Full disclosure: A preview copy of Hoop Godz was provided by Board Game Brothas. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. Also, while I don’t charge for Kickstarter previews, the publisher was charged a rush fee due to the tight timeline they needed the review completed in.
I think this is one of the last Kickstarter previews I’m doing this year! Woo. They’ve got me exhausted, mostly because 2020 has me exhausted. But when Omari shows up with a new game, you can’t just … not check it out. I’m stoked. Can’t wait to see what I think of it. Either way, yeah, it’s been a tough year, and the deadlines have been tough to stick to, so, probably scaling back on the intensity and frequency of previews. On the plus side, that means a lot more reviews for content y’all don’t have to wait as long for. On the minus side, I love Kickstarter previews; they’re usually pretty experimental and sometimes just absolutely wild. Don’t despair, though, I’ll still do a few for you, and when things open back up I can definitely get more previews to the table. In the meantime, let’s check out Hoop Godz!
In Hoop Godz, you’re gonna leave it all on the court with your squad for a little 3-on-3. Get your group together, make some big plays, and drain that half-court shot for all the glory (and most of the points). You’re only playing to 7, so, mistakes can cost you dearly and you can’t afford to mess around. Can you successfully come on and slam, or welcome your opponents to the jam?
As with most games involving a board, set down the board:
Give each player a player board:
Give players a set of action cards, as well:
Pass them six dice:
Set the clock tokens above the board:
Give each player a GOAT Card:
Set the rest in a stack near the clock tokens. Give each player 10 juice tokens; they’ll place 6 in the “Available” box and 4 in the yellow box. I didn’t take a photo of them because it’s a preview and they’re the Generic Crystals that every board game has and at some point BGG is going to wise up to the fact that I’ve submitted probably 100 variations of that shot and ban me. But anyways, put the ball in the center and give each player a ball to serve as the score token:
You should be ready to start!
So the first thing you have to do before you can even play is draft your squad. Can’t play basketball with no team! You’ve got Ballers, for that:
Each has a Size and a Skill, and that affects certain cards, so be mindful of that before you choose! The first player will choose one, the second player chooses two, the first player chooses two, and then the second player picks one last Baller. Keep in mind that means three Ballers will not be played, this game.
Now, you tip off! The first player places their three Ballers such that one is adjacent to the hex with the ball and the other two are on their half of the board (each in one distinct hex). The second player does the same, and both players play their Rebound Card and get ready for a Dice Battle.
In Hoop Godz, a Dice Battle takes place when players need to roll to settle their cards. Both players roll as fast as they can, trying to make sure their dice match the icon set on the card. If they don’t, pick them up and roll them again! The first player to get a matching set wins the tipoff (and the Dice Battle!). That player then moves a Juice Token to the yellow juice box, takes the Active Player token, and follows the instructions on the Rebound Card. The loser takes the tiebreaker.
After that, you play a series of turns until the game ends. On your turn, you can perform any number of actions, but they all require moving juice from your Available box to fill up spaces on your juice tracker on your player board. If you fill up the juice bar, play certain cards, or choose to, your turn ends! You’ll note that one space on the tracker says “Pass”; that’s for the Pass action, which you must do first on your turn. Let’s talk about the actions:
- Move: Spend 1 juice to move each of your Ballers one hex. Two Ballers can never be on the same space.
- Pass: Spend 1 juice to move the ball from one of your Ballers to another Baller, up to four spaces away. You have to be able to draw a straight line corner-to-corner between the two hexes such that none of your opponents’ Ballers are in the way.
- Boost: Spend 1 juice to add an additional die to your dice pool when you play an action card.
You may also spend juice to play action cards. Green Active cards are played on your turn, but you may play orange Response cards when it’s not your turn (be careful, though: it still costs juice!). Most Active cards will cause a Dice Battle if your opponent plays a Response, so make sure to settle that!
If you choose the Dunk or Shoot Active Cards, you have a chance to score!
- Dunk: Immediately score 2 points.
- Shoot: Roll the dice involved in the dice battle. If the number of ball icons matches or exceeds the number on your hex, score two (light gray hex) or three (dark gray hex) points!
After scoring, update your score tracker and remove all Ballers from the court. The other player gets the ball and places their Ballers and the ball on their side of the court (including the half-court line), and the player who just scored does the same.
