Critical Reviews- GOSU: Goblin Supremacy

Every once in a while you find a game that strikes you as "new" only to find out, it's been out for a few years.  You think, "This can't be, it is so cool and so fresh looking... am I loving under a rock?"  This was my experience when I found an article on about the GOSU expansion... only to be left asking myself, "how BIG is the rock I'm living under?".  That said, let's take a look... at the game, not the rock.


GOSU is a beautifully rendered game that rewards players for highly skilled planning in both use of your primary resource (the cards in your hand) as well was timing.  It is a card based, hand management game and it pulls itself off very well. 

First, the universe that the designer, Kim Sato has birthed, is truly unique.  There are 5 clans of goblins you have at your disposal, the Ancient Gobans (White), the Steel Goblins (Blueish Gray), the Fire Goblins (Red), the Dark Goblins (Black), and the Alpha Goblins (who are of course, Green).  These clans work together, but primarily shine when higher levels in the same clan work in conjunction. 

The goal is simple, recruit (play) as many goblins as you can, to amass the best army (based off each card's "Great Battle value") and at the end of each round, have a higher valued army than your opponent's to take a Victory Point.  He who hath three Victory Points first, is deemed the winner!

Most interesting in this game is the fact that you don't have a draw phase.  Each player starts the game with 7 cards from the main deck, with the first player moving through their phases of their turn, shift to the next player, etc, etc, etc... but you never draw again, unless a card in play tells you to, or if you spend your limited supply of Activation Tokens.

There is a lot happening in GOSU, even from the first few turns of play.  Each Goblin you recruit either has a "Comes into play" ability, or does something to others in play, or in some fashion, wreaks some sort of havok.  Mid game, we've seen as much as 10 different things happen at once when someone brings the right level or clan of Goblin into play, so for that, I would say, make sure those you play GOSU with have familiarity with complex card games. 

Some cards let you spend your Activation Tokens (that symbol on the Alpha Goblin Guardian above for example) on them to gain rewards, but be careful as you only get 2 Activation Tokens per round, and won't gain them back until after a Great Battle and someone scores a Victory Point! What do you do if you don't have cards with Activated abilities? You have the option of trading a token for one card, or two tokens for 3 cards, so there is always a way Activation Tokens can benefit you.

The first Goblin you play is always free and always Level 1. You can then play more Level 1's from the same Clan for free. If you want to play a Goblin from another Clan though, you must discard 2 cards to a center discard pile... which, very quickly, can be utilized by any player when their cards say "get X from the discard pile"... yes, be careful, what you discard may be recruited by others to come back and haunt you... or if planned well enough, can be resurrected by you and turn out to never be a loss for you at all!

Once you have a Level 1 of a Goblin Clan in play, you can then play a Level 2 (more powerful and worth more points in a Great Battle) from that Clan.  And, in turn, when you have a Level 1 and 2 of the same Clan, you get to recruit Level 3's.  You can never have more than 5 of any level in play, so to replace Goblins who may have served their purpose in your army, some can "Mutate" into other goblins of the same level.  So for example, if I have 5 Level 1 goblins in play, I can choose to Mutate any with a Mutation cost (usually between 1 and 3), and replace it with a Goblin of the same level, from my hand, but from any Clan.  Yes, you can Mutate an Ancient Goban Level 1 into an Alpha Goblin Level 1, which while it in itself is fun, makes Zombie Mutation all the more fun!  Some Dark Goblins have the special ability of Zombie Mutation, which lets the player Mutate them to anything from their hand of the same Level, or... yes you guessed it, from the main discard pile!

What?  You just discarded a Level 2 Goblin that would have forced me to discard 4 cards during your turn?  Ok, I'm going to Zombie Mutate my Level 2 on my turn, discard 2 cards for his Mutation Cost, and bring that phatty into play to make YOU discard 4 cards!  Boom, Head Shot... with your own bullet no less :)

Yes, this is where GOSU, and all your careful planning, really shines and brings out the fun in a night of gaming!  You'll get pulled into the artwork, you'll dive into the combinations, and your head will spin, both from delight, and from the pace at which you wreak chaos, or have it wrought upon you!

Overall, GOSU is a great game, a lot of fun in a 2 or 4 player match, and one that must be savored over time to truly realize how strategic and wonderful this universe is.  While I'd like to give it an 8 or higher, the complexity of the game can turn some people off, so I'm shifting my score to just under 8 with a 7.5... still a finder and keeper, and one many of you will enjoy for quite some time!


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