Key Concepts for Intermediate Players
So you’ve got the fundamentals down! Congratulations. You’ve played a few games, and you more or less know how to make Godtear happen. You’re comfortable with the logic of the core rules. You get how follower activations work. You’ve got a good understanding of your favorite models and what they do. Now you’re trying to level up your game a bit. You’re ready to go from making the game happen to thinking more strategically about winning the game. This article is for you.
To get better at Godtear, you need to make better decisions. Although the dice are swingy, a game of Godtear involves so many decision points that the player who collectively makes better decisions over the course of a game is nearly always the winner. To make better decisions, you must get good at evaluating the board state.
My aim here is to outline and label a few of the concepts that I think about when evaluating the board state. I hope that you find them useful. I suspect that many players at various levels of play are thinking about these concepts already, but sometimes it is helpful to give things names. At the very least, I hope this article helps you to get a handle on some of these ideas by putting language to them.
Without further ado...
The way the rules are written, banner scoring in the end phase is relative. A brief review of rules as written: “Both players add up 5 end phase points for each banner they have on the battlefield belonging to one of their guardian champions and 4 points for each of their banners from other champion classes. If one player has more points than the other, the player with more points moves the turn token one step closer to their warband token for each point they have above their opponent’s total.” That means that the number of banners you have is not what matters. What matters is the number of banners you have relative to your opponent’s banners. This means it’s most helpful to consider end phase scoring in terms of banner advantage or banner parity.
Consider this scenario below. Titus has just ravaged some Hexlings, so his team is winning the turn by 4 steps, right? Right...?
Actually, no. Rattlebone's team has a 5 step banner advantage. All the banners on the board are safe, so the two opposed non- guardian banners (Rattlebone's and Maxen's) cancel out. That means Finvarr's banner will net his team five steps in the end phase. Thanks to banner advantage, Rattlebone's team is actually winning the turn by 2.
It’s a good practice to always bear in mind how the ladder will move once the current turn ends. This will shape your decisions about whether to continue contesting the turn and how best to do so.
The way scenarios are laid out in conjunction with the way the banner game works often results in a Godtear game settling into 2-3 “lanes.” Those who play MOBA games are probably already familiar with this idea. With the exception of the Life scenario, objective hexes are clustered in 2-3 areas of the board. Since there are string scoring incentives not to allow the opponent to take sole possession of a lane, champions tend to match up with each other in somewhat isolated mini-battles.
In the picture from earlier in this article, you can see that Finvarr and Helena are matched up in the left lane, Rattlebone and Titus are matched up in the center lane, and Maxen and Kailinn are matched up in the right lane.
Although lane changes are certainly possible and variations in this pattern certainly occur, it is still helpful to think in terms of lanes most of the time. On the Change scenario, you tend to have three lanes with one champion in each. The same is true for Death, at least at the start. On Knowledge, Chaos and Quest, you tend to end up with two lanes. Sometimes champions like to play between the lanes on these scenarios especially, but laning is still an important framework for evaluating the board state.
Dead Vs. Live Lanes
When an opponent’s models in a particular lane have activated during the Clash phase, that lane is “dead” as far as you are concerned. You might still have things to do in that lane, of course, but those things are much less urgent than if the lane were live. Once a lane is dead, any banners you have left in that lane are safe. That means that you can usually de-prioritize a dead lane in terms of you clash phase activation order.
Maybe Rangosh can go KO that low-health champion, but if the lane is dead, your opponent has no way to stop you. This means there is little urgency in getting that KO right away. Instead, you’d be better served by addressing live areas of the board and making the decision of whether or not to cash in on that KO when you have more information about how the end phase is going to look.
Always keep an eye on which of your opponent’s models have activated so that you can assess which areas of the board are live. Generally, the live lanes are the first ones to think about when deciding who to activate next in the clash phase. It’s often a good idea to keep as many lanes live for your opponent as possible in order to make their activation decisions harder.
Steps on the board
Most players are keenly aware of the steps on the Battle Ladder (i.e. the current score) but fewer are aware of the steps on the board. What I mean by “steps on the board” are potential Battle Ladder steps that each team could score each turn. This is usually a function of how many damaging attacks remain in each player’s un-activated models. I can't say that I am always aware of which models have activated in the clash phase (it's a lot to remember), but I do frequently check this to remind myself. There is nothing wrong with taking a moment before your activation to glance at which of your opponent's cards are still showing black backgrounds. Get in this habit.
You also need to consider where the warband tokens are on the battle ladder, as this will determine the maximum number of steps you can have at any point.
