Godzilla: Tokyo Clash (2020) board game review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

I used to own this other board game titled King of Tokyo, a game that abstracted kaiju fights by having monsters that were rip-offs of Godzilla and King Kong, the energizer bunny, among others (some of which, to their credit, were original). We all knew we were to imagine that these were those actual monsters as opposed to proxies for them. That didn’t matter. What mattered was that the game was a glorified Yahtzee system. Roll a bunch of dice, keep what results you liked, and then re-roll the rest up to 2 more times, then stick with what you get. You hoped you could generate energy when you needed it (for purchasing cards that stay in play to make your monster stronger), hits when you needed to damage the other monster(s), hearts for when you needed to heal (or get a Power Up, if you had that expansion), and numbers on the off-chance you could get a large amount of them for Victory Points (VP). You win by either being the last monster standing, or by being the first to get to 20 VP. There wasn’t any built-in timer mechanism that gave players so many turns in the entire game to reach either goal. It ended when the players ended up ending it, thanks to the dice rolls.

Image from Appleseed54 from BoardGameGeek

Then there was King of New York (try not to sing that song from Newsies). Pretty much the same game, except now it had a board which actually mattered. You could destroy tanks and other stuff in addition to smashing the monsters. The game got a little more brutal as a result, but in my opinion more fun. Because a monster-bashing game without the destruction of all that work those hard working blue-collar workers put their blood sweat and tears into is only half a game, at least if it’s to go about giving the feel of giant monsters bashing the hell out of each other.

Anubis vs. Mantis vs. Drakonis
Image from Rock Lobster of BoardGameGeek.

Then there was Rampage, which got renamed to Terror in Meeple City (what a suckass name), which was completely different from those other two games. There were definitely buildings you could destroy, but you did so by flicking, dropping, and blowing your load onto the buildings and/or the other monsters. Kinda fun, at first. There aren’t enough decent flicking games out there not named Crokinole. But it’s not exactly a game meant for more serious competition. On the other hand, isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? A serious kaiju fighting city destroying game? On the other hand, back in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, we took that cheesy shit seriously damnit! We wanna have our cheese and eat it too! Anyone who didn’t like it could take a whiff of our tight cheesy asses!

Flicking a game piece
Image by Alex Vandenberg of BoardGameGeek.

Which is where this board game comes into play. Godzilla: Tokyo Clash. Finally, the one monster-bashing game I have been waiting for. No longer beating around the bush as to imagining your playing as the giant green lizard king himself, you do get to play as him. And not only do you get to play as him, but you get a little toy mini representing him, and Ghidorah, and Mothra, and Megalon.

“Yeah, I mean you! Don’t think we haven’t forgotten about your kaiju existence!”

And no longer are you relying on dice, praying to get the results that you want when you know the dice have a will of their own, and you know that they fucking hate you (probably because you’re shaking and throwing them all the time). Instead, you get a hand of cards each round, so you know what you’re going into the round with. Playing with the hand you’re dealt (with the possibility of extra card draws depending on what you play or what you destroy). So that now you can actually use some honest to God critical/creative thinking and planning. Because these monsters are not lumbering idiots, it takes effort for them to destroy cities and each other.

On that note, similar to King of New York and Rampage, there’s an actual board you play on, that has the buildings, vehicles, and the monsters (the latter of which move around and destroy shit). Unlike both of those games, this is a modular board that is likely to change each game. God bless board games with modular boards. Next thing you know, someone will make a variant to take further advantage of this by having sections of it break off in the middle of a conflict. Like some Earthquake/Volcano event card that replaces one board section with another, deprives the monsters of energy sources, and causes the game to end sooner (assuming the destroyed buildings would get added to the Damage Track). Just some ideas to throw out there for expanding/modding the game.

On the note of energy, yeah, there’s a practical reason for wanting to destroy buildings and vehicles in this game. You don’t just do it for the hell of it (even if one may want to do it just for that reason). You generate energy when you destroy buildings and vehicles. And you need energy to play some of the cards in your hand (costs ranging from 0-5). So, like how in the movies it usually begins with the kaijus destroying cities and stuff before they start clashing with each other, so to in the game will you need to follow that example. So now we know why the monsters did that in the first place. They were warming themselves up before the monster battle. If we didn’t exist to build the structures up, they wouldn’t exist to tear those structures down. It’s the circle of life.

