Full disclosure: A review copy of Godsforge was provided by Atlas Games.
…whew, 400 reviews. So that’s something. Thanks again for reading these; if it’s your first time, welcome, and if you’ve been here since the start, it’s appreciated.
So, it’s not uncommon, but it doesn’t happen all the time; sometimes I just hop on board a game’s train for the art and hope for the best. That was the case when I saw the box for Godsforge, the latest from Atlas Games (of Witches of the Revolution, Cursed Court, and Gloom fame). And now, here I am, writing about it! The system works, or something like that.
In Godsforge, you are wizards seeking to control the heart of magic itself, the legendary Godsforge. Thankfully, rather than just talk it out or sign some documents, you’ve turned to an old friend: copious violence. Wield incredible spells and summon frightening constructs to turn the tide against your opponents and claim this powerful forge for yourself. Just, you know, be careful! These kinds of things tend to have minds of their own…
Pretty much no setup here, which is awesome. Just shuffle the cards:
Pause for a second to look at the cards and just … wow. They’re incredible. Great, got that out of our system. Give each player 4. They may discard any with a Godstone (Four of a Kind) or a Veilstone (the weird rune) symbol on them and draw back up, once. Give each player a player marker:
And have them set it on the space on the board denoted for their player count:
- 2 players: 30
- 3 players: 25
- 4 players: 20
Also, put the Veilstones on the board:
Give each player 4 dice in their color; the extra black die can go on the Godsforge:
You’re ready to roll!
Alright, so, you play as wizards seeking to control the Godsforge, the source of all magic. You’ll summon Creations and cast Spells from it, trying to destroy your opponents, but be warned! They can (and will) do the same to you, and too much death will upset the Godsforge and may doom you all. Let’s figure out how to get the violence started, shall we?
The game is played in phases, which I’ll outline below.
So, during this phase you’ll refill your hand. Every player may discard up to two cards and draw back up to their hand limit (which is usually four).
Some Creations have a “Each Upkeep Phase …” effect; that will also resolve now, if you summoned them before this turn.
Now, you’ll cast the four dice you have from your hand in the hopes of using them to summon a Creation or cast a nasty Spell. Roll the dice.
If you don’t like them, you get two rerolls; you may reroll any two dice once or any die twice.
Generally speaking, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are distinct values, which you can roll on your own or create by adding multiple dice together. 1s are special; they can be any value, and 6s can be used as 6s or can summon a Veilstone, if they’re not used to summon a card. Either way, you’ve typically got a few things on cards:
- Two Odd
- Two Even
- Three in a Row
- Four of a Kind (Godstone)
Those can all be resolved with dice. The glyph in the cost section is a Veilstone; you can only resolve that by paying a Veilstone (but it can be one you create this turn). When not being used for paying for cards, a Veilstone will also allow you to shift a die’s value by one during this phase (a 6 cannot be shifted to a 1 or vice-versa, though).
As you might guess, use each die once, and you may only summon one card, unless otherwise stated. Some cards allow you to empower them with additional Veilstones; as you might also guess, you need to put these Veilstones on the card during this phase, not later.
If you can’t or don’t want to craft a card, take four Veilstones from the board. Usually not an incredible move, so good luck.
When you’re ready, place your dice / Veilstones being used on the card(s) and place them face-down.
All players simultaneously reveal their Creations and Spells that have been summoned this round!
Some cards also have Reveal effects; if you summoned one of those this turn, do its effect now.
Now, it’s time to attack and defend! Similar to Life Siphon, all players attack the player to their left and defend from the player on their right, unless otherwise stated. If you ever need to figure out who resolves first, the player with the lowest health does; otherwise, just kinda resolve it simultaneously, ish.
Generally speaking, the cards have a sword and shield icon. The sword’s circle is red, points left, and indicates how much damage you deal; the shield’s circle is blue, points right, and indicates how much damage you defend. Some cards will heal you, but you cap out at 30; you are totally allowed to drop below 0 Health, though. Unfortunately, you die when that happens, so try not to do that. If a player has already died before this phase starts, all surviving players take an additional 7 damage. It doesn’t matter how many players have died; if at least one has, the Godsforge is restless and will lash out at all remaining players.
Some cards allow you to Empower or Sacrifice them during this phase; they’ll typically give you extra attack, extra defense, or extra life. Creations may only be empowered once; Spells may be empowered as much as you want.
If you successfully kill a player, discard all of their cards and take 3 Veilstones. Note that since all this resolves at the same time, they might kill someone else on their way out of this life (truly, the best outcome), so make sure everything is taken care of before you clear their area. And don’t forget; once one player dies, the Godsforge starts dealing 7 damage to all survivors each round.
End of Game
The last player alive wins! If all remaining players die simultaneously at the end of the game, check to see how far below 1 Health they went; the player who went the least negative (ie, closest to zero) wins!
Player Count Differences
There aren’t really a ton, surprisingly, since if you think about it most of the time a four-player game eventually becomes a two-player game. The nice thing about higher player counts is that it’s a bit easier to fly under the radar; players are fighting and may not notice you building up a defense (the player attacking you will and the player defending from you might, but that fourth player don’t care). At two players, your opponent is purely focused on you; good luck getting anything by them. I don’t really have a strong preference on player count, though; I’ve enjoyed it at every count I’ve tried. Everyone but you needs to die, either way.
- The best offense is a good defense. If you can build up enough of a shield, you can start proactively healing against attacks coming in, especially as multiple players start Sacrificing Creations to bolster their defenses (and reduce their attack). Note that if you do this too well, you’re going to see a lot of stuff getting banished; Oakenshield helps mitigate this a bit since it blocks all of your cards (save it) from getting destroyed. Just try not to attract too much attention. Or do, it’s up to you, honestly.
