Godtear – Review

A copy of the Godtear starter set Eternal Glade and 5 champion boxes were sent to me for a fair and honest review by Steamforged Games

The world of skirmish games is full of interesting looking titles. Marvel Crisis Protocol feels like the game de jour but there are many others. From the weird world of Moonstone to the gothic streets of Malifaux there is probably a skirmish game out there that you have looked and thought ‘that’s cool’. 

Godtear from Steamforged Games isn’t quite the same as these games but it certainly gives the genre a side-eye on the way to being a boardgame. Designed by David Carl, Alex Hall, and Steve Margeston with art from Thomas Lishman and Doug Telford. Godtear, pronounce that however you will I think both ways work, sees Champions and their minions battle it out for the power from these Godtears. This is basically a nonsense excuse for a good brawl. 

The starter set gives you all you need to get going with Godtear and it is a good introduction to the game. With just one champion and it’s associated minions you can get a good handle on the systems. 

The core of the game revolves around the Battle Ladder at the side of the board. A tug of war will take place here as a point token is pulled back and forth each round by the actions on the battlefield. Kill a minion move a step. Kill a champion move 4 steps. 

A game of Godtear with 3 champions aside. Just in the first plot phase.
The opening moves

This tug of war starts out with small stakes. In the first round only a single point is up for grabs. Then it escalates. 2 points in round 2, then 3 points before tailing off again in rounds 4 and 5 as the game comes to its conclusion. With each side needing 5 points to win this tug of war does two things. 

Firstly it makes the game short if one player is absolutely dominating, as it will take only 3 turns for that player to get 6 points and win the game. In my experience of skirmish style games this is a blessing. Sometimes these games can feel like a trial if you are obviously on the losing side. You play out the turns out of a sense of sportsmanship, or at least I do, but with Godtear you don’t have long to wait before the game will come to a conclusion. 

Secondly it provides focus for your efforts on the battlefield, giving purpose to long term plans. You can prepare for the big rounds where you will surge and try to get the points token for this round firmly on your side. On the other hand it allows you to give on rounds where you don’t have the advantage, knowing that you are building for a big turn where you will demonstrate your superiority. The tug of war over the points token gives shape and momentum to what otherwise might be a chaotic brawl of a game. 

I mentioned that the starter box gives a good feel and introduction to the game, but it is far from the full experience. For that each side needs 3 champions and their followers. You have so many options to choose from that I am sure you can find something that will grab you. The generic nature of the setting means the designers have filled it with all sorts of sets. From a Joan of Arc style character with her peasant followers, to dwarves and their robots you can find all sorts of weird and wonderful characters to take to the battlefield. 

A game in full flow as the factions clash!
A game in full flow. The little green crystal token is a claim.

You’ll have no doubt noticed from my pictures so far that there are different colour of miniatures. Those aren’t just to distinguish the different champions, they also have a mechanical benefit. Each colour has a different way to gain extra steps on the Battle Ladder. Red for defeating champions. Yellow for conquering minions. Green for staking claims, and Blue for keeping them. 

Along with the push and pull of the Battle Ladder, claims give a focus to the fighting. Each game you’ll choose a different scenario, where the objective hexes are spread out differently. They’ll grow, move, and disappear depending on the scenario. These are simple changes that provide a different feel to each fight. 

Champions can make claims on objectives, planting a flag that gives a small pull to the tug of war. If it remains till the end of the turn it gives an even bigger pull. The placement of objective hexes, the staking of claims, and minions not being able to move over those hexes gives the game a lovely edge of tactical positioning and deliberate blocks. It reigns in the temptation to just fight. You need to be in the right place as well, manoeuvring your champions to take down the opponents claims before they get all those sweet Battle Ladder moves. 

The flow of a round is an interesting piece of the Godtear puzzle. First you Plot, moving and positioning for the Clash phase to come. You fire off skills on minions and champions as you prepare to lay into the opposition. Minions will be defeated, champions will fall, but never worry they can always come back at the cost of a little bit of momentum. When to deliver that killing blow to a champion can be a crucial point in the game as you want it to slow your opponent down properly, not just be a speed bump. 

In the Plot phase each side moves everything at once. If you are first this means you have to show your hand and where you want to go. Claims can only be made in this phase, meaning that the first player is vulnerable. Their reward for being so is that they get to go first in the clash as well, as well as getting the points token for this round starting on their side of the Battle Ladder. In the clash you’ll go back and forth, moving, fighting, firing off skills in the hope of scoring the pull you need to land that point token firmly on your side of the Ladder. 

Your minions and champions will act differently in each phase of a round. Thankfully their is no need to scurry to rulebooks or faction books, all their rules are summarised on the cards that come in each box. Once you have the core rules in your head, these cards are all you need to get a quick handle on a faction and what it does. Like any game of this type there are lots of different sets that can bend and break the game in different ways. This gives lots of room for the designers to play with the design space. Even in the small sample of sets I’ve played with, they certainly do that with abandon. 

A clash phase as a champion is taken down.
A champion has fallen!

Although the rules are straightforward they are let down by a rather choppy rulebook. I mentioned minions not being able to move into objective hexes. This rule is pretty important, but it is in the section on champions and not repeated in the part on movement rules. This is just one example where the flow of the rulebook just feels off and I think the game would have benefited from a more rigorous edit. I would also like to see a turn/player summary sheet or similar separate from the back of the rulebook (but I think that about lots of games). 

The broad nature of the combatants means there is little in the way of narrative to your fights. Other skirmish games like Marvel Crisis Protocol have a strong sense of the story happening on the battlefield. Godtear wants you to concentrate on the combination of abilities, and the pure tactical decisions those provide. Not necessarily a criticism, just something to be aware of going in. 

Godtear has lovely miniatures that have a toy like wonder and quality to them. I do not mean that as a criticism. The champions feel bold and threatening, the minions varied and weird. It’s a great product and a lot of fun with loads of options if you really get into it. Any of the starter sets would be a great place to begin, and you would then only need one more set to have a full side of 3 champions. That’s a pretty low entry point in terms of cash as long as you have the community to play it with. 

I’ve really enjoyed my time with Godtear, but I can’t say it has ever really excited me. I would absolutely play more of it if someone suggested it, and if my friends were into it I would pick up some of the sets I like the look of. I want just a bit more narrative from my games, a little more context to the dramatic moments. If you are looking for something more purely tactical, then you might find Godtear to be just the thing. 

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Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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