Richard Garfield, the crazy genius behind complex games like Magic: The Gathering and Netrunnerhas enjoyed renewed success in recent years with family-oriented titles such as the Amazing Monster Party King of Tokyo and the sequel, King of New York. So it’s perhaps not surprising that Garfield has gotten even lighter and more chaotic with his new board game, Greedy, greedy goblinsthose ditches bend all the way.
You, as one of the titular goblins, are encouraged to dive deep into the eight mines that are open at the start of each round. The gameplay is quite simple: choose a tile from the pool in the center of the table and place it face down on one of the mines. Then take another tile and repeat. Meanwhile, everyone at the table does the same thing at the same time (and as fast or slow as they like), so that mines steadily fill with hidden monsters, treasures and explosives. If you want to claim a mine, just play one of your three goblin tokens on it; no one can add more tiles. Once all mines are claimed, the tiles are flipped and their effects are applied to whoever owns the mine. Collect enough gold coins in multiple rounds and you win.
Simple enough, except the game positively encourages you to push your luck to (and beyond) breaking point. Treasures score one or two gold coins each, but you can multiply your score by using dynamite. A mine with a single stick of dynamite scores double, while a mine with two sticks scores triple. But add a third stick and the whole mine explodes; the owner scores none of the mine’s treasures and then loses an additional five coins just to be on the safe side.
This creates a dynamic where you could try to fill a “good” mine with treasure, unload monsters and excess dynamite on other mines, with the goal of claiming the “good” mine for someone else.
Another player may notice the enthusiasm with which you throw tiles on the mine just in front of you and, as you reach for your goblin token, too much dynamite may slip into the mine just before you claim it.
But you maybe know that this is what other players want to do, so you secretly fill the mine right in front of you with horrible tiles while filling the two mines with treasure for your opponents.
Meanwhile, the player to your left can just sit back and not play any tiles at all, watching other people move frantically to grab and place tiles, then just try to snipe the best mines based on the body language and speed of all others.
With his full complement of four players, then Greedy, greedy goblins quickly devolves into metagame madness as players constantly try to guess what other players are doing.
The madness gets even crazier with minion tiles, which, when scored in a mine, allow the owner to draw a “minion card” from the deck. These cards each change the rules in some way, often by changing the score of a particular item or mine. (For example, the “Sapper” card can be played on a mine you own that has no dynamite; you then score the mine as if it had one dynamite – doubling all your earned coins.) cards have dramatic consequences inflating scores; using it is an important strategic part of what is otherwise a fairly chaotic game.
When reviewing Greedy, greedy goblins, I played it with kids as well as my (adult) gaming group; it worked well with both as a fun, fast paced experience. (You can always increase or decrease the total number of points needed to win to change the number of rounds; each round only lasts a few minutes, so it’s easy to adapt to the time available and your level of interest.)
The longer I play games, the less patience I have for significant downtime between turns (except maybe in true brain-burning strategy titles, where more time to think is always welcome), so having something in the collection like Greedy, greedy goblins is always fun.
As an added bonus, Greedy, greedy goblins is unusual in that it is a simultaneous game that does not necessarily reward speed or reflexes; you can succeed even if you play slowly. This makes it workable even with younger kids or with gamers who don’t like full speed titles.
The downside is how chaotic Greedy, greedy Goblins could be. While players with “Torch” tiles can reveal a few other tiles in the mines, much of the information remains hidden during the mining phase of the game. And with four adults knocking over tiles as they try to outwit each other – and doing so without doing much – the game can veer towards guesswork. Sure, you might have goals for each round, like trying to grab rubies because a minion card brings a bonus, but this isn’t a strategy title. Greedy, greedy Goblins is instead an ever-changing tactical battle with enough chaos in the mix to disrupt any given round’s plan. If that doesn’t sound like your kind of game then you won’t enjoy this one.
As for the components, the card artwork is solid, the box is nice, and the tiles are thick and satisfying Bakelite. The only disappointment is the goblin tokens, which are just simple colored plastic circles with no ornament or embellishment. Some goblin figurines, high-quality “geeples” (goblin meeples), or even simple stickers would have been welcome.
At $39.99 MSRP, this feels like an expensive pick-up unless you know you’re into these types of games, but bigger online retailers have it for a much more reasonable $25-$28. At that lower price Greedy, greedy Goblins is easy to recommend, both for families and as an opener/closer for game groups.