Greyport is under attack and if you don’t act quickly the town – or worse, the ale supply at the Red Dragon Inn – could be destroyed. Band together and defend the town in Battle for Greyport!
Set in the same world as the popular Red Dragon Inn games, Battle for Greyport is a cooperative deck-building game, from Slugfest Games, where players must work together to bring down monsters and save the day. It’s already acquired a reputation for being extremely tough, but is it any good? Let’s find out.
Battle for Greyport: What’s in the box?
Battle for Greyport comes in a slightly unusually-shaped box, rather taller and narrower than your average. The game box comes with a variety of cards in different sizes – large cards to represent locations, scenarios, and boss enemies, medium-sized cards to represent the player-controlled heroes, and decks of standard-sized cards to represent the allies and equipment you will need in your struggle, along with the various monsters you’ll be fighting.
The art in Battle for Greyport borrows very deliberately from the Red Dragon Inn, with a fun generic-fantasy style. There is a good range of characters who appear in the game, and there is a nice, broad representation of both male and female characters spread across the arcane and martial classes.
I’d definitely recommend heading over to the Slugfest Games website and downloading the updated version of the rulebook with errata and FAQ – besides making a few things a bit clearer, it also offers an alternative version of the introductory scenario which provides a more accessible entry-point to the game than the one which comes in the box.
Battle for Greyport also introduces Chronos the Time Mage as a playable character for Red Dragon Inn itself, an added incentive for existing fans to buy.
Sounds good: how does it play?
Each scenario in Battle for Greyport will be made up of Encounters, and each encounter sets up in the same way – you draw the required location and monster groups, then refer to the encounter set-up: there is a grid which will adjust the game depending on the number of people playing.
Following the 2-player column, you put 9 Health on the location (Yellow), Reveal Enemies in front of the location until you have 4 threat (red), and enemies in front of each player until you have at least 3 threat (blue)
As part of set-up, you assign a certain number of hit-points to the location and to your heroes, and deal out enemies at random until the “threat” of enemies at the location and in front of each player hits the required level.
Each round, one player is the “active” or “defending” player- all players will attempt to attack the monsters in front of them, then any surviving monsters will strike back, damaging the active player and the location (monsters in front of other players are inactive at this time).
What do we do? We Fight!
Every round each player can play a hero from their hand, equip them with an item, and attack some monsters – by default this will be the “active monster group” (the one in front of the defending player), but once they have been eliminated you can find monsters at the location, as well as using card-powers to manipulate these restrictions.
Heroes in Battle for Greyport are either Physical (Red) or Magic (Blue), and you can only equip an item of matching colour to a character. Typically weaker characters and equipment will deal 1 or 2 points of damage, whilst more powerful, upgraded cards will either offer higher numbers, or the chance to roll dice for randomised, but hopefully higher damage. The dice themselves come in 3 colours from the weaker Yellow, through the normal White, to the mighty Green (4-5-6-6-7-8) – it’s rare that you’ll want to turn down the chance for a Green dice.
This is about the full range of keywords, and with only a few cards being played each turn, it’s nice and easy to keep track of them.
Many Heroes and Items will modify combat with Keywords, such as “Cleave” (attack 2 monsters at once) or “Splash” (damage the other heroes in this group who you are not fighting) – and careful balancing of the right abilities, items and heroes is crucial to doing well in the Battle for Greyport.
It’s worth noting that only the defending player gets to re-fill their hand at the end of the round, meaning that whilst they should always go all-out to do as much damage as they can, other players may need to take a slightly more considered approach, especially in large player-count games, where they could run out of cards altogether by their turn if they start off too aggressively.
Monsters fight back in a far more simple fashion – doing the amount of damage indicated in the top left of their card to the defending player or to the location – although they still come with keywords to make life difficult for you. However you do it, you need to take monsters down quickly, as the death of a single hero spells defeat for all players.
Hey you! Over Here!
A crucial element of Battle for Greyport is use of the “Taunt” mechanic – taunting an enemy allows you to move it from the location or from in front of another player to in front of you – this allows players to take the heat off of someone who might be struggling, or simply to stop the location from going up in flames. Removing the last monster from the location typically triggers an instant benefit for everyone, whereas the location losing its last hit-point will deal a penalty to each player.
The Defending player can flip the first player token once per round to Taunt an enemy, but really you want to be leading enemies away from the defending player (and ideally back again later). Taunt abilities are quite limited on cards that players can upgrade to, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to rely on this strategy every game, but it’s worth watching out for.