But what if you’re in a position where you don’t have enough energy to play any of the cards in your hand? What if there’s no vehicles or kaiju around nearby for you to pick up and toss at other buildings/vehicles to generate energy? Thankfully, each monster has 2 discard abilities. Aside from mothra, each monster can discard to move one space, or discard to throw a vehicle/kaiju. So you could either do that, or you could hold those cards for the next round. Because once everyone has passed consecutively for the current round (which you’re forced to do if you have no cards in hand), everyone then has the option to discard any cards remaining in their hand, and then draw back up to 5 (+1 for the current King of the Monsters, more on that later). So on the one hand, you may want to hold onto a couple of these cards for the next round so you can actually use them for something other than discard abilities. On the other hand, you’ll draw less cards, and you may end up with better cards for next round. But maybe the new cards will be worse? Decisions decisions.

And the “discard to move” option has Momentum, which is something some of the cards you play have as well. Momentum basically means you get to play another card after using this one. So the game does allow for some combos, which can be particularly devastating if you’ve built up your hand over the rounds to hold a bunch of momentum cards (or maybe you lucked out and drew an entire hand of them), and have built up enough energy to use all of them.

Ghidorah’s ability is getting some head.

On top of that, each monster has his own unique ability to give them a particular strategy during the game. Godzilla can toss things a little farther than all the other kaiju can, Ghidorah can build up to barrage attacks, Mothra can self-generate energy without needing to destroy buildings, and Megalon can put a card from his discard pile into his draw deck before drawing a new hand during the refresh phase. And this doesn’t even take into account that each monster has it’s own deck of 30 cards which can also make them play uniquely.

This is good and all, but how do you win? Well, unlike King of Tokyo, monsters don’t have health per-se. Instead, when you deal damage to a monster, you get to draw a number of cards off the top of their deck equal to the damage dealt, choose one of them (the highest VP valued one; they call the cards trophy cards, with a dominance value instead of a VP value), and add it to your trophy pile (a separate card pile). The card you remove and keep as a trophy is secret except from you, so only you know how much VP the card is worth (cards are worth 0-3 VP). The rest of the cards you drew go into the monster’s discard pile. For example, if you did 4 damage, you draw 4 cards, keep one for the trophy pile, and discard the rest (that being said, you can never take 0 VP cards; so it’s possible you could deal damage and get nothing; the more damage you do, the more likely you’ll get something). So when you damage a monster, you accomplish 3 things. You gain potential VP points, you deprive the kaiju of one of his cards that he’ll never see for the rest of the game, and you’re discarding cards of his he may have wanted for the next round (discard piles get reshuffled when there’s none left in the draw pile). Whoever has the highest VP at the end of the game wins. And the game ends via a timer mechanism on the Damage Track.

Event card above and below the Damage Track.

You’ll notice some small squares between the round spaces the Oxygen Destroyer marker moves on. That’s because the game ends when the oxygen destroyer moves past a square occupied with a small building. So the more buildings the kaiju destroy, the more quickly the game can end. In other words, the players themselves have direct control over how quickly this game can end. Which theoretically means the player who believes they are in the lead is more likely to want to destroy some small buildings to usher the end faster before that situation changes.

4 player setup

However, this is where the first major problem occurs in this game. Those small buildings. Honestly, despite that they are a bit difficult to see (unless you flip them to the other side where they are bright yellow and have a number representing how much energy they are worth when destroyed), they were serviceable. But you’ll find out when playing a 4-player session of this game (the best way to play), when you’re using all the tiles and all the large and small buildings, you are one small building short of covering all the small building sections on the board. That’s because this game is one small building short of being a competent masterpiece. But nooooooo. They had to force some people to become homeless and leave the monsters deprived of one source of energy as a result. You know, at this point, I think it’s the corporation that shipped these games out who are the real monsters here.

