by Lars Roberts
Published by Silver Gaming Company
Designed by Travis Hoglund
Time to Completion: 30 minutes
Contents: 52 Cards
$15 (Kickstarter launched 5/6/18)
Goblin Grapple is a 2-4 player card game of all-out goblin
combat. Just like a goblin, this game may look small, but don't let its
size fool you: there's nothing little about the fun to be had inside
this deck! The game is short, concise, easy to learn and play, and highly
competitive. Fast-paced with swift rounds, it's an excellent little
indulgence to play between longer classics.
Even though Goblin Grapple is a very quick game, it requires
strategy and utilization of some bluffing mechanics. At first, the
strategy seems relatively simple. But as the game carries on, the
ability to adjust and change your approach is crucial, lest you find
your goblin army bested by your opponents.
Each player begins with a five card hand. They take turns drawing and
playing cards face down to their army, or face up as an attack on the
topmost card of an opposing army. The rules allow as many actions as you
like each turn, but exercise caution: running out of cards too quickly
can spell disaster for your goblins and hand an early victory to your
Armies will be drawn from similar recruits. The goblin types each show a
number value denoting the relative strength of the recruit in question.
The strongest of the goblins is, of course, the Goblin King (strength
8). After the King, power levels drop off sharply, with the Goblin
Raider (5), Goblin Knight (3), Goblin Mage (also 3), Goblin Assassin
(2), Goblin Defender (1), and finally the Goblin Spy (0). A few of these
combatants have additional abilities, which add strategic options: the
Spy can be discarded to see an opponent's hand and swap a card with
them; the Defender can execute a "hot swap", leaping out of your hand to
switch places with a high value card, thereby keeping those points out
of your opponent's Garrison; and the Assassin automatically defeats
Kings, making his army deployment timing critical for maximum point
When a player attacks another person's army, the most recently added,
topmost card defends. The card with the highest number wins that battle.
In the case of a tie, the defending player can concede or choose to play
an additional face-down card as reinforcement. In response, the
attacking player can also concede or play a reinforcement goblin. The
new cards are revealed to show one side's victory or another tie to be
resolved. Once a winner is determined, all cards from the skirmish are
added to the winner's Garrison (victory pile) for tally at the end of
It can be easy to focus the majority of your gameplay on building your
own army, but pay close attention to your opponent's Garrisons – they
can rack up points swiftly. Once a player reaches 21 points in their
Garrison, the round is over, and a new round begins. Points in each
player's army and Garrison are then totaled. The first player to
reach 100 points over consecutive rounds wins.
Art and Flavor
The art of Goblin Grapple is colorful and fun, giving each goblin
character and flare. The deck is comprised of a standard 52 cards and is
a great size for playing on the go.
As far as gameplay style is concerned, if you took some elements of
Stratego and dropped them into a game of War among little green monster
men, you might find yourself grappling some goblins. In particular, the
mechanic of lowest card defeating the highest card is very reminiscent
of the Spy in Stratego. Designer Travis Hoglund cites his goal of
creating a faster, more interactive Stratego on the project's Kickstarter page, and Goblin
Grapple achieves this goal nicely.
Goblin Grapple could benefit from an additional card type or two in the
deck, increasing the range of goblins available to play. The current
variety of goblins can feel limited after multiple plays, and strategic options would increase
with a slightly wider array of characters and abilities. Variety
aside, Goblin Grapple's gameplay is still engaging enough for this sort
of short game, while providing the occasional nail-biting reveal and numerous tie-breakers.
This is a fun, quick title to play between bigger games, or when you
just have a few minutes to sit down with some friends and battle.
Regardless of the players' level of gaming experience, Goblin Grapple is
a solid, replayable design. It plays decently, albeit simply, with 2
players, but increases in complexity and intensity with 3-4 people.
For its small, goblin-y size, Goblin Grapple packs a punch and brings along loads of fun!
Goblin Grapple will be available on Kickstarter May 6th, 2018 (now live)!