Goblins serve many purposes throughout time, whether being simple enemies to mulch in a beginning D&D campaign, deal parts from mechanical ostriches in WOW, or even dig the tunnels for other creatures to travel in Magic, Goblins rock. So imagine a card game that's all Goblins, all the time. Are Goblins diverse and cool enough to hold together their own game? We'll find out with my review of Gosu...
What's it about?
Gosu is a game about lining up your battle lines of destructive little bastards before all participating in an epic, great battle. The first player to win 3 of these battles becomes the winner. That all seems fine and dandy but let's go over the mechanics on how it plays.Goblins come in 5 clans (like Magic has 5 colors), each focusing on different skills, and in three levels. The Level 1 Goblins, known as Bokutos, lay the foundation for your army. Your first two clans are free and laying more Bokutos in that army cost nothing. But doing so limits you, adding another clan to your battle line will cost you two cards. You can have, at the most, only 5 Bakutos.
The Second level (Heroes) Goblins are layed down for free but ONLY if you have a same clan Bakuto in your lines. Likewise, a Third level Goblin (Ozekis) requires a Lv1 & 2 Goblin of it's same family. The other limit is that you can't have more Heroes than you do Bakutos, and likewise, no more Ozekis than you have Heroes. Now the trick of this game is not only in building your line, but each Goblin has unique skills and abilities, and your job is to balance these/exploit them as you're building an army.
So once your army is built, are you done? Nope, a large portion of the Goblin cards have a skill known as Mutation. By paying the Mutation cost, you can switch out Goblins in your line with that of ANY clan. Just remember, you have to have the base Bakutos in order to play the full range of that Clan, but every Goblin has been known to do a bit of freelancing from time to time. Finally, there are Activation Tokens and the Advantage Token. Certain Goblins have skills they can use when activated and you get to use two of these skills a round. The Advantage Token grants Goblin Specific bonuses and breaks ties.
When all players have passed, the great battle begins. The army with the highest total value (yes, it's that simple) wins a victory point. After the round, players don't draw more cards, but instead spend another round trying to manipulate their existing battle line. And that's the real beauty of the game, the combat is simple but the battle line manipulation is great. Players will constantly swap out their Goblins vying for just that LITTLE edge they need to win.
Packaging, Art, and Value
Gosu runs $30 and comes in a big box. Big being a matter of opinion. You see, Gosu contains 100 cards, a rulebook, and a handful of tokens (See how that's done, Bandai?). The package, when opened, is quite empty. Certain types of people will mock and call this a ripoff but I assure you, it's not. A lot of card games come out with a bunch of cards, duplicate, and make no mistakes, Gosu has duplicates (Bakutos all appear twice). Gosu, however, has a significant amount of variety compared to it's peers. Out of the 100 cards, 75 are unique, and all 75 of those have unique abilities and stats. So while the box appears quite airy, the artistic and variety value here offsets the "material" cost. Part of me thinks they should have copied the packaging design of Fantasy Flight and AED smaller card games to try and offset the "ripoff" sentiments I've seen/heard. Gosu IS definitely worth the money because it's a very ambitious and varied card game in a genre that's overrun with "there are 5 of this card in the deck) designs.
As a two player game, it's interesting although most battles will basically come down to Advantage Token possession. As 3-4, it's much better. The game is whimsical and strategic in a way few games are attempting. Plus, there's an Uncle Sam Goblin... C'MON! How can any game fail after that?