So naturally, to rub this into our faces, they’re forcing us to go into our closets, or attics, or basements, or sheds, to dig up that one copy of Monopoly we all vowed never to play again once our taste in board games matured, and replace all those pansy 2D cardboard buildings with the corporate overlord 3D plastic Monopoly buildings, which will further indoctrinate all of use into believing corporations and monopolies are the answer to everything. Just like those assholes kidnapped those annoying bitch fairies in Godzilla vs. Mothra (which those corporate overlords temporarily retitled as Godzilla vs. The Thing back in the day in what is arguably the worst case of misrepresentation I’ve ever seen in film advertisement) for corporate gain, so they’re robbing us of our dreams by leaving out that one sole small easily replaceable building piece, and forcing us to shell out more money for a replacement if we didn’t already have Monopoly pieces to spare. They are really tempting fate with us gamers, considering how things turned out for those corporate douchebags in that movie (and it’s Heisei era remake).

I had the Star Wars Monopoly version handy. Which may not seem thematic at first, but you might forget that Godzilla not only went into space and to another planet and fought against space monsters and space aliens during the Showa era, but also fought against people from the future and Space Godzilla in the Heisei era. Hell, he even did it in Final Wars, the final film in the Millenium era. It’s only a matter of time before he shows up in a galaxy far far away to fuck up Disney and bring balance to the force and make the Star Wars universe right again, while destroying a bunch of Star Destroyers, Death Stars, AT-ATs, X-Wings, Tie-Fighters, and pansy Sue Jedis.

*sigh*

So anyway, to transition from one unfortunate event to another, this game has event cards. The event cards usually do something at the end of a round (or at least after the kaiju are done beating up each other and destroying stuff) that is harmful to the kaiju. Tanks that take potshots at the monsters (which results in them losing some of their hard-earned energy), UFOs that probe them so hard they must discard a card, trains that just run, lightning generators that exist to get stepped on, and other stuff. Two events are chosen for each game, which can alter the player strategy from game to game. So the card draws mixed in with the modular board, and random events chosen for each game, all ensure you will have to mix up your tactics with each game. Solid replayability, aside from learning how to play each monster efficiently.

As for the meat of the gameplay, the strategy and tactics, there is more to it than in King of Tokyo or New York. Attack cards come in two forms, ranged or melee. Ranged is self-evident, you can shoot a target up to X spaces away. Melee though, that can be used either to deal damage directly, or to throw a vehicle or kaiju. And when you throw with a card (this is different from discarding to throw), you throw the kaiju/vehicle a number of spaces equal to the damage shown on the card. The thing is, unless you’re throwing the kaiju at another kaiju (or at a lightning generator), you’re not doing any damage to them when you throw them. So why throw rather than attack? Well, this depends on how badly you want energy. You can throw a kaiju multiple spaces (ex: a card does 4 damage, you can throw the kaiju 4 spaces away). They must be thrown in a straight line (just as ranged attacks only attack in a straight line), and they must end in a space that contains a large building or kaiju if there exists such a space prior to being thrown at the farthest limit (should the kaiju wish to throw them that hard). But until they reach such a space, they end up destroying a small building or vehicle in each space they are thrown through. And each building/vehicle that is destroyed generates energy for the kaiju who threw it. That can potentially generate a lot more energy than the player had prior to playing the card if done right. On the other hand, if they didn’t throw it at a kaiju, they won’t be drawing any trophy cards from the opponent’s deck. If he did throw it at another kaiju, he would draw 1 card from the kaiju he threw, and the kaiju that it hit (1 damage each).

Now, if he did play the card just to do damage and not throw, then he would be drawing cards for trophies, which is how you get VP for the end of the game. But each monster also has cards that can be played to block damage, if they are holding any. So you may want to time things differently if you believe a player is holding defensive cards that can block X amount of damage. So once again, the decisions one has to think about and eventually make.

