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Godtear Beats the Odds - Review

MB Updated August 21, 2022
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
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Godtear Beats the Odds - Review

Game Information

Game Name
Players
2 - 2
There Will Be Games

One of the best games you aren't playing.

Look, chances are you slept on Steamforged Games’ Godtearjust like I had but I’m here to tell you that we made a mistake. I know that there’s some bad blood from slighted Guildballplayers out there and god knows there’s only an umptyjilliontwo player skirmish games out there now. Yeah, it’s another one of those Kickstarter games laden with bubblegum machine figures and SKUs. And I get it, Godtear came out as the same time as COVID-19 so it wasn’t like you could go check it out at the FLGS, let alone participate in developing any kind of community around it. I’ll also admit that the way this fairly expensive game is packaged with two starter sets (neither of which give you a complete Godtear experience on their own) and then a bunch of expansion packs makes me stressed out and nauseous. Even the title is super cringe and off-putting, more fitting for a Type O Negative-worshipping industrial metal outfit circa 1999 than for a tabletop game today. 

Despite having all of this baggage working against it this head-to-head skirmish game, in which each player picks three champions and their followers to do battle over the titular objective points, is one of the best games in its class. It represents a point where the exchange of ideas between the board gaming world and the miniatures gaming world may have reached an apotheosis.  It’s a brilliant piece of design work that almost feels like a sports game at times, but it also feels more like proper miniatures battle than many other games in its class. More significantly, it’s almost like the design brief here was to deliberately avoid, mitigate, or eliminate the issues, barriers, and hassles that plague miniatures games. It’s supremely easy to set up and knock out a 60–90-minute game and between experienced players you are likely to come out of it feeling like it was a tooth-and-nail fight rather than a game won in the alpha strike with two hours of resolution following.

The format is simple and doesn’t require any kind of list building, codices, or anything like that. You just choose three Champions that you like, and each come with 1 to 4 followers. There are four types of champions – Slayers that excel at killing other Champions, Shapers that get a bonus for claiming objective tiles, Malestroms that especially like to murder followers, and Guardians that want to make sure that their warband’s banner is out on the field. You can mix and match all you want and there’s no lore or canon to restrict anything. They are even color-coded so it’s not necessary to paint them to tell them apart.

With your warband on the field, gameplay proceeds in an unexpected way. The first phase of each of the game’s five rounds is Plotting. During this phase, each player activates each Champion and follower group and does two actions. Part of the activation might include skills printed on each unit’s card. This is the time to maneuver, get into position, claim objectives, put Boons and Blights (buffs and debuffs) out, and set up attacks. Because the second phase is the Clash, and the meter shifts to I-go-you-go with each player activating one unit at a time. Here’s the kicker. Those unit cards? They flip over and have differentskills for the Clash. It’s a really cool structure and it creates a lot of strategic possibilities, combo opportunities, and unexpected depth while also not burdening the game with excessive rules or card text. Each Champion also has a card with an ULTIMATE skill that is a one-shot deal, and they are usually quite impactful

Resolutions are the classic Warhammer-influenced process of rolling to hit and rolling to wound with an armor stat soaking damage. Most followers take one hit and are off the board until their unit makes a Rally action and reinforces. Champions have several hit points and are never eliminated, just KO’d until they do a Rally themselves. I love that no unit is ever just out of the game- I think we’ve all been crestfallen to see a $100 model we’ve painted our guts out on get wiped out in turn 1. That can’t happen here.

