Richard Berg Interview (Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars)
Today marks the release of Toy Vault's Godzilla:
Kaiju World Wars board game in the US. To celebrate, we
sat down with the game's designer, Richard H. Berg, to have
a brief interview concerning the title and his work on the
Mirjahangir: What was the inspiration for the game? Are there
any existing board games that were influential?
My inspiration was getting
a phone call from Toy Vault asking me if I wanted to do a game
on one of their licensed properties; it was between Godzilla
and The Princess Bride. As much as I have always wanted to
say "I want my father back, you son of a bitch" to
someone, I opted for the lizard. Obviously far more gameplay
opportunities therein. (Apparently TV had done some research
before calling me . . . ) Having done - and played - so many
games, it is almost impossible to say what other board games
were influential, especially as I view each situation as a
separate entity and try to figure out what soft of game mechanics
will best reflect its "realities."
Mirjahangir: You have created
a lot of board games in the past, to put it lightly, especially
war games. Would you say any of your past games are similar
to worked as a point of reference in creating a board game
Berg: Not entirely . . . I had not done any games which
were focused on one-on-one combat. But what I did use as a
basis for most design decisions were asking the players to
make choices, choices that could produce "bad" or "good" results.
Decision making produces tension, and tension makes for great
play. That and the idea of "Chaos", that nothing
ever goes as expected/wanted.
Mirjahangir: How long did it take to develop
the prototype of the game?
Berg: Basic game took about a week . .
. most of it spent on figuring out what kind of gameboard I
needed. That doesn't include my Rumination Period, where I
toss game mechanic ideas around in my head (usually while researching),
envisioning therein what I want to see on the gameboard.
much research did you do before you started on the game, in
terms of the Godzilla universe?
Berg: One of the great things about
Godzilla is that he is treated by the Japanese much like Sherlock
Holmes is by the Western world: as a real figure, even when
he is known to be fictional. This, and the dozens of movies,
meant there was a plethora of information available . . . and
I made sure that I read every piece available, making notes
as I went . . .as I do with historical games. As you read and
research, the game tends to form into shape in your mind .
. . and you start to concentrate and focus on specific aspects
of the history.
Mirjahangir: Who came up
with the game's title? Were there alternate names thrown around
before the final one?
Berg: My original working title was GODZILLA,
A TOHO KAIJU MONSTER GAME. I think the Vaulters adapted that
to what it is now . . . It was obvious that "Godzilla" was
going to be the major word in the title, especially as a game
title is a marketing tool.
Mirjahangir: What major changes occurred from
your original design versus the final product?
Berg: Developer Paul
Blake changed my use of battle matrices
and charts that the players had to cross-reference with the
present, and rather elegant, card-comparison system that simplified
play greatly. Every designer is only as good as his Developer.
Everything else pretty much was as I wanted it, especially
in the use of the plastic blocks for the players to construct
their own buildings, giving the game a marvelous 3-D effect
. . .and the ability to bring them crashing down in play.
picked the four monsters in the game, Godzilla, King Ghidorah,
Rodan and Gigan?
Berg: I did. Researched pretty much every kaiju
in every movie . . . i wanted kaiju that would provide their
own "world" and would be worthy foes for The Big
G as well as each other . . . plus ones that had different,
and interesting, capabilities. The only one I tossed early
was Mothra, for several reasons . . . one was that reproducing
her capabilities - especially that of staying airborne
- was something i didn't want to tackle in a first game. Then
there's the fact that i find giant moths as frightening as
dinner with my relatives (which can be DefCon 3, but still
. . .) . . . and what was I going to do with those warbling
Mirjahangir: Were these always the four monsters picked for
Mirjahangir: Some of the designs for the game, from the Xilien
to Rodan and Gigan's designs, seem modeled closely after Godzilla:
Final Wars (2004). Was this conscious, or just the result of
it being the most recent Godzilla film?
Berg: It was a conscious choice made
from the extensive background information available on all
these kaiju. I wanted to portray them at their highest powers,
at least in the Advanced Play version of the game. The basic
game presents them somewhat "reduced" in that area.
long have you been a fan of Godzilla?
Berg: Never really been a big
fan, in the sense that I ran to see every movie. Saw the original
(when i thought Raymond Burr was supposed to be Godzilla).
I was mostly an aficionado of giant dino movies, like "Beast
from 20,000 Fathoms", et al, that ran
riot in the 50's. . .(Actually my favorite was "Tarantula").
Did got to see several when they came out, mostly to check
put the latest other bad guys - let's face it, the plots are
pretty much all the same. Not exactly Charles Dickens at work
here. Caught most of them on TV . . . which, granted, reduces
the spectacle. Last night I actually caught "Godzilla
vs Mothra" (the one with Battra); it actually comes across
rather well on the fairly big screens of today's TV's . . .
altho it doesn't do much to alleviate the rather inane dialogue.
Mirjahangir: Favorite Godzilla movie, favorite Godzilla character?
Berg: I know
there will be cries of anguish on this one, but I really liked(one
of the 8 people who did) the US GODZILLA (1998), the one with
Matthew Broderick. The big boy was REALLY big in that one,
rather better delineated . . .and, in some spots cunningly
scary. True, you have to sit thru some rather awful non-kaiju
drivel . . . but you can say the same for almost any Godzilla
film. I always liked Rodan . .. and the giant shrimp, what
was his name, Ebora? I kept waiting for someone to throw cocktail
sauce on him. Many of the other kaiju are quite clever . .
. certainly King Ghidorah, who ought to run for office in the
mid-west. Much imagination and creativity at work on the kaiju
. . .
we interviewed Paul, the possibility of an expansion came up
several times. Would this be something you might be involved
with as well? If so, any ideas on the direction you might take
the game in an expansion?
Berg: Oh I have lots of ideas. I want any
expansion to not only be a stand-alone game (with different/additional
kaiju) but one that can be joined with the original to produce
bigger, wilder, smashier battles. Maybe one with a Monster
Island board... tropical island stuff. And certainly lots
of kaiju around . . . although, alas, king Kong is not available
to use. Neither is that flying soup, Gamera. No loss there.
And i would definitely be involved in expanding the system
and series . . . as I have done with so many of my history
Mirjahangir: What are your overall feelings of the final product
for Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars?
Berg: I think Toy Vault did a smashingly
marvelous job - from all sectors of their company - in bringing
my visions to life. Every time I play the game I make sure
I put on my official Zilla slippers . . . just to make sure
I'm truly into the world of the kaiju. That, and some good
take-out sushi helps . . .