- You should take the time to look at the cards before the game starts. If you don’t know what they are, you can’t prepare for them, so take the time before the game starts and at least look at most of them, if you can. There are a lot of Creations and a lot of Spells, and the way that they interact can be important. But it’s also worth noting which spells heal, which can’t be blocked and which Creations cannot be destroyed. Preparation helps you plan, and planning helps you strategize. All important.
- Personally, I love the Regeneration Orb. It heals you every round, which is great, but it’s also the first thing to get fried once your opponents notice that it’s there. Enjoy it while it lasts.
- Some of the spells are very good. Elemental Storm, Fireball, and Chain Lightning don’t mess around on an offensive push, yeah, but Crystal Barrier can (and will) save your life if you can get it working in time. Just make sure you’ve got the dice working for you.
- Veilstones are always worth having around. You need them for summons, first off, but also if you have 4 you can do a hellish amount of damage with Elemental Storm and Fireball (and Drain Life, to be fair). Plus, they can manipulate your dice, which is pretty clutch, too.
- Rerolls are worth it. I mean, ideally you’ll get a 1, so that you can just make it whatever number you want, but it’s usually nice to get a shot rerolling a die. You’ve got pretty good odds of getting at least one 1 on your initial roll; that gives you some cover to try and reroll a better number.
- Watch out for the Godsforge. More often than not, that’s what kills players, the 7 extra damage when they’re already weakened. You should have some kind of defensive plan in place once another player dies, otherwise you’re going to end up joining them.
- If all else fails, go all-out. If you’re already gonna die, might as well try to guarantee that the next player’s going to die worse, right? It’s sometimes worth spending everything you have on one final mega-attack. It’s over-the-top, but also totally awesome.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Whew, the art. It’s like someone lit a skateboard on fire and it’s rad as hell. It’s very intense, which might not be for everyone, but, damn. Diego Rodriguez absolutely crushed it. My favorite things are probably the Lightning Sword and the box art, personally; that specific teal used on the box looks really nice and it’s a color you don’t often see on game boxes (other than Islebound, which I also like a lot). It looks so good.
- I actually like the player elimination aspect of this one. I think that having every player take 7 damage every turn will really pull the game down after 2 rounds, tops, so nobody’s out for too long, but it doesn’t incentivize weird cross-table interactions the same way Life Siphon does with its “once someone dies, the player who killed them wins” sort of business. I played a game where I definitely killed someone right as they killed someone else and then we both died that round. Definitely my bad.
- Plays pretty quickly. If you’re looking for a microgame version of it, you can probably drop everyone’s starting health by a third and that will cut the length of the game in half (ish), but it still plays pretty fast; most someone will be out is 10 minutes, tops.
- Not terribly challenging to learn. It’s Yahtzee Combat and you can summon cards; it’s pretty straightforward. The challenge is learning what cards are available, but that will improve over time until they add an expansion and wreck all those probabilities again.
- The dice look super cool. I’m a big fan of dice with like, patterns or non-solid colors, and these are really nice dice. I’m trying to figure out if I want to like, siphon off a few of these for my own personal use when I’m not playing Godsforge. Up in the air.
- Seems like it could get an expansion. The box insert could probably fit a few more cards, is all I’m saying. Plus I’d love to see more of that art on more creations and spells, if possible.
- It’s always disappointing when you have useless dice. It’s sort of the classic Catan problem of your resources never getting rolled. That said, you do have a fair bit of luck mitigation in the game, so this is just going to get chalked up to a “Meh” rather than a full con; you should generally always be able to do something and if not, you’ll be able to do something very good on your next turn.
- It’s really helpful to know all the cards. It’s just useful to know what the possibilities are, honestly, and you can’t until you know all the cards. Some cards can destroy other cards, some cards can summon them for free, and some cards are unblockable or even unkillable! That can be a lot for new players, and so it advantages experienced players a bit.
- The board can be a bit hard to read. If they wanted to truly blow my mind, some metallic and highly reflective ink for the board would have looked incredible and probably made the numbers a bit easier to read. Also, the deck kind of blocks some of the numbers from view when it’s on the center board, so, I tend to not put it there when I play.
- Make sure players allocate their Veilstones to cards before everyone reveals. There’s a very real temptation to reduce your commitment to certain spells if you know your opponent is going to defend, which isn’t good. Just tell players to make sure they put their veilstones on top of their cards prior to the Reveal Phase; that’s all.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I’m a pretty big fan of Godsforge! It’s that nice mix of simple mechanics and fun gameplay, but it hits the table mostly because people want to look at the art. That’s not to say that the game isn’t fun; far from it, in fact, it’s quite fun, but the art is just exceptional. It’s bold and vivid and dark in ways that make you consistently want to stop and look at some of the cards just because of how incredible they look, and thankfully you get plenty of opportunities throughout the game because of how many cards are sliding around and exploding and going every which way as you attack and defend from a bunch of wizards hellbent on your destruction. It’s a particularly good style for this game, and I’m so happy that they had such a good synergy on this one. Beyond the art, though, the game is also nice and fun. You know me; I’m not a huge fan of combat games, but this mostly disincentivizes take-that (unless one player is getting too strong) and so it’s more of an efficiency problem; can you build an engine of destruction that works more quickly than your opponents? If you can, you’ll be victorious! That framing helped a lot when I started playing Godsforge (and the art did, too), so if this seems like a game that only may be up your alley, I’d still definitely recommend at least giving it a try. Either way, Atlas has another solid title on their hands with Godsforge! I’ve really enjoyed getting to try it.