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Debtzilla Review

Quick Look: Debtzilla

Designer: Xeo Lye
Artists:  Alan Bay, Andy Choo
Publisher: Capital Gains Studio
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 60-90 Minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

“The ideas of debtor and creditor as to what constitutes a good time never coincide.”
P.G. Wodehouse, Love Among the Chickens

From the publisher:

In the land of Banana Republic, an incompetent and corrupt government has caused a wave of crime and lawlessness in the Banana Republic. A few brave souls have finally shown and decided to take on the mantle of heroes - to combat the Villains who are stealing the hard-earned savings of ordinary citizens. However, beneath every hero lies an average human being, who has a job to perform, daily expenses to pay and crime-fighting gadgets to buy. Little did they know that their credit card bills are feeding the ultimate monster of mass destruction: Debtzilla.

Debtzilla is a 2 to 4 player, cooperative board game in which heroes work together to protect ordinary citizens from being scammed by Villains, and take down the final boss: Debtzilla. Sharing the same universe as Wongamania: Banana Economy, Debtzilla focuses on the issue of how debt affects the lives of ordinary people in Banana Republic. Using a combination of deck building and dice mechanics, players have to race against time to bring down the bad guys before the law of compounding debt interest destroys their chances of winning the game. Be too stingy on your finances and you will find your hero too weak to do any good in a real fight. On the other hand, splurging too much on those flashy hero gadgets on borrowed money will result in the final boss too difficult to defeat. Can you balance your books and save the world at the same time? With Great Power Comes Great Debt!

I find it super interesting that all the games from Capital Gains Studio are set in the same universe, the land of the Banana Republic, which itself is an interesting choice of names. In political science, the term banana republic describes a politically unstable country with an economy dependent upon the exportation of a limited-resource product, such as bananas or minerals. This lends the universe to be in constant chaos, and yet to be expected. Like being attacked by a giant debt monster.


Rules and Setup:
The rules of the game are simple. In order to win you need to save the people and stop Debtzilla.

The setup is fairly simple but does take a little while. At the beginning of the game, every player chooses a character that will have varied special abilities. You will then take the meeple and five dice of your matching player color. Next, everyone gets the same 10 starting cards (3 credit card loan, 4 luxury, 3 savings).

Now prepare the work board. Separate the remaining luxury, budgeting, housing, refinance, credit card loan, student loan, and housing loan cards and put them face up in the spaces in the working board.

Take the shopping board. Shuffle the basic gadgets and advanced gadgets individually. Put each deck in its proper place on the board and turn over six basic gadget cards into the six empty spaces.

Take the vigilante board. Put the last citizen standing card and place it on the vigilante board. Remove one rich citizen from the citizen deck and then shuffle the deck. place it face down on top of the last citizen card. Draw three citizen cards and place them face up in the citizen spaces on the board. Put the last villain standing card on the villain deck space and shuffle the villain deck. Based on the number of players, place the correct amount of villains face down on the top of the last villain standing. Draw three villain cards and place them in the three open villain spaces.

Last step for setup. Grab the Boss board. Place the oversized Debtzilla (Or his horrible cousin Inflationsaurus) card on the proper space and set his health according to the number of players. Shuffle the debtzilla boss cards and place them in the dormant space on the board.

City Defense. From Debt!
Variable Player Powers
Co-Operative Play

Game Play:
During the gameplay, you will be acquiring money (and debt) based on what cards you draw.  You may collect resources gained form the cards and activate any of the abilities from the cards in any order you choose. After that, you can acquire cards from the working board or repay a debt. Then it's time to go gadget shopping. Every time you buy a gadget you have to refill the space with your choice of a basic gadget or advance gadget.

During the vigilante phase, you may summon a Hero that is not in play. Then you can target a villain. You will roll your dice and then add any modifiers from your gadgets to modify dice results. If you manage to defeat a villain, you can send them to jail. Any undefeated villains on the board then attack the citizens.

Next is the resolve phase where you replenish the villain and defeated citizen cards. Raise Debtzilla's health equal to the debt incurred this round. Then discard any cards in your play area and activate any triggered boss events. Should you defeat all the villains, the terror emerges and Debtzilla rises. The phases are modified from this point but in general, are the same. You are still trying to protect the citizens. However, the working board is no longer to pay off debt or to acquire new cards from. Also the equipment costs double.

Artwork and Components:
The cartoon parody style of the art fits nicely with the theme of this game. I also like that they went with four separate boards rather than a quad-fold board.

The Good:
The puns are abundant, and fit well and mix in with the art style. Components are of high quality.

The Bad:
The advanced gadget cards are expensive and I did not feel that gave me a big enough boost to justify the cost. And if you groan at dad jokes, you will not like the puns.

Final Thoughts:
The game falls into a rare area of gaming, funducational. Now, most games in this category tend to be very heavy on education, and not on the fun. I would say this game avoids that quite nicely. It has an interesting mechanic of simultaneous co-op. Most co-op games make you take turns making the players feel slightly disconnected in their actions, or let the game fall prey to alpha gamer syndrome. Because of the simultaneous play this is all but completely avoided. The box recommends 14+ for the age, but if you are a gaming family I don't see any difficulty with teaching a 12-year-old to play this game. I found that the setting was super easy for our team of financially responsible heroes/adults. When you play with an adult only group, I suggest you start on normal mode. The game gave me a very different co-op experience than all of the other co-ops I have played in the last year (my best friend is big on co-ops, so we play a ton of them).

*A side note is that as a nice little extra there is a personal finance lesson from the makers of the game.

Players Who Like:
Co-op Games, Puns, Light Deck Building, More Puns.

Check out Debtzilla on:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/218988/debtzilla   https://www.capitalgainsgroup.com/   https://www.facebook.com/capitalgainsstudio/   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcU3ItFQlbPF5TdGIYWQnDg  

James is a child of the 80's he grew playing D&D and Stratego. He currently owns more games than his understanding wife of 20+ years thinks he should. James lives in Buffalo, New York with his previously mentioned wife, 2 teenage kids and one Havanese dog. Also, if someone outside of Buffalo says they serve buffalo wings, they are lying.
Debtzilla Review Debtzilla Review Reviewed by James Freeman on May 01, 2020 Rating: 5

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