DEBTZILLA – WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT DEBT

Disclaimer: The game we played was a prototype so rules/designs might change by launch. The review is based on our first game.

No of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 60-90 mins
Ages: 14+
Genre: Strategic DeckBuilding

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Now being funded on Kickstarter (ends Wed 18 Oct), Debtzilla is a strategic deckbuilding game designed by Singapore-based Capital Gains Studio where 2 – 4 players have to work together to beat monsters of mass financial destruction. In Debtzilla, players take on the roles of superheroes such as Angie Merkling, otherwise known as Iron Girl, to work and earn enough to help fight villains and monsters.

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“WAIT! WHAT? SUPERHEROES GOT TO WORK?!”

The government of Banana Republic is corrupt and incompetent. They have created a wave of crimes that has resulted in their citizens being scammed and made bankrupt by villains that are running free. Not everyone is lucky or unlucky enough (depends on how you look at it) to be like Bruce Wayne, who has an abundance of wealth to become the Batman. The superheroes of Banana Republic are hard working citizens who have to save and borrow money to fund their crime-fighting activities to protect the Banana Republic.

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Some of the Superheros of Banana Republic

“Ah, that’s not so bad! They can always borrow money from the bank to help them fight crime right?”

Absolutely! They can easily get loans from the bank to help fund their superhero careers, but it all comes with a price. The monster known as Debtzilla grows stronger for every loan taken. The stronger Debtzilla is, the harder it is for the heroes to protect the citizens of Banana Republic.

“YIKES! Hope the heroes can beat Debtzilla before it becomes too strong!”

You and me both my friend, you and me both.

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Beware the Debtzilla!

Debtzilla is a pretty straight forward deckbuilder that is broken down into three different phases, which interact with one of the 4 game boards.

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Game setup and ready to go!

Setting up these boards is simple. Arrange them from left to right; Working, Shopping, Vigilante and Boss board (as in seen in the image above). During the day, the heroes interact with the Working Board to attain either income, luxury or loan. All your actions here help build your deck. After a long day of work, you can go shopping for new gear. Gear improves the success rate of your hero at fighting crime later on. And finally, at night, you and your team will be defeating villains and protecting citizens.

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When fighting crime, you fight together as a team, and you have to beat all the villains together. Each time you fail to defeat a villain, they steal from the innocent citizens of Banana Republic and try to make them bankrupt. If the villains succeed,  not only does the citizen get taken out, but Debtzilla also grows stronger.

When we played the game, we (mostly Larhvin) made Debtzilla attain full power by constantly taking loans but we managed to clutch victory on the final turn to save the last citizen from bankruptcy and beat the all mighty Debtzilla!

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Post game picture

Here’s what Bryan (B), Kathir (K) and Larhvin (L) thought about the session:

1) What were your thoughts on the setting of the game?

Bryan (B): It’s really easy to identify with the setting of the game since we all have to struggle with balancing our earnings and our spending. Pretty entertaining that they managed to turn that concept into a monster battle game.

Kathir (K): Debtzilla instantly became a must play for me even though it’s still in its still a work in progress, simply because of its unique approach to a personal favorite theme of mine; Superheroes. After playing for the first time, without a doubt, one can say Debtzilla plays its cards right when it comes to reminding everyone that not all superheroes can flex their financial might like Batman or Ironman. To the rest who want to save the world, the efforts can hurt their pockets. Quick to pick up while adding a little humor and ensuring its family friendly into the mix, makes Debtzilla an easily approachable game.

Larhvin (L): In terms of setting, I felt that it puts us in a real-world simulation but takes down the seriousness of it so that we know how hard work and taking loans work. The concept of having a monster grow when someone takes a credit or go bankrupt was what made it interesting to me. And because you have crimes going on as well, it forces ordinary citizens to become heroes to save the day.

2) How did you find the gameplay?

B: The rules are easy to understand, and the cards have clear instructions on them, so you know precisely what each one does. Fighting against Debtzilla felt a bit too quick though, as we only had about three deck reshuffles before we had to fight him so the cards you get in the financing round don’t seem to have a big impact.

