A tight Grip
The invention of in-hand games is probably one of the best things that's ever happened to solo gaming. You can take your game with you wherever you are without suffering the awkwardness of passers-by checking out the components on the table. Ever since Palm Island set the example, several others followed, mainly in the PnP category. It is one of those that I'll be talking about today, and I'm glad to report it is a good one.
When our newshound Zerbique mentioned Galdor's Grip in one of his Fresh posts, I was immediately attracted to the artwork. It was right when Midjourney had started gaining an audience but it wasn't such a common sight as to be recognized at a glance. So I was at first starstruck by the game's beauty, and then slightly disillusioned that the images weren't made 'by hand'. I don't mind anymore though; the AI is a useful and cheap tool, and Gregg Jewell did a great job creating these '70s-inspired fantasy landscapes.
I've only played it a few times now, so this is a first impressions post. I printed out the core game cards first, but soon realized that the expansion packs are indispensable. Yes, the base game can be played over and over but, because it's 18 cards, it needs some variety after a while. Deck construction is very easy, and you can choose to either substitute one expansion pack for another, or mix them up and have a randomized deck every time.
What you are doing in Galdor's Grip is fairly simple: your goal is to reveal the four binding stones and make sure you have gained 9 power (stars) to win. Each card has a number value, and sometimes an alternative value if you turn it upside down. You will go through the deck several times, revealing cards and trying to manipulate their position in order to gain stars. Figment of Feragot cards will make you lose if you stumble upon them too often.
What you are doing thematically is helping the wizard Galdor fight his enemy Feragot. Feragot is trying to control Galdor's mind so that evil can spread across the land. I prefer to think that I am Galdor himself, fighting the nasty thoughts that Feragot projects onto my brain. I managed to win once with the core game cards but not with the expansions, and I'm eager to try again. The designer has filmed a rules explanation and playthrough video, so check it out if you're interested.
There is no euro-y resource conversion here, nor is there damage dealing to enemies as you would do in a dungeon crawl. It is pure hand management, and re-ordering of the deck in order to get the best combos possible. If that appeals to you, and you love the artwork, print out the files or take them to your local printshop, and get a grip.