Updated: Apr 12
I'm a board game enthusiast and an avid fan of Godzilla so when Godzilla: Tokyo Clash rampaged into my consciousness my interest was piqued. I was drawn to the stylistic box art, displaying the title in Japanese alongside the English, clearly channeling the promotional art for the Godzilla cinematic entries of the sixties and seventies.
Upon opening the box, you are presented with nicely sculpted, pre-painted and washed miniature kaiju (Japanese for monsters that aren't miniature) of three of the most iconic kaiju in the series; Mothra, King Ghidora and the big lizard himself, alongside one slightly more obscure combatant, Megalon. This in of itself was exciting, as it suggested that the designers of the game, Prospero Hall, were familiar enough with the subject material to choose some of the less obvious characters for a central role in their product. Quickly, the shameful consumerist in me reared its ugly head and filled my mind with visions of expansions, each one including a duo of new monsters I could collect and add to the fray.
Flicking my way through the different kaiju card decks, I was pleased to see the Showa era (the first age of Godzilla) was the chosen backdrop for the game. Eschewing the currently popular cinematic 'Monsterverse' in favour of the more playful, campy characters of a different time. This is a laudable decision, and even those unfamiliar with these rubber-suited actors can appreciate the colourful and playful card art. Then I noticed one specific kaiju card labelled 'Victory Pose' and my anticipation of my first turn grew exponentially. It depicted Godzilla gleefully dancing like a child; an insane moment straight out of the 1965 movie Invasion of Astro-Monster. I knew for sure that this was a game designed by people who really do love the source material.
Considering the high quality of the components included, Godzilla: Tokyo Clash has a reasonable price point, and this could be the deciding factor for anyone debating whether to add it to their collection. I certainly don't regret picking this up myself. However, ludicrous as it may seem, not everyone loves the Godzilla of old as much as I do. If you disregard the toy factor, the lovely theme and the knowing nods to niche moments, would this still hold up?
It's fitting perhaps that I have neglected so far to mention the mechanics of this 2-4 player game because they aren't overly novel or even integral to the experience. A brief summation of the gameplay would read something like this: card play allows your abilities and movement, smashing obstacles gives you energy needed to activate those cards, do this more than the other players to be the winner when the super weapon 'the oxygen destroyer' kills everyone and ends the game. There are some interesting details here. I liked that the round tracker, depicting the game ending oxygen destroyer, moves towards its end point after every round, but the players are also marking every small building that gets destroyed on the other end of the track, so when the oxygen destroyer token reaches a destroyed small building token the game ends. This means that a player may choose to shy away from destroying small buildings if they think that they are losing and need more time to claw back some points, or they can act recklessly if they think they are faring better. I also enjoyed the moments of anguish caused when players take cards from their opponents' decks as 'trophies' every time they deal damage to that player, effectively earning them victory points and thinning their opponent's armoury of choices.
The set up and game play is varied between plays by the event cards which offer two different thematic happenstances to consider in each game. These include, for example, a UFO invasion, air strike jets and, perhaps a little less excitingly, rush hour trains. These vary the game enough to keep players coming back for more.
Often, when board game reviewers discuss a game they lazily fall back on describing it as 'the perfect beer and pretzels game'. This is code for 'This game is fun, if you are a little inebriated and you are willing to overlook a slightly wonky ruleset'. You'll most often find this description used in reviews of miniature-heavy crowdfunded games where the experience comes before the gameplay. It isn't the best analogy because those same miniature-heavy games usually involve thick rulebooks that rarely lend themselves to being taught to slightly drunk players. Instead, I propose you try Godzilla: Tokyo Clash which, with a playing time of 30-45 minutes, really is a 'perfect beer and pretzels' game. It's smaller, cheaper, less inflated and more charming than most alternatives. What better way of rounding off an evening of playing heavy euro games than by throwing your friend's giant moth into your other friend's three-headed dragon? Have fun with it!
(Review by Dale Page)