18 November 2019
Squelch squerch, squelch squerch…
Goblins are, without a doubt, fantasy’s ultimate underdogs. They’re small, they’re smelly (probably), they’re very easy to kill, but they’re nothing if not viciously persistent. Miremarsh does little to subvert this species stereotype. In fact, it positively revels in it.
This murky, lurky game of miniature-based, dice-fuelled swamp exploration and combat gives each player a bog-goblin who starts with a specific set of custom dice and a unique power. Poker, for example, can roll an extra die when attacked by the swamp creature which stalks the board, while Lugger can hold one more piece of equipment than the other goblins (each piece providing a precious bonus die). Don’t get too attached to them, though. Because, unless you’re uncommonly lucky, your goblin will die.
The aim is to be the first goblin to complete one of four horrible quests (“Slay the last unicorn”, “Desecrate the halfling’s garden”, and so on), located at each of this strikingly-rendered, double-thickness board’s corners. Or to be the last goblin standing (we’ll come back to that later). However, there’s a time limit, set by the fact that, at the end of each turn, you have to consume – i.e. discard – one of the nine fish you start with. If you ever need a fish and don’t have one, you’re out of the game (again, we’ll come back to that).
All your actions are determined by a dice roll at the start of your turn. Roll a foot? That’s a move. Roll an eye? You can turn a tile and spy what random dangers await. Roll a sword? That’s a hit. Roll a pentagram? That’s any action you want it to be. Roll a tentacle? Oh dear: that means the player to your left activates the swamp creature, which moves around the board, inconveniently attacking whoever it comes into contact with.
Most locations, including the quest tiles, require passing a multi-tiered, push your luck challenge – usually fighting a creature or dodging a trap. If you don’t have the required symbols on your dice, you can roll the remaining cubes once more. If you fail the challenge, you’re dead.
But you’re not necessarily out of the game. There are other goblins waiting to join the squelchy fray, drawn from a limited deck. Just grab a new set of dice, a new miniature and carry on; perhaps on the very spot your other goblin died, thereby picking up some of their dropped loot, if you’re happy to spend a fish to do so. Although, if the goblin deck’s empty then – you guessed it – you’re out of the game.
Like the green-hued antagonists themselves, Miremarsh is nasty, brutish and short. And, with its dark sense of humour, pretty fun too, if you don’t mind lots of dice-throwing and possibly winning or losing on a single roll. It also involves player elimination, which for many gamers is an understandable no-no. However, the game is calibrated in such a way that this all comes very close to the game’s end, with players dropping out quickly, providing a great burst of climactic drama.
It’s hardly sophisticated, tactical, groundbreaking stuff, but does it really need to be? It’s goblins, innit?
PLAY IT? PROBABLY
Designer: Matt Green, Sam Mercer
Artist: Andres Martinez, Mary Safro
This review originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.