 

A65D7766 4E80 4972 9898 A416F1D2D413(Photo stolen from Charlie Theel)

Now, since total destruction isn’t a thing, this is a points-based design and that’s where it starts to feel more like sports than war. Placing a unit’s banner on an objective tile lets you move the round marker one space toward your side of a tracker as does killing a follower. Knocking out a Champion is a 4 space move in your favor. And there are end-of-round bonuses to be earned for keeping your Banners out there to the end of the round, provided enemy Champions didn’t go and knock them down. The score tracker is a differential, so you want to have the score marker on your side at the end of the round and if you do, you win the Victory Points for the round. Here’s another neat trick this game pulls – round 1 is worth only a point, round 2 is worth 2. Round 3 is worth- you guessed it- 3 points. What about round 4 and 5? Nope, you’re wrong. The point values go down. That third round is the one you really, really want to win because it’s the height of the battle, the point around which the rest of the game revolves You see, the goal is to win 5 points. I’ve only had like two games go to round 5 with most culminating in rounds 3 and 4. This game respects your time and doesn’t force you to play out a losing battle. 

Godtear is scenario based but please don’t let that scare you away. The setups are extremely simple- just placing a couple of  Godtear tiles on a hex map. Each of them has a couple of parameters that impact how it all plays out. Some have the player losing the previous round moving, removing, or placing Godtears. Others have limits on the scoring ladder. And the orientation of the Godtears actually has a pretty profound effect on how it all plays out- whether it turns into a more mobile battle, a stand-up fight in the center for a more lane-based conflict with units sort of channeled into one-on-one combat, or one in which either player might decide that there is more profitin just killing the other side rather than fussing with banners at all. 

This is a dynamic game because of all of the above, but the Champions and Followers really elevate it all into something extraordinary. They are all good, they are all balanced. It’s true that some are more situationally effective and some matchups between specific units are tremendously lopsided, but that is all part of what makes this game so compelling. The skills have a wide range of effects from straight combat to buffing or debuffing units. Some have area attacks, some target multiple models, other do weirder and wilder things. Finding synergy between your three selecting Champions and Followers is never less than exciting and working out creative ways to leverage advantages lends a lot of depth. But you are still just looking at six unit cards per phase with virtually zero need to reference the rulebook once you’ve gone through the learning curve.

The rules are decently written but could clearly have used some refinement- the first couple of games are liable to be somewhat shaky, there are a few details that seem counter-intuitive if you are coming in from similar games – like how only one follower model activates to use a skill, not their whole unit or even all of them in a hex. Expect a couple of “hang on, we did that wrong” beats but bear with them and you’ll find that this is a supremely smooth-playing, fascinating game that emphasizes play over rules arguments or excessive process.

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Now, I don’t usually do “buyer’s guide” kinds of commentary, But I think that it is warranted for this game because the way it is marketed is a disaster. If your interest is piqued, I regret to inform you that the starter sets do not give you adequate materials to play the game. If you buy both starter sets, you are still coming up short. Each starter includes two Champion/Follower sets, a board, dice, and a couple of punchboards of tokens. With them, you can play matches with one Champion each. This sucks and gives a terrible first impression of the design. My son and I played two turns of the suggested one-on-one starter game and reset to play with three Champions each as it should be. So the initial outlay here really needs to be to either pick up both starters (which will give you one of each color Champion) and then two of the individually sold Champion boxes. I don’t think it really matters which, just pick the ones you like. From there, my suggestion is to do what I do and trawl eBay for lowball offers around $20 for the others that you want.

Despite it being one of those expensive Kickstarter mill games with tons of plastic and a pile of SKU and regardless of any baggage or misgivings, Godtear is the biggest surprise in games I’ve had for a while. I totally wrote it off and would have had zero interest in it whatsoever if it weren’t for articles and comments written by folks whose opinions I value, like CharileTheel, Raf Cordero, and Vysetron. It’s a supremely solid and lively design that does everything I want miniatures games to do but in a board game format, and it’s doing this better than any other game has to date.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
5.0
Godtear
A game with nothing but strikes against emerges as one of the best games in its genre.
MB
Top 10 Reviewer 137 reviews
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #335077 18 Aug 2022 15:07
Good stuff.
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #335081 18 Aug 2022 16:22
Godtear gets a lot of good grassroots buzz, so much so that it inhabits that B-level minis game tier along with great games like Mantic's Deadzone and FFG's Star Wars Legion that simply get crowded out of popular culture due to the 800 lb. gorilla in the room named WH40K.

