You may recall, dear reader, that a while ago myself and Ben played a game called Malifaux and wrote a dialogue about our experiences playing and our thoughts about the game overall. And we decided: why stop there? There are many miniatures games out there to shed a light on, so in this installment of what we’re calling Explorers of the Miniverse we’ve decided to do just that, and we’re starting with Godtear by Steamforged Games.
Godtear launched on Kickstarter on the 6th of April 2018, was successfully funded in 15 minutes, and ended up making over 10 times its goal, and finally released in 2020 with most of its current roster of 25 champions and their followers. What’s followed is a game that has quietly but successfully chugged along with a small and dedicated fanbase, arguably the most stable kind of success one could ask for. The miniatures all come pre-assembled in coloured plastic, though the miniatures appear to be slightly bigger than the industry standard Games Workshop uses (since we played on Tabletop Simulator it’s hard to get exact measurements) and the detail on them matches, these minis look absolutely stunning and filled with character. The game has continued on at a steady pace, quite remarkable for the small apocalypse that was the pandemic and shipping troubles of 2020-21, and the game is ready to welcome its 25th character, Lily, to the game very soon at the time of writing.
The game consists of creating a warband of 3 champions and their followers, generating a random encounter, and then taking it in turns to move your characters, battle your foes, and lay claim to the titular Godtears, remnants of the world’s divinities filled with untapped power. Movement is dictated by the characters’ cards and the grid upon which the game is played, while combat is decided by bespoke dice made specially for the game. Each champion and unit of followers only gets to perform two actions so planning is key.
KVB: Well I wrangled you in to playing another game. After having played a lot of GW’s fair and now Malifaux too, how did Godtear measure up to your previous experiences?
Ben: Godtear fared well. Steamforged games always design great models. I admired Guild Ball for a long time so I was excited to get into one of their games. Godtear was especially interesting because it’s played on hexagons. If you saw my thoughts on Malifaux you’ll know I don’t love dice rolling, but I also don’t love measuring tapes. Hexes make all the physical aspects of moving models and determining attack ranges so much simpler and really reduces the admin and speeds the game up. It also makes reading a game state and the actions you can make far easier, and there can be no arguments over engagement ranges and line of sight. So as soon as we started setting up the board it was off to a good start for me.
KVB: I definitely agree with you that measuring movement by hexes is faster than tape measures, and games like Godtear or GW’s own Underworlds are partly sold on their speed of play. There’s my lukewarm take: tape measures don’t aggrieve me but I see the appeal of hexes. However, on the subject of dice, Godtear has its own unique dice it uses to decide the success of your Champion and Minion’s actions, which means largely casting aside your preconceived notions of probability. Instead of your standard D6, the dice of Godtear have two blank sides, three sides with one pip, and one side with two pips. So when you get to roll five dice and are trying to beat your opponent’s defence score of four, don’t get too excited prematurely. We should probably talk about those abilities actually. Ben, the warband you made for our game was pretty eclectic, and while I was on the receiving end of their abilities how fun or engaging were they for you using them?
Ben: In our first game we played with just a single champion each, and their followers. Each champion comes with a unit of followers between 1 and 6 models that supports them during a game. I used Nia the Crystalmancer for that game, and then when we played our full size game with 3 champions I opted to add Luella the Raging Storm, and Helena the Inspiration of Hope. I made sure to pick champions that were all from different ones of the 4 champion classes, and they all filled different roles as a result. Nia is a Shaper, specialising in manipulating objectives and providing buffs and boons, Luella is a Maelstrom, making her good at dealing area of effect damage and dealing with enemy followers, and Helena is a Guardian, meaning she’s good at area control and objective holding. None of them did anything that I’d say was incredibly flashy, but they all had abilities that represented and supported their roles very well. The most interesting was probably Luella and her shieldmaidens. Luella wants to charge into combat in a straight line meaning her positioning is very important, and she also wants to end her activation next to her shieldmaidens to get a defensive buff from them. It was a neat little sequencing puzzle and gave me a good reason to think ahead, but it wasn’t necessarily game defining if I did or didn’t pull it off and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. How about your warband? You picked a much spicier group of champions, how were they to play?
KVB: You know me, I think I like spice in my models when actually something reliable would suit me much better. For our first game, I picked the other half of the first starter set: Morrigan the Lich King (actually a Queen but I’m not going to judge); for our second game I went for an all goblin warband of: Jeen the Wandering Warrior, Sneaky Peet the Maligned, and Jaak the Dubious Alchemist. Jeen and Jaak are Maelstroms and Guardians respectively, though they do their thing very differently from Luella and Helena (more on that in just a minute), while both Morrigan and Peet are Slayers, champions that focus on, well, slaying other champions.
I really threw myself into the deep end playing an all goblin warband for our first proper game, because goblins take the normal order of operations and turn it on its ear. Normally games play out in a Plot Phase, where you move your entire warband, and hand out buffs and debuffs in preparation for the Clash Phase, where players take it in turns to activate champions and followers to deal damage to your opponent’s stuff. Goblins jump the gun by having their most damaging abilities in the Plot Phase, and then being disruptive in the Clash Phase. What this meant was I had incredibly alpha-strike potential, but if that first swing wasn’t a knockout blow I was going to be in for a rough counter-strike. Now I have some thoughts about Slayers but how do you feel about splitting up the champions into these four groups? It’s pretty unique in skirmish games to differentiate characters by role rather than faction.
