Darkness falls across the gaming arena. Through the curtains at the back strides a giant… a behemoth… a games monster. He is The Judge, and his word is final. Especially when it comes to goblins…
Goblins Inc. has taken its inspiration from a number of sources and, in both theme and mechanisms, sounds like it should be a great time. But it isn’t. Not quite. Lets explore why.
Firstly, if you play Goblins Inc. make sure you do with four. The game is functional with two, but has obviously been honed to be most interesting with the partnership system – more of which later. Created by those fine folks at Czech Edition Games (the home of the mighty Vlaada Chvatil) this is the debut game from Filip Neduk and has a very original and fun sounding theme. Players adopt the role of a clan of goblins who are partnered with another player’s clan to construct giant goblin-killing-robots that then duel to the death! Told you it sounded cool!
Gameplay goes something like this: Clans will draw individual special objective cards prior to the start of a round so they know what they personally want to achieve – be that destroying opponents weapons, killing their crew, being the most armoured robot etc. Importantly these MAY be at odds with your partners’ objectives – but shhhh… remember they’re secret. Teams will then draft tiles back and forth, whilst constructing their death robots (using armour / weapons etc. to prepare your monstrosity for battle) – and this feels very much like Vlaada’s own Galaxy Trucker.
Having seen their completed behemoth, players choose the objectives they want to keep – probably the ones which are more achievable based on the mess you’ve just constructed – them take turns to either steer (choose the facing for the robot and the weapons that will launch) or draft a ‘special tactic’ card which does cool stuff like adding extra armour and making your weapons more powerful.
Depending on how well the steering went, players roll dice against each other – doing damage and removing tiles as applicable (again think Galaxy Trucker) and after two attempts each of steering (or a robot is incapacitated) the round ends and players’ objectives are scored.
Players now team up with a different partner for the next round of mechanical construction and destruction – rinse and repeat for 3 rounds.
Hang on… I just read that back and it sounds AWESOMEZ! Being a consummate professional, can you all just wait whilst I go and play it again… Why did I not feel more excited about this game???
Ahh Yes! Got it now… It’s just a bit dull and random.
Actually, disconnected is the best way I can think of describing the game. The amount of fun promised by the premise isn’t delivered. I’d compare it with Last Will, actually, (coincidently another Czech Games product) where the ‘Brewsters Millions’ storyline sounds hilarious – and taking your Horse to the Theatre sounds amazing fun – but mechanically it cannot convey that fun. Like this, it ‘sounds’ great but is disconnected.
Don’t get me wrong, Goblins has its moments and is an original and somewhat enjoyable game. I particularly like the idea of bluff and double bluff of the objectives where co-builders of the same robot have different agendas – but this interactivity can’t compensate for the lack of engagement from the rest of the game. The puzzle you’re trying to solve doesn’t have enough variety or choice to make it satisfying. The decisions you make are so vulnerable to chance, if the dice go against you and your robot collapses you find yourself saying ‘what’s the point?’ Now this is equally true in Galaxy Trucker – but the ‘Joie de vivre’ of that design allows most players to shrug and laugh it off. That simply isn’t present in Goblins Inc.
Ultimately, Goblins Inc. has to go down as a disappointment. Maybe that’s partly my fault. My expectation was raised by the theme that promised more than the mechanisms delivered. Like Sam from Quantum Leap, my endless search for an excellent giant robot construction and combat game goes on…
(Disappears in 1980’s special effect…)