Let’s Play! Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars (review)

I have a confession to make: I’ve seen Mothra vs. Godzilla more times than should be legally allowed.  This isn’t something I’m boasting about mind you – nobody should take pride in needing four digits to count the number of times I’ve heard “save our egg!” shouted by two miniature ladies.  You see, rather than boasting, I bring you this fact with my head hung in lowly shame.  I had thought I’d finally left my Mothra-watching kaiju ways behind me – but Toy Vault Games was insistent on dragging me back in with their city-smashing good time, Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars.

Let’s get one thing clear right up front: Kaiju World Wars is exactly what you’d want a Godzilla-licensed game to be – mindless destruction.  Players will pick between one of four kaiju (giant monster for those not fluent in Japanese geekery) and set out to destroy buildings, military vehicles, and the kaiju of other players in an attempt to become the (wait for it…) king of the monsters!

For the most part, gameplay breaks down into two elements: destroying buildings and fighting monsters.  Both of these actions are done by spending energy points, which each monster has a finite number of each turn.  Destroying buildings is usually done through movement – you’re a giant monster, so it’s pretty easy to just crush a building by walking through it, which is exactly what you’ll do.  The energy cost is directly associated to the height of the building, as are the points awarded for its destruction – so bigger point expenditures can very quickly result in bigger rewards.

Players can also destroy buildings – as well as complete other tasks like movement, healing, and flying – through the use of action cards.  Basic combat also uses these, but like a real monster, we decided that the only real way to play Kaiju World Wars would be to go big or go home.

Advanced combat has players working from a special set of combat cards. Like action cards, each card will be particular to a certain kaiju.  And while destroying buildings and stomping on tanks is fun, Kaiju World Wars finds its most strikingly original element in its combat cards.

Each combat card will have little numbered squares dotting either side of it, and each of these numbered squares will represent an action.  The red side of the card is for the attacking player, and the purple for the defending.  Players will each pick a combat card from their own hand and reveal these cards only when they’re ready to fight.  The cards are then placed side by side, the attacker rolls a die, and whatever number is rolled will determine which actions take place on behalf of either player.

The actions themselves make the combat feel right out of the movies.  Sometimes a rolled action will cause the two kaiju to grapple, damaging each other simultaneously.  Other times you may knock an opposing kaiju to the ground.  Combat cards also sometimes have special rules that compliment the game’s theme, like the ranged card “Throw Objects,” that only works if you’re adjacent to rubble or a military vehicle that can be picked up and tossed.  And speaking of theme, the military vehicles here are just about as impotent as they are in the movies – they don’t stand a chance of doing damage unless they roll a 6.  Tough luck, doughboys.

Theme really is the strongest thing Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars has going for it.  There are other elements to the game we haven’t quite covered in this review, like event cards, special powers, and more – but they all reflect the theme exquisitely.  Especially the game’s included scenarios.  Kaiju World Wars ships with four, including a monster-vs-monster free-for-all, kaiju alliances, and even a two-player scenario where Gigan is trying to destroy delicious fish restaurants while Godzilla is trying to destroy Gigan.

Everything here really gets you in the mindset of a rampaging behemoth.  You couldn’t simply swap out the monsters for cowboys or pirates – Kaiju World Wars is a game that’s custom made to recreate the feel of the franchise, and it does so without missing a beat.  Like the movies, Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars can best be summed up with the words “mindless fun,” and yet there’s more than enough going on that few would ever accuse the game of being simple to the point of boring.

In fact, after reading the manual, few would ever accuse anything in Kaiju World Wars of being simple – let alone understandable.

I can’t imagine how it happened, but it seems as though nobody at Toy Vault Games felt the need to take a look at the guide before sending it off to the printer (or in the case of this low quality manual, the photocopier).  Some parts of the guide are simply confusing, while other parts contradict info presented on the game’s quick reference info cards.  For example, tanks are worth two points when destroyed according to the guide, but according to the included info cards, they’re worth 3.  Likewise, destruction point scoring for buildings is wildly contradictory between the guide and the cards.  This leaves players stuck making house rule decisions in every game.  How a release could ship with such glaring oversights is beyond comprehension.

The instructions aren’t the only component that caused problems.  The kaiju miniatures, while gorgeous, have a really hard time standing on the wobbly rubble tiles.  Due to a lack of tail, Rodan lacks the balance to even stand on the flat game board for long before tumbling to the ground.  Other pieces – like military vehicles with colors that make them difficult to see on the board, or super small and easy to lose chits for keeping track of the points – round out the overall components failure that Kaiju World Wars suffers from.

Still – despite some flaws in the execution, Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars is a blast to play.  Your first game is going to start out as a confusing struggle; but push through, make some common sense decisions to make up for the manual’s mind-boggling contradictions, and you’ll quickly see how much fun there is to be had.  Especially if you’re a loser like me and feel the need to yell “RAWWWWR!!” with every successful attack.

Now if only they’d deliver a Mothra expansion…

Jim Squires

1 comments

Looks good. It might be worthwhile for an enterprising group of fans to produce a more concise set of instructions. Thanks for the review!

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