I really didn't know what to think of Pink Godzilla Dev Kit (Pink Godzilla Co, 2006 - Christopher Rama Rao) when I received it in the mail. I did a little research on the internet and discovered the Pink Godzilla is a rather active video game store in the Seattle area - and had produced this game about video games almost as a promotional tool. I sighed inwardly on learning this, as I have doubts about video game fans knowing what makes a good card game, and promotional items are usually anything but stellar.
But Pink Godzilla actually pleasantly surprised me, as it was actually a fairly interesting game - one that is about producing video games. It has some similarities to the great game Traumfabrik and has mild tones of parody, although I suppose there are a lot of inside jokes that I don't know about from the store's history). There is a decent amount of luck that is inherent in these types of games, but a nifty auction device and a bit of a "push your luck" feeling makes this a rather well designed game.
Pink Godzilla consists of a deck of 106 cards, made up of a variety of cards. There are four genres of video games available, and each card is one of these for types. Cards can be a title (one of the four types - shooter, rpg, music, or fighter), gear (such as a potion, vehicle, accessory, weapon, or combo), characters (Pixel, Jumpman, Team Ninja Suppressors, the Elders, or Pink Godzilla), upgrades (one for each type of gear), wild cards (can be any type of gear), guardians (three of them - each either a wild character card or discarded to be utilized as a special ability), Easter eggs (for each genre), Power ups (one time special usage cards), and Special Abilities (cards that grant special abilities when different events happen). Each card has a number in the upper left hand corner designating its value.
The deck is shuffled and five cards are dealt face up into the middle of the table, forming the Resource Row. Each player is also dealt five cards for their hand, and one player ("Developer") is chosen to go first. Each player's turn consists of four phases. The first phase simply causes the Resource Row to be refilled to five cards, and then the Developer draws a card.
The current player then, in the Purchase Phase, takes only one of the three following actions.
- They can take one card from the Resource Row but must exchange card(s) from their hand that are of equal or higher value. The exchanged card (or highest valued of multiple cards) is placed in the Resource Row in its place.
- Discard all cards in the Resource Row that are of he lowest value.
- Place up for auction up to three cards from the Resource Row. Every player then places one or more cards from their hands face down on the table as a bid. At a signal, everyone simultaneously flips their cards over (or calls "no bid" if they were only bluffing), with the highest bid winning the cards. Only the winner discards their cards used in bidding.
In the "Development" phase, the current player may play up to two cards on their turn. They may start or continue a video game in front of them, placing a card of that genre in a row in front of them. Each video game must eventually have one Title card, at least one Character card, and at least two different Gear cards. More cards may be added, but no duplicates, and cards may be played in any order. Once a card is played onto the table, it can never be removed; and once an Easter egg is played on a video game, the game is immediately finished (it must have met the other requirements). Gear upgrade cards may only be played on a video game that has the matching gear in it already. Players can also play a Power Up card, taking the special action on it (i.e. play six cards during the development phase, discard an entire hand, take all cards in the resource row, etc.); or a Special Ability card, which gives a special benefit later on. For example, a "Clone" card allows a player to draw two cards after any opponent completes a videogame of a specific type.
In the "Going Gold" phase, a player can declare a video game complete if it has the required cards. At this point, they stack the cards in a pile and score points equal to the total value of the game. They also draw two cards and a third, if they finished the first game of that genre. After this phase, the player then discards down to seven cards and play passes to the next person. When any developer finishes their fourth game, the game immediately ends, although any developer may declare video games complete if they meet requirements. Each player then scores points for all completed video games, four points for each Special Ability card they control, fifteen points if they've completed four videogames, and points if they have produced the top three valued videogames (twenty, fifteen, and ten respectively). The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1.) Components: The game comes in a simple plastic card box, which, while unassuming, is extremely sturdy. The cards themselves have very bright, crisp artwork on them - with symbols as well as colors to help differentiate between the genres. The cards are of decent quality, although they have sharp corners that are easily bent. Much of the artwork has a video game flair to it, although I suspect that it comes more from the store's logos than video games.
