The Goblin Problem
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Goblins in Godtear are a little confusing. You see, Goblins are strange. This is good, flavorful design by SFG. Nonetheless, Gobbos are strange. Some might say problematic, but I like the Goblins. Especially Jeen. Still, they can pose a problem for players getting used to them. I hope this article inspires you to go Gobbo. Peet is a decent Slayer who I will bring out now and again. Jeen is probably the best Maelstom and an elite character in the game overall. I am a long time Jeen fan. I'll hope to demonstrate why over the course of this article.
I must confess that I have never had the courage to go FULL Gobbo. That is, I have never selected both of the Goblins currently available. I like both of them (Jeen especially), but have never dared to get that weird. The parallels between Jeen and Peet go only so far; after all, he is a slayer and she is a maelstrom. Still, the essential Goblinhood of these two puts them in a category together.
Goblins are on a different rhythm from the rest of the game. As you probably already know, they do work in the Plot phase and setup in the Clash phase. They are off-beat. Sometimes, this wrong-foots your opponents. Sometimes, it wrong-foots you.
Adjusting to the Goblins means taking a lot of our normal instincts and flipping them upside down. The Plot phase is about dropping flags and getting ready for your attack run? No. The Clash phase is when you seize the initiative by attacking models and banners? No again. Flip all that.
Two immediate consequences of this reversal:
The Banner Tax
Obviously, if your power moves are in the Plot phase, then they trade off with planting a banner. This is a serious drawback to the Gobbo tempo. This is not to say you should never drop a banner with a Goblin, but you should only do it if you’re fairly sure that the banner will score in the End phase. Otherwise, you can probably use that second Plot phase action to do something that’s worth more than one step.
The Turn 1 Stutter Step
Turn 1 is a bit useless for the Goblins, and that’s fine. Turn 1 matters, but not so much that you should build your list around it. The Goblins don’t do well on turn 1 because they don’t get to start the Plot phase with any setup. This is part of the price they pay to be on a different timeline from everyone else; they miss the first beat in order to get out of step. Goblins start with a stutter step.
In the Turn 1 Clash phase, I often find it easier to think of Goblins as simply starting the turn 2 Plot phase early. Likewise, the turn 2 Plot phase is just the Goblins getting a head start on the Clash phase. In other words, when I play a Goblin, I try to think about the phase ahead instead of the phase I am in. This takes some getting used to, but it rewards players who can read their opponent’s intentions from the board state. It rewards, in a sense, sneakiness.
If going second, smash a flag.
If you can’t have flags, then the move is to make sure no one can have them. Fortunately, Gobbos are excellent banner smashers. Both can have base move of 3 in the first phase. Both have an ultimate with powerful movement effects. Peet can Leap over obstacles, and both Jeen and her followers have speed buffs in the Clash phase to set up big Plot phase moves. Jeen can also get an extra hex of movement in this phase by using Bladestorm to pole vault off of enemies. If she has a speed buff from the previous clash phase, she can potentially travel five hexes and attack four targets without using her ultimate. Pure efficiency.
All this Goblin mobility only helps you to crush banners, though, if there are banners on the board. This is why Goblins don't mind going second. Obviously, if you can attack also, that’s magical Christmas land (as above), but I’d usually rather get a banner than try to score an extra four steps on kills if it’s a banner that my other champions can’t get. This is because banner crushing is a diceless denial of four to five steps. Plus, both Goblins can still potentially attack in the class phase.
If going first, get stabby.
This is the murder phase for all Goblins. Peet has the same attack (Backstab) in both phases, but his followers can only attack in the Plot phase. Jeen has her best attack (Bladestorm) and her bonus attack in the Plot phase only, but can still target two models with the underwhelming yet functional Polearm Sweep in the Clash phase. The Shrikes can only attack in the Plot phase.
Let’s have a look at each Goblin separately for a moment:
Jeen can potentially target eight models by attacking four times in a turn. That’s wild. Granted, she does not roll many dice, but quantity sometimes has a quality all its own.
If you want to maximize Jeen's scoring potential, activate her near the end of the Clash phase and try to put her in position to unleash her attacks without having to move. I know this sounds hard, but the Golden Shrikes help a lot with this because they can move an entire hex of followers without rolling dice. This is an incredibly useful and versatile ability, so you’ll often want to use it for other things. Jeen has other tools to get in position, though. She can buff her own speed to move two hexes in the Clash phase. She can also use her ultimate, but there should be something else in it for you besides setting up one more attack if you choose this option. Jeen's attacks are not only numerous, they are also versatile. Depending on what followers your opponent has and how they are deployed, Polearm Sweep or Bladestorm might be the right tool for the job. Rapid Strike is mostly there to help you clear off boons and blights.
