I first heard about the biblically themed board game Battle of GOG, through a friend’s YouTube channel, Brains on Games. Watching Brian’s video I saw a number of cool looking elements that looked like they would work well together to make for an engaging board game.
Battle of GOG combines elements of Civilization, Small World and Catan in a way that works rather well.
Disclosure: Thanks to Crazzybox for sending me a copy of Battle of GOG to check out.
This review is based on a prototype, non-production copy, of Battle of GOG
Before I say anything else I need to make everyone well aware that this review is based on an incomplete, prototype copy of Battle of GOG. Besides the usual fact that is true with any prototype, that the component quality will change once the game is published, there’s also a very good chance the rules for this game will also be updated.
In the last few weeks, as we’ve been trying this game out, the designer has changed a couple of rules significantly. At this point, I would go so far as to say that Battle of GOG is still being developed. It’s not quite a finished game yet.
Due to this, all of the information below is subject to change, hopefully being tweaked and improved for the better.
What I got in the prototype copy of Battle Of GOG:
Everything about Battle of GOG is credited to Vitali Minin. He is not only the designer of the game but also the developer, artist, editor, graphic designer, etc. This is the epitome of a self-published independent board game. Vitali is attempting to bring this game to life through a Battle of GOG Kickstarter project that launched on June the 8th. Assuming it is successfully funded the game will be published by his own company Crazzybox Inc.
Battle of GOG plays two to four players with our games taking up to two hours depending on the number of players. I don’t think Vitali has any plans for this game to hit retail, so no official MSRP, but you can get it on Kickstarter right now for $39 US.
In Battle of GOG, players take on the role of one of four kingdoms in Canaan who are competing for land while trying to find and collect the five scrolls handed down to GOG from God. Players start with only three soldiers and will use them to found cities. Once cities are founded, players will begin to collect resources that can be used to improve their soldiers, cities, resource storage, as well as other upgrades.
There are multiple paths to victory in Battle of GOG, including controlling the four corners of the map, eliminating your opponent’s cities or collecting all five scrolls.
My version of Battle of GOG came in a rather thin but large game box. It’s much larger than your average game box and there’s no way it will fit in your standard Kallax style game shelf. Inside this box is a well-designed plastic insert containing a number of different components.
The game includes thirty-six terrain tiles, five scroll tiles, four large tarot sized farm cards, nine large ability cards, one large resource cost card, twenty-four treasure cards, a ton of resource tiles in three types, two miniatures (one of GOG and one for the Angel of Retribution), three sets of city dice in four different colours, four sets of ten soldier dice in four different colours and a set of two movement dice.
Added to this, the box itself is a major component of the game. It’s designed so that when you put the lid on and flip it over the back becomes a slightly sunken playing surface that you will use to build and hold the map.
Since this is a prototype I don’t really want to spend any time on component quality here other than to say that overall it was rather good for a prototype and I have to assume the production version will be even better.
Playing the abstract wargame Battle of GOG:
You start a game of Battle of GOG by building the map. This is done using the terrain tiles and the back of the game box. Starting with the first player (determined by a roll of the movement dice), tiles are added to the map one at a time, until the board is full. Every game uses every tile.
Tiles themselves feature a three-by-three grid of squares with a number of terrain features depicted on them including water, fish, forests, fields, caravans, ruins, herd animals and more. The only restriction on placing tiles is that once there is water on the map, future water tiles must connect to existing water tiles if possible.
One idiosyncrasy in this game, that takes some adjusting to, is that diagonal squares are considered adjacent. This is mostly important when placing rivers and forests and can lead to some interesting looking maps.
Once the map is built players each pick a corner and place three level one soldiers on the board in that corner. Soldiers are represented by small D6 dice and the pips showing face up are the soldier’s level.
There are three ways to win a game of Battle of GOG:
- Take out the last city of one opponent.
- Have a soldier in each of the four corners of the map.
- Collect five scrolls.
Each turn starts with the active player generating resources. Each level one city placed on the map will collect the resources from the eight squares surrounding it. Resources include Food (gained from fields, fish, pheasants, and herd animals), Wood (gained from forests) and Gold (gained from mines). In addition, if the player has at least one city in play, each of their soldiers will collect any resource it’s standing on.
Cities that are level two or higher collect in a larger radius, collecting resource from up to two squares away from the city location. At the start of the game, players can only hold a maximum of five of each resource type. During the game, players can upgrade their farms to hold more, to a maximum of seven of each resource type.
There is one scroll spot on the map. If you have a city that can collect from this spot, you collect a scroll the first time you generate resources from that square. That scroll cannot be taken from you unless someone conquers the city that collected it. If this spot is not within a city’s collection area, then a soldier landing on that spot can collect a scroll, but only once per game per player. If there are no scrolls in the supply when this happens you steal a scroll from any other player.