A lot of tortured YouTube content creators have become more vocal lately about how GW sucks up all of the algorithm oxygen in the room and making videos about practically any other minis game is doomed to fail with barely 500 views because in social media terms: Only the rich get richer.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #335082 18 Aug 2022 17:16
Your description of the product line is stressing me out thinking about it and trying to get in on it with out outside info.

Looks pretty cool. The description sounds like it's taking from MOBAs a bit here too.
Space Ghost's Avatar
Space Ghost replied the topic: #335093 19 Aug 2022 01:59
I’ve been trying to ignore this for weeks. How does it compare to War Cry? Any need to try it if everything is peachy keen with WC?

Maybe I should stick to Dreamblade…
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #335097 19 Aug 2022 07:48
It's in the vicinity of Warcry and even Dreamblade. It's more abstract than WC but less so than DB.

Warcry has some advantages, however. Better setting and more distinct style, stronger narrative, and an excellent campaign mode. Playing on 3D terrain is its own appeal. Warcry is actually more streamlined too in terms of combat.

But Godtear is faster to get going and requires no commitment. Every single release slots in as a useful expansion.

Is there room for all of these games? Probably not, but I love Godtear and I'm getting back into Warcry anyway with the Heart of Ghur boxset and the new 2.0 rules.

I still play Dreamblade occasionally too. And Warhammer Underworlds. And Unmatched, Gaslands, and Marvel Crisis Protocol. And my favorite skirmish game, Mythic Battles Pantheon.
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #335098 19 Aug 2022 07:49

Space Ghost wrote: Maybe I should stick to Dreamblade…

Now that's a golden oldie!
Too bad it devolved into everyone running the same handful of figs because it fell prey to Magic The Gathering disease (everyone immediately gravitates to the power stuff, leaving 90% of the available stuff behind in the dust.)
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #335100 19 Aug 2022 08:30
Yeah there are definitely some echoes of Dreamblade here - especially how it seems doomed LOL.

To add to what Charlie said, War Cry is very much a GW miniatures game. Godtear ks mich more of a board game, really, despite the figures. I’d almost consider it to be closer to Battlelore and the C&C lineage but with elements of a skirmish miniatures game mixed in

Ease of play is a HUGE advantage. It sets up under 5 minutes. There’s no terrain, you don’t need any books, equipment or accessories other than what is in the box. The minis are colored so you don’t absolutely need to paint them to tell them apart. The rules are brief. It finishes politely and consistently in 60-75 minutes.

I’ve got almost everything for it now, I’m missing a couple of Slayers, one of the Maelstroms, and one Guardian. When the shaper fairy comes out I’m just going to wrap it up. It’s my son’s favorite game so we’re playing a couple of times a week.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #335101 19 Aug 2022 08:35
Ok the MOBA comment Sax made- when I first heard about this game I thought it was a MOBA thing. And it sort of is- especially when the scenario breaks down into lanes and you are sort of looking at a 2 or 3 sector field with champions kind of paired off. But this is not always the case. When objectives get moved around, you find your champion in a lane opposite one that they are disadvantaged against, or if things just get screwy you might be clumping for a center scrum, trying to flank, or just trying to hold ground it’s really dynamic and the lack of terrain never matters. It also does not tend to turn into just a clump of United slugging it out, unless you are playing 1 champion per side and that is highly inadvisable anyway.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #335147 21 Aug 2022 12:59
LOL my son actually gave a a better review than I did after our game last night “this game gives you everything you want and nothing you don’t want”.
Vysetron's Avatar
Vysetron replied the topic: #335163 22 Aug 2022 06:59
That honestly sums it up best. There's just no fat on the design, all of that is saved for the business model. If a friend hadn't sold his stuff off for cheap I absolutely never would have tried this in the first place. Fortunately because of its shaky launch it seems like you can find a lot of stuff on sale if you shop around.

