Recently, someone asked me to write a guide for new players about which champions go well together. This makes perfect sense, especially if you’re used to other wargames. It’s fun to spend lots of time thinking up lists and searching for synergies. Unfortunately, I find myself at a loss for how to answer this question.
The issue is that I do not think this is the way to think about Godtear. In Godtear, you are compelled to send a champion to contest each cluster of objective hexes on the board or else essentially concede five or six steps. As a result of this and the way the objective hexes are laid out on the board, champions tend to end up in 2 or 3 “lanes” created by the clusters of objective hexes. Champions meet each other in the lanes, creating a series of somewhat isolated matchups.
You tend to end up with three one on one matchups in the Death and Change. In Quest, Chaos, and Knowledge, you often end up with the same if the middle area without hexes becomes a lane of its own. Otherwise, you might have a couple of 2 on 1s or a 2 on 2 and a 1 on 1. Life is really the only scenario where all the champions will usually bunch together. Followers are not compelled to cover the lanes as much, of course, but in general the crews in your war band will interact with the opponent way more than they will interact with each other.
Because of this, I think list building is more about counters than about synergies. If your champions are going to be isolated against other champions, the matchup is everything. This means that champions which go well together are not necessarily ones which synergize in the traditional sense. Champions which go well together are champions which can counter different types of opponents, thus giving you a range of good options for handling what you see across the board during deployment.
This is why I have written about matchups for guardians, maelstroms, and slayers in previous posts. Shapers are coming. If you want to know which champions are good at what things, here’s my answer. Choose champions that can handle a variety of matchups and roles. This is not to say that there are not good combos. There are. But they are not the main issue for list building.
In any case, all of this leaves me at a loss for how to answer a very simple and reasonable request from a new player without repeating myself. What champions go well together? Well the literal answer to this is to choose a mix that are good in different areas.
But… this doesn’t really help the new player who wants to know what champions to buy. Really, that’s the question: what champions do I buy?
If I were a new player with no champions yet, this is how I would go about starting my collection.
The First $110 - Your Core 4
Obviously, you should buy from your Friendly Local Game Store because it’s the right thing to do and also that’s how you build community at the same time that you build your collection. For the sake of this article, I’ll just use the prices on the SFG webstore. I'm using US dollars because I am in the US.
Item #1 - Borderlands Starter Box - $49.95
This is a great value. Not only do you get two champions at a discount, but you also get a board and all the objective hexes, tokens, etc. that you need to actually play. This is definitely the more competitive starter set of the two. Nia is pretty solid, but Morrigan is quite bad unless you want to go all in on making her work. Nia is actually a good complement to Morrigan, but making the Lich queen function will require lots of dedication. You can go that route if you like, but I wouldn’t. The Borderlands set, on the other hand, offers you two very versatile and strong champions who can combine with a very wide range of others you might add later. Titus is the best in the game at killing tough followers, and his Glory Seekers offer both slaying power and utility which round this crew out nicely. Finvarr is a very powerful and versatile champion who can take punches and protect banners while also giving you options for damage dealing and mobility. These two are a great start to any collection.
Item #2 - A Shaper - $29.95
I recommend a shaper at this point. These champions will really open up the game for your other two champions. Shapers do a bit of everything, but they’re outstanding at banner denial in particular. You’ll want one. I would not recommend Rattlebone unless you are going the Morrigan route, and Nia is in Morrigan’s starter box. Instead, pick one of the other three: Raith’Marid, Shayle or Styx. Raith is the consensus top shaper in the game. He does it all. You will not be sorry to have him. Shayle is not far behind, though. I wrote about my love of Shayle here. Styx is the new shaper, so I cannot speak from real experience about him, but he seems to fill the same need in your overall collection by manipulating the positions of hexes and models alike. I’d recommend starting with just one of them, although I think all three are strong. Honestly, pick the one that looks coolest to you.
Item #3 - A Heavy Hitter (Rangosh or Keera) - $29.95
So, you can score by KOing followers and protecting flags. You can deny flags with your shaper and your super-fast elf guy. What you need now is the ability to Slay, queen. There are numerous slayers, but Rangosh and Keera are the ones who really bring the hurt. Peet and Lorsann are great mobile, banner squishers, Maxen has a sweet support game, and Morrigan is… a whole thing. Rangosh and Keera are the pure slayers, though. Both will put out serious hurt, but they do so in different ways and have different weaknesses. Which one you choose should depend on which one seems cooler to you. If they seem equally cool, then I’d suggest choosing based on which shaper you went with. If you got Styx, get Keera also. Keera does not like to be close-in with other champions because she is fragile. Unfortunately, she must sometimes move into danger in order to crush a banner. Styx’s hounds relieve some of the pressure on her to do that since they can crush banners. If you went with Raith, then I/d say go with Rangosh. This is because Raith relies on armor to stay alive whilst Rangosh relies on dodge. This makes them resilient against different types of opponents, giving you more options for matchups. Really, though, go with the one who seems cooler to you; I’m splitting hairs.
