1-5 players, Competitive, Goblin Struggling Dice Chucker
Note: I will be reviewing the core Miremarsh experience and then the Undermire expansion at the end in this review.
This game was first ran as a Kickstarter project and where it grabbed my attention. To be honest, I didn’t follow the game mechanics all that closely during the campaign. I was more interested in all the different little goblin and monster miniatures. Being from a publishing company that was new to me I knew it was a risk backing this project but it just looked so cool! I loved the theme and decided to risk it for that proverbial biscuit. The full set finally arrived to my door a few weeks back and I’ve had the chance to play a few games so I can give you fine peeps my wild thoughts. Read on to see if the gameplay mechanics live up to its interesting theme.
Overview of Gameplay
This is a crazy game! It basically takes what most people know about character development and throws that out the window and does the exact opposite. Now, I suspect most players will initially be turned off by this and not want to play again. BUT, if you can just sit back and digest what this game is trying to do with the mechanics, it really becomes a thing of beauty.
In Miremarsh you and up to five players are taking control of a horde of goblins, each one completely unique from the last, and attempting to complete a single quest to win the game. The setup is variable from game to game so the quests that you may have access to will change but there will always be four different ones to choose from (five if playing with the Undermire expansion). Sounds easy enough right? Nothing is ever easy with Goblins. The board itself is also variable with different face down numbered tiles that you can move to that get flipped when you move. This could reveal a lair with a beast ready to attack or a simple encounter or even a diabolical trap! You start in the very middle of this marsh and must navigate these tiles to the edges of the board where the quests lie. Once you get to one of the quests, it’s all a matter of rolling your dice to see if you can complete it and win the game!
This journey however is abound with strife and danger. You see each goblin has a specific assortment of dice attached to him of a specific color and amount. Depending on that color, your goblin may be better suited to battling or spying. Each goblin also has a unique special ability that further enhances their power. Along the way you can also acquire items, spells, pets, artifacts and more dice to even further enhance your goblin and improve their chances at making it through the swamp. When you land on a tile that has a silver banner that means you MUST roll your dice to see if you pass that challenge. If you don’t roll the proper symbols that are displayed on that banner, your goblin dies. Yep, he’s dead. Tossed out of the game, never to be seen again. At this point you draw a new goblin card and collect the new goblin mini and place him on the board to start anew. That all sounds kinda extreme right? But that’s what I mean about how this game turns the typical “build up your hero” theme on its head. These goblins are expendable minions that you use up like so much melted butter on a delicious spread of toast.
But beware! Use them up too much and its game over. Each player starts with nine fish tokens and every turn they take and survive they have to use a fish (to feed their goblin). If you ever run outta fish and cannot feed then you are out of the game. Like-wise if you ever have to draw a new goblin card and there are no more to draw, you are out of the game. This creates a very interesting dynamic where you don’t HAVE to complete a quest to win per say. You could just manipulate the beasts of the marsh to kill off the other goblins until the players drop off one by one. If you are the last goblin standing, you win. I mean it’s not a complete legit victory but hey, you’re a goblin for crying out loud. Who cares how you win as long as you win am I right!
Now I do have the Kickstarter version so I have some extra stuff here that I’m pretty sure doesn’t come in the retail version such as the double layered game board. Now, that said its cool yes but not at all needed to play the game. Speaking towards the regular components I can tell you they are overall pretty great with a few exceptions. The miniatures are excellent with multiple unique sculpts for each goblin and monster but some of the goblin bases are too large and won’t fit into the little colored base rings. I had to take out my file and grind some goblin bases down around the edges just to get them to fit. I also have the Ghost Goblin set which basically doubles up all the goblins but in a cool translucent green “ghostly” color. The cardboard tokens are pretty standard fare and the cards have a nice linen finish with a good thickness to them. The dice are amazing! They all have a really nice heft to them with custom images and colors, I really love these dice. The cardboard game board tiles leave a little to be desired however, they have a good thickness yes, but the printed on images feels cheap. I can already see some edges starting to fray and sad to say the game board itself is the exact same way. Nice and thick but the edges are fraying and already starting to tear at one of the bends.
