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Groo: The Game

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Doug Adams writes:

Publisher: Archangel Entertainment
Players: 2-4 (2-6 with the expansion)

Groo The Wanderer is the barbarian character featured in the long running comic series of the same name. Groo first appeared in the early '80s and has now featured in over 150 issues from four different publishers.

Groo is the handiwork of comic artist Sergio Aragones, who I remember as the artist who drew the little jokes in the margins of MAD magazines (he may even still do it, I'm not sure). Sergio teamed up with Mark Evanier to produce a very funny comic that is riddled with in-jokes and at the same time tries to link in a morale in each issue.

Groo is a good natured soul, but a little slow of mind. He has simple values, he wanders the land in search of food, joins in any fray he can find, and is the target of a recurring string of characters that take advantage of his simple personality. He is also a walking disaster area, liable to sink any ship he touches, destroy any towns, and interrupt the mulching.

Groo: The Game does a great job in bringing the hilarious world of Groo to life. You get a deck of 60 cards, seven dice and a rules booklet. The rules are a little vague in places, but you generally get the gist of what's happening and can fill in the gaps. The dice are blank initially, the faces have to have a sticker attached to them from the sheet provided.

The basic game allows 2 to 4 players to play (best with 4 players), while the expansion adds another 50 or so cards and allows up to 6 players to play.

The object of the game is to found and nurture a village of your own and build it up so that it's worth 7 victory points. It's a good idea to raise an army to defend your village as well, because although it doesn't score victory points, it can be very handy in deterring others from attacking you. There are a couple of obstacles that tend to get in the way of your path to victory.

First off, the others players can raise an army as well and send it over to attack your village. Second, you have the imposing figure of Groo wandering the land. In game terms Groo moves from village to village at the whim of a die roll and if he stops in your village... well there probably won't be a lot left of it when he leaves.

This is a simple game to play. During a players turn he will refresh his hand to five cards. He then declares any attacks with his army on another players town - this is resolved quickly and easily by simply summing up the values of the respective troop cards. If the defender loses he must remove the difference in building cards from his village (ie. he's removing victory points).

After any attacks, the player picks up the seven dice and rolls them. One of these dice is the Groo dice that indicates whether Groo moves from his current location and if so, in which direction. The other six dice produce resources for the player - these come in kopins (the currency of Groo's world), supplies, and manpower. Also, the dreaded Groo Heads may be rolled on these dice. The player may 'spend' these resources to build cards from his hand, either orange building cards which will add victory points to his total (and maybe allow him some special powers that break the normal game rules), or green troop cards which defend his town. Cards added to a town are placed face up in front of the owning player.

The Groo Head resources can be spent on playing yellow Groo Effect cards. These cause nasty things to happen at the town Groo is currently at, and generally involve an army being massacred or several buildings being flattened! You do not want Groo at your town, ever!

After a player has spent all the resources he can, any unspent resources get passed around to the other players in clockwise order. Each player in turn has a chance to spend the resources or Groo Heads until they've either been spent or everybody's had a chance at them. This is a really nice feature, except when 3 Groo Heads are going around the table and the big mendicant is at your village. It's almost certain he will 'err' there!

There are two other card types, red Wild cards and blue Groo Events cards. Wild cards are useful and played at any time, typically when you are in a tight corner. Groo Events must be played as soon as they are drawn and can cause some wide ranging effects (such as passing your hand of cards to the player on your left, etc).

That's essentially the game. To win you must have seven victory points at the end of your turn. The game does get very tense when you are sitting on eight points, with Groo at your town. You actually experience the same terror the harmless villagers feel in the comics, and you pray that old kidney bean nose moves on before your hard work is destroyed!

In closing I can recommend this game as a fun filler. It shouldn't be taken too seriously as someone could win in a couple of turns, or it may take 30 minutes. The artwork on the cards is very funny, and all the main characters from the comic are there. The game captures the spirit of world of Groo very well and fans will find a lot to like here. If you are a Groo fan, or a gamer who wants something a little different, then you should try and find a copy of this game.

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