After gathering resources you get to spend them. Note the resource costs here are very much subject to change. Every game we’ve played the designer has made one or more adjustments to these numbers.
You can upgrade solders using pairs of resources. A new soldier costs two food, upgrading to level two costs two wood, level three costs two gold, this pattern repeats for levels three to six.
You can improve your farms by spending two sets of all three resources. Upgrading cities cost the same amount, two of each resource.
Very powerful ability cards can be bought for three of each resource. There are nine different ability cards available. These special powers are almost game breakingly strong.
And finally, scrolls can be bought for five gold. If there are no scrolls in the supply you get to steal one from another player.
While paying for these improvements, if you have a caravan within resource collection distance of one of your cities or a soldier on a caravan you can trade one resource for another up to a number of times equal to the number of caravans you control.
Once done spending resources you then collect any treasure. This is represented by treasure chests on the map. Like resources, they are collected by having a city within a range of one or two squares, or by having a soldier directly on a chest. There are twenty-four different treasures in the game and they are split between positive and negative effects. When you collect a treasure you roll a die. If you get an odd number the treasure affects you and if you get an even number it affects your opponents. You have the option to ignore any negative effects targeting yourself.
The treasures do all kinds of things, like upgrading soldiers in play, upgrading or downgrading cities, letting you or your opponents move soldiers, gaining resources, etc. Note treasures must be collected if you can.
Next up, the active player rolls the movement dice. If a double is rolled something special happens. Double ones and sixes have you move GOG in addition to your own troops. Double twos and fives have you move the Angel of Retribution in addition to moving your own troops. Roll any other doubles and you get one of those very powerful ability cards.
You want to unleash the Angel of Retribution on your opponents. A city being visited by the angel cannot generate resources.
When moving GOG, you want him to come to one of your cities. If you manage to do that you immediately stock up to the full amount in all three resources. GOG also protects the city from the Angel of Retribution and makes the city twice as hard to conquer for other players.
That total you rolled on the movement dice is how many squares you can move your soldiers. The total can be split up any way you want over any number of soldiers. The only real limitation on movement is that you cannot move over water unless your soldier is at least level three.
After moving any soldier you have the option to found a city, if you don’t have three of them on the board already. To found a city you replace the soldier die with a larger city die which is set to level one (regardless of what level the soldier was).
You need cities to generate resources, which are vital to being able to build up your forces and win the game.
Battles occur by moving one of your soldiers onto an opponent’s soldier. If your level is the same each player rolls a D6 and whoever gets the higher roll gets the spot while the other is removed from the board. Otherwise, the higher level solder wins the fight but is reduced in level by the level of the lower-level soldier. So if a level five soldier attacks a level three soldier, they defeat and remove the level three but then become a level two themselves.
You can also attack a city. This requires three soldiers surrounding the city that are of a level equal to or greater than the city’s level. When you successfully conquer a city, the attacking soldiers level up and you also gain a scroll.
In addition to this, there are some spots on the map that modify combat. Soldiers that are standing on ruins count as one level higher, while soldiers standing on a volcano cannot be attacked at all.
Once a specific soldier has fought in a battle, they cannot move anymore that turn. After movement is completed play passes to the next player in clockwise order.
The game continues on like this until one of the three victory conditions is met.
There’s some very cool stuff going on in Battle of GOG
When I first saw Battle of GOG on Brains on Games the main things that stood out to me was how the map was built, how deterministic combat was and the way resource generation works. Those were the aspects of the game I was most interested in trying for myself and in regards to those aspects I was not disappointed.
I think the way Battle of GOG uses the back of the box to build the map is rather brilliant. Not only does the box design hold the tiles in place, but it also provides you with a grid for where to place the tiles, which is something that you need so that you can place tiles anywhere on the board when it’s your turn to place a tile. This aspect of the game just wouldn’t work if you were just putting tiles on the table. Without the box, you would still need some type of playmat and you would also have to worry about tiles shifting and sliding during play (unless you pick up shelf liner as I recommend in my must-have board game accessories article).
Once the map is completed I feel it looks like something out of Civilization II. That callback is reinforced by the way cities work. The way each city generates resources, first just from the terrain around it and then later a wider circle, just feels natural and intuitive to me. What does feel a bit strange though is that there are only three resources. Most of the unique icons on the map all represent the same thing, food. While I understand this was done to keep things simple, it felt odd at first.
Another thing that felt odd is only being able to hold five resources. My initial plays of the game had me trying to place cities into the places where they could collect the most stuff. While you do want to do this to some extent, being able to collect more than you can hold can be a waste. The same is true for using your soldiers to collect resources out of reach of your cities. This also folds into just how important it is to upgrade your farms fairly early so you can hold more resources.