Quality aside I do like how the game board works with the tiles. Using the regular board you shuffle up and place down the numbered tiles in random spots and there are always some left over so you know that each game will be a tad different. When finding a lair, you will draw a “half tile” to set on top of the regular tile to show that a monster is residing there and must be defeated or escaped. Once these monsters are defeated the regular tile usually has some kinda bonus attributed to it that venturing goblins can utilize. I also love the ghost goblin minis and even though they are meant to be an “add-on” to the base game, I would never play without them as they add a nice bit of strategy to the game. Speaking of that, almost all of the “add-on” modules the game comes with are things that I would play with every time. The base standard game of Miremarsh just feels like it needs that extra meat.
It was a good effort on the insert but ultimately a failure. They did include some plastic holders for all the minis but they are very difficult to utilize. When you set the game up you will want to set out all the goblins for ease of access as you WILL be using different goblins since some will surely die. Figuring out which goblins go back in the correct spots on the non-intuitive insert however…….MUCH easier to toss the insert and put the goblins in a bag. The plastic these minis are made of is sturdy and I had zero worries about any breaks. That said, the small insert for the beasts is fine as you can set that out and leave them in since you will only ever have one monster at a time roaming the board.
The boxes for both the core game and expansion look really nice with some great artwork and that spot uv finish in certain areas that make the images pop a bit. Looks really nice until you open the box and see a gazillion bags of all the tokens, minis, tiles, cards and dice. This game SORELY needs a good insert to keep all this stuff organized for ease of setup. You know, I hear Game Trayz specializes in inserts that fit tiles like these perfectly………
Visual Appeal /Theme
This is a huge one for me as the game is amazing visually and thematically on all fronts. This is another reason I love the ghost goblin set because it just adds to that already excellent theme. You have goblins running about in a dire marsh with the more crafty ones trying to avoid monsters and the stronger, burly goblins just attacking them right out. The beasts that pop up and lurk about are numerous and interesting, well, if you use the added “swamp creatures” module which I HIGHLY recommend to add even more theme and fun to the game.
I love how you can get “pets” to help you carry items and extra dice and spells to enhance your goblins in some way. The quests that you need to undertake are all incredibly sinister like killing the king or slaying the last unicorn or even kidnapping a freaking baby! Like, good gravy goblins calm down. In any case it only goes to add to the ever incredible theme that you are a nasty goblin and must at least attempt to achieve these great goblin honors. The artwork throughout is excellent with each card having a new and exciting illustration and they really did a great job of differentiating each goblin not just by special abilities, but by look. The sculpting for all the miniatures is excellent with the landmark module miniatures being my favorite. This is yet another thing you can add into the regular game to spice it up (and you should) and there are neat little miniatures of a goblin tower, a wagon with an ominous tentacle coming out the back and a witches cottage. There are even some wells that you use in conjunction with the Undermire expansion that look just awesome. Excellent job on the visuals!
So, the rulebooks are very easy to read but holy cow I had some trouble getting the rules down with these. There are all kinds of off-shoot things that kept coming up while I was playing that I just couldn’t get a straight answer for from the rulebook. The instances you roll dice, the order of operations after rolling said dice. The movement instances when another player is engaged with a monster tile. Completing challenges with the dice and how many times you can re-roll. The way monsters movement worked, especially on the swamp creature cards. None of this was clear in the rulebook and at first, made the game MUCH more difficult and complicated. After a few plays I started just house ruling some things that I THOUGHT were correct and have been enjoying myself much more. Overall though I wasn’t a big fan of the rulebook although I do like the components layout and setup sections. Also, number 11 in setup is hilarious to me, “Decide the starting player by Goblin whim”. I love that.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
Now this is where, I think, a lot of players are gonna either hate it or love it. When you play this game you are not building up a character, making him stronger to overcome the end. You will more than likely lose your goblin and scattered everything you were carrying all over the marsh, only to be grabbed by another player. For that player then to turn around and get eaten by a crocodile and scatter everything again. Once you understand this, you will enjoy the game so much more.
The very first time I played I was taken aback by this and it kinda left a foul taste. I thought, “wtf, how am I supposed to progress in this game if my goblins keep dying?!” Well that’s the whole point! You will make gradual gains, opening up new tiles and finding “paths” around beasts to get to where you need to be. Other players will be moving the swamp creature mini around if they roll the tentacle to try and hinder/kill you. Let me tell ya though, play with the modules. It just adds SO much depth and tactical strategy to this game it’s unbelievable. The core game has just one swamp creature, a tentacle monster named Grabby. Whereas the swamp creatures module adds in 12 more completely different swamp creatures that you cycle through one after another as they are defeated. The landmarks module spices up the game even further by adding variable buildings that offer up different items for those wanting to use them. The ghost goblins module creates a ghost of your recently deceased goblin on the spot where they died that prevents goblins from moving into that spot. There are ways to move them however…….
