Game Length: 40-60 minutes
Every child and teen of the 90s should recognize the greatness that is Gargoyles, an exceptionally well-written, well-designed, action-adventure animated series involving time-displaced humanoid gargoyles. The series ran for over 60 episodes in the mid 90s, and was the perfect evolution of 80s hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with less attitude and more compelling characters, intertwined subplots, and killer voice acting.
Disney Gargoyles: Awakening is a new board game adaptation from Ravensburger, transforming the beloved animated series into a cooperative arena-battler as the heroic gargoyles (and Eliza) battle villains from the series in four different scenarios.
Stone by Day
Awakening includes six playable characters (five gargoyles plus policewoman Eliza) and four scenarios, along with a grid board representing a slice of Manhattan. To showcase the gargoyles’ signature ability to glide, the board also includes five 3D buildings that must be assembled from multiple cardboard slots.
Having a 3D board with tall buildings is a neat touch and appropriate to the series, but they don’t interrupt line of sight or adjacency for combat, and the somewhat flimsy pieces are a pain to assemble. The game box is the standard size for Ravensburger games, meaning we have to disassemble all of the buildings in order to fit the game back in the box, a horrendously arduous set-up time for a family game.
The gargoyle minis, placards, and personal decks are all awesome features. Each hero placard is extra large, and includes that hero’s health bar, as well as their number of actions, attack dice, movement, and any special abilities and skills. Each hero has different strengths; Broadway can heal, Brooklyn is good at moving, while Eliza can’t fly, but more than makes up for it with a useful range attack.
Villains don’t get quite the same amount of love, however. The informative scenario placards are a nice touch, but poor Demona and Xanatos only get standees, while their minions are represented by lame flat tokens.
Awakening is an arena-battling game similar to the Funkoverse strategy games, with heroes and villains taking turns moving and attacking, and trying to complete certain objectives. Cards add some strategic depth to each hero’s turn, as players can choose to play cards from their hand for extra effects, such as increasing their attack, moving villains, or retaliating against enemies.
Warriors by Night
After every player has chosen their hero and shuffled their personal deck of cards, we can pick one of four scenarios. These scenarios are based on episodes of the TV series, and feature one (or both) of our signature villains employing a dastardly scheme, such as Demona using the Grimorum Arcanorum to cast spells and enslave gargoyles, or Xanatos attacking Manhattan with his robot gargoyle army.
The scenario variety is the best part of the game. “Reawakening” is the weakest scenario, and designed for starting players, resulting in a simple skirmish between both villains and our heroes. The other three all involve interesting twists and extra objectives. With “Information and Magic,” our heroes must first deal with the enslaved gargoyle minion, who can only be attacked after hitting Demona and causing her to drop the book, then by attacking the enslaved and rolling energy, all while Demona flies around casting damaging spells and moving people around.
“Information Warfare” is my favorite scenario, as the heroes must move three data disks (represented by floppy disk tokens!) to the clock tower before Xanatos can capture them, resulting in a lot of interesting tactical decisions and movement. The final scenario, “Battle with the Steel Clan,” is actually player versus players, as one of the players controls Xanatos, with the ability to play a villain card rather than drawing form the deck, and selecting where he and his minions move and attack. Thanks to the wildly unbalanced combat, this scenario can be particularly brutal for the heroes. It also doesn’t help that none of the scenarios balance for the number of players, with fewer players having far fewer tactical options and collective hit points.
Combat is entirely dice-based. When someone attacks, they roll dice equal to their strength rating, typically two to three dice. A hit is represented by rolling a claw, which appears 50% of the time, while an energy symbol (1/6) can trigger special abilities and effects. The entire game is thus very swingy, as a single hit from a villain or minion could do significant damage, and gargoyles have anywhere from six to nine health.
Except for Broadway’s cards and abilities, the only way to heal is to wait until Daytime, when enough villain cards have been played and the gargoyles refresh their decks and heal. If one gargoyle goes down, it’s game over; I played several games where we lost in the first round or two due to some unlucky rolls, and it felt really dumb and unsatisfying.
Disney Gargoyles: Awakening has a recommended age range of 10+. Every turn requires some strategic planning on where to move, whom to attack, and which cards to play, as well as how to tackle any objectives the scenario throws at you. Players are encouraged to work together, with special abilities and skill tokens usable on any active player.
The rules can be frustratingly vague and unintuitive at times, such as counting building spaces when gliding, adjacency between elevations, and removing villain cards from defeated villains. And the purely dice-based combat can be hilariously frustrating when it goes poorly. But when everything clicks, Disney Gargoyles: Awakening is an awesome way to showcase and explore one of the best animated series from my childhood, and share the magic with my own kids.
Find Disney Gargoyles: Awakening at Target.