SteamForged have always been on my radar since the days of the Dark Souls Board Game, which in my mind was always going to be a near impossible task to please the fan base. How can you ever compete with the glory and gameplay that exists within someone’s head? The trouble with IPs is that you get a licence for them because they have a fanbase. In doing so you then have to live up to the expectations of that same fan base. You can imagine that even if you did the perfect iteration that 98% of people loved, you would still get the comments from B1gG35TFANN419 about what really non important bit you missed out on in the gameplay videos on YouTube. I admire Steamforged alone for that, putting themselves to the be the sacrificial lambs of taking that risk with those characters and pushing through, regardless of the limitations and never letting their heads drop down.
Then we come to Godtear, that doesn’t have the slightest hint of connection to any kind of series, book, film or videogame. It’s like Steamforged have thrown away the recipe book and they’re in your kitchen standing in front of your spice rack, grabbing things, chopping vegetables, smiling wryly while they do it, playing BeWhy on Spotify as they set two pots bubbling on the stove. Sometimes you need to let your hair down and just create the f**k out of something and it is clear that with Godtear the gloves are off, but only because Steamforged want to show you their shiny glittery powerful nail varnish.
You can imagine Mat Hart’s process when he set out to design his multi-faction Skirmish game where the opponents are fighting for the power contained from the tears of the very Gods themselves. David, Alex, Steve and Sherwin standing beside him as he stands in front of a table consisting of a board with armies, numbered dice and a rulebook with a thickness that could choke a Capybara. They start physically not only removing things they don’t like from skirmish games, but quite literally throwing them in the bin. Armies cut down to a Champion with a couple of followers, measuring tapes being pulled apart. Six sided dice stickered over and rulebook pages being torn out, scrunched up and occasionally eaten by Steve. There’s a heated argument over the number of points the winners need to be victorious, with a headlock helping to decide it should only be five on a tug of war type track. David plays a serious song about the importance of short gameplay times on their ukulele. Abilities and specials end up on double sided cards instead of tome searches. Alex writes the words ‘No gluing minis’ on the ceiling..
What you end up here is a system that not only stands up on it’s own two feet, but hits the ground running by eliminating a huge number of things that can slow down and over burden other similar games. This is more a game about control rather than elimination. And depending on the faction you play as, knocking a Champion down or a follower off the board will help you take steps up the Battle Ladder during the round. You key task is to support your Champion in claiming the Godtear zones as that will net you the largest steps on the ladder, holding position is often just as important as decimating those who stand in your path.
The double sided cards serve to tell you which stage of the game you are at, whether it be the plotting phase, where you are moving all of your Warband at once, claiming and often setting up group attacks and defences, to the Clash phase, where all your preparations will either pay off or fail as you take turns selecting units to move. It takes a tired moved and fight staple and gives it a lick of paint. Often you’ll find that your core values for your champion and followers can change quite dramatically. Sometimes you’ll lose the ability to move your followers unless they’re close to their Champion.
Often your best form of both attack and defence is to stay together as a unit, as boons are often range specific. Yes. I used the word Boon seriously here, as during the course of the battle you’ll be effecting stats of both yourself and your enemy. Often you can prevent a champion being able to claim by simple taking away their ability to move to that Godtear spot. It becomes a furious trade of boons and blights and as the score marker moves up and down the track and finishes once all parties have finished the Clash phase. At that stage the points are awarded to those who has managed to move the marker closest to them. Based on the chosen scenario, the loser of that round might be given a consolation prize in the form of being to add more objective markers, or move their models closer to ones on the board. Now the points on offer change depending on the round being played so sometimes it might be worthwhile forfeiting the points on offer to gain an advantage on the next round. I really like this mechanic as it helps to stave off runaway winners from the offset and it helps to keep the game on a tighter balance.
I appreciate not only the art style, but also the choice of colours for the models. When Godtear is set up on the table, there’s pretty much a rainbow on the table with the garish colour of the board and miniatures once the game is the full flow. The sculpts are varied enough to stand out for each of the Champions and followers. The board takes up a reasonable amount of space and once your set up for a full game then you’ll need a decent sized table space in order to fit all of the warbands that you are controlling..
I said Warbands. So while Godtear has all the right ingredients and recipe to create a wonderful dish, there’s always got to be a touch of salt. You can play any of the two base sets quite comfortably, and you’ll get an good experience out of it. You’ll be able to play tactically, enjoy the back and forth of the battle ladder, and have a nice time. Ideally you’ll want to play with two Warbands each and the rulebook actually says three sets each is standard size. I’ve seen base games selling for around £30 each and the factions starting from around £15 depending on where you can source them from. It’s a little bit more to splash out on but compared to what else is out there, its comparatively not too bad. I guess the thinking behind the decision to not have a six Champion starter set was the fear it would be priced out of the market. Just be mindful that if your first experience of Godtear is just one faction each then it’s like watching BladeRunner 2049 on your mobile phone. You’ll understand the main plot, the story and the reasons but you’re really only getting 33% of the proper experience.
Godtear is excellent, taking me by surprise how intuitive it is and how deep and tactical it can be. It looks great on the table, doesn’t take ages to learn and plays long enough to scratch that skirmish itch without turning into a slow war of attrition. While there is some additional expense to get your team up to fighting strength, it still offers a lot of replay value to those looking to stretch their gaming dollar. You could argue they should have called it GodTier..
We’ll be releasing a guide on some of the main factions you can play as in the next couple of weeks through our Social Media Channels.
You can find out more about Godtear by visiting https://steamforged.com/collections/godtear
Game Concept & Design – Mat Hart
Design & Development – David Carl, Alex Hall, Steve Margetson, Sherwin Matthews,
Art – Doug Telford, Rhys Pugh,
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This review is based on the final retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.