At any time during the game, if you place juice in the Red juice box, take a GOAT card! They work like Active cards, but your opponent can’t play a Response and they’re discarded after being used.
If you run out of juice, you may need to rest. To do so, just … end your turn without going into the yellow on your bar. You’ll recover juice during the end of turn phase, but also, take one Clock Token. Clock is ticking!
When either player’s turn ends, do the following:
- Check to see if you recover juice. If you rested (only performed one action) or scored, you will recover juice, which means you can only recover on your turn. Recover by sliding juice left into the next box.
- Move juice from your bar into your boxes. Hope you don’t run out!
- Take played cards back into your hand.
- If you’re the active player, pass the active player token.
Keep playing until one player scores 7 points or 10 Clock Tokens are taken. When that happens, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
None! Two-player game, or at least, the version I was sent only supports two players.
- Don’t be afraid of going into the red if you need to. After all, that’s what it’s there for. It’s to let you push yourself a bit so that you can make a big play at a decently high cost. Plus, you get a GOAT card when you do, to try and help you bounce back. Maybe that’ll make up for it, or maybe you’ll let your opponent dunk on you. There’s only one way to find out, after all.
- Use your player abilities. For literally any game that gives you player abilities, using them is pretty much always critical to success, especially if your opponent is using theirs. For this one, I mean try to make sure that you’re keeping the ball with the offensive-oriented players and using your defenders to steal or make it harder for your opponent to drain shots. You picked the players on your team; hopefully you did that with intention.
- When rolling dice quickly, scan to see if any die is out of place and reroll immediately. Generally you want to see if you’re in need of a reroll as soon as possible. If you’re looking for three hands or three shoes, don’t count the ones you see; scan the dice to see if any aren’t a hand or a shoe and then reroll. This really only works if you have exactly three dice, though: with more dice you’re better off just counting the faces you need. But anything helps if you’re aiming for your maximum dice rolling speed.
- You may have to take some risky shots if you want to win. To be fair, that’s kind of what basketball is all about; big risky shots. Just make sure you’re making shots that make more sense than others. Going for one that requires 4 ball icons to come up on a roll is very cool, but will likely miss big. That said, if you win the game on a half-court shot like that, it’s pretty awesome, so, gotta weigh those trade-offs.
- If you’re focusing on big players, try to turn the game into a dunk contest. They get benefits from the Dunk card (at least an extra die), so you can try to pass them the ball more often to dunk it. Shooting is for your smaller and more agile players.
- Keep in mind that a diverse team is going to keep you flexible (and make all your cards easier to play). Naturally, if you’re planning to specialize in one thing, having players that match that type is helpful, but having a wide variety of players available means that you’ll be able to shoot, steal, dunk, rebound, and even crossover with improved efficacy. It’s worth considering!
- You’re going to have to rest eventually. Unless you’re playing every turn near-perfectly, you’re going to run low on Juice (since you really only get it back when you score). Sometimes resting is the right move, especially if you are confident you can keep the ball away from your opponents.
- Don’t forget that you can move before you play a Reaction. It’s often good setting yourself up in the right position so that you can respond to an opponent’s move (or use your player power to make their shot harder). Either way, get in there and don’t be afraid to play a little bit of defense!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- My current thought is that the smartest thing about this game is the juice system. I think it’s excellent. It’s a very good method of action point allowance, yes, and that’s not exactly a new system, but I really like the almost worker-placement feel of allocating those points and then having to spend turns to recall more of them from tiers. It almost reminds me of those pools in Terra Mystica, but honestly, I played it once a while ago. It was okay. I think it does a great job loosely representing the intensity of a basketball game and player intensity; I could see it working for multiple sports-themed games.
- I love the diverse range of characters and how important having a diverse team is, gameplay-wise. I think it’s a good note and a smart way to incorporate diversity into a game design.
- Plays pretty quickly, given that players can react with cards to opponent actions. I’m generally not a fan of interrupt-level cards, but thankfully this isn’t that; you essentially have a response phase and you’re expected to play a card. Even if it were, it’s a two-player game, and so that call-and-response plays nicely, here.