K:  Simple game mechanics, easy to pick up basics within a single walkthrough and challenging win rates makes Debtzilla a pleasant surprise. I like how teamwork is crucial in this game as well; players must discuss their decisions in approaching the villains if they want to win.

This deck-building game that also includes dice rolls to defeat the antagonists requires players to protect the citizens by clearing the streets of petty villains and a final boss. Should the last citizen perish; the game is lost. Every round of Debtzilla is divided into three phases. Players first work out their finances by “purchasing” one card to build their decks. They then proceed to buy gadgets that can change/improve their dice rolls with the little savings they have before finally hitting the streets to protect the citizens from the villains. Once the villain deck is cleared, it’s just the players versus the big baddy.

While fun to play and challenging, Debtzilla’s attempt to bring together the concepts of deck building and the randomness of dice rolls works yet feels out of place. Many cards that could be added to the deck felt insignificant to the gameplay or objective and perhaps could be done without. At one point, I felt Debtzilla might be one of those rare gems, that a dice-building mechanic alone would’ve worked well.

L: Debtzilla was a very interesting take on deckbuilding games with the amount of options that would be available the players. The first thing right of the bat that I think enforced this was the individual character cards and their abilities that they come with. And because of that, every one has to work together to build on their deck strength while covering up the weakness of that of their teammates. In a sense, you could say that this game is quite similar to an MMO as well with players being able to take up support roles and damage roles to make the easier. The other thing that makes this game stand out would be it’s introduction of dice to defeat enemies. It may seem challenging at first, but with the right shopping, beating villains and even debtzilla would be a breeze.

3) How do you find the visual design of the game?

B: The chibi artwork is cute and I like the quirky humour of it. The layout of the cards are also very clean so nothing distracts the player. The selection of real life personalities behind the Heroes may be a bit controversial, but hopefully it does not affect the game.

K: I can’t stress enough on how much I love the art style of the cards. They are pleasant to the eyes and works well with the wacky approach to superheroes under financial stress. The card design is simple, colorful and most importantly, doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay; game rules or the numbers that affect dice rolls on these cards are easily visible.

L: As a huge fan of Superdeformed Gundams, I really enjoyed the Superdeformed look on everything even Debtzilla. It takes something very scary and threatening and makes it cute and deadly. The fun part of the designs were the characters they were based off and if you thing about it, they all kinda make sense in a humorous way.

4) What was your favorite moment from the game?

B: Winning the game by the skin of our teeth. We managed to deal the final blow to Debtzilla with our last Citizen clutching his last dollar.

K: Best gaming moments are often remembered by winning against all the odds. Winning our first game of Debtzilla by beating the boss on what would’ve been our last round ended the play session on a fantastic note; taking even the game designer Mr Xeo Lye by surprise. Am usually not very good with dice rolls, so luck has its ways I suppose.

L: The best part for me was when I almost made us lose the game by powering up Debtzilla to full power. But I know my team, they will be able to take it down and they didn’t disappoint as they did it on the last turn with the last citizen down to his last dollar.

5) Would you recommend this game? Why?

B: The creators did a good job creating an educational finance game and I can recommend it to parents who want an entertaining way to teach their kids about finances. The gameplay still needs a bit of work before release but it is worth getting it in it’s current state..

K: I think Debtzilla is a game that works fantastically well for parents looking for a game that kids can enjoy. It is easy to learn and very focused on teamwork to beat the boss. I like how the game subtlety indicates how bad financing can have repercussions later in the game – when the boss fight begins. A good lesson for kids to pick when they are young.

L: It’s a very good game in terms of financial planning and management. It would be a very good game for parents or even schools to pick up as they can help kids prepare for the future by teaching them the importance of savings and repaying debts fast if they ever had to take any loans. It also encourages a lot of communication and team work if they plan on winning the game.

So there you have it. The LCG guys enjoyed our demo very much and we hope that you’ll strongly consider backing this local company on their Kickstarter. The campaign ends .. You can also check out their Facebook page here.

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