Game Review: Manage Goblins in “Boblin’s Rebellion”

boblin's rebellion game review - logoBoblin is a persistent little goblin and he’s determined to kick out the evil dungeon overlords and their troll guardians and retake the dungeon! To do so he’s assembling a ragtag army of rebellious goblins, some of whom are trained in specific skills while others are ready to pop into goblin school and learn useful abilities. It’s up to you to manage who’s gaining specialized skills and who’s off seeking new rooms in the dungeon while trying to minimize the march of the trolls.

Boblin’s Rebellion from game designer Alexandros Kapidakis and Phase Shift Games is a fun, lightweight worker placement game where everything’s in flux, from the goblin workers to the dungeon itself. It plays 1-4, is family-friendly, and a full game lasts 30-45 minutes. The solo mode is somewhat different from multiplayer but uses all the same basic mechanisms. I’ve been playing solo as I’ve learned Boblin’s Rebellion. It’s also what I cover in this review, adding in both the optional Hero’s Help cards and the Terrible Trolls, to make it a bit more challenging.


There are three types of dungeon rooms in the main area: Ice Caves, Mineshafts, and Infernos. Two sets of cubes are also included: small Goblins, and slightly larger Trolls: For the simplest game, you can safely skip the Trolls. Here’s my initial setup with everything in play:

boblin's rebellion game review - solo setup

Top to bottom the rows are Mineshafts (grey, uh, brown, depending on photo), Ice Caves (blue), Infernos (red), Hero cards (each has a super cute character illustration), and a player board at the bottom. In the bowls are Goblins (top) and Trolls. For solo mode, the dungeon shifts every turn, and difficulty can be adjusted by discarding three rooms per type (the default) or more, or less, depending on your desired challenge level. You can see all the iconography in the above photo, right? No? Okay, let’s look a bit more closely at the various components…

boblin's rebellion game review - mineshafts and ice caves closeup

The brown cards are Mineshafts, the blue are Ice Caves. The layout on all room cards has the cost to acquire the room on the top left, the central portion shows the potential effect, and the bottom tracking how many times you can use the room before it collapses. Every room has a finite lifespan.

There are two regular goblins, Sticklers and Screamers, along with four specialized “trained” goblins: Stabbers, Stalkers, Slingers, and Sparklers. The top left card, for example, costs two Sticklers (top left) and allows you to (middle) transform any one trained goblin (the “?”) into a Sparkler and an untrained Stickler. Have a Stalker too? You can add it and get two more goblins for your transaction, another Sparkler and a Slinger. In other words, the right two goblins will beget four, which is darn helpful. After three uses (the bottom track) it collapses and you earn a fame point.

The Ice Caves are a bit different because their effect is triggered when a specific event occurs in the game, rather than you explicitly moving goblins into the room. The leftmost Ice Cave, which costs one Screamer and one Stickler, will produce a Sparkler every time you get a Stickler. Use it three times and it’s burned out, but as it collapses, you get one more benefit, a Slinger.

As with all worker placement games, you need to build an engine that allows you to create simple goblins, turn them into trained goblins, then utilize those to gain fame points, the ultimate winning condition of Boblin’s Rebellion. In fact, notice on the lower right Ice Cave that once you’ve used it up, you’ll gain a fame point! 26 more and you’ve won.

boblin's rebellion game review - inferno and hero cards

Points most commonly come from the red Inferno cards, as you can see. Remember, the “?” is any trained goblin, so the left Inferno card offers up 4 points if you place three trained goblins (and none are a Stalker). Use it twice and it’s kaput, but you, oddly, get a Stalker when it collapses. The right Inferno card offers 3 points for a Sparkler and Slinger. Notice that you have to spend a Stabber to acquire it.

The lower cards are the optional Hero cards and each requires that you’ve used and collapsed two different rooms. They immediately give you 2 fame points and each has a lingering effect. Dwarf gives you a trained goblin each time you burn an Ice Cave and Human gives you the chance to increase or decrease your token track on a cave every time you “conquer” (acquire) an Ice Cave.

