Two-player games are always my jam, so when I first heard about Gosu X, I was instantly intrigued: commanding the ranks of three clans in a head-to-head battle, supplemented by a song for the dead? Uh yeah, I’m totally here for it.
In Gosu X, players take control of three rival clans, each with their own Troops, Heroes, and Immortal, in a one-on-one duel for supremacy. Each clan showcases their own strengths, as well as having a unique ability provided them by their Immortal.
The Gosu X board game plays quickly, and has enough rules overlap between other popular card games that many people will be able to get it to the table within a short time of reading through the rules. There are some Keywords and things you’ll need to reference, but I was surprised at how quickly it all came together.
So get your commanding voice out and prepare for battle as we dive into Gosu X!
Gosu X Gameplay
The Gosu X board game is played over a series of rounds, culminating in a Great Battle. During a player’s turn, they will place a card into their 3×5 tableau, always from left to right. Level 1 cards, called Troops, are played on the bottom row while Level 2 cards, called Heroes, are played in the middle row. The top row is reserved for the Level 3 cards, which are your Immortals and Shapeshifters.
On its face, this seems relatively simple, but there are prerequisites to playing cards. In order to play a Hero, you need to have a Troop of a matching clan somewhere in your tableau. Likewise, to play a Level 3 card, you’ll need to have both a matching Troop and Hero card already played.
This is where Shifting comes into play. Most cards have a Shift cost, meaning that you can discard a card in your tableau, pay the Shift cost by discarding cards from your hand, and then play the shifted card into the space that held the now-discarded card. When you do this, you don’t need to have a matching clan for that card.
A third action that you can take on your turn is to play an Activation Token. These tokens can always be used to draw more cards, which are definitely at a premium. Or, you can also use Activation Tokens to activate abilities on your played cards.
All the while, you will be using the effects on your played cards to capture your opponent’s cards (flip them over), make them sacrifice cards, and do all kinds of other manipulation with your hand, discard pile, and deck.
Once a player has done all that they care to (or can), they will Pass. When both players have Passed, it’s time for the Great Battle. Both players add up the military value on their face-up cards and whoever has the highest wins the Battle. You need to win two of these battles to win the game most of the time, although there are some alternative victory conditions depending on your clan.
After the Great Battle comes the Song for the Dead. During this phase, each player discards half of the cards from their tableau, rounded up. Because of this, you may not want to play all of the cards you can, since some of them are going to be discarded!
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Gosu X!
The components of the Gosu X board game remind me a lot of the style in The Shipwreck Arcana, especially with the tokens being wooden. As an aside, I honestly can’t believe I haven’t written about that game yet, but that’s something for another time.
I love the functionality of the board; visually it’s striking and there’s a purpose for everything on it. Once you stack those screen-printed wooden tokens in their rightful places, it really makes the game feel complete. This easily could have been made without a board of any kind, but the design choice really works and makes me happy it was included.
And of course, I should also talk briefly about the cards, which are great quality. You’ll be shuffling them a lot, so I still recommend some sleeves if you find the game to your liking. Between mashing the various clan decks together and general use through play, it will just help ensure they are protected.
Every additional game of Gosu X that I play, I feel like I’m rediscovering new strategies. A lot of this is due to the fact that every single game you’re drafting the three clans that make up your deck. Some of them have a lot of synergy together, while others have less. But in every case, I haven’t found a combination that doesn’t work. Maybe if you only used two clans, but having three really smooths out your draws and gives you plenty of space to experiment.
That’s what keeps me coming back to Gosu X for more. Each combination feels like its own little puzzle that I need to try and solve, while simultaneously working out what my opponent might be thinking. The other little wrinkle that you need to consider is that two clans that aren’t chosen by either player have their global effects in-play for both players from the beginning of the game. In fact, you might choose your third clan just so that you can specifically have the global effect of another!
I also find the Activation Token use fascinating. Since card drawing is at a premium, spending those tokens for more cards is always enticing. However, you can also use them to activate abilities on cards, which may been much more valuable depending on the situation. And you can gain more of these tokens by playing the shapeshifters, of which there is one in every clan at Level 3.
There’s just so much to explore in terms of strategy with Gosu X, and that turns the game into something that I want to play over and over again. But that’s something you really have to do if you want to get the most of the game, learn the clans, and find those synergies.
The overall aesthetic presentation of the Gosu X board game is top-notch. I’m a particular fan of high-contrast art statements like the white box slapped with a big giant black X over the top. Add in that little bit of gold and some weathering, and it’s definitely a striking statement on the shelf.
The card layout is also fairly clever, utilizing an X in the backdrop to facilitate the art while also separating each card into four functional sections. Keywords tied to specific clans are color-coded and presented in the same way in the rulebook, making rules referencing easy and painless.
And lastly, the art itself. Artist David Sitbon absolutely crushed it with these illustrations. All of the clans are cohesive in their design and coloring in a way that if you only showed me the art I could make a very educated guess about what clan it was from. That’s how you know it’s good! Plus there are some really rad 3D effects with the art hanging over some of the mechanical card elements like Shift costs and whatnot, adding a tasteful depth of field to the design.
Gosu X is definitely designed for people who enjoy card battler games, especially those that really like to practice, discover new strategies, and become masters of the game. It’s a 1v1 matchup, so you’re relying on your own abilities to outsmart and outwit your opponent. Nobody can get in your way except for yourself!
I also really enjoy some of the recent 2-player games that have come out recently like Caper: Europe and Radlands, and Gosu X fits solidly in that niche. The draft aspect of the game is also fairly unique, making it a deck builder except instead of building your deck with cards, you’re building it with…decks.
So those are the big things that would push you to this game: card game lovers or people who like to work out strategy. Broad strokes, sure, but they fit the bill!
Gosu X is not for the faint of heart. Your cards will be captured, sacrificed, and destroyed. Many times over. There is no way around it. Just go into the game knowing that your best-laid plans will be put to waste. And you’ll be doing the same to your opponent!
That’s the general feel of the game. There’s an interesting push and pull that happens when preparing for the Great Battle as well, because I’ve been in games where someone seems firmly entrenched in the lead after the first battle and their whole gameplan crumbles over the next two rounds. Spoiler: I was that someone.
People can come from behind and win the game or suddenly pull a win condition out of nowhere. That’s where understanding the clans comes into play, so that you can try and play around those situations. Regardless, you always feel like you’re ‘in the game’, so to speak, and that’s really important in a 1v1 game like this.
Gosu X: A Burly Battler for Besties
I came into Gosu X knowing that the game was right up my alley. I’ve played a lot of Magic: the Gathering, Hearthstone, Marvel Snap, Gwent, etc, so I’m basically the target audience for a game like this. Absolutely loved the challenge and puzzle that you’re presented with.
So why stop at just writing praise about this game? Let’s give Gosu X the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness award! It’s well-deserved! Gosu X brings clan-based deck-drafting to the card battler scene, offering a tense duel experience for everybody who shuffles its cards.
You can pick up a copy of Gosu X from Hachette Games directly, or look for it at your FLGS!
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Gosu X from Hachette Boardgames in exchange for an honest review.]