Publisher: Steamforged Games
Player Count: 2-8 Players
Solo mode: No
Game Length: 60-120 Minutes
Dear board game gods, I beseech of you to bequeath upon me a hex movement, skirmish game with dice resolution in battles that is light and easy yet full of deep strategy. O that you would answer my prayer and bring joy to my heart and my table…
Have you ever had a strong positive and negative reaction to something at the same time? It makes you feel like your head is not right as two conflicting emotions crash into one another: love and hate. Well, that’s today’s game: Godtear. Spoiler: we love this game and recommend it, but we’re going to be harsh on the way they sell it.
Godtear is a hex-movement skirmish game that resolves battles with special abilities and dice. In Godtear you will be controlling war bands, each being made up of a mighty champion and their followers, seeking the glory of gaining power from the godtears that have fallen. In a time when all worshippers of the gods have ceased their devotion, a few champions seek to resurrect the pantheon by absorbing the power of the crystals that are the carcasses of the gods who once ruled the realm. Now they battle for control of those godtears in the ruins of the countryside where they have fallen and begun corrupting the earth. You’ll be moving your champions and their followers around the board trying to gain points through either vanquishing your foes or claiming control of the hexes from which the godtear’s energies spill out to empower you. You win the war by being the first to gain 5 points, with points being awarded at the end of each round based on who has most turned the battle (round) in their favor. This game is so much fun because it’s a mechanically light, yet strategy-rich skirmish game with interesting asymmetry and combinations that ensure you’re never playing the same game twice, and you’re always calculating and maneuvering for tactical advantage.
Lay out the board. Select one of six possible scenarios. Set the godtear objective hexes where they go for the scenario. Choose your war bands—there are four classes of war bands with many options in each class, and you can mix and match at your pleasure. You may choose to face one another with as few as one and as many as four separate war bands each, but the “standard” game (so says the rules) is three war bands versus three war bands. Place your models into the start hexes for your side. Done.
Each game is going to have 3 to 5 rounds, and if you win the round, you get the point(s) for the round. The first round is worth 1 point. Round 2: 2 points. Round 3: 3 points. Round 4: 2 points. Round 5: 1 point. If a player ever has 5 points at the end of a round, the game is over (so at the end of the 5th round, someone will always have 5 points.)
During the round, you’ll be moving markers back and forth based on the accomplishments of knocking out your enemies and claiming objective hexes so that you control the godtears. It looks like a sort of tug of war as you each move the marker back and forth. At the end of the round, whoever has managed to pull the marker to their side will get the points for the round.
The rounds break into 2 phases: 1) the Plot Phase and 2) the Clash Phase.
During the Plot Phase, beginning with the starting player, you will be able to take two actions with your champion and two actions with your followers. Possible actions will include: advancing (moving) according to their speed; using a skill—every champion and followers have unique skills, which makes for amazing combinations and replayability; claiming an objective hex and placing your banner if your hero is next to the godtears; rallying—clearing a champion’s wounds if they were defeated; recruiting—bringing more follower models back onto the battlefield if any have been defeated.
You choose either your champion or followers and take two actions, and then take two actions with the others. If you’re playing with multiple war bands, you keep taking actions until you’ve taken actions with every champion and set of followers. Then it will be the other player’s turn to do the same. Then you move to the Clash Phase.
During the Clash Phase, the Skills will likely have changed somewhat and champions cannot claim objective hexes during this phase. Other than that, the options remain the same, except now the turn is going back and forth: you choose one champion or set of followers to take two actions with, then the other player gets to choose one champion or set of followers—and back and forth the turn goes until both players have taken actions with all their champions and followers. Then you’ll check to see who has moved the round marker to their side, and they take the points for the round.
Once someone has 5 points at the end of a round, they win the game.
This is a two-player game (according to rules, though I could see some possibilities for a house-ruled team variant).
LENGTH OF GAME
Once you learn the game, I would say that it’s going to take anywhere from 30 minutes—maybe even a little less—to a little over an hour; mostly depending on the number of war bands you are playing with. Our first game had some bumps in the road with learning (that I will address in a later section) that caused it to run well over 2 hours. But once we got it, I don’t know that any of our games made 90 minutes at any number of war bands.
COMPONENTS (AND GODTEAR’S “UNIQUE” MARKETING STRATEGY)
The artwork is fine. It’s pretty generically blah on the board, but not ugly. The miniatures are grade A and look great on the table and really create the atmosphere of the great battle to control the godtears. The game looks and feels nice, and I really don’t have much to say in the way of criticism of the production. It’s really, truly well done.
The dashboards are pretty flimsy and could’ve been made out of cardboard, instead of card stock. You’ll probably want to just laminate them for long-term protection and playability (although the dashboards are completely unnecessary once you understand the game).
But I have a bone to pick with Steamforged about how you obtain components.
