Rap Godz was a lucky find for me at the Southern Fried Gaming Expo back in June. Walking by a table randomly as I explored everything the convention had to offer, I was drawn in by the intricate artwork with its barrage of colors, as well as the unique theme. I got the chance to sit down and try out this offering from Board Game Brothas, and by the end of my second game, I felt like maybe I had picked up the skills to quit my job and become an MC.
Okay, not really. That would be a terrible idea. But I had played a really fun board game!
Rap Godz has you living out the hip hop lifestyle to the fullest. Each player takes on the role of an artist that is trying to make it big in the industry. The good, bad, and ugly sides of the music life are all represented here, and you’ll be living each part over three rounds, which thematically represents the completion of three different albums. Each album is completed over the course of 5 rounds, each representing a track from your album, during which you will be mostly acquiring cards from the album deck for that particular round.
The cards are fantastic, describing experiences that might be had by your character, such as dropping a new mixtape, buying a new car, or losing their ideas notebook. Each card also has unique illustrations that fit so well with the theme and the overall energy of the game.
Each card falls into a category, each of which is distinguished by color, and almost every card earns you plaques (victory points) and moves you forward on one of the three resource tracks. The exception is Beef!, which has you picking a fight with another player. The two players then roll dice to see which one of them will suffer the negative consequences shown on the Beef! card. Instead of drawing a card, players also have the option of discarding three cards from your hand to acquire a Come Up card, which is more powerful than a standard album card and can give you a real push on a later turn.
Players continue to move on the scoring and resource tracks, start beefs, and navigate all the other chaos until the final track of the third album. At that point, the final scores are calculated, and the player with the most plaques wins!
I’ll be honest: when I first sat down to this game, I was expecting a lot of funny commentary on hip hop culture, but not a lot of interesting gameplay. And I must admit that I was wrong. While the laughs and nostalgia are definitely there, this game has a good bit of strategy going on. At the start of the game, you’ll need to develop a basic game plan for victory based on your and other players’ starting skills and the victory point Rewardz placed out at the beginning of the game. Each of the Rewardz provides bonus points for meeting a condition first (like being the first to acquire a 25 point token) or leading in some category at the end of the game (like the furthest along a resource track).
So how does strategy come into play with Rap Godz? Well, let me use one of the games I played as an example. I decided to minimize the points I would get on the mic track in order to get one of the bonus Rewardz that is laid out at the beginning of every game. While it was risky to not have those points, I was able to really push forward on the other tracks, and as a result I was able to get other bonuses as the game went on. This all worked out, but it just wasn’t as good as one of my opponents, who just maximized all their points on the track, leading to an overall victory. Each game can be approached with different strategies, and well-played games from a variety of approaches can lead to a win.
The only thing that I believe is holding Rap Godz back is the incredibly niche market that it is hitting. I don’t personally have a big connection to hip hop, but I do occasionally listen to ‘old school’ hip hop stations, and I’ve learned a little bit of the history and the culture through the years. That being said, there was a lot from this game that went over my head, but I still had a good time. Others, however, might pass this game off based on the box art and title alone, and that’s a shame. While the focus of the game seems to be the theme, there really are some solid mechanics that will keep gamers entertained and lead them to want to play another round.
I think it’s important that a game like Rap Godz exists, because I think it’s something that is absent from board gaming culture. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but that’s okay – neither are dragons and wizards and stuff. I think this will serve as a gateway game for many people who might have avoided board games otherwise, and as a great hit of nostalgia for any gamers that also have fond memories of this music culture. So if it sounds like a game you would love, you’re probably right, and you should try to get your hands on a copy.
Interested? Head on over to the Kickstarter and support Rap Godz at the very reasonable price of $40!