The way you use resources feels right, though I look forward to when the game has had some more development done and the actual costs of items are locked down. This is the aspect of the game that the designer has been playing with the most, having us try different amounts for the various upgrades and especially the cost of buying scrolls.
Overall the resource generation and spending in Battle of GOG brings back a lot of memories of our early games of Settlers of Catan, where you are counting up how much you get of each thing and then staring at an upgrade chart trying to figure out what to spend those resources on.
The other game that comes to mind whenever I’m playing Batlle of GOG is Small World and that’s due to the mostly deterministic battle system. I really love this very simple system where you move a unit onto another, the higher-level unit wins and then is reduced by the level of the lower-level unit. I dig the lack of randomness in this system, especially for this game which features a lot of randomness in its other aspects.
This leads me to my biggest problem with Battle of GOG. This game is extremely random, with many in-game elements rewarding high rolls without any real catch-up mechanic for someone rolling badly. This becomes evident right from the first turn of the game, where all players are scrambling to claim sections of the board and found their three cities. A player rolling low here is going to be at a disadvantage that could last for the entire game.
Similarly rolling low later in the game can greatly impact your ability to get your troops where they need to be to defend, attack or collect resources.
Added to this are the bonuses to rolling doubles, which include moving GOG or the Angel of Retribution or getting an ability card. The ability cards are extremely powerful and include things like being able to move over any amount of water for only one movement point, getting five extra movement each turn, gaining three free resources a turn and more.
Then there’s the treasure chest system. Not only is it random what card you will get and what it will do, you then have to roll an additional die to see if you keep the treasure or your opponent gets it.
While randomness can be good for keeping things interesting and can allow players of different skill levels to still be competitive we found the randomness here to be a step above what we usually look for in a game. The random factor here can be so high that it actually interferes with your ability to plan ahead, and that was an issue for us.
I really can’t recommend this game at two the way it is now. What I did do is send a suggestion to the designer that he reduce the map size to 5×5 or maybe even 4×4 for two-player games, which might work to create more of a competition for resources and space.
Between the fluctuating resources and high randomness factor, the overall feeling I got from Battle of GOG was that the game simply isn’t finished yet.
Which, fair enough, it’s not. Unlike some games that launch on Kickstarter fully finished with finalized rules and components, Battle of GOG is still a work in progress and I’ve needed to remember to keep that in mind when playing and talking about this game. This game is still in the middle of the development and playtesting phase and hasn’t even started to be edited yet (which is the reason I didn’t mention any of the abundant layout, spelling and grammatical issues found in the rules I was given).
Taking the fact that this game isn’t quite finished yet and still lacks polish, we did have quite a bit of fun playing Battle of GOG. The aspects of the game I expected to like, I did like.
I like the way battle is represented. The abstract tiles and use of dice to represent armies and cities work really well. I really dig the deterministic combat system that uses the dice to great effect. While I wish the resource collection and spending system had a bit more variety and depth, it’s simple and works really well.
There is a lot to like in Battle of GOG, but it just wasn’t enough for us to love it. We had fun playing it but it felt like the game needed something more, and I hope, with future development, the game gets that added boost it seems to need.
Battle of GOG is a pretty simple, pretty much gateway-level abstract wargame that has a good chance of appealing to fans of light folk-on-a-map style games that include additional aspects like founding cities and gathering resources. This game reminded me a lot of a mash of up Civilization, Catan and Small World, and has aspects that will appeal to fans of those games.
There’s a lot I liked in Battle of GOG and I think it’s worth giving a shot if you are a light wargame fan. While I personally found the randomness factor to be high, I’m certain it will be seen as an advantage to other game groups. Most of all though, it’s worth noting that the version of Battle of GOG I played wasn’t finished yet and I can only assume that the final version will be even better.
This look at Battle of GOG has been interesting. Usually when I preview a game, as I did in my Gorinto Prototype Review or my look at Katana the Card Game, what I’m playing is a finished game, at least as far as the rules are concerned. While games like Gorinto still had a long way to go as far as component quality, how you play the game didn’t change at all from when I reviewed the prototype to when the final game was released.
That’s not the case with Battle of GOG. Here I have a prototype that hasn’t even been handed off to an editor yet. This was a game where I found numerous issues and rules questions. Thankfully the designer has been great about addressing these after each play.
This preview of Battle of GOG actually felt more like I was playtesting the game than reviewing it, which made this article rather difficult to write as anything I say here is completely subject to change.
I think going forward I am going to try to stick with only reviewing games that are ready to publish and not works in progress.
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