A Review of Gargolyes: Awakening, Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

Gargolyes: Awakening is a (mostly) cooperative board game for 2-5 Players. It’s “mostly” cooperative because the game includes 4 scenarios, and 3 of them are fully cooperative and the last one is a 1 vs. all scenario.

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Gargolyes: Awakening just “officially” released today (August 1st, 2021) in Targets across the USA (see picture above). It’s a mass-market cooperative game from Ravensburger using the Gargolyes IP. I had friends who used to love the cartoon and tell me it was one of the best-written cartoons there was. But I personally have never seen the show, so I don’t have any “nostalgia” going into this game. I liked cartoons, I liked the look of the game, but I have no connection to the show.

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We know it’s mass market by a bunch of things; It’s debutting at Target, the age range is 10+ (see above), the box has no shrink wrap (it uses the stickers), the cards aren’t linen-finished, and there are only 4 scenarios in the box. Hopefully, it will still be good!

Unboxing

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The game box looks really nice: the rulebook is the first thing we see upon opening.

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The board is next: it’s a single-sided board. The city is on one side (see below) and the main gargoyles are on the other (see above).

Next in the box are SOME of the cardboard: there is a lot of cardboard in this game!

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Is it weird that they will shrink wrap the cardboard (there are 2 large sheets, see below) but not shrink-wrap the box?

Look above and you can see the two sides of the cardboard. These are SOME of the cardboard pieces needed to build the city. The sides with the colored letters are supposed to be “hidden” when the city is built.

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There another plastic bag of cardboard (!) inside that you need to build the all the city models.

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The rest of the box fits the rest of the components: cards, minis, dice, plastic holders, and plastic notaters (see above).

Above are the hero cards: there are 6 heroes, and each hero has 10 unique cards with unique art! That was actually pretty cool seeing that: they really thought about how different each character could be. The only thing that would make this better is if the cards were linen-finished. Each hero has its own color, so it’s easy to pick out which cards belong to which hero just by the color. Seriously, really nice.

The villain cards (grey bordered) look good too.  It’s not clear until you get into the game, but there’s a different pile of villain cards for each scenario: take a look at the backs.

 

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You’ll notice how the backs correlate to the symbol at the top of the scenarios:

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Each game, you choose one of 4 scenarios: Notice how big and readable the scenarios are!

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Only the Battle With The Steel Clan is competitive: the other 3 are cooperative.

The hero cards and hero minis are really fantastic:

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The Hero cards are easy to read and its very obvious by color and look which mini corresponds to which gargoyle. Seriously, we’ve played some games where that’s not 100% clear: here, you can tell very easily just by looking. And you can see this is a variable player powers game as all gargoyles have a SPECIAL power and special skill (the 4-sided cross).

The tokens are pre-punched (which is odd in a mass market game: it must have been done to save money by using less cardboard). The tokens above are minions, objects, and skill tokens (with the little 4-sided crosses). They are nice and readable: see then sorted below.

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Upper left: Minions. Upper right: Skill Tokens. Lower Left: Bad guys. Right, objects for scenarios.

The game runs on dice: attacks are with dice and slashes hit and blanks miss. The little lightning bolts activate special powers.

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Overall, the components look and feel FANTASTIC. They feel very thematic and just look beautiful on the table. BUT, see the next section for a big warning!

Fragile Building Punchboards

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As part of setting up the game, you have to build the buildings: there are 5 buildings (see it built above). And it looks really cool when it’s built! The instructions are in the booklet (near the back, an odd choice).

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Here’s the problem, you have to be VERY CAREFUL punching out the building pieces! If you get nothing else out of this review, BE CAREFUL WHEN PUNCHING OUT THE BUILDING OR THEY WILL TEAR.

Take a look at some of the pieces:

Notice how tiny some of the junctures are: if you aren’t very careful, they will rip on you! I accidentally ripped one on punching these out.

Notice that I tore the little piece! See above left! Using some tape (above right), I was able to salvage it. “Ok, I’ll just be careful for the rest and it won’t happen again”. WRONG!

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Even KNOWING to be careful, it’s still hard to punch these out!!! See above.

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In the end, I used a knife to carefully hold/cut around the problem edges. That seemed to help.

Overall, I think I tore 3 pieces and almost tore a bunch more.  The punchouts seem EXTREMELY fragile, so learn from my mistakes and be extra extra careful punching out the buildings!  Consider using a knife!

The Rulebook

This rulebook will win no awards from me. It just isn’t great.

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The first two pages do a good job of showing set-up and discussing components, but notice how small the font is? And the color choice not great for readability: I frequently complain about white text on black backgrounds (Hexplore It: The Forests of Admiron and Bethel Woods both had this problem) because it smears easily and tends to be harder to read.

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The rules could be better: they seem to be cramming as much as possible in a few pages. Again, tiny font.

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The Villain phase pages are frustrating because the discuss the moon track before they discuss how it comes about: it’s an ordering issue .. how do you discuss something you don’t know about?

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They show all the scenarios over two pages, but you know what? I didn’t need this! All the text is on the scenario cards themselves! This is extraneous! I’d rather reclaim these two pages for the rules, clean them up, add more pictures, and add a bigger font. Take the scenarios OUT of of the rulebook because most of the rules are already on the cards!!!

