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Reviews - Goblin Grapple
by Lars Roberts

Goblin Grapple logo

Goblin Grapple

Published by Silver Gaming Company
Designed by Travis Hoglund
Ages: 7+
Time to Completion: 30 minutes
Players: 2-4
Contents: 52 Cards
Rating: 8/10
$15 (Kickstarter launched 5/6/18)

Goblin Grapple is a 2-4 player card game of all-out goblin combat. Just like a goblin, this game may look small, but don't let its size fool you: there's nothing little about the fun to be had inside this deck! The game is short, concise, easy to learn and play, and highly competitive. Fast-paced with swift rounds, it's an excellent little indulgence to play between longer classics.

Even though Goblin Grapple is a very quick game, it requires strategy and utilization of some bluffing mechanics. At first, the strategy seems relatively simple. But as the game carries on, the ability to adjust and change your approach is crucial, lest you find your goblin army bested by your opponents.


Each player begins with a five card hand. They take turns drawing and playing cards face down to their army, or face up as an attack on the topmost card of an opposing army. The rules allow as many actions as you like each turn, but exercise caution: running out of cards too quickly can spell disaster for your goblins and hand an early victory to your opponents.

Goblin SpyArmies will be drawn from similar recruits. The goblin types each show a number value denoting the relative strength of the recruit in question. The strongest of the goblins is, of course, the Goblin King (strength 8). After the King, power levels drop off sharply, with the Goblin Raider (5), Goblin Knight (3), Goblin Mage (also 3), Goblin Assassin (2), Goblin Defender (1), and finally the Goblin Spy (0). A few of these combatants have additional abilities, which add strategic options: the Spy can be discarded to see an opponent's hand and swap a card with them; the Defender can execute a "hot swap", leaping out of your hand to switch places with a high value card, thereby keeping those points out of your opponent's Garrison; and the Assassin automatically defeats Kings, making his army deployment timing critical for maximum point value returns.

Goblin DefenderWhen a player attacks another person's army, the most recently added, topmost card defends. The card with the highest number wins that battle. In the case of a tie, the defending player can concede or choose to play an additional face-down card as reinforcement. In response, the attacking player can also concede or play a reinforcement goblin. The new cards are revealed to show one side's victory or another tie to be resolved. Once a winner is determined, all cards from the skirmish are added to the winner's Garrison (victory pile) for tally at the end of the round.

It can be easy to focus the majority of your gameplay on building your own army, but pay close attention to your opponent's Garrisons – they can rack up points swiftly. Once a player reaches 21 points in their Garrison, the round is over, and a new round begins. Points in each player's army and Garrison are then totaled. The first player to reach 100 points over consecutive rounds wins.

Art and Flavor

The art of Goblin Grapple is colorful and fun, giving each goblin character and flare. The deck is comprised of a standard 52 cards and is a great size for playing on the go.

As far as gameplay style is concerned, if you took some elements of Stratego and dropped them into a game of War among little green monster men, you might find yourself grappling some goblins. In particular, the mechanic of lowest card defeating the highest card is very reminiscent of the Spy in Stratego. Designer Travis Hoglund cites his goal of creating a faster, more interactive Stratego on the project's Kickstarter page, and Goblin Grapple achieves this goal nicely.

The Cons

Goblin Grapple could benefit from an additional card type or two in the deck, increasing the range of goblins available to play. The current variety of goblins can feel limited after multiple plays, and strategic options would increase with a slightly wider array of characters and abilities. Variety aside, Goblin Grapple's gameplay is still engaging enough for this sort of short game, while providing the occasional nail-biting reveal and numerous tie-breakers.


This is a fun, quick title to play between bigger games, or when you just have a few minutes to sit down with some friends and battle. Regardless of the players' level of gaming experience, Goblin Grapple is a solid, replayable design. It plays decently, albeit simply, with 2 players, but increases in complexity and intensity with 3-4 people.

For its small, goblin-y size, Goblin Grapple packs a punch and brings along loads of fun!


Goblin Grapple will be available on Kickstarter May 6th, 2018 (now live)!


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