For example, in the diagram below, how many steps on the board does Blackjaw have if he is about to start his clash phase activation?
The answer is 5. Although he can potentially KO all five of those Gearhawks and would score 2 steps for each KO, the warband token is will cap Blackjaw's output at five steps. After that, the Blackjaw player has maxed out on the ladder and the KOs no longer score any steps.
Here's another example. Rhodri has a single Sword Slash attack which is accuracy 5 with 6 damage dice (5/6). Let's say Lilly is at full health (7). How many steps does Rhodri have on the board?
Rhodri has two potential targets: a Thornling or a full-health Lilly. Rhodri has a 78.4% chance to KO the Thornling, but only a 4.6% chance to KO Lilly. I’d say that Rhodri functionally has just one step on the board. The decision the Rhodri player has to make is whether or not that one step could be decisive this turn. If not, the better play is probably be to take a bite out of Lilly’s health pool in order to set up a potential KO in the future. Of course, if you as the Rhodri player have to win this turn in order to avoid losing the game and the one step from the follower KO won’t keep you sucking oxygen… well… you might just get some lucky dice!
Sometimes, a board state will be such that one player simply does not have enough steps left on the board to win the turn no matter how hot their dice are. This is a good thing to be aware of when deciding whether to start playing for the next turn. More often, you’ll be evaluating how many likely steps on the board you and your opponent each have. Keeping yourself oriented to this situation will help you predict how the turn will unfold. The player who is most able to think ahead is generally the one who will come out on top.
Throughout the clash phase, one thing to consider is whether or not you are finishing a champion’s activation in such a way that they are adjacent to an objective hex or can at least become so in the next plot phase. Whether or not a champion has “claim access” can be hugely important in determining the outcome of the next turn.
In the picture below, who has claim access?
I'd say it's everyone except Grimgut. Jaak's Cauldron Crony is within 3 hexes of the boss, so Jaak's little friend doesn't even have to move to make a claim using the Deploy Cauldron skill. If Morrigan's Cold Bone gives her a speed boon with So Cool Mistress, Morrigan can travel 4 hexes to make a claim. Peet can Leap over the Retchling into the objective cluster and make a claim. Poor Grimgut has no claim access, though. He could potentially clear away a Stabber or two with his ultimate, but he would then have only one action left and would still not be adjacent to an objective hex.
Likewise, if you have skills which can reposition enemy champions, moving them away from the objectives after they’ve activated can help you to deny claim access. Naturally, the scenario rules will usually give the player who will lose the current turn to adjust this, but pressuring claim access is still useful when you are winning the turn because it narrows the opponent’s options.
Even if you can’t deny an opponent claim access, if you can force them to move before claiming, you have usually denied them access to their other plot phase skills. Often, that translates into a clash phase advantage since many of the boons and blights in the game come from those plot phase skills.
Ultimate abilities (ultimates) are a very big deal in Godtear. Ultimates are by no means created equal, but they are all pretty impactful (except Helena’s). In addition to being aware of the race to five victory points, you also want to be aware of which ultimates remain available to each player. When I think about the most painful times I’ve lost a turn, I usually end up remembering an ultimate I hadn’t accounted for.
The player with more juice left in their ultimates is winning the ultimate race. This usually means that the race does not begin on equal footing since all ultimates are not created equal. The player who is winning the ultimate race has a major advantage in future turns. This can powerfully shape your overall strategy about whether or not to stop contesting a particular turn. If you’re ahead on the ultimate race and the VP race, you can afford to be a bit more conservative.
The number of ultimates remaining is one factor in the ultimate economy, but it is not the only one. Which ultimates remain is just as important. Tsunami, Avalanche, and Firestorm are just a few examples of very impactful ultimates which can drastically alter the course of a turn. Call to Arms, the Great Tusk, and Firebrand are all examples of less impactful ultimates. I would probably alter these rankings if I re-wrote the piece today, but here’s a ranking of ultimates I did awhile back. Whichever player has more overall power left in their ultimates has ultimate advantage.
Godtear is a relatively simple game in terms of its core mechanics, but an extremely deep game in terms of its strategic concepts. For some, this makes the game “unaligned” in terms of what one expects and what one gets. For me, this makes the game the best of both worlds. I don’t have to refer to a thick rulebook, but I can think deeply about my strategy. For my money, one of the best things about Godtear is that it offers depth without density.
I hope this has helped you to understand the game better or, at least, to talk about your pre-existing understanding of the game in clearer terms. We have a lot of new players coming in, and the game is growing! I’m very pleased to see this and I hope that the things I write help new players to more quickly and joyfully discover what this game has to offer. Play on and have fun!