The title, the box art, the theme – it tells you that you’re about to have some light, ridiculous fun for 2-4 players. The introduction tells us:
In Greedy Greedy Goblins, you and the other players take the roles of goblin clans mining out a mountain laden with riches. Fabulous gems and glittering gold can be found, but you must be careful that your goblins don’t blow themselves up in their eagerness to collect the loot!
There’s no board, instead there’s postcards that represent each mine which vary in number depending on the number of players. There’s also one postcard called the Guildhall in all games. These postcards are laid out around a pile of face-down tiles. Each tile is a random treasure or bonus or danger that each player is going to play.
Like Dominoes, players choose a tile from the centre pile. You look at the tile and determine which mine you want to place it on face-down. Do you put it in a mine that you’re stockpiling with goodies for yourself? Do you place it in a mine across the table where your opponent seems to be stockpiling tiles? Are those stockpiled tiles valuable or are they all sticks of dynamite? When you finally lay down your three goblin pawns, thereby claiming the mine as your own for scoring, will you take the sure bet of a mine you’ve been working on? Alternatively, will you put a goblin in the Guildhall to simply collect a minion or will you take a huge risk by claiming the mine your neighbour has been busy filling with who knows what?
At this point Greedy Greedy Goblins sounds like a nice little guessing game. But it’s so much more than that. A major factor of what makes this game so good is simultaneous gameplay. All players take a tile, peek at it, and lay it at the same time. This means that players don’t have time to try and think too hard about their opponent’s strategies because they are so busy thinking about their own. Strategy is based more on gut than analysis.
This gut analysis has to tell you a lot, though. There’s five basic tile types to make decisions about:
1. Treasure. Emeralds, rubies, sapphires, gold, diamonds. These score you points. They even score you double points if they’re the treasure that your faction favours. For example, team yellow favours gold.
2. Dynamite. When the mine is scored the dynamite isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One stick will double your points haul for this mine. Two sticks triple your points. Three or more sticks destroy everything and you score nothing for that mine. Worse, you lose five coins. This disincentive helps balance the risk/reward of putting dynamite in your own mines.
3. Monsters. They eat treasure for lunch. At scoring each monster negates a treasure tile.
4. Minions. These little critters activate a second element of the game, the minion cards. We’ll talk more about these in a bit but basically they’re all varying degrees of helpful.
5. Torches. If you lay one of these down on a mine it allows you to flip over an already placed tile in a mine. It lets you take a sneak-peek at another tile, if you want to. Alternatively you can just place it face-down without activating its power.
Those fast, simultaneous decisions have exactly the right amount of complexity to make them delightfully difficult and yet totally pleasing. Because this game plays so quickly you have no time for regret. You’re too busy deciding when and where you’re going to slam your goblin down and claim a mine all for your own.
Now let’s talk a bit about those 24 minion cards. They come in a few varieties but they all do something useful. Each of the four treasure types associated with a goblin faction have three cards that make them +1 in value. In other words, if you have a Sapphire Cutter minion then all sapphires in the cave you play it on is worth one additional coin. That’s half the minion cards right there. Next, there’s a Diamond Cutter card that makes diamonds worth +2. Since there’s no goblin faction that focuses on diamonds this makes sense. It works evenly for everyone.
There are also minion cards to affect each of the other tile types. The Guildmaster makes each minion tile in a cave score 2 coins. The Wrangler card means monsters in this cave don’t eat your treasure and end up scoring you a coin. The Expert Miner halves the amount of dynamite in a cave, which is perfect if you claimed a cave that had too much explosives on purpose. Alternatively, you can play the Sapper which puts 1 dynamite in a cave that had none, thereby doubling your score in that cave.
Finally there are a few minions that have some extra-special abilities. While most minions are discarded after use, the Banker minion is a recurring card that nets you 1 coin during each and every scoring round you play it. It might not seem like much, but an extra five coins might win you the game.
The Canary card saves your goblin from being blown up when there’s too much dynamite in a cave. You don’t get to score the cave but also don’t lose 5 coins. Again, might not seem huge but can make an endgame difference.
The Scavenger card enables you to add up to 3 more mining tiles to the cave it is played on. With a little luck, and some other well-played minion cards to give you additional modifiers, you could end up with a huge bonus on this cave.
Finally, there’s the Claim Jumper. If this game didn’t have enough player interactivity already then this adds a little more. While all the minions are played during the scoring round, the Banker and the Claim Jumper are exceptions. Essentially, the Claim Jumper allows you to also place a goblin on another goblin’s claim. You will share the rewards and risk with the player who initially claimed that cave.
The game ends whenever a player has 100 coins or more at the end of a round.
As you might expect with a game this light and fun, the rules are straight-forward and easy to understand. Within a single round my eight year old understood the basic gameplay. I imagine most adults develop a strategy after a couple of rounds. If you have the played the game a bunch it might take newcomers a game or two to hone their strategy after they’ve seen most of the minion cards and how they interact with the tiles.
Gameplay doesn’t alter radically between 2-4 players. At 2 and 3 players there will be no extra spaces left over which means you might be pushed to claim a cave you know is filled with explosives. But that’s part of the fun. With 4 players there will be one extra space at the end of the round that no one has to claim, but there’s also a higher chance of multiple players dumping their explosives somewhere so the extra choice is nice. This balance makes the game a good choice at any player count. This is critical in our house where a solid 2 player game is as important as a 3 or 4 player game.
After our first play through we were all completely in love with Greedy Greedy Goblins. It’s so fast and the interactivity is wonderful. It’s a game that scales, too, which is so essential in family gaming. You want something that plays well with younger kids, but is still fun when only played by adults. Games that are fun with almost any player combination seem kind of rare, but this hits that same spot that Battle Sheep did for us. It can be as interactive as the players want it to be.
If you weren’t sold on this already, it should be noted that the game has great educational value. When a player scores their mine players perform addition of their treasures and calculate the additional modifiers (like a +1 for rubies), but there’s also that dynamite-based multiplication. I’m always impressed when a game finds a sneaky way to build in basic multiplication. Plus there is constant memory game work going on. This is great for everyone.
Our house is a Richard Garfield fanclub, but I think he really did something remarkable here. We love the programming of Robo Rally but the game can go on a bit long sometimes. We love King of Tokyo but I think the cards in that game are not always as easy to utilize. We love Netrunner, but an asynchronous two-player game doesn’t always fit the situation. We love Magic: The Gathering, but it’s Magic: The Gathering so it’s not for everyone.
Greedy Greedy Goblins has a perfect mixture of game elements. The card art hits the theme perfectly and the tiles are about half the size of a domino and feel substantial. There’s light player interactivity with both the tile and goblin placement, and there’s rapid decision making that is propelled by the simultaneous gameplay. Finally, the minion cards are earned automatically, which means everyone will get them and play them easily without the assistance of a lawyer. It does everything we’d hoped it would do and more, which means we wholeheartedly recommend you find a place in your home for this one.