And given how a round works. During a round, one player plays a single card for whatever reason (discard ability, or the card ability itself), then play passes to the next clockwise player (unless using a Momentum ability, in which case they can play another card). So it’s possible for a player to react to what another player just did. For instance, if they had a ranged attack card but the opponent was out of range, they may consider how many cards to discard in order to move into range. But if a player moves their kaiju within that range on their turn, then the other player wouldn’t need to discard to do that ranged attack anymore, and could just play that card without needing to discard anything. Alternatively, a player could just Pass. And a round ends when all players Pass consecutively. So one could try a delay tactic in the hopes of responding to whatever the other players do. But this could backfire if all the players end up passing consecutively, making the round end prematurely (something the King of the Monsters, and the player who believes they are winning, may want to do).

Fun for the kiddies. Teaching them to destroy property, like they do today.

As for the King of the Monsters, that’s a marker given to a random player at the start of the game. Not only does this act as a “first player” marker for the round, but it also allows them to draw an extra card at the start of a round (giving them 6 cards instead of 5), and it gives the player who holds it an extra 2 VP at the end of the game. If you do damage to the player who is the King of the Monsters, then you take the token and become the new King of the Monsters, until someone else also damages you. This is actually a brilliant mechanism. This game and King of Tokyo dispense with the formalities of trying to pretend games like these don’t end up devolving into a King of the Hill situation, and just end up making that part of the main mechanisms of the game.

So yeah, plenty of meat to this game. A couple more layers than your average monster-mashing game. And it’s everything I had hoped for from a game of this theme/genre. But there are some minor nitpicks to be had. The lack of all the small building markers aside (yep, I spent a few paragraphs on a nitpick), there’s also that whole thing about only throwing objects in a straight line. Even the rulebook thinks this is bullshit. The image they use to portray throwing in a straight line demonstrates this WITH A CURVED LINE! Bunch of cockteases these developers. If they had ever seen Godzilla: Final Wars, they would know these volleyball-playin’ kaijus can do curveballs!

This also loses points for not having a bunch of Kenny’s (aka annoying as shit children with annoying English dubbing that makes me want to strangle these kids to death if God doesn’t answer my prayers and get Godzilla to stomp on them like he did Bambi) in a school bus (should’ve been a vehicle option) that you can throw and demolish. Make that an expansion! Anything signifying children getting killed in a game like this is a “Shut up and take my money!” guarantee from me.

I just know King Caesar is going to get a card like this if they make an expansion that tosses him into the game.

Also loses points for those goddamn twin fairy Mothra cards. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with them from a gameplay perspective. But those twin twats annoyed the shit out of me in those movies, and I always wanted to see them die. And this game almost manages that. There’s 3 of these twin fairy cards for Mothra, with one of them worth 1 VP, the other 2 worth 0 VP. Which means an opponent could theoretically do damage to Mothra and claim 1 of those 3 cards as a trophy. Which means Mothra is guaranteed to keep 2 of those cards, representing her keeping the twins, while the unloved triplet gets the shaft. That’s bullshit! All of those cards should’ve been worth VP so that if a player gets all of them, he can celebrate that he killed those cocksucking fairies! Goddamnit game, why do you torture me like this!?

Go fuck yourselves!

And the last petty complaint. I wish this game had at least 2 more monsters in it. Rodan should been one of them (I mean, one of the most famous Godzilla films from the Showa era had Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan facing off against Ghidorah, so you’d think that would be the 4th one instead of Megalon), with Anguirus being the other. You know, so that it’s not the same 4 monsters facing off in every game. Sure the 4 monsters the game comes with are perfect for a core set from a gameplay perspective. But you know us consumers. We want more!

Lastly, it loses points for not having kaiju volleyball! They needed a few counter cards thrown in there where they catch a vehicle and throw it back at the opponent! Everyone knows the kaiju loved playing volleyball back in the 60s and 70s! That’s why the Heisei, Millenium, and Americanized era versions all suck compared to Showa! #BringBackKaijuVolleyball!

Petty complaints aside, this is currently my favorite Kainju/monster bashing game. It’s fun, and a bit more layered than what you would expect from something like this. I give it a solid 3.5 out of 5 (that’s 7 out of 10 for you BGGers). Hope this does well enough for expansions to be made, because there’s plenty of potential.

PS: As for which monster in this game is my favorite, I don’t have one. Surprise surprise, I think all 4 of them are very fun to play.

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