Guardians of Graxia is a game designed by Daniel Kroegel, published by Petroglyph Games. It is for 1-2 players. In this game, players will be playing one of several different scenarios as they try to fulfill the victory conditions of that scenario. The player that is best able to meet those conditions while managing their cards and units will be declared the winner.
To begin, this is a very complex game system. I will be unable to give my usual set up and game run through. Instead, I will give a brief overview of how the game works and go from there. First off you have to choose a scenario, either for 2 players or solo. Depending on the scenario chosen, the set up for all of the terrain tiles will be different. There is no board for this game. The entire game is played on these terrain tiles. Once the play area is set up, each player will take a set of cards that are predetermined based on the scenario played as well as the miniature of the hero that they start the game with. Tokens and shared cards are placed out on the table for ease of use. There is also a tracker board that is placed on the table to keep track of turn, battle value, mana and victory points. This will be very handy later. Once everything is set up and ready to go, play can then begin.
Play will alternate between players in a series of game phases that is made up of several rounds. The first phase is the draw cards phase. On each player’s turn, they will draw 4 cards from the unit or spell deck except on the first turn. They can then pay 5 mana to draw an additional card up to a hand limit of 13.
The next phase is the command phase. In the command phase a player may do 3 actions in any order and may repeat them as long as they follow the rules. Those actions are perform unit actions, play command spells and summon new units. Performing unit actions consists of moving, attacking, shielding and activating command abilities. Each unit can only do one or two actions, so it could move and attack but it wouldn’t be able to shield itself as well. Once a unit has performed it’s action, you will mark it with the appropriate token. I’ll cover combat in a little more detail a bit later. Next players can play command spells by paying the mana cost to perform it. Players can then summon new units. This is done by paying the mana cost and placing it on the appropriate tile.
The next phase is mana collection and buying additional cards. Players will receive mana for each map tile that they control based on the value printed on it. Players can then buy cards just like before.
The last phase is the victory determination phase. On a player’s turn they will check to see if they’ve met the predetermined victory conditions. If they have, they win. If not, the game continues until someone does meet those conditions.
Combat is the real heart of this game. It’s also the most complex part. I will just give a brief glimpse of how it’s done. For more information, you will want to check out the rather lengthy rule book. There are 9 steps to the battle sequence. Step 1, is to determine the initial battle value. This is done by adding and subtracting attack values and defense values for the type of unit and then marking it on the tracker board. I told you that this would be handy. Each of the following steps will affect the numbers on the tracker board, either moving up or down. Step 2, you will subtract the appropriate defense value of the defender’s map tile from the battle value. Step 3, you will add the attacker’s battle value support from any adjacent friendly units. Step 4, you will add or subtract any passive battle abilities. Step 5, you will play battle spell cards or activate battle abilities. Just like in Heroes of Graxia, this will go back and forth playing cards until both players pass. Step 6, each player may sacrifice a spell card for it’s battle value modifier. Step 7, you will determine battle wounds. To do this you will need to check the tracker board to see the specific value for each player. Step 8, you will determine unit card elimination. Basically if a unit card’s health hits zero it’s removed from the terrain tile and placed into the player’s discard pile. Step 9, execute retreat. You will determine whether the defender card retreats or stays where it’s at. Step 10, execute advance. After determining if the defender is destroyed or on the retreat, the attacking unit may move onto the vacated tile. Step 11, remove shield. If a defender has a shield token on it, it will be removed. As i said before this is where the game will be won or lost, through combat. At the end of the game, the player that fulfills the victory condition first will be the winner.
There are lots of pieces included with this game. First off is the massive stack of terrain tiles. These are really nice. They’re very sturdy and thick. Each one is numbered for ease of setup determined by scenario. I like these a lot. Next you have the tracker board. This is a bit thinner but you couldn’t really play this game without it. There’s just TOO much to try to keep up with. I really like the artwork on this piece as well. The various markers and tokens are very numerous but are really well made as well. Believe me, there are tokens for everything here. They look really nice and will help keep track of everything that you need to. The cards themselves are very nice and have a Magic the Gathering or World of Warcraft feel to them. The art is really awesome looking. I really enjoy how great these are made too. There are miniatures for the main characters of the game. These are made of plastic and look really nice, just like in Heroes of Graxia. Truly this game is an amazing site to behold once it’s all set up. I really like how nicely the theme fits the pieces. This is really nicely done.
9 out of 10
The rulebook for this game is MASSIVE. At 24 pages, there’s a lot of info in this thing. There are 6 pages of nothing but descriptions of card abilities, terrain and spell cards. There are 10 pages of scenarios, 6 for 2 players and 6 for solo play. There are lots of pictures and setup examples. This thing is very detailed, yet it explains everything really well. Once you read everything, the game seems to make a lot more sense. Just looking at the pieces will set your mind into a spin. Thankfully everything is easy to read and understand. It takes a bit to get through. You will be referring back to it quite often for awhile. Alternately there is a thick one sheet reference guide that is rather helpful as well. Either way, it’s really well put together.
9 out of 10
This game is a beast to play. There is a lot of addition and subtraction. Thankfully the tracker board is there to help you with all the math. I like having the tokens to keep track of the status of each of your units. It’s very simple to glance at the play area and determine what you want to do with which units based on the tokens that are on them. I find that the game takes awhile to play, close to an hour or better at least for the first couple of times you play. It’s really neat how the card based units are used. Miniatures would have taken a lot of extra work with looking up which unit it is and then cross referencing everything. Using the cards is really simple. If you want to know what a certain unit can do, pick up the card and look at it. Done. Even with all the math and elaborate steps to everything, the game is still rather fun.
8 out of 10
Guardians of Graxia is a medium weight wargame of fantasy scenario based combat. The artwork is great in this game, just like in Heroes of Graxia. The theme is very prominent and each scenario is different enough that you never get that bored feeling of sameness. The game takes a little longer than I would like for it to do, but it still keeps you rather engaged. I would recommend this for Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft fans for sure. The game is really inexpensive to get ahold of right now. Wargamers should like this one a lot as well. It definitely has a lot of a video game feel to it in a board game form. I think you should give it a try. This might be the game for you.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Petroglyph Games at their site.