Today I’ll be reviewing a table top game called Goblins, Inc. designed by Filip Neduk. I decided to review this game for a few reasons. First, we haven’t owned it for too long, less than a year, and have only played it a few times. Second, it’s a bit of a unique game in my mind, since it has cooperative and competitive aspects to it, as well as a good deal of luck. And finally, goblins are just excellent thematically. Bonus: The box is very steampunkified (technical term) in its artwork.
The premise is that Goblins, Inc. is a large goblin corporation whose boss is retiring. The corporation builds giant robots of doom. The boss is looking for the best goblin to replace him when he leaves the company (i.e., the winner of the game).
The game allows between two and four players, but is best with four. Play is conducted in teams, which are randomly assigned via a card draw mechanic. However, each individual player has their own agenda and goals to meet. You play two rounds of the game, and the players on each team change between rounds. You work with the other player on your team to construct a giant robot of doom, and then the two teams send their robots into battle against one another to see whose robot fares the best.
My hubby and I sat down to play this recently with our friends, Sally and Jamie, which obviously allowed for lots of good photo opportunities for this review. After the first round of team selection, this is what happened.
Each player has three little goblin figures in their color, as well as a stack of cards containing individual goals. One goblin goes to sit on the score tracking board, and the other two will help in robot building. Each player shuffles their deck of goal cards, and draws seven into their hand. They look through the seven cards and decide to keep four of them as their individual goals for this round of robot mayhem.
This is an example of some goals I chose for myself during the game. The silver border indicates that your team’s robot will meet the goal criteria, and the brown border indicates that your opponent’s robot wll meet the goal criteria. The third card from the left in my hand is a “bet” card, and you are betting on the winner of the robot battle round. Each goal basically gives points for different things, such as knocking engines or armor or weapons off the robot, or keeping certain robot tiles attached to your robot.
Now that we all had goals, we set up the game table. Kind of a chaotic looking game table honestly, but hey. This game is about goblins.
What do you see in the picture above?
A – Pilot decision board
B – Team robot board
C – Robot building tiles, face down in the center.
D – Cheesy puffs, vitally important for any game.
E – Blueprints; one card gets flipped for each round, telling you if any spaces on the robot board are off limits for the round.
F – Tactics Cards, used by the tacticians on the teams to help their robot and team do all sorts of strategery.
G – Armor plates, which go on certain robot pieces as indicated. These protect the robot a little bit.
H – The point tracking board.
On each team, one player is the pilot who is driving the robot while the other player is the tactician and is firing the weapons. The pilot board was in the picture above, but the tactician’s pieces were not, I will get to those during the combat phase.
During the build phase, two players sitting across from one another draw five tiles from the face down pile in the center. They look at the tiles, and choose two from their hand to give to the player on the other team. How do you know what to pick? Well, maybe now would be a good time to review those goal cards in your hand … Once the tile swap has occurred, these two players begin putting tiles onto their team’s robot. You start in the center and all tiles must be connected to the robot in order to remain on at the end of the build round. While the first two players are placing their tiles, the other two players draw their five tiles and repeat the same trading process. They are not allowed to add their tiles to their team’s robot until the first set of players finish, and the two teammates are not supposed to collaborate during the build. The whole process happens a second time, and then when building is over any unconnected tiles fall off the robots. In the picture below, you can see the four goblins on each team standing on the spaces indicated by the blueprint card as prohibited. The boys had one piece of their robot unconnected after their build, while Sally and I connected all the things.
During the combat phase, the pilots select how to rotate their team’s robot (the front side always is the one that is shooting) as well as which side of the opposing team’s robot is being attacked. This is actually the most confusing part of the game, but you get used to it after a little while. The tacticians use their special pieces to select tactics cards to help the team. The tactics cards can do a lot of different things, such as add a piece of armor or allow the first attack to hit twice, etc. Three cards are drawn and placed on the table. The triangular pieces below are the pieces that the tacticians use to indicate which card they want for their team. The circle facing forward means the center card, and either arrow facing forward indicates the corresponding card. If both tacticians select the same card, the tie breaker is whichever team has the most engines on their robot, after the pilot has positioned it (it can cost various amounts of engines to move).
The tactician rolls a number of dice equal to the number of weapons on the attacking side of the team’s robot. The dice rolls correspond to columns in the grid of the opposing team’s robot, and indicate where your weapons are hitting. You can roll blank dice (they replace the 6), which counts as a miss. As your robots fight their three rounds, you keep track of which pieces are falling off of the robot. When the three rounds are over, the winner is the robot with the most pieces left. Those two players move forward on the points board, and then you tally up individual points using the individual goal cards and the pieces that fell off (or are remaining) on each robot. I forgot to take pictures of the robots after battle – sorry. I blame wine.
Then you draw a new team card and the teams change for the second and final round of the game. Team Blue and Red Goblin looks cool and calculated while Team Yellow and Green Goblin cannot contain their lust for battle!
In the end, Jesse won. I did not do particularly well meeting my goals. And then there was the mishap with the turning of our robot once or twice. For that, I blame champagne.
Regardless, Goblins, Inc. is a fun game, especially if you enjoy more fun themes like this (and I do). There is definitely some randomness in there, but it suits the goblin theme well. It can be played in about 60 minutes, maybe a little bit longer if it is your first time playing. I’ve not met a lot of other games like this one, so if you know of a similar one, I’d love to hear about it!