I don't really see the Moba-ness in most scenarios but there are a couple that effectively split into 2-3 conflicts which resemble lanes if you squint. I generally like those best. The default Life scenario pretty much always becomes a huge scrum in the center. Not a bad thing, but a consistent one.
mads b.'s Avatar
mads b. replied the topic: #335167 22 Aug 2022 08:15
How does this compare to WH Underworlds? I've been playing that with the 10yo and I quite like it. But on the other hand the deck building aspect does not interest me that much.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #335168 22 Aug 2022 08:19
I personally think Underworlds, when experienced in it's optimal environment, is a better and more interesting game. But that relies on constant deckbuilding, which is not feasible for most people playing casually (including me).

Godtear, while certainly capable of competitive play, just works so well in the casual setting because there are no factions and no prep work involved.

I do miss the variable/hidden objectives from Underworlds though (and the setting).
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #335174 22 Aug 2022 11:24
The deckbuilding zeroed out my interest in WHU. Also keeping up with releases, sorting through the cards, buying additional card decks and accessories, paying attention to the meta…too much nonsense for me to enjoy the game, which was very good. This makes Godtear by far the better game in my book.

The objectives in WHU were interesting but I like the streamlined approach in Godtear more. Kill stuff or put your banner out, you get steps on the ladder. If your banners stay out you might get more. Then if it’s on your side you get points. So there is some dynamism…in our game Saturday we had a kind of wonky matchup in the center between Mournblade and Rangosh. As a slayer, Rangosh gets extra steps for killing champions. Well, Rangosh’s followers (the best in the game IMO) have a skill that lets them shoot their crossbows and deal an automatic wound if they hit and then also get a boon of their choice for stealing treasure so you take accuracy to make sure that auto wound hits. Then you just terrorize Mournblade, because he only has 1HP. You’ve really got to screen him with his Knightshades or he’s toast. I just totally bullied this champion. It was more lucrative to just keep killing him than it was to fuss with banners. So even when the scenarios are simple, they are dynamic and agendas can shift during them.
Virabhadra's Avatar
Virabhadra replied the topic: #335177 22 Aug 2022 12:58

Space Ghost wrote: Maybe I should stick to Dreamblade…


My girlfriend unknowingly paid me the best compliment the other day. She picked up a Dreamblade figure on the windowsill and asked me, "Hey shouldn't you be more careful with this?"

"What do you mean?"

"It looks like one of your models when you just start painting it."

So that was nice. :-)

Incidentally, Dreamblade is incredibly easy to pick up and play. There's a spreadsheet floating around that generates legitimate Starters and Boosters, so drafting is a cinch - here are 21 miniatures, pick the 5 you don't want to use.
BillyBobThwarton's Avatar
BillyBobThwarton replied the topic: #335240 25 Aug 2022 16:24
Decided to check this one out. Reading the rules I am a little confused on points from the flag being on the tear…. If I mix the factions, do I claim a primary one and get 5 points for that one but just 4 for the others?
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #335241 25 Aug 2022 18:35
Each champion has a banner (except for Helena, who IS the banner). If your champion is next to an objective hex (Godtear) in the Plot phase you can drop it for +1 bump in your favor on the ladder, +2 if it’s a Shaper champion. Over the course of the turn. Enemy champions can knock your banner down so you might have to protect it. At the end of the turn, each is 4 and you -total- the banner points for your whole side. So if you have all three still standing, that’s 12 points. You compare and the difference is the ladder shift.. So if I have 2 banners standing and you have 1, that’s a 4 step shift in my favor. We are at the point where banners are just squished at every opportunity so we’ll rarely see either side get more than 4 points- and it’s usually tied. Guardians also give a +1 for their banners so they are worth 5 in the count. So if I have a guardian banner (blue) out and you have another color, that would be a 1 step shift on the ladder.