Rob: I’ve never been a huge fan of the Old West, but I do like sci-fi and fantasy. I also like it when sci-fi and fantasy stuff is fused with other more ‘normal’ themes – like the Old West. It’s one of the first things that drew me (no pun intended) to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and it’s what drew me to Grimslingers – incidentally also created by a Stephen (Stephen S Gibson). I’ve also been sharing my thoughts on Grimslingers with Stephen for a decent while now – mostly basic stuff like rewording rules and adjusting the way a card reads – and now I’ll be happy to share what I’ve seen with you.
Grimslingers is still in development, with a fair bit of layout tweaking and additional cards to come, so what you see in the images below might change a little by the time it’s officially released. A fair bit of other things are probably subject to change as well, really. I mean this is a prerelease prototype after all. Anyway, it’s basically a dueling card game for two to four players. Everyone has their own deck of spells and is trying to out-magic everybody else.
I’ll refrain from getting too specific with the rules as currently they can be a bit finicky, but the basic conceit is that each player has their own deck (all decks are the same) that includes elemental spells, signature spells, health and magic trackers, etc. The basic elements will be the same across the board, but players get to select three signature spells before the duel starts in order to customize their arsenal a bit.
With the exception of those signature spells, everyone is functionally the same, so the real strategy comes in figuring out who to attack (in a 3-4 player game, anyway) and what spells to use. The elements have a sort of Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic that lets you play them off of each other, which can lead to some pretty interesting moments where you try to read your opponents while at the same time trying to figure out what they might be expecting you to do. For example, if two players target each other, with one playing Ice and the other Fire, Ice will lose horribly.
Balancing all of that with your limited spell energy is also a bit tricky, and sometimes you’ll mourn the loss of your power more than the loss of your health. But that’s all a part of the strategy, too. If you burn through your energy too quickly you’ll be a sitting duck. There are a couple of ways to recoup energy and health, such as using the Take Cover ability successfully or being hit by a Lightning spell (which I think is actually pretty clever), but you’ll still need to be careful.
Then there are those signature spells, which are incredibly powerful and often very costly but can only be used once per game. You won’t be able to rely on them all the time, but they can definitely turn the tide of a duel in the blink of an eye. Many of them are pretty interesting, too. Some will redirect a spell flung at you back at your attacker, others will absorb a spell’s attack power and convert it into energy. The crazy thing is that there are a lot more signature spells planned for the final version, so it might be a while before you’re able to try every single one out.
Another interesting mechanic will kick in when two players oppose each other (i.e. they both target each other with a spell). Before divvying up the damage, the opposing players will need to take turns drawing from a small deck of number cards in a sort of miniaturized game of Blackjack. The player with the higher number at the end, without passing 11, will overpower their opponent’s spell and break through to do damage. Conversely if a player goes over 11, they bust and take double damage from their opponent’s spell.
There are a lot of interesting things happening in Grimslingers. I mean you’re a cowboy/cowgirl tossing spells at other players with the help of some sort of hyper-technological emoticon-looking sphere. That theme comes through quite well in the artwork and the way in which you essentially solve direct duels with something akin to Blackjack (the Old West and card games always go great together), although it can feel a little messy when you’re in a free-for-all with four players.
At the moment, the only real sticking point I have with Grimslingers is wrapping my head around the rules. There are a lot of little fiddly bits to remember, and while the rules cards that are included are a big help, certain things aren’t entirely clear from the outset. Although in my talks with Stephen he’s mentioned reworking the rules cards to make things more clear, and from what I’ve seen of the new drafts they’ll definitely make learning the game easier on newcomers.
Other than that, I actually really like Grimslingers. you’ll definitely want to avoid playing with a group of newbies the first time around but I think the concept is great, I love the art style, and I’m genuinely looking forward to checking out the finished product once it’s available in March.
I mean it’s cowboys (and girls, and eventually llamas) dueling with magic. That alone pretty much has me sold.