How tight do you like your games to be? Some people thrive on the delicate balance of an incredibly tight game where every decision matters. Goblin Vaults gives you only 9 turns to balance numerous scoring opportunities together with trick taking / bidding, set collection and placement bonuses. If this sounds like the kind of game you enjoy read on to find out more.
I won’t bore you with the games ‘back story’, needless to say the theme doesn’t particularly shine through, but it doesn’t really need to as Goblin Vaults is set in the Role Player universe in a prison, so you already know if you like that or not.
At the start of Goblin Vaults you are dealt 10 cards from which you immediately place 1 of them in front of you face up in a 4 by 3 grid called your Vault, the rest are used over 9 rounds to bid in a trick taking ‘kind of way’ to gain new cards to add to your Vault.
The optimum placement of these cards in the Vault together with their value, suit, and faction all matter for the various ways of scoring, so every card you gain must be for the right reasons.
In turn order players will place 1 of their cards from their hand below one of the 3 cards in the Block and place their faction marker on it. If the card played is the same as the Warden card (trump suit) they can take a special action of moving one card in their Vault or they can discard one of their hand cards to gain a new one.
Then the next player will place a card below 1 of the 3 in the Block. If they want a card already bid on by another player they have to beat it by playing a higher number or a card from the Warden suit (also higher than the other player if they also played a Warden suit card).
Another option is available, deliberately playing a card that loses the bid. You do this by playing a card that is equal to or lower than the other players card. You also have to place a Gear from your supply on the winning card.
Once all cards have been placed the players who won their bids take the cards from the block and replace them with the cards they bid with. The players who ‘lost’ their bids take their cards back. Now all players place these cards in their Vaults.
Any card in the Block that didn’t get bid on has a Gear added to it, making it more enticing in later rounds.
The current start player can then swap out the Warden card with one from the Block and then passes the start player token to the next player. The game continues like this for 8 more rounds.
Weirdly for a very tight game it has numerous ways of scoring points and in my games across all player counts a scoring range of 30 to 55 has been achieved.
Each Gear you have at the end of the game is worth 1 point. Gears are gained for winning cards that have them placed on them plus you have a supply of 3 at the beginning.
Each card likes to be placed in a certain location (top tier, middle tier, bottom tier) and points are awarded at the end of the game if you meet these requirements. 1 point per card correctly in the top tier, 2 points per card in the middle, and 3 points per card correctly placed in the bottom tier.
Then you score 2 points for each card in your Vault that matches your faction. Finally you score points according to the 3 scoring condition cards that have been chosen for this game. Some of the scoring objectives will be contrary to each other and others will cause players to fight over certain suits.
Thankfully Goblin Vaults includes a handy player scoring sheet pad to mark up all of the games.
The game has a good two player and solo player variant which adds an AI player called Glavrun. Glavrun always place their cards in the Block according to the little marks in the bottom right of the card and the rules are very simple to follow. In the two player mode Glavrun doesn’t score, rather they introduce a level of randomness to proceedings.
In the solo mode they do score and there are 3 levels of difficulty. So far I have manged to beat easy and medium and will venture against hard very soon. Wish me luck.
In the solo mode Glavrun has two faction markers and 18 cards to place. Glavrun always goes first and last meaning the player has a difficult decision to make each turn. Then at the end of the game Glavrun scores for each Gear, for each card which matches their 2 Factions, and for each card suit that matches the chosen scoring objectives.
I really like the solo mode as it is so easy to set up and play and the scoring seems achievable (something other solo modes fail to do).
Function Over Form
The card quality is so good, no sleeves required. However, they are very plain looking with very little colour. This does make it very easy to read and I would imagine that was picked up during playtesting, but I would of liked more colour on the table to help attract players to the game.
Everything in the box (and the box itself) are a very good quality as has become the norm for all of Thunderworks games.
Goblin Vaults is a very tight game with only 10 cards played in total. As you are playing so few cards you will rarely look up to see what your opponents are collecting with almost all of your focus on the central market (block). This makes it feel like a solo experience regardless of the player count with the exception that the other players choices can completely scupper your game, but then so can you to them, wahahahaha (evil laugh).
It is not really a trick taking game, although there are elements that resemble trick taking, rather it is a bidding / hand management game with elements of set collection and point salad scoring.
I like Goblin Vaults but would not automatically choose to teach this game to everyone I play games with. They would have to be happy with an element of luck (dealt cards) together with very limited turns. But, for the right people this could become one of their favourite games with the ability to read other players decisions and use that information to bid high when they need to and to ‘lose’ the bid when it matters together with optimising their Vault to score big.
If you like tight games where every decision matters, together with an easy set up and a solid solo mode, get Goblin Vaults and you will be very happy.