Back at the 2018 Southern Fried Gaming Expo, I stumbled upon a game unlike anything I had seen before. It was Rap Godz, and it struck me with its theme and artwork. It had a successful Kickstarter launch and sold out of its first print run earlier this year.
But game sales weren’t the only things happening for game designer Omari Akil. In 2020, Akil was all over the place, featured in interviews with io9, Indy Week, and several other publications beyond the board gaming industry. And in June, a campaign across social media led to nearly $81,000 being raised for Black Lives Matter and other organizations as donations were given for each copy of Rap Godz that was sold.
So with all the buzz around Omari and Rap Godz, the gaming community has been waiting impatiently for the next release from Board Game Brothas. And though COVID caused a few delays, Hoop Godz finally made its way to Kickstarter in October 2020. Serving as a spiritual successor to their first game, Akil and artist Hamu Dennis have moved from the recording studio to the street, replicating the feelings of street ball in a two-player head-to-head contest.
Hoop Godz has two players going head-to-head in a game of basketball. Each player’s team is composed of three ballers, each with special characteristics. Each baller is categorized by their size and features a special ability that gives them an advantage over the course of the game.
On a turn, players can complete a variety of actions to help them get the ball down the court to score. Moving, passing, and boosting (I’ll explain later) are basic maneuvers that are always available, but each player also receives a deck of cards of actions they can take depending on whether they’re the active player and whether or not they have the ball. These include actions for shooting, crossovers, steals, and slam dunks.
Each of the actions requires “juice”, the action points for Hoop Godz. These are managed using an interesting system that splits your action bar into levels. You’ll always have the ability to use two action points. However, use more action points, and you’ll have to score or rest in order to refill your useable juice. The pacing of the game is tied into this rest element in an interesting way that ensures that players will get the chance to make enough moves while also not letting the game drag on forever.
In the Paint
Play balances nicely on your turn whether you’re on offense or defense. With the ball, you will try to move the ball and position your players so that you can get take a shot. If you’re on defense, you’ll be trying to make the right moves so that you can come away with a steal.
Either way, your turn will likely end by you playing an action card. At that point, your opponent will have the opportunity to move into the right position in order to defend. However, they’ll have to use up their juice in order to move and then play a response card. I am a big fan of this mechanic for defense. It prevents players from really having a “free shot” most of the time, but it simulates a fast break a little bit in that, while you might catch up, it may be very difficult to do so and you won’t be in the best position to defend.
Once the action cards have been laid out by both characters, the dice rolling begins. Oh, did I not mention dice rolling? Yes, each action requires you to roll dice to match the three icons that are seen on your action card. You start with three dice, but you may gain dice based on your size or your ballers’ special abilities. You can also use your “boost” action to pay juice for an extra die. Players then roll at the same time, and whoever gets their icons first wins. You can play real time rolls, but we preferred the variant where you roll all at once, as it seemed to make the game a bit more fair and strategic.
From the opening of the box, I felt that Hoop Godz stepped up the components experience from Rap Godz. I loved the artwork for that game, and there were unique things about the design that made it stand out. Hoop Godz, however, feels creative and functional. The board successfully combines a traditional hexagonal movement grid with a basketball court. Standees for each player’s three ballers move around, with a ball token being passed back and forth. The player boards are also well designed, providing an easy interface for players to keep track of important information.
I also continue to be a fan of the art. It works very well, and though there’s not nearly as much of it this time around, it’s enjoyable. There is so much character in each of the ballers, and they all seem to represent someone you might see in any pickup game at a gym or on a street court. I’ve asked for a baller to be created that refuses to play defense and just waits in the corner to shoot threes, but Akil has only said that he’ll look into it.
The only issue I really had with the game was getting started. The rules are clearly written out, but this is one of those cases where you don’t quite understand it until you play it. I think that gameplay videos will largely resolve this issue, though, so it shouldn’t be a problem by the time it gets into people’s hands.
Grab the Rebound
When I previewed Rap Godz a few years ago, I mentioned that it’s important that such a game exists, as it hits themes that had not really been explored before and would bring people to the gaming table that might not have come. Hoop Godz almost feels like the next step in a board gaming initiation program. It still is hitting themes that have rarely been addressed before and appealing to people in unique ways, but there’s definitely more strategy involved.
All in all, Hoop Godz is a solid follow-up for Board Game Brothas, and it’s already become a hit with the Kickstarter crowd. Be sure that you check it out soon before the campaign ends!
Hoop Godz is available on Kickstarter until Friday, November 20th. And even better, you can get a copy of the second printing of Rap Godz!
A prototype of the game was provided for this coverage. Components and rules covered in this preview are not finalized. Read more about our preview policies at One Board Family.