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They did do something right: they put a summary on the back of the rulebook. Thank you! That was actually very helpful in getting through the game!

This rulebook wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad. It made some poor readability choices (font, color), wasted space (scenarios), and organized some things poorly. I was, however, able to learn the game from the rulebook, and it did discuss some edge cases in the rules. I do think, as a I play more (spoiler alert: I liked the game enough to want to play more), I suspect the rulebook will miss some edge cases. Ah well. It was “good enough”.

Solo Rules

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Unfortunately, there are no solo rules for the game.  At all.  (See Saunders’ Law).  There are usually two choices when trying to play a game solo:

  1. Try playing a single character solo, and see what might need to change for balance
  2. Play Two Characters solo (alternating between them), and adjust balance if there’s any hidden information

The main balancing mechanism in this game for multiple players is that when player has a turn, then the villain has a turn.  So, a player turn will always be balanced by a villain turn, so there’s no need to do anything special.  Similarly, there is no hidden information in the game so all information can be shared.   Either way would probably work for solo rules: I went ahead and chose to play a single character (Goliath).

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And then set-up appropriately:

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And you know what? This seemed to work fine for a solo mode! I later learned there ARE cards that require muitiple players:

But it looks Goliath is a character that can be played solo, as none of his powers or cards require other players. One thing I DO worry about is the number of hit points. Two characters in the game have twice the number of hit points of a single character. It seems like something some play testing might have to bear out. So, here’s what I might say for solo rules Gargoyles: Awakening:

Gargoyles: Awakening can be played solo two ways:

  1. Have the solo player play the single character Goliath, but add 5 Hit Points
    (or)
  2. Have the solo player take the role of any two characters, alternating play between them (essentially playing a two player game)

This game seems like it would have been really easy to add solo rules to.

Gameplay

 

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This is an action points game(like Pandemic is an action points game): each Gargoyle gets 3 action points per turn. You can do base actions for one point each: move, glide, or attack:

The glide action is interesting: it takes advantage of the cityscape and tall buildings! If you go from higher building to lower buildings, you can “glide” and move further!

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The cards you have are more powerful and allow you to do more, but require more action points:

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The “Heroic Charge” (see above) requires 2 action points but allows you to move AND attack slightly better! The “Growl” (above) is a REACTION: you can discard it and use it at the appropriate time.

After the Gargoyle plays, then the Villain has a turn, drawing a Bad News card: these usually cause some bad guys to move and attack our heroes:

If you have enough 4 New villain cards with a Moon on it (the above has an empty moon, so doesn’t count), then Day Stuff happens. These are on both the Scenario card and the Hero cards:

And then everything starts over! If you can achieve the scenario’s objective, you win! Note that the win and lose conditions are described very clearly on the Scenario card.

First Impressions

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So, I either wildly won or wildly lost my first game, depending on how you look at it. As Goliath, I moved straight to Demona and took her out in 2 turns. Then, as Xanatos moved to me, I took him out “mostly” over a few turns, with him doing minimal damage to me. I need to turn Coldstone to blue side, so I took two turns and rolled 18 DICE to try to roll just 1 lightning (each die has only 1 lightning symbol). I failed! (Really? 18 dice and not a single lightning????) … and ColdStone “killed” me … if I only had 8 Hit Points … BUT, if I had 13 Hit points (because I am playing solo), then I won after letting him chase me around the board (I was waiting for Day so I could heal).

It was pretty easy. But it was fun. I think this game is meant for families and younger players, so the fun part of the game is moving around the buildings and attacking the Demons and Gargolyes! I mean, the game DOES say 45 minutes, so it is a shorter game.

I may have cheated since I used my “made up” solo rules. But I don’t think so! I had fewer parallel actions and fewer hit points as a solo player, so the solo game was definitely harder than a 2-Player game. And it was still pretty easy. But, it was fun moving around the city, “gliding” from building to building, and beating up demons.

Conclusion

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This is a light co-operative game. It’s pretty easy: there’s not a lot to it. The best part of it is playing in this 3-D city, gliding around and fighting demons. I liked this enough that I want to play it with my game group and see how it goes as a cooperative game (ignoring the one non-cooperative scenario in the game).

The gameplay is a little limited, as there are only 3 (4 if you count the competitive) scenarios, but I suspect you can play them multiple times and just use different scenarios to mix it up.

There are some warnings here: if you get this for your family, probably punch it out by yourself VERY CAREFULLY. Nothing spoils a game night more than torn components! Similarly, Dad or Mom should learn the game by themselves first because the rulebook really isn’t great (and it’s not fun to watch someone try to lookup rules during gameplay). Once Mom or Dad knows the rules, the game can flow pretty quickly. Also, be aware that you will have to rebuild the game everytime you open the box (see below).

For a mass-market game, this looks great on the table and is pretty fun. Just be aware of the potential issues.

Addendum: Putting The Game Away

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How do you put this away? There’s no way all these buildings will fit in the box! Yep, you have to take it apart ALL THE BUILDINGS every time you put it away.

It’s actually kind of a lot of work. But it will all fit back in there.

Just another caveat emptor on this game.

3 thoughts on “A Review of Gargolyes: Awakening, Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

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