GoSu Reviewed

I bought Gosu after reading many positive reviews on Boardgamegeek. Mistake? Possibly, but the weight of praise heavily outweighed the criticisms so I stumped up the cash.

I was once a heavy Magic the Gathering player and spent a fortune on online, virtual cards feeding my addiction until I decided that Wizards of the Coast’s money-printing scheme was an utter disgrace. After weeks tweaking my amazing, possible World Tournament winning (yes I felt this strongly about it), deny-draw-damage deck, Wizards rotated Kamigawa out of their “standard” format leaving me with a deck I couldn’t enter into competition.

The robbing scuzzmonkeys.

Anyway, Gosu, what do we have in the box?

Cards. 100 of the blighters and they’re extremely pretty. Well, I say pretty, they depict hideous goblins, but they’re brightly coloured without being garish, positively funky in design and there are a mere handful of “doubles”, that is to say, almost each card is unique.

The object is to build an army by placing the goblins in 3 rows of five cards, with each goblin having a different effect. There are five colours of goblins (tribes) and placing more powerful goblins is restricted by your lesser goblins, i.e. you can’t play a green (or Alpha) goblin in the second row without an alpha goblin in the first row, unless you mutate an existing second row goblin. Mutation is the swapping of the existing goblin with one from your hand and must be paid in discarding, as must goblins of a unique colour in the first row.

Does this sound complicated? It’s not really, the rulebook is succinct and to the point with lots of illustrations.

The crux of the game is resource management. Players do not draw cards unless they use one of their two activation tokens to activate a draw ability on one of the goblins or simply pay one token for one card or two for three cards. The incentive for playing an activation token on a card is that Magic-style combos can be achieved through actions triggering special abilities, triggering actions, triggering abilities, trigg…you get the picture. Most cards have an ability, activated either with an activation token or when it comes into play, is mutated, triggered or trapped.

Trapped? What’s that?

Some cards have the ability to trap other cards, meaning it’s flipped over for the remainder of the round, losing its colour and abilities, effectively removing it from your opponent’s forces this round.

Oh my God my head is going to explode!

Shut-up and listen. Once each player has performed all the actions they wish (or are able), the goblin values are added-up and the biggest army gets a victory token. First to 3 tokens wins the game. There are further twists as some cards give advantages to players with the fewest victory tokens, so losing the first round can be a tactical decision.

Like most modern card games the first few games will involve you playing cards without getting the most from the game. Once you begin to realise how the cards interact it opens up a whole new world. Like Race for the Galaxy, success can depend on the building of a mechanism allowing you to draw cards. Without such a mechanism in place, discarding cards to pay for placing goblins is crippling and freeing up your activation tokens to trigger abilities rather than solely draw cards is the key to playing this game well.

Choosing a multitude of colours means you spread yourself a little thinly when it comes to building the second and third rows of your army (especially as level 3 goblins do not mutate) and getting the cards that complement each other into play is difficult. Fighting your opponent for cards of the same colour is debilitating and can hand victory to a third player.

I like this game a lot, there’s a lot to consider with your own plays but also with those of your opponents making it an engrossing experience. My wife won’t play it however: “Goblins? What are all these numbers? Can’t we play Lost Cities?”

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