BattleGoats: Review

There can be only one… goat army. Or at least that’s what BattleGoats would have you believe. Today, Fairway picks up this Kickstarted card game from Card Lords to find out whether his goat army is the chosen.

BattleGoats is a two- to six-player card game in which players command a small army of specialized goats against the other players in an attempt to be the last team alive.  Apparently, there can only be one goat herd.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. We very much enjoyed the goat art.  There’s a good number of cards in the game each with a unique illustration and they’re all very expressive.
  2. Setup and game play is pretty quick.
  3. There’s a good deal of variations in powers among the goats.
  4. The game is a mix of memory and strategy but relying heavily either on luck or knowledge of all the goats in the game.

Game play ^

In BattleGoats, each player is given one of the various goat leader cards and dealt eight other battle goats.  This combination of cards form the players’ army.

In addition to the illustration and name, each of the goat cards includes an attack value and power and a class. Cards are either goats, leaders or equipment, which are indicated by the icon in the upper right.  The attack value is used to determine which goat will win a battle.  The power is a unique ability that can be invoked when attacking, when flipping the card over (described below), or when defending.

Players take their goat army and then set out their battle field: a three by three array of the goats face down on the table. Where particular goats, leaders or equipment are placed may be impacted by their bonuses such as gaining extra attack for being at the front or back of the line. The starting arrangement of the goats in the army is kept secret from other players.

Then starting with a first player and proceeding clockwise, players take turns picking a goat from their army to attack a card in an opponent’s army.  When the cards are selected, they are both revealed.  Any powers are applied and, in most cases, the values of the attack (as modified) are compared. The goat with the highest value wins and is generally flipped back over. The goat with the lowest value is set aside and is out for the remainder of the game.  If there’s a tie, both goats are out.

The game continues until only one player is left with any cards–they are the winner.

 

On the green ^

BattleGoats basically has two things going for it: the art and the characters/powers.

Art. The illustrations are definitely a selling point for this game. There’s a good number of uniquely illustrated goats and equipment.  I found my son just looking at the pictures and reading their names and powers without actually playing the game. The art is also well-featured on the cards and the graphic design does a good job of not getting in the way of that art.

Characters.  We really liked the various goats and their special goat powers. While most of the powers are the sort you’d expect, there were a good many that weren’t.  For example, the first two times we played, it happened to be during a full moon at night, so the werewolf goat was awesome. The goats make establishing your goat army a lot of fun.

Play time.  This game is fast, really fast.  It doesn’t take too long to deal and set up your army.  Battles are almost always fewer than nine rounds since most players start losing goats right away and ties take out both goats.

Where it comes up short ^

Flip and compare.  We felt really let down that the most we did with our goats was flip over cards and compare values. That’s in essence a majority of the game.  There was some strategic choice, obviously, in which cards to attack with and which to go after, but it hardly seemed to matter much.

To make matters worse, there was often a single card in someone’s army that would wipe out most of the other players’ goats.  In those cases, there didn’t seem to be much you could do other than hope to bait the rampaging goat into a trap.

Pairings and useless powers.  Some of the goats relied on pairings of goat cards. But whether the “other” card was in a battle was pretty unlikely.  This rendered some of the cards’ powers useless and thus making them just fodder rather than useful.

There were other cards whose powers seemed very, very situational. The games aren’t really long enough for most of the “flip over” powers to work well.  And there’s a chance that those cards aren’t even around long enough to use them.  Again, this was a bit of a let down since the game time is so short anyway.

Luck?  Picking targets was mostly a matter of guessing. The only consistent way to get information into an opponent’s army is when they attack. The problem with that: they’re often attacking with their strongest attack card.  While some times they’re the strongest by virtue of a special attack-only boost, most times it’s not.  Randomly picking targets wasn’t that great of a game play mechanic.

How to fix these issues?  Letting players draft armies of goats seems to help. We would set out eight cards per player face up in the middle of the table — it might also work to have drafts from rows of goats at a time to avoid searching so many goats. Each player takes turns picking a card from the field to go into battle. This solves a three really important things. First, all the players have an idea of what goats are out there. It removes a bit of the hidden information from the game.  Second, players can use the opportunity to put together good combinations of cards if they’re available.  Third, there’s a much better chance that players will pick cards that create somewhat evenly powered decks.

The Tuck Box.  This might just be me, but I really disliked the plastic tuck box.  It opens and closes with a flip top lid. But it doesn’t open or close smoothly. You actually have to force it over the inner lip.

In the hole ^

Battle Goats is a well-illustrated and amusingly-themed battle game. The illustrations and the hilarious goat characters definitely carry the day. If you’re a fan of goats and looking for a battle game that plays quickly and supports a good number of players, Battle Goats is worth a look.

Battle Goats is in the hole for One over Par. ^

Fairway was provided a copy of Battle Goats in order to do this review. He was not otherwise compensated for his opinion.

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