Disney’s Gargoyles cartoon was ahead of its time when it launched in 1994, a long-arc narrative serial lost in a landscape filled with one-off episodes built for syndication. The beloved series was ultimately canceled in 1997 — well before its time. But now, thanks to its availability on Disney Plus, it’s back in circulation for a new generation to enjoy. What better time to launch a brand-new, action-packed board game?
Gargoyles: Awakening went on sale at Target in August, and like the original animated series it’s based on, it’s something quite special: a tiny box filled with top-notch fan service, and a solid game to boot.
Gargoyles: Awakening is a combat-focused game that takes its inspiration from some of the show’s best episodes. The real treat in this game is all the physical bits inside the box. There’s a lavish game board, with a Manhattan city scene on one side and monochrome art on the other. There’s also five substantial push-fit cardboard buildings, which give the playspace the same kind of dynamic scale as the animated series. Publisher Ravensburger even went so far as to cast the titular Gargoyles in a textured, color-flecked plastic that looks like no other miniatures in my collection.
The game looks fantastic and, fortunately, the gameplay doesn’t disappoint, either.
Every character at the table has a fixed set of stats and abilities. For instance, leader Goliath is a bit tougher than the other Gargoyles, while little Lexington is a bit faster. But the secret to success comes from a short stack of cards that represent special, thematic moves for each character. Elisa can pop off a volley of shots from her pistol, while every once in a while aging Hudson declares that he’s “too old for this” and goes on a genuine rampage.
The game is playable for two to five players, and given all the combinations possible from having every character present it plays best with all five — even if someone has to handle more than one. That also makes it very easy to quarterback, that is to have one player telling everyone what to do. It’s something to be aware of, especially since it could easily turn off first-time players.
The enemies are cleverly designed. In three of the four included missions (called episodes) adversaries are automated, moving between key sections of the city and popping off shots along the way. There are also objects in several missions that characters must retrieve, and the card-driven AI puts up a decent fight. There’s also a fourth mission where one player acts as a kind of game master, taking control of enemy units on the board. Overall, it’s a well-balanced and exciting game.
The only thing missing, in my opinion, is some of that original voice acting. Gargoyles took some big swings, included taking on big-ticket voice actors like Keith David and Star Trek: The Next Generation stars Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner. What I wouldn’t give to hit a button — maybe somewhere on the big Eyrie Building, naturally — and hear some original lines pulled straight from the cartoon.
If I have any complaints, it’s actually that the rulebook is a bit overwrought. The turn structure of the game, movement, and combat mechanics are all surprisingly easy to learn and quick to teach. With a few seasoned players at the table you should be able to get started with just the character sideboard and the one-sheet quick reference guide that comes bundled inside.
Bottom line is that if your kids have picked up the Gargoyles bug, or if you’ve got a super fan somewhere in your life, then this is an absolute must-buy. But, even if you just remember the show fondly, you’re likely to have a great time.
You can find Gargoyles: Awakening at Target stores nationwide and online.
Gargoyles: Awakening was reviewed with a retail copy of the game provided by Ravensburger. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.