In Godtear, the high fantasy world is in an apocalyptic state as the gods are dying and their tears are crashing down to Earth like meteorite strikes. These tears are imbued with the power of the gods, and special people referred to as Champions of the Cradle (the world where the setting is based) can use these tears to grow stronger and begin a path of ascension to godhood themselves - replacing the failing gods... Any crash site of tears will be a beacon to champions wishing to enhance their powers. Based on this, alliances are formed and dropped: meaning the game offers a factionless approach.
Publishers Steamforged initially released 15 champions upon the world. A further five have since made their way to the table and more are in the pipeline. Each champion is part of a ‘class’ that is clearly colour coded in the game's single-piece miniatures. You have red Slayers who specialise in hunting and knocking out enemy champions, yellow Maelstroms who specialise in removing enemy followers, blue Guardians who specialises in protection and manipulating banners and finally green Shapers who can manipulate the board state. A squad size is three champions, so you can’t have one of each class: forcing players to make immediate tactical decisions before they even start the game.
Each champion brings with them a set of followers. These are smaller and less powerful characters that bring their own unique powers. The game offers two starter boxes that include two champions each and across both starter boxes one of each colour/class. Expansions are single champions and followers, so you can build up your own squad based on taste or ability.
Designed by Alex Hall, Steve Margetson and David Carl, the game is completed in 3-5 turns. Each turn the battle ladder (read Victory Point track) is reset to zero and it works on a tug of war system as points are gained. Each turn is worth between 1-3 points, with it scaling up in points to turn 3 then down to turn 5. As soon as any player reaches five points the game ends. There is a tense build up in the early turns to the pinnacle ‘three-point turn’. You progress by taking out enemies and scoring objectives, and there are six scenarios; varying the play style. Additionally classes gain bonus points for completing what they specialise in; driving players to try and use the classes ‘as intended’.
Each turn is split into two phases: Plot and Clash. The Plot phase is focused on planning, positioning and planting banners in objective zones to score at the end of the turn. One player completes all actions followed by the other. Then the Clash phase is focused on ruining your opponent's plans and scoring. This is generally where the skirmish element comes in. Dice are thrown. Combat is had. Interestingly, tho', this phase of the game is dealt with as an activation sequence: You go / I go.
There is no character elimination in this game. Although characters can be ‘taken out’ this only affects how many actions they can perform when they next go. Each champion will come with just three cards to track their statistics and abilities (flipped in each phase to new abilities and to keep track who has gone in each phase, which is a nice touch to managing this element). One card to represent the Champion, one for all the followers, and one to remind you of the character's special rule and once-per-game special power. Each card face will generally have two powers and the core statistics for the mini.
This may sound like a lot to take in but the game has relatively streamlined rules so it can be picked up and learnt very quickly. Thanks to the clear colour-coding, the classes are easily identifiable and they act on the board as you would expect. Nevertheless, there is a lot a gamer can sink their teeth into. Games are highly strategic, with positioning one of the core elements of the game. And the huge variety of champions, compositions and scenarios offers limitless replayability.
For a group of friends who want a high skill level game, you won’t be disappointed. Yes the dice can be a bit random, but you can mitigate much of the luck factor through good decisions. The balancing mechanic of having a new turn reset the ‘score’ sidesteps the snowballing effect of other arena games, where leads can become unassailable. The tug-of-war scoring, not to mention the game ending as soon as someone can’t win, offers a refreshing alternative to otherwise seemingly similar arena games.
As we have come to expect from Steamforged, the minis are highly detailed models in well-presented boxes and they are supported by beautiful art from Doug Telford and Thomas Lishman. The inclusion of campaigns offers even more to the play style, and groups of 4-8 players can enjoy these as an arc spanning three to nine games in a nice twist on the ‘basic’ game. The campaigns offer scope for story and character progression.
If you are looking for an easy-to-learn arena battler/skirmish game with great mins, a high skill level and a huge breadth of expansions, Godtear is one of the top choices out right now. But to get the most from the game, you will want to expand a bit further than the starter box... And with future releases, the options and skill ceiling will only grow. Clearly this game is set for the Top Tier... some could even say it’s in a God Tier!
(Review by Danny Strahl)