First of all, even though the sculpts are all unique and distinct, since multiple war bands are the same color (only 4 colors for the 4 classes) you are not going to be able to tell some of them apart easily. It’s hard to remember who is on your team and who isn’t when you’ve only got 10 players—hence skins vs. shirts in basketball. When you’ve potentially got 30 or more players on the court—or in this case battlefield—it is chaos! You need a way to distinguish between the two sides of the conflict. Now conveniently, for another $20, you can buy base rings in black and white from Steamforged to make that distinction. You know: they don’t all fit quite right, some of the bases won’t take base rings, and despite the rules saying you could each play with up to 4 war bands and that $20 only buys you enough for each side to play with 3 war bands, they’re great (Sarcasm sarcasm.) But THEY SHOULD COME WITH THE BLOODY BASE GAME. The base rings should be included in the game and expansions, not something you buy separately. Unacceptable, guys. You’re not breaking the bank. Raise the price a little on the game if you have to and send the base rings with the game. If you say that the “standard” game is 3 war bands vs. 3 war bands in the rules (which you do), then that’s what you need to sell as a base. Otherwise, it’s not “standard.” You guys don’t seem to know how English words work.
Second, this lack of knowledge of English comes out in the rules in that the “Unit” vs “model” language is confusing at times in the rulebook, among other issues. This caused certain parts of the rules to be a little hard to figure out, which is why our first game took so long even with 1 vs. 1. Their play-through on Youtube is the only thing that helped us figure it out. Everything you need to know in the rules, but it could be worded far more clearly, and certain clarifications could be included multiple times on different pages. Especially in their cheat sheet, that we just wound up enhancing ourselves.
Furthermore, each war band should come with its own dashboard. There are 3 dashboards in the base game, but only two war bands. There either needs to be the ability to order more dashboards separately or 4 base war bands and dashboards need to come in one box. Another solution would be to include a dashboard with each expansion pack. The rules allow for each player to have up to four war bands and yet my understanding is that if you buy both base games you would only receive a maximum of six dashboards. There is no availability to buy extra dashboards that I’ve seen. I feel the company could have spent a little bit more on better dashboards and offered the maximum amount of dashboards you were allowed to play with without drastically changing the price, ensuring that people stayed hooked into the game instead of needing to find their own workarounds. It’s a little annoyance, but it’s the kind of thing that can turn someone off a game—especially since the game is trying to target newcomers to the genre.
IN THEIR DEFENSE…EXPANSIONS
Now you should know, that while this game is well balanced when you’re using multiple war bands that compliment one another, 1 war band vs. 1 war band may be pretty lopsided. For example, Kailinn’s war band is only really balanced if played against Helena, but in our plays, Kailinn was pretty outmatched 1 on 1 against others. Once you each start using multiple war bands, the different classes complement one another quite well, even if you’re only combining 2 classes, and especially once you start using 3 or all 4 classes together, regardless of which individual war bands you choose.
We like that the game has suggestions for gamers new to tabletop games or just new to Godtear, and the rules have suggestions for more advanced play after you master just playing one war band vs. one war band. And we have to admit, just trusting their pricing—because let’s face it: if you know anything about the board game scene, profit margins are razor-thin, so prices generally are normally pretty reasonable once you factor in design time and production, even if the price seems high at first—breaking the game down into something you can buy a little at a time makes the entrance fee to this game a lot lower. The starter packs seem to sell for around $55 and come with 2 war bands for 1 vs. 1 play, a board, the instructions, and 3 dashboards. Why the starter box comes with 3 dashboards doesn’t make any sense, but we digress. Each expansion (an expansion is essentially just one war band) is about $33. On the Steamforged website, they have some deals such as both starter sets and 5 expansion packs for $130; or both starter sets and 11 expansions for $350.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?
The game is simple, elegant, and well-designed. But the marketing decisions are confusing—they are trying to force people to buy more stuff, and that makes me want to rebel and not buy any of their stuff.
But, let’s just say that though they sent us this for review for free, they got us to buy more from them. And we’d like to get even more because it’s just so fun! Argh! Stupid materialism. So, they should have sold a complete package. But, we willingly spent the money to buy the complete package and more because it’s such a great game, so do with that what you will. Needless to say, despite my conflict about their sales tactics: we LOVE this game!
It’s funny, I was talking with my wife about looking for a game that was a little easier to teach, but still needed a lot of tactical strategic thinking; a game that resolved battles with dice, but had enough mitigation or low enough impact from each dice roll that it was still really strategic and engaging. What should drop into my lap but Godtear! This is exactly the game I was thinking and dreaming about. The board game gods heard the desires of my heart and dropped the game I was wanting but had never heard of right in my lap. The fact that I was dreaming of: a skirmish game with hex movement and dice resolution, that was light to teach while still high on strategy, with moderate to low influence of luck—means that this coming to me at this exact moment may have exaggerated how much I like this game, but make no mistake: this game will NEVER leave our collection. It’s super fun. My wife who doesn’t normally like war and skirmish games even loves it. Because it’s playable in an hour or less, it’s also a game that we’re liable to wear out from how often it is getting played.
Steamforged Games, I love you and I hate you. (We have an unhealthy relationship now.) I’m mad at you for how you market this! Now, shut up and take my money so I can have more war bands!
Overall Score 9.2/10
As an easy game to teach with lots of strategy 10/10
As the game I was looking for at the time 11/10