Slash and Dash is a strong attack for a follower. It has a lot of flexibility because of how the dice scale with the number of followers. If you want damage, use fewer Shrikes. If you want accuracy, use more. This means that some Clash phase setup is needed to match up the correct number of shrikes to a target’s defensive stats, but the Shrikes are quite fast, so this is fairly forgiving.
Backstab is very good all the time and truly excellent against targets which (like Peet himself) rely on good dodge stats to cover for small health pools. Peet can only attack once in the Plot phase (unless you use his ultimate), so he does not need as much Clash phase setup as Jeen does. Peet has no problem advancing 3 hexes or leaping 2 hexes to get to his target. He is the more flexible of the two Goblin champions in this respect.
The stabbers are also very forgiving in terms of their Clash phase positioning because they advance a blazing three hexes in the Plot phase and can move through enemy models, but they do benefit from a bit of setup. It is worth considering what your target will be in advance because Let Me Do It changes drastically based on how many stabbers there are. I highly recommend using Plot Revenge to grant accuracy to the Stabbers so that in the next Plot phase, they can make a 4/6 attack as a 3-stack. A six damage attack from a follower is positively elite.
Obviously, going first or second matters somewhat less in this phase since the activations alternate. Goblins tend to go late in the phase, so this is even less a concern for them.
In my own Goblin journey, I have found it far easier to adjust to the idea of getting work done in the Clash phase than to the idea of doing setup in the Clash phase. It’s weird. I find that it’s often a good idea to activate Goblins at the end of the Clash phase. The Goblins can’t do as much for you in the Clash phase as other champions, and setting up for the Plot phase is easier when you have more information about where your opponent will be when the Plot phase starts. This is truer for Jeen than for Peet, and there are exceptions, but still.
She is truly setting up for the next Plot phase unless there is a spot need for a speed boon. Even then, the Shrikes are probably the better option for handing out boons since they have a larger overall board presence. Jeen usually wants to activate late, position herself for violence, and apply whatever buffs she might require. If you are not using her ultimate, Jeen is quite limited in this phase.
Peet has more options in the Clash phase. Specifically, he has Annoy, which is an extremely good ability that is sadly overlooked. It has Range 3, 5 accuracy dice, and can move an opponent 2 hexes closer to Peet. Range 3 is quite good. The obvious use for this is to reel folks in for a Backstab, but it has numerous other uses. Someone is in range to KO a vulnerable champion? Annoy the potential aggressor out of range. Someone is about to get your banner? Pull them back towards Peet. Someone’s blocking your path to an enemy Banner? YOINK.
A word about ultimates
Both Goblin champions have ultimates which give them incredible movement options. Peet’s Pounce makes him extremely efficient since it allows him to effectively move up to four hexes and make a 6/6 attack. He can follow this up with a Backstab, of course. It’s often very effective for Peet to KO a champion in the Plot phase because doing so can rob the target of their Clash phase actions when they are forced to rally and, often, to move back into position. Jeen’s ultimate is also great in the Plot phase. Combined with her three hex base move and Clash phase speed boon, Jeen can potentially travel six hexes in a single Plot phase while also allowing allies to reposition. It’s absolutely game breaking in the right situation.
Despite all of that, both Goblins theoretically get more value out of these ultimates by using them in the Clash phase for the simple reason that the ultimate will replace a less powerful clash phase action. All things being equal, the Gobbos are at maximum efficiency if they use their ultimates at a time when the opportunity cost is lower. This is very abstract, though, so don’t fret if the board state tells you to do otherwise. Still, the Goblins inability to do things in the Clash phase can be frustrating, so having an out is nice. Both Goblins are slower in the Clash phase, but their ultimates fix it. The Gobbo ultimates can offer a free pass once per game if you get caught with
Goblins are weird. Put another way, Goblins are special. They are! Dwarves are slow, Elves are dodgy, Orcs are... something. Humans have speed 2, and the Undead move their minions, I suppose. Gobbos? They change the whole rhythm of the game. No Godtear fantasy species seems to have as impactful and distinctive a flavor as they do. Goblins might be an acquired taste, but they are wonderful! I hope you give them a try. Especially Jeen.