Overall I really love the unique game mechanisms and how killed goblins isn’t the end of the game, just a small hindrance in a greater adventure. As you work your way through goblins you will see new abilities which might make you reconsider going after a particular quest. The one big thing I wish was more prevalent in this game are the cards. There are ways to draw from the many different decks of spells, artifacts, pets, and knick knacks but they are actually pretty rare. There are only a small handful of tiles that allow you to draw from these and you usually need gold. Gold is even harder to come by with your best bet being grabbing up any gold dropped by the recently killed goblins if you are nearby. It’s a shame too as there are SO MANY of these cards that are all different from one another. In my last game I played, a five player game, only one card was drawn during the entire game out of everyone.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
The game is made to be played solo or up to five players with the difference in players being how many goblins you have at your disposal. For a solo game you have to complete two of the four quests before you run out of goblins or fish. With 2 or more players you either just complete a single quest tile first or be the last goblin standing. Personally I prefer a higher number of players with this one although I think it works really well with any number. The reason I like more players is because you really can see the board opening up faster as you are all wandering carefully around this marsh. Plus, the more players you have, the more instances that they can mess up your plans with a well place swamp creature movement. Add the ghosts module to that and you can block off certain areas from your opponents or cause them to lose valuable dice by moving a ghost onto their tile. Clever little devils.
The replayability is SUPER high due to the overabundance of location tiles during setup. You will never use them all so each game will have a completely different assortment of areas to explore and different creatures will appear. Slap in the swamp creatures module and you have just VASTLY improved the replayability by increasing the number of creatures from 1 to 12. There are 15 different goblins to play as and the most you will ever use is 12 in a five player game and only 6 in a two player game. And because these are shuffled facedown you never really know who you are going to draw next. The cards you can draw, although rare, also further increase the replayability. I mean I feel like this is a game that is SO over the top variable that with every game you play you will always be seeing something new.
The Undermire expansion is in my opinion a must buy if you’re going to get this game. Beyond the additional cards for pets, spells and knick knacks you also get Artifact cards which just add even more to the game. This is where you will find those lovely Ghost Goblins I have been raving about and where you will find those cool Cursed Well miniatures. Those in particular are used with the new Undermire game board add-on.
This board sits nicely at the bottom of the regular board and basically creates this new underground location that you can send your goblins to explore via the cursed wells. There are new location and monsters tiles that inhabit this board as well as a new guardian monster, the Crystal Guardian that roams about down there. Another benefit to this expansion is that it adds an additional quest that can be completed for a win. Which means that going down there actually serves a purpose other than exploring. Plus it’s one of the ways you can manipulate the sweet ghost goblins, there is a space where you can move the ghosts around on the main board and even get rid of them.
Positive Final Thoughts
This is a very unique game that has some excellent miniatures and very interesting ideas from a game mechanic standpoint. I really love the theme and artwork and the win conditions and the way you have to get to that point of winning. This game is very thought provoking for me as I have sat and thought about the different possibilities of winning based on goblin tactics.
Negative Final Thoughts
The game is SUPER high on the luck factor, perhaps a bit more than I prefer typically. Yes, there are ways to mitigate that luck to a degree but with the way your goblins die off so easily, no two turns will bring the same amount of luck. With one goblin you could be easily destroying beasts but then get killed due to a bad roll and have to switch goblins. The next one could be terrible with killing, focusing on spying up those tiles to sneak around. Because of this you can never really focus on one specific quest as they each required different styles of dice to complete. You will constantly be finding yourself moving towards one quest, get killed, then realize that quest no longer will really work for your new goblin and have to change direction.
The Bottom Line
I like this one a lot! I won’t lie, I didn’t think it was that great the very first time I played it through. This is one that I feel like needs multiple plays and needs a proper understanding of what it’s about, mechanism-wise, before you can fully appreciate it. It’s not like any other game I’ve played and with the insane amount of variability that increases replayability, it’s one that I plan on coming back to again and again.
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