I don’t play tactical games often, nor do I play deck building games, but something about The Gristmill really stood out to me. Apart from the grimhand drawn graphics, it is a game which is extremely unforgiving when it comes to the health of your team.
In The Gristmill you start out with two decks; one of people to fight for you and another of equipment and special moves. Each level consists of a battlefield with bushes that may contain enemies at various sides. You can place any of your warriors into the circles within the field around your main campfire. This fire is exactly what you are defending. You have a limited amount of moves before the enemy moves, placing people or moving them, as well as adding the bonus equipment cards or drawing cards into your hand will count as moves.
Your goal is to kill any enemies that appear and keep the fire alive, while also watching out for your warriors. You see, at the end of the level, your players will keep the damage that they have taken in the round. If they have died, that’s it. They are dead. If they are harmed, you’ll have the choice to heal a single person by 3 health. You can also repair someone’s armor (up to 3 more points), prepare a unit, which adds them to the top of the deck, or let a unit rest, which will take them out of your deck for that next level.
There are new units that you can convince to help you out, but these are few and far between, meaning that you’ll need to think carefully and decide who exactly is most valuable to you. Many enemies have unknown health, so it’s risky to leave your team by them as they can be attacked over and over. You’ll need to learn about these creatures and about the team you have to keep them together.
At the end of the level you will also be presented with an option of four cards, one of which you can add to your deck — which are mainly equipment or bonuses to your players. This decision allows a bit of deck building as you continue to grow familiar with the cards you have.
The Gristmill has an overarching story that follows your units, as well as an interesting visual style, but this major unique feature of having the limited health really does make the game stick out. Not being able to completely heal your entire team makes the feeling of war more intense, as keeping your team alive is more of a struggle and takes decisions that you need to make.
The Gristmill is developed by a bunch of students with a team name of Several People Inc. They don’t have a website or release date or anywhere to find them, but the above video links to one of their YouTube channels, which is all I’ve got. I took a look at The Gristmill at the GameFest 2019 and every much enjoyed my time with this clever game.