Last in my Halloween-themed reviews this month is the latest Asmodee offering, Gosu (short for "Goblin Supremacy.") Designed by Kim Sato, it's a damned cool little card-based battling game of building up big goblin armies, then blowing them up real good.
In Gosu, players are vying to have the largest strength army of Goblins at the end of each turn. They do this by playing them from their opening hand of seven cards into a formation (5 columns, 3 levels) based on levels and colors. Their opponent is doing the same, attempting to also grow their goblin army in strength. At the end of each round--determined when both players have passed for the round--the values of the armies are totaled, and the winner gets a victory point. Then, in an interesting twist, the players start a new round, keeping their existing cards in play, but do not automatically get any new cards. The first player to earn three victory points wins the game.
Although you don't get any fresh cards between rounds, several cards will grant you the ability to draw, either by "comes into play" effects or by using activation tokens. You only have two activation tokens for a round, and once they're spent, you don't get them back until the beginning of the next round. Some cards let you retrieve activation tokens, but those seem to be fairly rare.
To build your army, you have to start with Level 1 goblins. The very first card you play to your first row is free. Then, if you play another level 1 of the same clan (color), that card is also free. Otherwise, to play a level 1 card of a clan you don't already have in play, you must first discard two cards.
You're trying to build up to the higher strength goblins. Level 2 goblins require a level 1 to already be in play of the same clan. Ditto level 3, but you must have both a level 1 and level 2 of that clan in play first. Last of all, each higher level row cannot exceed the number of cards in the level below it--to play a third level 2 card, you must have at least 3 level 1 cards below.
There is another way to get higher level goblins into play is by mutation. Some cards have a mutate cost, meaning you discard that many cards and then replace that goblin with one of the same level from your hand. This can be useful for bypassing the requirement of having certain clans in play first, or if one of your rows is already full and you'd like to get the benefits of getting a certain goblin in play.
All level 1 goblins are strength 2, all level 2 are strength 3, and level 3 are strength 5, making counting up the value of each army a snap.
It wouldn't be a game of goblins without treachery and sabotage. Some goblins have the ability, either through "comes into play" or activation effects, to destroy opposing cards. You spend each round building up your army, using your special powers, and trying to get more cards, a bigger army, all while tearing your opponent's down whenever possible.
The game is basically a deck of cards and a few tokens. The cards are all on high-quality, CCG level stock, and the victory point and activation tokens are all on sturdy, thick cardboard.
The illustrations are all extremely well done, and the artwork is really nice. It will definitely appeal to the fantasy gamer, and many of the cards feature goblins engaging in their own brands of destruction. The clans are handled through the background colors of the cards and are easily distinguishable for the most part, though the white and blue clans do look similar in certain light.
The box itself is not huge, but it is comically large for the actual contents of the game. Unless you get some sort of small deck box, your cards and tokens are all going to just sort of rattle around in there. I actually put the Gosu deck in an Ultra Pro deck box and there was still room for the entire contents of last week's review, House of Spirits. And not just House of Spirits, but seven dice and a small ziplock bag of tiny poker chips too. Yeah.
That small complaint aside, the cards are very nice, well illustrated, and the tokens are on good quality cardboard. No complaints here.
The game is inevitably going to draw comparisons to Magic: The Gathering, mostly due to the illustrations and appearance, along with having the five clans (colors) of goblins. It has that addictive feel that early Magic duels had, with the back and forth exchanges, as well as that feeling of exploring the deck of cards, stumbling onto cool combos, and finding out new things about the system.
Each clan of goblins has their own feel, and from the start you'd be wise to develop a gameplan based on what you're dealt. You may have an awesome level 3 black goblin in your hand, but no level 1s or 2s...is it worth the work (and wait) to figure out how to get him into play? Will you focus on one color, or spread out amongst several colors at the cost of extra discards?
Then there are your activation tokens. You have to use them wisely. Will you do the brute force 2 tokens for 3 cards, and focus on Goblins with "comes into play" abilities? Or will you save those precious tokens and focus on goblins with activated abilities?
And then there's your opponent to consider, of course. There's plenty of interaction to be had, with being able to destroy, trap, or otherwise screw with your opponent's ability to play cards. You may find a way to destroy a key level 2 goblin, preventing that powerful level 3 goblin from making an appearance in time.
The amount of resources you have is very tight, and you'll no doubt have the same reaction when you first play..."these seven cards are all I get?" Yep. It's up to you to figure out how to maximize them, and more importantly, how to get more. The game won't spoonfeed you, and your opponent will be all too happy to rain hot goblin death all over your best laid plans.
Gosu has all the makings of being "the next big thing." It plays quickly, is attractively produced, has a cool theme and features a lot of back and forth gameplay. Although the rules may seem complex at first, they will eventually flow very smoothly. If you've had any experience at all with any of the various CCGs out there, then you will feel right at home with this--minus the nasty collectible bit taking a chunk out of your wallet. Definite thumbs up.
* Great quality cards and artwork
* Affordably priced
* Fast gameplay
* High amount of interaction
* Plenty of cards in the deck, with lots of different powers to use and explore--meaning huge amounts of replay
* Box is large enough to fit three copies of the game in
* My wife beating my ass at this game, in embarassing fashion
5.0 (out of 5.0)