One more component: The Goblin Camp Board. Here’s mine, ready to go:

boblin's rebellion game review - scoreboard

The left side of the card shows the possible actions – you get two per turn – including, top to bottom, Conquer, Scout, Recruit (three Sticklers or two Screamers), Defeat Guard (remove a Troll and get two points!), and Befriend a hero. You can only have a finite number of goblins, regardless of type, as denoted by the white squares. The bottom tracks your score and the squares with the brown background spawn a Troll when you attain that particular number. Trolls are placed on the dark green squares, blocking trained goblins, room-collapsing benefits, etc.


The first move I’m going to make is to Conquer one of the Mineshafts. This costs me a Stickler but will allow me to convert a Screamer into both a Slinger and Stabber:

boblin's rebellion game review - room one

After I’ve used the card three times, it’ll collapse, giving me a free extra action on that turn (the purple and white starburst). Each turn has two actions, and it moves pretty quickly. Once a room is acquired, it moves out of the 3 x 3 grid and goes to your tableau, ready for use.

In the solo game, each turn has two actions, followed by The Big Shift: The rightmost room for all three rows of Mineshaft, Ice Cave, Inferno is removed from the game, the other rooms shift over, then new rooms are revealed on the leftmost side of each of those three rows. There are 27 cards of each, so if you remove 3 at the start, that means you have a maximum of 21 turns. Except when you acquire a room, it leaves the grid and is replaced, accelerating the shrinkage. Once you run out of rooms in any of the three rows, you lose. To win, gain 27 fame points.

A bit further along in the game I have acquired more rooms including the below Inferno:

boblin's rebellion game review - inferno room

I’m dropping three Stabbers on this one (as determined by where the goblins are on the player board) and since none are a Sparkler, I earn a big 4 fame points. Not a bad result when we only need to get 27 to win. Notice the tracker along the bottom: You place a counter cube when you acquire the card and you collapse it when a counter reaches the “X” square, so it means this can grant me a max of two benefits. Still, a potential 8 points is pretty solid!

Speaking of which, in the below, I’ve progressed further and have 8 fame points. This also means I have two Trolls on my player board, as you can see:

boblin's rebellion game review - almost done

Once you get your machine working for you, though, it’s straightforward to have the boring goblins (Sticklers, Screamers) get trained up as specialist creatures – Stalker, Slinger, Sparkler, Stabber – and then deploy them to gain more points. About ten minutes later I’m poised to win:

boblin's rebellion game review - end game setup

Notice I picked up the Dwarf Hero, which earned me 2 points and allows me to get another trained goblin of my choice every time I collapse an Ice Cave. I’ve actually consumed four rooms at this point, three Mineshafts and one Inferno. I can’t get more Hero cards, however, because each requires two different rooms be collapsed.

Not a worry, though, and it’s revealing to see my Player Board as I finish up this solo game:

boblin's rebellion game review - game end player board

I left three Trolls on my board in the interest of moving forward, and had no specialists remaining when I got those last few fame points. My last move was to place a Stickler on the Defeat Guard action on the left, which removes a Troll but, far more importantly, gives me the last 2 points needed for victory!


I really enjoyed playing through Boblin’s Rebellion as I learned the game and its nuances. A spin-off from the Dungeon Drop! series, this is a highly portable game that will fit on a reasonably sized table and supports a fun solo mode and adding up to three additional players for a family race to the greatest fame. The artwork is excellent, though some of the symbols can be a bit confusing, particularly differentiating between trained goblins. The components are laminated, heavy stock cards with a slim fold-up player board and typical cubes, printed on one face only.

I found that the solo mode was fairly easy once you grokked the basic concepts and how the engine needs to be built, but I haven’t yet tried playing by removing more than 3 cards at the beginning, so that might easily mitigate any simplicity. The solo mode also doesn’t have an automata so it’s just you racing to complete the required points before you run out of rooms. This means that multiplayer is going to be quite different (and some cards offer you benefits with other players attain a specific condition). All in all, Boblin’s Rebellion is a solid worker placement puzzle game that deserves a space on your shelfie!

Boblin’s Rebellion, by Phase Shift Games. $24.99 at

Disclaimer: Phase Shift Games sent me a copy of Boblin’s Rebellion in return for this candid review.


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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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