2.) Theme: The game itself is a tongue in cheek look at the video game business, found both in the artwork and terms. This is most effective in the game title names, which attempt to mix popular game names with the store's brand of humor. I wonder if they might have gone farther in parodying famous games - or possibly could have pulled back from the store's brand of humor - because I'm not always sure I get the joke. Still, the theme works, and there actually is a sense of putting out good games vs. throwing up some junk into the market to score a quick profit.
3.) Rules: The rule sheet is a two-sided sheet of paper with fairly small print but a good layout. A lot of detailed explanation of each phase is included - and I really had no questions from the rules, which provided several examples (although no illustrations). The game was easy to teach, and the rules even mention a good way to help beginners with the mechanics. (Although I think that anyone who plays card games will have no trouble at all).
4.) Auctions and Exchanges: The game has a very good sense of money management, using the cards themselves as the only currency. The ability to trade for cards in the Resource Row is useful, as players can get rid of cards in their hand that aren't quite as useful. At the same time, sometimes a player is forced to discard several cards to get what they want - and may be possibly getting something out that another player needs. The solution is to put cards up for auction, which allows them to get more than one card, but also presents the danger of another player getting the cards they need. Auctions take place in a "blind bidding" format, which isn't something that everyone is fond of, but works well in this game, since cards are so valuable that people won't simply throw them away. Besides, a player doesn't HAVE to hold auctions and can simply buy a card at a time from the resource row. The rules mention a variant for beginners that simply ignore all auctions, and I can see how that still would be a decent game.
5.) Cards and luck: A player gets one free card a turn, and for those who want to win - that's simply not enough! The winner of the game is often the one who manages to draw the most cards during the course of the game, and utilizing clone cards or finishing games quickly is a path to getting cards. The Resource Row is a nice mechanic; although I'm not entirely sure about the rule discarding all the cards of the lowest type, as that usually only helps your opponents. Still, the game makes one feel as if they never have enough cards; and while luck is certainly present in what cards someone draws, they can always attempt to get better ones through buying and auctions.
6.) Placement: Just as important as having a hand of cards is the placement of cards in movies. Initially, the Special Ability cards seem awfully powerful, as a player gets both a special ability that is very nice (especially the clone cards!), and they are four points at the end of the game. At the same time, utilizing one of these cards means that a player is placing one less card in a video game, which could cost them dearly at the end of the game. Players have choices - to attempt to make a huge, extremely valuable game that will garnish twenty extra points at the end of the game, or to quickly churn out junky games that will bring in extra cards so that they spit out even more games. This certainly has the same feeling as the Knizia game Traumfabrik (Hollywood Blockbuster), and works well here. A player also must be careful, because once they start a larger movie of a specific genre, they can expect that other players will be cautious in laying down cards that match the color; as they don't want to actively help another player.
7.) Players and Fun Factor: Part of the fun is trying to make a large movie; and a player who waits too long may have the game end before they finish it off, giving the game a tenseness that is simple yet enjoyable. The game works with two or four players, although I found that it best works with three. Pink Godzilla has a Munchkin-esque vibe, with humor figuring into the game play, but has a much higher level of strategy than most of the "funny" card games available, making it much more enjoyable to me.
In summary, Pink Godzilla Dev Kit was a lot more enjoyable than I first thought it would be. I enjoyed the clever economics of the game, the interaction through the common Resource Row and auctions, and the easy but ever-present tension to finish video games. I'm still certain that the humor and presentation are more of a marketing tool to a select group than the general populace, but the game itself is enough to transcend that - and anyone with a smidgen of video game experience will get some guffaws out of the game. I urge my readers to give Pink Godzilla a try; it is certainly one of the surprises of the year for me and is a light card game that plays easily and enjoyably.
"Real men play board games"