We Have Goats is a tile-based racing game where two to four players compete to be the first to return their goats to their goat pen. Although it's certainly not a heavy game, We Have Goats manages to provide some interesting decisions despite its straightforward mechanics and silly theme. It has a few balance issues, but nothing absolutely game breaking.
We Have Goats game-play is driven by a deck of white cards, comprised of four different types: Moves, Lands, Goat-tastrophes, and Actions. Each turn players draw a card, and then select just one to play or discard. As with any card game, knowing when to use each type is key.
Move cards are the most important card type in We Have Goats, as without them your goats won't be getting home any time soon. They range in value from two to five and are plentiful enough that you won't often find yourself without at least one in your hand. Movement itself is the simplest aspect of We Have Goats, as which goat to move and where to move it is often obvious. Knowing when it's best to play another card instead of moving will require careful consideration. For a game with so much theme, it's odd that all the move cards don't have their own names, just "Move 2," "Move 5," etc. It'd be nice if there was a bit more variation in what they did as well, rather than all functioning identically except for the number of spaces allowed.
We Have Goats starts with a blank 5x5 grid as the game board. Players work together (and against each other) to fill in this grid with Land cards. Some Land cards have rocks blocking certain paths, some have Goat Sliders that allow for a free movement, while others are free of hazards. Since each player's goats will start the game divided between the three other goat pens, players have an incentive to initially play Land cards that don't make any pen more difficult to move out of. Of course, as with any game where players can take actions that will benefit everyone equally, it's often best to let the other players spend their turns doing that while you work to improve your position. As with Move cards, some more variation in the Land Cards would be a worthwhile addition.
As the game progresses, playing Land cards to block paths that your goats have already passed, especially those close to the goat pen of whoever is closest to winning, becomes a valuable play. With the exception of a few special Land cards, Land is not permanent and can be replaced with another Land card easily as long as there are no goats on the card to be replaced. As such, it's important to think ahead and block paths before your opponents goats get to them, and equally important to quickly move your goats onto Land cards you'd rather not see replaced.
We Have Goats also has Goat-astrophe cards. These powerful cards can destroy or rotate land cards, allow goats to switch places, fly over obstacles, etc. Unlike Land cards, Goat-astrophes can be played on occupied Land cards. You can wait until a goat is almost home and hit it with a Goat-nami and leave it swimming to shore, or even use a Goat Portal to teleport it across the map. Goat-astrophes are powerful cards that are worth saving for the most opportune time to play them.
Rounding out the remainder of the deck are Action cards. Actions cards are special effects that allow you to play extra cards, steal cards from another player, and generally affect the game outside of the board or the goats. A few are no-brainers that you'll play the first chance you get, while others are nearly useless. We Have Goats also includes the nearly ubiquitous "Cancel a card as it's being played" cards, however it can only cancel other Action cards, so it's often less useful than you'd expect. Unless you're anticipating being the target of a specific action card soon, you may be better served getting rid of it immediately to free up space in your hand. There's also a special "All Play" action card that interrupts the turn of whomever drew it and give the first player who can play a clip of a screaming goat a free move. It's a fun idea, but since it's the only card that does something like that it feels like it was thrown in as an afterthought.
We Have Goats doesn't stop with just the deck of white cards though. Each player is also given two Goat Labs at the start of the game. Goat Labs represent upgrades that players can work towards. Instead of playing a card normally, players can instead discard a card in exchange for a number of gems (listed on the card itself) to put towards a Goat Lab. Once that Goat Lab's cost is reached, the player gains the upgrade (and possibly another small bonus) for the rest of the game.
Goat Labs are both the best and worst part of We Have Goats. The abilities are varied and allow for different playstyles and are often key to winning. The constant choice between working towards an upgrade for later, or improving one's position immediately proves to be engaging. With costs ranging from six to twelve, you won't be getting any upgrade quickly, especially since there are several action cards that allow other players to steal your Goat Labs and destroy all your hard work (which would be a good reason to hang onto the cancel card mentioned above). Once you've successfully funded (or "locked") your Goat Lab though, it's yours for the rest of the game.
Goat Labs do however bring a host of problems with them to We Have Goats. Balance is a bit wonky, as some of the twelve cost Goat Labs are more than twice as powerful as some of the six cost Goat Labs. Twelve cost Goat Labs will take longer to complete, which means the risk of someone stealing them before you lock them is greater, but once you've done so it's easy to run away with the game. For example, if someone manages to lock "Double Rainbow," the other players will have to gang up on that player if they want to have a chance to win. To make matters worse, there is an Action card that allows you to instantly fund a Goat Lab.
The random distribution of the Goat Labs at the start of a game of We Have Goats further complicates matters. It's not uncommon for one player to get two great Goat Labs, or for someone to have one Goat Lab whose power makes their other Goat Lab worthless. There's only eight Goat Labs in We Have Goats, so you'll see them all in every four player game, which makes the Action card that allows you to draw a new Goat Lab worthless.
The funding values on white cards are inconsistent at times as well. Not every copy of some cards can be used to fund a Goat Lab, so it's possible to have a hand with no funding options while an opponent with an effectively identical hand could have the ability to fund his Goat Labs. The funding value of the cards doesn't always seem to correlate with the usefulness of the card itself either. Generally they are related (i.e. a Move 2 being worth two funding), but a few cards stuck out as ones you'd either never use for funding, or always would. Ultimately Goat Labs are a worthwhile addition to We Have Goats, but they need a bit of fine-tuning.
The copy of We Have Goats I was sent also included the additional "Not For Kids" cards. If you can get past a bit of crude humor, these cards are a solid addition. These cards are not just duplicates of other cards with a different name but have their own unique effects. They improve upon most of the issues I've already noted. The Lands are unique, the Actions more varied, and they add an additional two Goat Labs. Sadly, that means that if you plan on playing with children and/or the easily offended you'll be missing out on some great cards. If that isn't a problem for your game group, these add enough to We Have Goats that they should be included every time you play.
The rulebook for We Have Goats could stand to be improved. Between a few effects not being clearly explained and the issues with Goat Labs I noted above, my first impression of We Have Goats was not a favorable one. After getting some questions answered by the designer, I've enjoyed it more and more with each subsequent play. I feel it works best with four players, as that allows three people to work to prevent the fourth person from steamrolling to victory with a powerful Goat Lab.
You can read the rules of We Have Goats here
We Have Goats is currently on Kickstarter
I played this game with a free copy provided by the designers
The designers of We Have Goats have said that they will be fine-tuning until they start printing and have asked me for input. The designer and I discussed some of the issues that I (and my fellow players) had with the version of We Have Goats we were sent. He is making changes based on those suggestions, which you can read about here. Obviously I haven't had a chance to try these changes yet, but assuming they are implemented well, the final version of We Have Goats will be a much stronger game that what I played.