Published by Crazzybox, Vitali Minin's Battle of GOG is a light strategy game where 2-4 players are using their 'soldiers' (represented by small six-sided dice) to collect resources and found cities (represented by larger six-sided dice). The cities collect all resources in the eight surrounding squares, and when you upgrade the city to level 2 or beyond then you collect all resources within a two-square radius (so any in the 24 surrounding squares). You're collecting resources to level up your soldiers and your cities, and to buy cards that give you extra abilities. To win, you need either to conquer all the other players' cities, occupy all four corner squares or collect all five Scroll tokens. You might chance upon a Scroll by drawing a treasure card but you mainly win them for conquering a city or occupying the square with a Scroll icon.
This is a game where the box isn't just for storage. Empty out all the contents and invert the box and it becomes the playing surface for the modular board. Players start the game by drawing and laying out the tiles, and this isn't merely an exercise in randomising the board layout - there are tactical decisions to be taken in optimising tile placement - ideally so that you have fertile potential city locations within reach of your soldiers' starting positions. Don't underestimate the design benefit of having the box as the playing surface. With the contents removed, the box lid offers just enough overhang to keep all the tiles neatly in place. It's refreshing to have a game with a modular tile board where the tiles aren't sliding about!
There are key decisions to be made over how best to spend your resources: food, wood and gold. Extra soldiers cost 2 food to recruit but different resources to upgrade, depending on what level you are moving from and to. You'll need two of each type of resource to level up a city or to buy an ability card. The rules don't make it clear whether or not you have any choice of ability card or whether it's just a random draw from a face-down deck. We ended up 'house ruling' that we'd set out a display of three ability cards so if a player bought one, they could choose any of those in the refillable display or they could make a blind draw.
Battle of GOG is a 'take that' game where you'll have to come into conflict with other players to prevent them from seizing the win condition. Soldiers attack by moving into the same square as an opponent's soldier. You just compare the levels of the soldier dice: the lower value dice is removed and the winning soldier is reduced by the difference. If the two soldier dice have the same value, players roll dice to resolve the combat. A city can be conquered by adjacently positioning three soldiers at levels at least equal to that of the city.
Initially, players just have a movement allowance of 7 to spend for all their soldiers, so there's a slow initial build up as you'll be jockeying for position. Once you have three cities built, however, you roll two six-sided dice to determine your total movement. There are bonuses to be had for rolling doubles: 1/1 or 6/6 allow you also to move the Gog mini that starts off in one of the centre squares. You'll want to try to position Gog so that he is adjacent to one of your cities because you then get to collect the maximum number of resources you can hold (initially five of each but that's upgradeable to seven) and your city is protected from attack. Rolling 2/2 or 5/5 lets you move the other mini - the 'Angel of Retribution'. You'll want to move that so it is adjacent to an opponent's city because it prevents that city from harvesting any resources. If you roll 3/3 or 4/4, you get to draw an ability card, which is a big plus.
Battle of GOG is easy to play yet it offers something of a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) experience that usually plays in about an hour. It mostly offers a good mix of strategy and luck, but watch out for the treasure cards! These are always a push-your-luck gamble as there's a 50% chance that the positive cards will benefit your opponent rather than you! Some of them can also prove grossly overpowered, particularly when drawn early in the game. In our first play, on her first turn, one of our players drew a volcano (negative effect) card that eliminated three soldiers. She rolled an even number on the die so the effect applied to all the other players. This immediately eliminated them all and delivered an instant win! Happily this wasn't an experience that was replicated on any subsequent plays, altho' we had another game where a player drew early in the game the treasure card that gives +3 raises to three soldiers. That player moved a level 5 soldier to the Scroll icon and camped there, collecting a Scroll every turn. Other players didn't yet have soldiers capable of dislodging him... We're not saying that the treasure cards are broken but just warning that they are a highly unpredictable random element. If you prefer a more strategic game, you may want to leave them out altogether.
Battle of GOG is available in the US on Amazon.com