and figure out where they went. Once I had it set up, I played the first chapter as a solo player. It was fun to explore. Because the map is made up of a deck of playing cards that are randomly dealt, there was lots to discover and a monster could be lurking under any card. The game took just over an hour. It was satisfying and made me want to play co-op with some of my normal gamers.
Game Build Quality
The components of Grimslingers consists of lots of cards, a die and a meeple. The expansion has even more cards and player mats and a mat to help organize parts of the co-op game. The cards are some of the heaviest cards I have ever seen. Much nicer than so many games out there. In fact we had a rough first game because the cards were so thick. We had to keep checking to make sure we were only laying down a single card. Once we got used to the cards they felt very nice. It was hard to go back to other game cards. The box had a great insert that kept all the cards in place and I was able to organize them by the different game types.
As mentioned above, it was the cover artwork that hooked me. The cover looks like an 80’s movie poster. Back when graphic designers knew how to make amazing posters. I was so excited for the the cover that I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. It did not disappoint. The artwork on the cards is some of my favorite in all of the gaming world. You are instantly transported to the Grimslinger world. There is tremendous detail on every card and each type of card fits in with the theme of the game. If you buy games just for the art, like I do sometimes, then Grimslingers is a must have.
I enjoyed Grimslingers as both a versus game and as a co-op experience. It is not a light game, but I enjoy games that make me dig in the rulebook to make sure I am doing things right. I want an immersive experience that has detail and great gameplay. Grimslingers delivered. The group I played versus with liked the game but felt it was too heavy for them. They tend to enjoy party and light euro games. For them some aspects of the duels were overwhelming. On the other hand, those parts of the duels were some of my favorite. I loved figuring out what was going on.
For me the best part of the game was the co-op. With the new components and rules updated in the Northern Territory expansion, it really enhanced an already pretty fantastic co-op game. It added more variety and unpredictability to the game. You also get to see way more of the artwork in the co-op game. When the art is this good I want to see as much as I can! Not only is the artwork top notch the story is captivating. I have made it through three chapters in the base game story line and I can’t wait to dig deeper and discover more. The setup time for co-op requires you to make sure you have enough time to both set up and then play, but there is a way to save progress along the way. With as long as it takes to set up I recommend finishing chapters while the are ready to go. Co-op has a really cool progression system that lets you level up your character. Each character has there own progression sheet for this. It shows you want you can spend progression points on. Stuff like spells, extra health, increasing your hand size and individual character’s abilities. Progression points are earned through the game and by completed achievements, which are tracked on a separate sheet.
Age Range & Weight
Grimslingers has an age recommendation of 14+. I did play a few rounds of versus with my nine year old daughter and she picked it up just as quickly as any of the adults I played with. That is probably because I play lots of games with her and she has developed some great gaming skills. Other kids her age, with not as much experience as she has, may find Grimslingers a challenge. I have not tried co-op mode with her yet, but she shouldn’t have much difficulty with it yet. I wanted to play through it first to make sure we weren’t running into anything that I wouldn’t want her exposed to. Depending on the experience level of the person playing and their level of logical problem solving I think 14+ is a safe age recommendation.
Grimslingers and the Northern Territory expansion should be treated as a single game. If you plan on picking it up (and I highly recommend you consider it) you will want to get both the base game and the expansion. You can find them on a website that rhythms with shmazon for about $25 each, but I always say spend your money with your FLGS. The expansion fixes some of the shakier aspects of the versus and co-op games and really transforms the game into a solid experience. Grimslingers is a triple treat: amazing artwork, great gameplay and extensive variety. Grimslingers may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for a game that has some meat to it and also has great staying power on your table, then you should consider Grimslingers.