- Also, having the clock to prevent the game from dragging is a nice move. I could imagine players resting and resting and resting and taking time while still winning Dice Battles to block steals if they wanted to be annoying; having the game explicitly prevent that is a wise move to keep the game moving.
- I appreciate that there’s a real-time mode for the dice; it makes the game feel a bit more frenetic and sporty. A real-time dice battle to symbolize the toss-up of going for a steal or a dunk or a shot is excellent, thematically. And I think it really works here, even in the variant where players roll at the same time! Naturally, real-time is hard for me during the pandemic, but I mostly made it work and really like how it played out.
- I like the art a bunch! It definitely is going to stand out, relative to your other titles, which I appreciate. I think a variety of art styles and themes does a lot to contribute to the “board games are another form of art and media”, which is a net good for the hobby. It also just feels vibrant, colorful, and active, which is exactly what this game needs to be.
- I appreciate that this feels like a nice compromise between a board game and a basketball game without being too rules-dense. While I love Dino Dunk, a lot, a place where it fell short for me was that it was very much a pretty-thoroughly-implemented game of basketball. There were free throws! This streamlines the rules and dispenses with a lot of them, abstracting out the ones that don’t make sense with the style of play they want, and I think the game is stronger for that.
- I like the GOAT cards; I think they do a nice job spicing up the game. They’re also a nice reward for going all-out on the court, which I think is good. Otherwise, why would folks ever get into the red? They probably wouldn’t.
- I also feel like this will be a fun game to play at conventions, whenever those happen again? I mean, if you really wanted to, you could have a tournament with the finals actually having commentators. That would be fun. I’d do that.
- I’d love if the size bonuses and penalties were a bit clearer on the cards. That’s something that me skimming I tend to miss, especially because it’s not always clear which size category players tend to fall into. Just clearing that up and making it very obvious (symbols or letters, even, since at a glance the pegs currently used look pretty similar) would help me a lot.
- I’d love to see games with more passes; my games didn’t see a ton. This is mostly just me complaining about how everyone I was playing with didn’t pass, but, I think play styles are going to differ between players anyways.
- Whew, I don’t disagree with it as a mechanic, but missing that Final Shoot Roll feels bad. I tend to call out “feels bad” moments for players since, you know, you do kind of want to avoid them but can’t avoid them all. Missing a big shot and having to go back to the rebound (or worse, the ball going to your opponent) sucks. It’s still mechanically accurate, and I appreciate it, but oof. Hope it doesn’t happen to you!
- If you’re not into a bit of luck, the dice will probably frustrate you in this one. If you want a luck-free game, this ain’t it, friend. Even the fastest dice-roller in the business is going to get some bad rolls. A lot of surviving Hoop Godz is making sure you have enough juice that you can weather a bad turn, but if you really mess up, the momentum of the game can get against you and it may be hard to recover. That’s just how sports do sometimes, and while I think Hoop Godz does a great job capturing it, there’s definitely a segment of the gamer population that is going to hate this. As a result, worth mentioning.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’m quite pleased with Hoop Godz! I’ll admit that I’m not the sportiest person in the entire world, so sports games can be a bit hit-and-miss for me, but I think this lands nicely! It’s a good abstraction of basketball without getting too deep into the rules and mechanics that some fans love but folks like me get kind of bored by. Plus, it does a lot of work to keep the game frenetic and interesting, so players are pretty constantly engaged. I particularly like the juice system the game uses, as it combines the best parts of action selection with an interesting recall mechanic that helpfully incentivizes players scoring while letting them take an almost-worker-placement rest action to recall if they overspend. But overspending isn’t that bad; it’s the only way to get super-valuable GOAT Cards that can change the game! I appreciate the tension that that creates for players, and the strategic balance you have to strike to do well in the game. I will certainly say that there’s a lot of dice luck to this game (even in real-time), and while I occasionally find it frustrating that’s mostly because it cost me the game, once, and I’m a little salty about it. I can admit that to y’all; it’ll be our secret. Add in the great art and the great cast of characters and you’ve got a pretty compelling game, in my opinion. I love that having a diverse team sets you up for success (as different cards benefit different playstyles), and I think that’s a great guiding principle for the game. Either way, if you’re looking for a strategic sports game, you’re a huge basketball fan, or you enjoy some real-time dice battles, Hoop Godz may end up being a slam dunk for you!