So, where are we overall?
At this point, you have one champion from each class! Not only that, you have four champions who are widely considered to be strong competitively. This set of four can play any scenario well. They can also handle a wide range of opponents and form three very different combinations.
Oh by the way, if you did not take my advice on Item #1, then you should have Morrigan, Rattlebone, and Nia. For your fourth champion, I recommend Jeen. She can generate sweet boons for Nia to copy, but more than that she brings banner denial and attack volume which the other three don’t. Without a maelstrom option, you’ll get frustrated by opponents who want to clog you up with chaff.
Beyond the Core 4
From here, it’s wide open. Play some games before making a choice here. Find out what aspects of the game give you joy. The next additions to your collection will take it from being a generally sensible and solid list of champions into one which activates more specialized playstyles.
A few suggestions:
Option 1: Slaystyle
Double Slayer is the most fun way to play for me. This is the most dice-reliant way to go, so you have to be a person who gets a thrill from taking chances in order to have fun this way. Double Slayer is really rewarding if you are able to think deeply about the timing of your KOs and about how to use the positioning and action denial that comes with them to maximum effect. If you went with Rangosh, consider pairing him with Maxen. The little dwarf tinker will supercharge Rangosh in two very important ways. First, he will supply Rangosh;s attacks with much needed accuracy boons. Second, he will provide ranged attacks which can finish off Rangosh’s wounded victims and remove their banners in the process. If you went with Keera originally, I’d recommend Peet or Lorsann to help offset Keera’s lack of mobility in two slayer lineups. If you want to turn the aggression up to 11, you could also just get whichever of Keera or Rangosh you didn’t get at first. This is honestly what I’d do. I like to roll lots of dice. Keera and Rangosh together are super fun.
Option 2: Banner Protection
If you want to explore the banner game more deeply, I recommend snagging someone who can go with Finvarr and your shaper to play a full on banner game. Shayle, Grimgut or any of the other guardians would work. Shayle would be my choice if you didn’t snag him earlier. If you already have Shayle, I’d go with Mourneblade. He may not be the most competitive option, but boy is he fun to play with, and earthquaking people into the Knightshades is a good time (for you). Outside of Shayle, Grimgut and Helena are probably the most competitive choices, if that’s where your head is at. I’d caution you against Rhodri unless you have a specific vision involving him. Making Rhodri work will involve speed boons and probably Styx. The banner protection play style is very strong and rewards players who are aware of what their opponent’s models can do. This is also a less dice-dependent way to play, so it is nice for those who value consistency. It feels very chess-like.
Option 3: Banner Denial
If you want to play a fast game of banner denial, go with Jeen, Raith, Luella, Peet, or Lorsann. All of these champions can get across the board and deny banners extremely well. Pair any of them with Finvarr and you’ve got a strong banner denial game to go along with whatever methods of scoring you’d like to employ. This style of play is fun if you like sending models flying around. If your opponent can’t protect their banners, then they have to get yours and fight you or else lose. Banner denial is a fun, aggressive playstyle. Competitively, I think Jeen is the standout here (aside from Raith). Jeen is an elite banner crusher who also has the potential to score lots of steps by knocking out followers. She needs the right matchup because her attacks roll few dice. In my experience, she needs an abundance of targets with dodge and armor 3 or less (ideally armor 2).
Godtear is an outstanding game to collect and play. The miniatures are beuatiful, durable, and totally preassembled. If you enjoy gluing stuff together, this may not be a plus for you. For me, though, it's a huge bonus. Overall, the quality of life on this game is outstanding.
A huge part of that is the relative affordability of Godtear. You can have a perfectly competitve collection for roughly $110 US. That's far better than nearly any other miniature game out there. If you want to collect everything (like I do), it's a grand total of roughly $590 US, which is less than what you'd pay for a single army in many other games.
Many of us, I imagine, will be somewhere in between. That's one of the things that's great about Godtear: there are no factions, so you can just get whatever appeals to your playstyle and leave the rest. I hope this has provided you with some clarity about how to go about building your collection!