Guest Writer: Christopher Bishop
Red Dragon Inn has been a popular title for quite a while. Even late comers to the product line such as myself find instant value in its clever, satirical homages to various character types played at the table. Battle for Greyport however, while still having a little tongue in cheek involved, is a slightly more serious game. That does not mean it’s turned into a dark, sinister version of the lighthearted Red Dragon Inn franchise. It simply reflects a different tone.
The adventurers are no longer sitting idly in an Inn, gambling coin against each other, playing pranks and general tomfoolery. The city they call home is under siege by all mannerisms of evil creatures, and now it is time for the plucky heroes to really show their abilities are much greater than teleporting gold out of someone’s pouch or sneaking more alcohol into their beverage. The City of Greyport needs your aid or there will not be a Red Dragon Inn to relax in any longer. Will the heroes under the players guidance answer the call?
What’s in the Box???
~ 304 cards consisting of:
- 120 monster cards (20 per monster deck)
- 21 monster tokens
- 98 reinforcement cards (50 heroes, 48 items)
- 45 starting deck cards (9 per player)
- 20 curse cards
~ 57 over-sized cards consisting of:
- 15 player hero cards (3 per player)
- 8 location cards
- 7 scenario cards
- 20 encounter cards
- 7 boss monster cards
~ 7 damage dice (3 yellow, 2 white, 2 green)
~ Cardboard tokens consisting of:
- 58 damage tokens
- 9 boss hit point tokens
- 44 hit point tokens
- 8 shield tokens
- 30 recruitment coins
- 1 round marker
Also included as bonus content for the Red Dragon Inn Game
- Drog’s Special Reserve promo content drink cardboard
~ Chronos the Time Mage:
- 40 card character deck
- 7 gold and platinum coins
- 1 alcohol content marker
- 1 fortitude marker
- 1 player material
- 1 deck divider
The game setup takes around 12 minutes or so. Setup revolves around deciding which scenario you are playing, drawing location, monster deck cards called for, and placing them in the center of the table. Each player chooses a hero and gets an appropriate hero deck to start off with. The first player is given a taunt token (big brass metal taunt button) and game play begins with them. Each scenario has you battling in different locales around Greyport. I like this concept as it makes it feel more like your characters are battling across the city and the action is moving around them as they try to reach one embattled location after another. One thing I will point out though, the rules as written are helpful but often times feel like they do not explain the setup as thoroughly as perhaps they could have. We had quite a bit of confusion sorting through the card types trying to verify if this was a hero card or not.
I think the biggest factor I need to make folks aware of is this: the game has a learning curve. Perhaps not quite as steep as many deck builders out there but if you are purchasing Battle for Greyport expecting lighthearted fun in the vein of Red Dragon Inn, you will be sorely disappointed. Do not get me wrong, it is a great game and very worthy to be on anyone’s shelf, but this is not the game to bring out for a quick 30-minute session.
Average playtime for our group for one encounter was about 2.5 hours. The second playthrough, in which of course we were more comfortable with the rules took about 2 hours roughly. I would wager once everyone is familiar enough with play mechanics a game could be played in 60-90 minutes.
The other factor I feel important to mention is the “kid factor”. Let’s face it, a lot of us exposed our kids to Red Dragon Inn. The game was quick to pick up, mechanics were balanced, and the replay value was great. Battle for Greyport is not that kind of game. It is deliberately hard. We struggled to make it through the first scenario and on later playthroughs, we failed three out of the five times we played. This is not to discourage people from the challenge of playing the game. Victory is very rewarding, but it is not a given. This can lead to some hard feelings at the table. At best, I would not suggest this game for any child under about age 12. I know my 11-year-old was not so fond of the complexity and gut-wrenching losses that occurred from missed or bad choices.
To sum up the win versus loss conditions:
Players win if =
- All the monsters from encounters are defeated
- The big bad boss is defeated
Players lose if =
- All locations are destroyed (a singular location destroyed does not end the game but it places penalties on the players)
- A hero loses all their hit points
What makes it so much fun?
The game does many things that separate it from other deck builders. One is the inclusion of dice. Normally, random luck comes into play just from drawing up cards, but Battle for Greyport uses dice to resolve battles. Players can buy items which give them higher color dice ensuring better rolls by spending recruitment tokens they earn through gameplay. Yellow dice are the lowest values, white dice second and finally green dice provide the best chance for a high damage hit in combat. The game rewards players for careful resource management as every recruitment opportunity can sway the player’s fortunes for good or ill.
I think the inclusion of the dice mechanic not only brings back home the idea that the Red Dragon Inn universe is still based or attached to the RPG ideal that inspired it, it also allows ways for clever players to tweak the situation to their advantage through smart choices. I also like the fact that because it is cooperative, it encourages folks at the table to work together. Any game that makes normally quarreling siblings instead have the incentive to work together gets my seal of approval, and Battle for Greyport truly encourages that idea.
The cards often times can be used in conjunction with each other to pull off combinations as well. On the first couple playthroughs this might not be as evident to some (it was not to us anyway), but as you cycle through game sessions you begin to see how a weak commoner might help to unlock another hero later on, or better yet help to bring on additional recruits strengthening your attack against the monsters.
The real subtle intricacy is how the cards encourage planning amongst party members. It is absolutely vital that players spend the time to discuss moves before making them. It might stink to spend your coin buying that shield, but if it saves your hide on the monsters turn well worth it. Do you spend the card that gives you another draw, or do you instead hire a Templar to face down the monster that is attacking you so you can focus your efforts on attacking the monsters at the location? Locations can make a difference in fights as well. Creatures are affected by locations and may gain strength or lose it depending on the location specifics. Defend a location and all players involved gain a reward.
In summary, Battle for Greyport reminds me a lot of playing through a climactic story arc endpoint in a roleplaying session. You have cleared out the dungeon, you got some treasure, but oh crap the big bad you have been chasing after for the last 9 months just brought the fight to you. Every battle feels pretty epic, which if you think about Red Dragon Inn, is the polar opposite of how that game plays out. The mechanics are solid enough once you figure them out and replay value is pretty decent.
Is it worth the price?
At this time Battle for Greyport retails for $45.00, however, as with most things these days, Amazon sells copies for around $34.00 and other websites have prices somewhere in between. I can say without hesitation the product quality of the cards themselves is pretty decent and all the materials included are of the quality you have come to expect from Slugfest games. The game certainly has replay value but that being said, make sure your players understand this is NOT Red Dragon Inn. A couple of the players that tried this game out with me were at first pretty put off at the complexity of the game, but once they got into playing it for a bit that quickly wore off. I would definitely recommend watching a ‘let’s play of the game or two on YouTube’ just because there are a lot of subtle nuances to the game that are not really covered in the rule book.
Every player’s level of understanding varies though so the issues I had in learning the system may not be the same ones you have if you have any at all. Regardless, I feel very safe in suggesting that Battle for Greyport is a great, reasonably priced deck builder sure to be a welcome part of any board game enthusiasts collection.
Thanks for reading!
Keep rolling them bones