Lillet Blan is a young witch who has just been accepted to a school for the magically inclined. From day one, things don't go the way Lillet would have hoped; only five days into her first semester an Archmage who was imprisoned in the school is released. Just as Lillet is about to meet her end by the Archmage's hand, she blacks out only to awake five days in the past. With the events of the next five days fresh in her mind, Lillet decides to change the future.
Although the game's story borrows heavily from a particular book involving a certain wizard at school with other wizards, Grim Grimoire offers several unique twists, not only in the story, but in its approach to how real-time strategy games are played. Although that other wizard takes a hands-on approach when it comes to battling evil, Lillet instead chooses to stand back and let others do things for her. However, this doesn't make her job any easier or less dangerous.
The first, and most noticeable, twist Grim Grimoire takes is that rather than presenting everything from a top-down view, the game is played from a side-scrolling view. Levels feature multiple floors connected by winding staircases. If you can picture fighting on Hogwart's staircase, you should have a pretty good idea of how things look. Levels are comfortably large and require just as much scrolling as top-down maps, though it is a little tricky in Grim Grimoire since there isn't a super-effective way to scroll around levels - or at least quickly get to a particular spot.
Scattered on each floor are crystals that act as your main resource type. Before you can harvest crystals, you first need to train workers who will then construct a structure around the crystals so they can begin harvesting. Each type of magic has its own structure and worker type, and workers of one type can't harvest from another structure - so imps can't harvest from the same spot as elves. It is a different approach to resource collection and, at least for me, was something that took a little adjustment. It simply requires a little more planning, though it is certainly doable. As the game progresses, micromanagement like this becomes even more important and prominent, so the earlier you get your mind wrapped around the concept, the better.
Once your economy is running, you can then cast spells from your spell books, called a Grimoire, or from runes. Runes act like a barracks from summoning monsters to do battle. Each magic type has its own summons that have their own special abilities, advantages and uses in battles. Workers collect resources but have other uses as well; elves can also summon turrets while ghosts are immune to physical attack and can pass through floors. Other units can fly, heal or do massive damage. As you move up the tiers, summons get bigger and more expensive. Like the types of magic, summons share a "Rock-Paper-Scissors" relationship, giving each type its own counter, adding more depth and a few more decisions.
Battles are largely about nabbing more resources than your opponent since most of the time you are both after the same limited resources. You have to make sure you have a sizeable defense force that can patrol between resource points and quickly respond to attacks.