Battle for Greyport Game Review (Slugfest Games)

7

About two hours into Battle for Greyport, we understood most of its mechanics. For what should be a simple, cooperative deckbuilder, Battle for Greyport is oddly complex. And it doesn't have to be. It's all about the manual. We've talked about this before, but the manuals for games keep getting worse. As games become more complex, this becomes an even larger problem. In the old days, we might learn one or two large games a month. Today, there are so many games coming out that you are often learning a new one each game night. We might as well be studying for the bar exam.

At what point does a game manual start impacting the quality of the game itself? It's a bit of a meta question, but it's becoming more relevant every day. Battle for Greyport is another game, like One Deck Dungeon, that's a great game in and of itself -- but it's hurt by its lack of clear directions. 

Game Details

Players: 2 to 5

Game Time: 60 to 120 Minutes

Age: 12+

Genre: Cooperative / Deckbuilding 

How is Battle for Greyport Played?

The layout of Battle for Greyport

There are multiple scenarios that you can play in Battle for Greyport, each with its own setup. A scenario will have multiple locations and instances. These locations and instances tell you how much HP you have, how much HP monsters have, and so forth. Once you've selected your scenario you will build a deck with a number of different monster cards. You will also build a hero marketplace deck and an item marketplace deck. 

During setup, monsters will be placed on the location and in front of each player. If the location is destroyed, it will have some negative impact (such as dealing damage to all characters) and monsters will be distributed among players. Players will get recruitment tokens and their starting HP. If a single player falls, the fight is lost. After all, you've all got to get to the tavern to drink, don't you?

On your turn, the monsters in front of you and the monsters on your location activate. All players can play against these active monsters. You must play a hero with an item. You cannot play items alone and you cannot (apart from dual-wielding items) play multiple items on the same hero. Thus, at the beginning, you will be playing one hero + one item.

Some heroes have damage that is rolled. Other heroes have a flat amount of damage. Regardless, at the end of the turn, active monsters at the location will deal damage to the location and active monsters in front of the person will deal damage to the person. The next player will then become the active player. Only the active player will draw up at the end of their turn, so players will need to met out their cards strategically.

How Does Battle for Greyport Look?

Battle for Greyport Cards

The art style of Battle for Greyport was, by far, its best aspect -- and it's what kept us holding on. We struggled through the initial setup of the game and the travesty of a manual primarily to get a look at the cards as they came out. Battle for Greyport has a great aesthetic; clean, crisp art that's nevertheless dramatic. It feels fantastical. 

It's also a fun way to revisit the characters that we've grown to love from The Red Dragon Inn series, from Fiona to the Wizard and Pooky. 

At the same time, the game suffered from some obfuscation due to its sense of style. Rather than labeling decks, decks just had stylized backings; in other words, it's not possible to know what the decks even are without reading the manual. When going through the cards, we were constantly checking and double checking their stacks. For many of the cards, a single small icon is the only way to differentiate them. 

What's in the Box?
304 monster, starting deck, reinforcement, and curse cards * 57 player hero, location, scenario, encounter, and boss oversized cards * 7 yellow, white, and green damage dice * cardboard hp, shield, damage, and coin tokens

How Does Battle for Greyport Feel?

There are four mechanics that made Battle for Greyport confusing for us. These are unusual mechanics that aren't found in many games. They aren't particularly complicated to understand, they just aren't explained adequately in the manual

  • Hero cards. Your hero card is a part of your deck. If you are Fiona, you have Fiona in your deck. But rather than being a card that can be shuffled into your deck, she is a larger, side card that is always in your hand. You can tap Fiona once on your turn and she is exhausted until the end of your next turn. It's not a difficult concept to grasp, but the phrasing is simply strange, directing the player to consider Fiona a part of your active hand, except not really. Playing your hero counts as, well, playing a hero, so you can only play your hero + an item or another hero + an item.
  • Monster tokens. Many monsters will come out and direct you to place a "monster token" in front of them. The monster token is a card. There are a set of "monster token" cards. Why would you do this?
  • Recruitment coins. Recruitment coins are allocated at the beginning of the instance and never again. Recruitment coins only go up in value if you cannot afford another item that is available, and both heroes and items in the marketplace count. Thus, if you're going into an encounter with silver and copper coins, it's likely you'll never be able to purchase gold items (even though they're taking up space). 
  • Item cards. Item cards can only be played with heroes and only with heroes of the same color. Not a big deal, but having to manage synchronicity alongside the traditional deckbuilding mechanic was not only challenging, but foreign to a lot of the players. This is a welcome increase of challenge, but also felt frustrating more often than rewarding. 

In addition to this, the game is littered with phrases that have no clear meaning. We had to look up piercing damage, splash damage, cleaving damage, and so forth -- and some monsters had descriptors that dramatically altered the game. 

Another issue is that the game has to be babysat, in weird ways. As an example, Fiona cannot come out as a hero if you have Fiona as a playing character "because a person can't be in two places at the same time." Rather than directing you to remove these cards initially, they tell you to remove the cards as you play. This leads to a lot of issues, as people often won't notice that characters have come out that you can't buy. 

It sounds like we hated this game, but by the end we were enjoying it -- even if it can be brutally challenging. Battle for Greyport is a solid game with some bizarre stylistic choices and a terrible presentation. And it's a strange departure from Red Dragon Inn, which is easy to use specifically because everything is neatly outlined on each card. 

Battle for Greyport Game Review
  • PRO: A challenging game with some rarely-used but interesting deckbuilding mechanics.
  • PRO: Lively, encouraging art design that replicates the visual appeal of Red Dragon Inn. 
  • CON: A frustrating manual that requires an hour or two of playtime to master. 
  • CON: Can still remain confusing to many players even after the rules have been learned.