Guardians of Graxia is an innovative strategy card game that offers a detailed tactical challenge on a battle map, combined with the random element of card draws. The strategy is quite deep and not immediately obvious. You can't expect to jump in and play it well without first learning how the game works. Once you understand the mechanics though, it's easy enough to play, but not so easy to win! This is a hard game, which might put some people off, but for those that love a hard challenge, it can be very rewarding.
I must admit, when I read the other reviews, I was shocked to see so many negative comments, which is why I felt compelled to add this review of my own. Looking at those reviews, I noticed that many of them were by people who haven't put many hours into the game. Since it takes quite a while to master, I suspect that a lot of the negativity came from not playing it long enough to figure out the best strategies.
I'd like to address some of the points made in other reviews:
Overly complicated - Yes, it seems that way at first, there is a bit of a learning curve involved, but it's not that hard once you get used to it. The in-game help tells you all you need to know, you just need to take the trouble to read it. As for "ridiculously complicated" units with many different abilities, that's a good thing. It creates a lot of variety in the game, making the strategy more complex and interesting.
Trouble Man said that the game doesn't explain the number crunching, but it does. When in battle, there's a small arrow underneath Projected Health. Click this and it shows you the Damage Calculations. All the modifiers are listed to help you understand exactly what's going on in the battle.
Luck not Strategy - Not true! Sure, there's a lot of luck in which cards you draw, but hey, it's a card game, that's kind of the whole point! But once you've drawn your cards, what you do with them is pure strategy. There's nothing random in the combat calculations, it depends entirely on which cards are played. Of course, you don't know what cards the computer will play during the battles, but that's not luck, it's making strategic choices based on the cards it has available.
Just as the computer can ruin your attack by playing a powerful card, you can do exactly the same if you have one. Choosing which cards to play and which to save until later is a big part of the strategy. Tip: make feint attacks with unimportant units to force the computer to waste valuable cards, then make your important attacks with your best cards later, once the computer is out of good cards to defend with.
Another important aspect of the strategy are terrain effects and unit special abilities. Place units on tiles they gain an advantage on, not on ones that give them a disadvantage. Surround enemy units to gain support advantages. Capture many tiles quickly to increase your mana generation. There's loads of strategic possibilities on the battlefield.
Hard AI, scenarios stacked against you - This is true. It's not an easy game, but if it were then it wouldn't be much of a challenge. It's a pity there aren't more easy scenarios or different difficulty levels to make it easier for new players, but that's just the way it is. It may seem daunting at first, but it gets easier once you figure out the best strategies. People often criticise the AI for being too easy in many games, so it makes a nice change that this AI offers a hard challenge. If that scares you, then don't buy it, but if you love a hard strategical challenge, this may be for you.
Turn limits - Some people don't like this, but again, it's all part of the challenge. If you had unlimited turns it would make the game too easy. You'd just grab most of the tiles, get most of the mana and simply out-produce the AI. Besides, many people complain about the slow turns, so do you really want the game to go on for even longer?
Slow Turns - True, this can be annoying. I wish there were a way of speeding them up. But it's not the end of the world. You can always watch TV or do something else while the AI is taking its turn, or check your Facebook page, or whatever...
Story? What story? This is a strategy game! Who cares about story! :-)
Some reviewers compared the game to Magic the Gathering. Why? Because it's a fantasy game and it has cards? As I see it, this game is nothing like MtG, the game mechanics are completely different. IMO, this is more of a turn based strategy game than a card game. If MtG is what you are expecting, think again.
Saint Killjoy said "don't ignore the bad reviews, they were given for a reason" - That sounds fair enough, but I suspect that the two main reasons for the bad reviews are:
1. Having the wrong expectations about the game - perhaps thinking it will be like MtG, or thinking it will be easy because it's a card game. Don't buy it based on what you think or hope it will be like, buy it based on what it is. Check out some YouTube videos first.
2. Not playing it for long enough to figure out the best strategies. Yes it's hard, but you shouldn't give up too easily or pass judgement too soon. Good strategy games often take a long time to master.
My advice would be this: Make up your own mind about this game based on the kind of games that YOU like to play, not on the opinions of others who often have different tastes in games.
I'm not saying that everyone should like and buy this game. I'm sure that there are many people who would hate it. But for those that enjoy challenging turn based strategy against a hard AI, with some card based randomness thrown in, I highly recommend it. Just be sure that you know what you're letting yourself in for.
For the current sale price, it's a no brainer IMO. And even if you don't like it, you won't have lost much. But if you do buy it, make sure to buy both DLCs as well. There are only 9 maps in the base game. The DLCs add another 16 maps (some of which generate random terrain) and two more guardians, providing a lot more replayability.
To sum up:
Challenging and deep turn based strategy.
Huge variety of special abilities.
Card based randomness ensures that every game is different.
Battles are quite hard.
Gameplay seems a bit complex at first.
It takes a while to figure out the best strategies.
Slow AI turns.
Battles are quite hard.