About that Deck-Building…
As I said at the start, Battle for Greyport is a deck-builder and, like any deck-builder, you’ll start with a hand of basic cards, doing your best to add better ones as the rounds go on.
There are a spread of cards with retire effects – some are less controlled than others
Battle for Greyport isn’t like Dominion where you add dozens of cards to your deck, and you need to think carefully about each card you buy, as well as making full use of any option to “retire” a weaker card.
The advantage of having such limited deck-building opportunities is that it really ups the excitement of any acquired card, simply because having something a bit better can feel like such a rarity – I also really like the way that cards you acquire in Battle for Greyport go into your hand, (rather than into your discard pile as with many deck-builders) as this means that you can more-or-less guarantee seeing your card soon enough to make use of it.
Behold! the might Greens!
Extra cards are acquired from “the reserves” – 4 face-up items, and 4 face-up heroes from a randomised deck (5 if you’ve successfully rescued the market). The need to match classes of cards, along with the limited money you have to spend (generally no more than 3 or 4 coins per encounter, starting with mostly Copper in a first Encounter, and progressing via Silver to more and more Gold as you go along) can really limit your options, and you need to prepare for some frustration with what’s on offer (or what comes out immediately after you buy something worse!) Overall, though I found that this set-up really grew on me: it definitely had the potential to be annoying, as you can’t pick a favoured strategy ahead of time, and have confidence that the necessary cards will come up, but actually the system forces you to make more interesting decisions, and adapt to what gets revealed.
Who am I? the Hero!
One thing I really like about Battle for Greyport is the degree of importance that your player-character has. Each time you reset your hand you re-draw to 5 cards, then add your player-hero, meaning that you can use them repeatedly – every-other turn in a 2-player game. As you move from Encounter to Encounter, you get to level up your hero, drawing a more powerful version in each stage, with upgraded abilities, but the abilities are also very thematic, tying in to the class of the hero themselves.
The downside of having the Heroes being so powerful is that, at least to begin with, the incentive to use any of the generic heroes who start in your deck can be fairly limited, other than to pass the time until you can re-fill your hand – however, this can change if you manage to acquire any of the cards that allow you to play an extra hero, to start piling on the damage.
Like the Ale – It’s all about the flavour
Although there are definitely some interesting, and surprisingly strategic, decisions to be made in Battle for Greyport, for me the best thing about the game was the theme: heroes, items and enemies all come dripping with flavour – my favourite were the chaotic goblins, but each of the groups has their own aspect.
The mechanics of Battle for Greyport are solid, perhaps more so than you might expect with such a tongue-in-cheek presentation, but I’m not sure the incentive to sit down and puzzle over the order in which you play things would really be there without getting at least slightly invested in the theme – each scenario starts with a brief narrative introduction and, between that and the encounter titles, there’s definitely plenty of scope for you to expand on the story-telling side of things.
Given how light and jovial the art in Battle for Greyport is, I think the non-errata-ed version of the first scenario runs a real danger of scaring people off before they even get started. As I mentioned before, there is an errata-ed version that you can find on the Slugfest website, which will let you stay alive long enough to master some of the key concepts and strategies of the game before you run into the really nasty stuff.
Battle for Greyport: Final Thoughts
Overall I thought Battle for Greyport was a fun game: the art is nice and fits with the world that the designers have created and, even without any particular attachment to these characters from playing Red Dragon Inn, I was able to enjoy the setting.
There are plenty of pre-set scenarios which gives the game a good amount of replay-ability, and you can easily mix-and-match locations or monster sets for a truly vast number of combinations (beaten everything? why try replacing those goblins with dragons and going again!)
Personally, I would have liked it if even more could have been made of the theme – the scenario cards have generic backs which could easily have held a bit of extra flavour text, just to develop the narrative, but ultimately this is something you can provide yourself if you really feel the need.
Out of the box, I think the biggest problem with Battle for Greyport is the punishing difficulty, which doesn’t sit very well with the light and jovial world of the Red Dragon Inn – this is a setting where you want to be boasting about your exploits, rather than fleeing for your lives! Once you get the update though, most of the time you’ll have real decisions to make, and a game where victory and defeat can come down to the narrowest of margins.
Overall I’d rate this 8/10 – provided you get the update to the introductory scenario and rules. Fun, nice to look at, and plenty of replay value.
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.