If you already know who Groo is: rejoice! More artwork! A fun game!
Go buy it!
If you don't know, I don't have space to explain the wonderful
zaniness that is Groo the Wanderer,
star of a long-running comic book of the same name. The comic is
by Sergio Aragonés, winner of the 1997 Reuben award (sort of a
cartoonists' Hall of Fame award). Groo is temporarily on hiatus
now, but there have been over 140 issues over the last dozen years,
so go check out some back issues at a comic store.
Good news to both Groo fans and Groo novices is that this is an
excellent game. While not a collectible card game, there is already
one expansion set, which is also highly recommended.
On the plus side, the artwork is wonderful, the rules simple and
largely clear, the replay value high, most of your favorite Groo
characters are included, there are enough special effects cards
to keep the game exciting, and it's a blast to play - a mix of
skill, luck and a lot of laughs.
On the downside, there is no mention of mulching, a serious omission.
Also missing are Granny Groo, Bunta, and those lizardmen soldiers,
for reasons unknown. And Captain Ahax is typoed as Captain Ajax, but
Sergio might actually pronounce them the same.
The basic set includes 60 cards and seven dice, enough to play with up
to four people. The dice stickers include pictures of Supplies, Labor,
Kopins, Groo, Rufferto, and pointing hands. (Sergio is a very
visual-oriented person, so pictures are used when possible.) The
expansion set includes another 55 cards, which will allow you to play
with up to six people (and makes it a better game regardless of the
number of players. The game plays best with more people, BTW.).
There are six kinds of cards: Groo himself (only one of these, thank
heavens!), Groo Effects, Events, Buildings, Troops, and Wildcards. The
object is to be the first to build a town worth seven victory points
(each building card has a VP value). This is hard because: (1) the
other players may send their armies to destroy your town-in-progress,
and (2) Groo. In the comic books, any town Groo enters suffers some
damage - it's just the poor soul's nature. While not malicious, he's
very stupid and clumsy, and a jinx of the worst nature. So the Groo
card is a hot potatoe (spelling appropriate to Groo's mentality level)
which can wreak havoc to whatever town he visits.
Each player turn has six phases:
Resources are required to bring certain cards out of your hand, shown
on each card. You need Kopins (money) to build a Castle, for example,
but Supplies to bring in The Minstrel (who can double your combat
ability if you speak in rhyme). "Groo Head" resources allow you to
play Groo Effects cards - when these are played, bad things usually
happen to the town where Groo is currently located.
- Discard as many cards as you wish;
- Draw your hand up to five cards;
- Make one attack (optional)
- Roll the dice to determine Groo's movement and your resources, then allot your resources;
- Pass any unused resources to your left - that player uses what he wishes, then passes them to his left, etc.;
- Draw your hand up to five cards, and it's the next player's turn.
Phase five, above, is a wonderful innovation: pity the soul who rolls
six Groo Heads and has Groo move to his town at the same time! You'll
hear the other players gasp in admiration . . .
Most cards have a special effect listed at the bottom. This is very
entertaining and keeps things from being a simple send-Groo-and-stomp
game. The expansion set is very useful even if you don't play with
more than four players: it adds a lot of variety in cards of all types
Combat is very straightforward: pick your attacking troops, the
defender decides which troops will defend, figure any special effect
bonuses, and subtract defense value from offense value. The result is
the value of victory points (shown on buildings) the defender must
lose. All troops which participated in the attack are then discarded.
This simple mechanic allows you to whittle down someone near to
victory, while preventing huge army buildups, the bane of certain other
This game is highly recommended - smooth, fast, fun play with wonderful
artwork - what more do you want? And if your opponent draws a card,
looks at the artwork for a few seconds, and bursts out laughing, you
don't know whether he has the dreaded "Did I Err?" card (which shows a
very embarrassed Groo watching townspeople fleeing from a town being
destroyed by an avalanche he accidentally started) or a harmless card
such as the Butcher, which simply has a very funny picture.
This variant changes how you read the Move Groo die - the one
with Rufferto and pointing hands.
When Groo starts a turn in a town:
When Groo is between the two towns, Groo Effect cards can be played
by either player, to affect your opponent. He stays in between
towns until moved by a card or die result. Thus, on my turn, I
can play Groo Effects cards on your town, and you can play them on
my town during the Leftovers phase, providing there's enough Groo
Heads for both of us.
- if you roll a Rufferto, Groo stays;
- if you roll a Move One, he goes to the other town,
- if you roll a Move Two, he goes to a spot midway between the
When he begins a turn in between towns:
BTW, my close friends who play a lot of two-player Groo
really love it. Their house rule, however, is that it takes 14
points to win in a two-handed game! I'd be tempted to make it 10
- a result of Rufferto means he stays there;
- a Move One means he goes to the town of the person who rolled
- a Move Two means he goes to other town.
NOTE: After I posted this article, r. n. dominick
(email@example.com) responded with a list of answers from the rules
writer to his questions. Here they are:
And I can add to this list, having heard a confirmation from the
- The dealer goes first.
- If you get dealt event cards, you play them when you pick up
your hand. If they say "remove at the beginning of your turn"
your first turn counts. [sos: we have a house rule to reshuffle
them into the deck after drawing replacement cards if dealt Event
cards, but I agree the above is the rule of the game.]
- To win, you have to have seven victory points at the end of your turn,
after the leftover phase, not have seven victory points when you
roll the dice. [sos: This one is actually listed in the rules under
Definition of a Turn.]
- Structure bonuses are cumulative: one residence is worth 1 VP, 2 are
worth 4 VP and 3 are worth 6 VP. The butcher, baker and candlestick
maker are worth 6 VP if you have all three in your town.
- Cards that "remove 1 [resource] result" (labor, kopin, etc.) aren't
covered in the rules at all. It means that when you roll the dice on
your turn, if you roll any of that resource, you lose one of them.
- A card's self-referential special effects take place before
any other special effects which affect it, and then doubling special
effects occur before additive special effects.
Example: (BV = Battle Value) You are attacking with a
- Cavalry troop (BV 1, with a special effect of +1
when attacking), and have
- The Minstrel, (doubles any one unit's BV), and a
- Military Stable (+1 to one troop's BV when attacking).
First you raise the attacking Cavalry to BV 2 because
of its own special effect, then you double it to BV 4
because of The Minstrel, then you raise it to a final
total of BV 5 because of the Military Stable.
Composition of the decks:
Basic Set Expansion Total Different Cards
Groo 1 0 1 1
Event 1 5 6 4
Wild 2 9 11 6
Groo Effects 13 6 19 12
Troop 18 15 33 15
Building 25 20 45 33
Total 60 55 115 71
And this message from Paul Chamberland, who played the game at
I learned at the demo that at the end of a player's turn, ALL
players fill their hand to 5 cards. In the tournament it was ruled
that only the current player draws up to five ...
From reading the
rules, it looks like the tournament interpretation was right. But,
from seeing the game play, the demo was MUCH more fun while the
tournament, using the real rules, was just a race to bring out
I HIGHLY recommend that you play the game with all
players drawing up to five cards at the end of every player's turn.
It will mean more cards will be played during a game, more Groo
cards will be played (which means more fun), and more armies will
be available for attacking.
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