…Nothing limits what champions you can choose for your warband. Noble knight, sneaky goblins, and evil looking shadow people are all able to play together…
Ben: It’s a really interesting feature of Godtear that in fact nothing limits what champions you can choose for your warband. Noble knight, sneaky goblins, and evil looking shadow people are all able to play together which is pretty exciting. I’d say mechanically you are encouraged to pick champions from similar backgrounds, their abilities are more likely to compliment each other, but there’s also likely to be synergy between very different champions and that’s really nice and means you can just pick the champions you like the look of without worrying about whether they’re on the same “team”. You can also play any combination of champions from any class. If you want a warband of all guardians that gets in the way and blocks all the objectives you can, although again it might not be considered optimal. The different class bonuses are nice, but I think I appreciate the classes as an indicator of a characters abilities more. Some of the abilities are quite complicated on first read and their interactions can take a while to learn, but if you know the characters class you at least know what they’re trying to do and it helps you work them out. I think I could live without the bonus victory points the classes give you though, and I know you feel similarly.
KVB: Ah yes, the bonus points. See, the different classes of character don’t just come with thematically similar abilities or the same colour plastic (which is a nice touch), but they also get bonus points for doing something specific in game. The scoring itself of Godtear is interesting, and allows for a wildly swingy back-and-forth game where you don’t know who’s won the round till its over. The points for the turn are kept on a slider next to the board; as you complete certain objectives and criteria, you move the points closer to your side of the slider and the same happens when your opponent does things; whoever has the points closest to their side at the end of the turn gets the points, score 5 points and you win.
Now enter the roles, who get bonus points for completing certain objectives: Shapers get an additional point for planting a banner on a Godtear (the objective hexes), Guardians get a bonus point for having their banner still standing at the end of a turn (banners get removed at the very end of each turn), Maelstroms get a bonus point whenever they slay a follower, and Slayers get a bonus point for slaying an enemy champion. The problem I found with the bonus points Slayers get for doing their job, is that it rarely comes up. Champions tend to have strong defences, either hard to hit or hard to wound, sometimes they just have a lot of health so you’re going to have to hit them multiple times and weather their attacks in between or chase them down if they run away. What this means, from our experience anyway, is that you should probably take a Maelstrom instead, who can reliably rack up multiple bonus points as they reap their way through the much less survivable followers. If the things you slew stayed dead it might be more worth it, but both followers and champions can use an action to stand themselves back up away from the fighting on their turn.
Ben: I think there’s a balancing factor for Slayers, and that is you’re in theory denying a significant amount of points as well as gaining some. In our games while the slayers struggled to do their job I was able to knock out a champion a few times and it was an incredibly important part of me gaining control of the board. While a knocked out champion only needs one action to revive, they also get moved away when they’re knocked out, so they’re normally forced to skip a turn by using their two actions to get back up, and move back into position. I definitely got far more points out of my Maelstrom though.
I really appreciated the way the scoring worked. Since each round you just need more than your opponent, a round that goes really really well is no more valuable than a round where you just scrape through, so a spate of bad luck in one round doesn’t necessarily stick with you for the whole game.
After our first game I was dubious about Godtear. With only one champion it felt a very small game, and the recommended first game objective condensed the action into a small area in the middle of the board. With 3 champions however, and a more spread out objective, it really opened up, and despite only having 6 different units they really filled the space on the board and made it feel like a much bigger game. There’s not as many interesting narrative moments as a game like Games Workshop’s Warcry, but they’re replaced by a clear ruleset that delivers a more cerebral chess like experience without any messing around with measuring tapes or piles and piles of tokens.
KVB: You’re definitely right about how strong it is to knock out an enemy champion, but since you get a point for it regardless of who does it, my extremely inexperienced take on the matter is to take something other than a Slayer to get more reliable bonus points and enjoy beating up champions as an added extra.
Ben: If I go back to it though it’ll be for the models, because there’s a few I’d like to paint. I will say I think this is one of the more expensive Skirmish games once you graduate to three champions, and I don’t think the one champion each in the starter set represents the game at its best. I’d be interested to know if 2 champions make a good middle ground for introducing players.
KVB: I’m also in a similar boat with regards to going back: the miniatures are very nice and large enough that people like me who struggle with small details will find that side of the hobby to be a much more enjoyable experience, but the price is going to be a sticking point for people who are either already invested in another system or can’t find a regular group to make the upfront investment worthwhile.
The starter boxes, of which there are two, cost £54.99 ($54.95), and then each individual champion plus followers costs £32.99 ($32.95). The starter boxes are pretty non-negotiable, since they contain a board, tokens and dice that you’ll need to play the game; this means that your suggested warband size of three champions and friends will cost you £87.98 ($87.90) up front, or even more if you don’t like one of the champions that come in the starter sets. Compared to a wargame like Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40k that’s not much at all, but against games in the same ring like Underworlds or Malifaux, that’s a steeper price. Is Godtear worth the price of admission? I’d say so, if you can get the group for it.
And with that I think it’s high time we bring this exploration to an end. But we’ll be back, and next time I think it’s only fair that Ben get to pick the game we try, so be sure to join us next time as we explore the Miniverse.
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