Toy Vault is preparing an upcoming board game based on the King of the Monsters. Called Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars, the game will be sold in America. What follows is an interview conducted with Paul Blake, head of game development at Toy Vault. For the interview we will cover a range of aspects around the game, trying to dive a little deep to understand some mechanics and also thought processes behind them.
Anthony Romero: As head of game development, what was your role in the creation of the Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars game?
Paul Blake: When I was first exposed to Richard H. Berg’s design for the game, it was a folder full of print-outs. My task was to turn that folder into a published product.
What this actually meant was that I had to maintain a 3-way balance between Berg’s design, Toho’s requirements, and feedback from playtesting sessions. Early on, I was also responsible for allocating artwork and graphic design tasks – describing what illustrations and sculpts were necessary, and what the exact physical requirements were for each art element. Later, we brought in designer Zac Pensol as Project Director to handle that kind of thing directly.
Romero: How long has the game been in production?
Blake: At least during my entire tenure at Toy Vault – the project had been in development for some time before I joined the company, although I couldn’t say how long with any degree of certainty.
Romero: What’s the game’s story?
Blake: There’s two different stories here: One is the story of how Toy Vault came to make Godzilla games, and the other is the story presented by the game of the Godzilla universe.
Within the Godzilla universe, the game has the Xiliens once again manipulating the minds of some of Earth’s mightiest monsters, pitting them in battle against each other across the globe. The Xiliens are not concerned with who wins or loses: Their only wish is to neutralize any Kaiju who could oppose them, and cripple the humans’ infrastructure. With weakened Kaiju, and a devastated human population, the conquest of Earth will be easy.
Because of the scenario-based gameplay, players will have some control over the direction of their personal storylines. Players will be able to design their own scenarios, and give them unique victory conditions.
Meanwhile, back in our world:
Toy Vault has been making Godzilla toys for several years now, and they’re one of our more popular plush lines. Jon Huston, the owner of the company has been an active gamer for most of his life, and often wanted to steer Toy Vault in a more game-oriented direction. After a few experimental forays into the realm of game publishing, Toy Vault became confident in its ability to have tabletop games made at a quality and pricepoint comfortable to customers.
Once we got to that stage, it was only natural that Godzilla be given some degree of gaming treatment. A request was sent out to several game designers, and Richard H. Berg’s response was deemed to be the best.
Romero: Before going any further, we should probably ask how do you play Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars?
Blake: The game is scenario-based, so the layout of the city will vary from game to game. Players select a scenario (or design one of their own), setting up the cityscape and placing their Kaiju miniatures according to the scenario’s guidelines. Then players start taking their turns.
On your turn, you spend your Kaiju’s Energy to perform actions, like moving around the city, flying, fighting, and destroying things. Of course, the real meat of the game is in the combat.
Kaiju World Wars has two combat systems, allowing players to play according to their own preferences: Basic combat is quicker, while Advanced combat is more strategic and allows for a wider variety of outcomes.
Romero: Do you feel there is a big learning curve to the game, or can new players pick it up and start playing pretty quickly?
Blake: Much of my work was adapting Richard’s rule system in a way which made it quick and simple to learn, while maintaining the logical structure of the rules – In practice, this boils down to how information is presented to the players, and how much they have to remember at once.
Romero: What is envisioned as the age range for the title?
Blake: Our recommended age range is 14 and up, although younger players probably wouldn’t have any trouble understanding the rules, especially with an adult present to help them through it.
Romero: The board game features four main characters in the form of Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Rodan and Gigan. What is the background on choosing a total of four monsters, and why these particular characters?
Blake: Godzilla is obvious enough – you can’t really have a Godzilla game without Godzilla actually in it. Rodan was chosen as one of the more iconic flight-type Kaiju. I believe King Ghidorah was chosen as a big “threat” character. I honestly don’t know why Gigan was chosen, although I’m glad he’s present in the game: His in-game figure looks awesome.
Romero: Can we expect any other Toho monsters to show up during the game?
Blake: No other monsters will make an appearance in this game, although the Xiliens do get mentioned. Of course, there’s always the possibility of expansions… More than that I can’t really say right now.
Romero: The story features the Xilien as the driving force behind all the mayhem. Will there be any other Toho characters or “mechs” in the game, such as the Gotengo or another Toho created military vehicle such as the maser tanks?
Blake: Not in this game, although again, expansions may occur at some point in the future.
Romero: Who designed the various artwork for Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars?
Blake: For several years, Ron Spencer has been Toy Vault’s go-to guy for a lot of our artwork, and he specifically came up with the box cover design and map artwork. Gaming regular Chris Quilliams provided some fantastic illustrations of the four Kaiju, which we used in multiple places on the final product, as well as illustrating the military units and some terrain features. David Wilson provided the sculpts of the Kaiju figures, while Raven Hood provided additional sculpting assistance, including sculpting the stackable building tiles.
Ed Wires – longtime friend to Toy Vault, and brilliant product development artist in his own right – created the original paint design for the miniatures. Tragically, Ed passed away shortly after finishing his portion of the project, and there is a dedication in the game rulebook to his memory.
All other graphic elements were created and designed by Toy Vault’s own Zac Pensol, who has done a great job of turning my vaguely phrased, badly scribbled notes and half-formed ideas into beautiful and highly thematic imagery.
Romero: Do you know what Toho’s initial reaction was when Toy Vault presented the idea of making a Godzilla board game?
Blake: Licensors are often very guarded during the proposal and approval stages of product development, although Toho expressed a lot of enthusiasm over individual elements of the game’s artistic design early on. However, it wasn’t until they received the final product taken directly from the factory line that they started using words like “excellent.”
Romero: What was it like working with Toho in getting the game made?
Blake: Toho is one of the most professional licensors Toy Vault has ever dealt with, bar none. They do a fantastic job of communicating their wishes and requirements to exact specifications.
Romero: Would you describe yourself as a Godzilla fan before working on the board game?
Blake: Godzilla is such a vast franchise, I have trouble imagining anyone who *isn’t* a fan to some degree. Personally, I get more into the technical aspects of the series, as the early Toho films pioneered a lot of methods and effects which have since become industry staples. Godzilla basically created the genre of modern Tokusatsu, and laid the groundwork for things like the Super Sentai shows.
Beyond that, though, I’ve always seen the Godzilla films as an exploration of classical monster mythology in a contemporary setting. Traditionally, stories of dragons, sea serpents, or other mythical creatures are actually stories about human heroes, while the monsters are just elements in the tale: Usually, either an adversary or a means of transportation. Godzilla went a step further, making the monsters the primary characters of the story, and giving them distinct personalities.
Romero: Do you have a favorite Godzilla character and movie?
Blake: My favorite story is probably Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), just because I’m nuts for giant robots, and I enjoyed its story more than Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). I think you can guess my favorite Kaiju.
Romero: In closing, where will the game be sold and when is the release date?
Blake: Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars will be hitting store shelves early this summer, and will be available wherever the best board and card games are sold – so if a store doesn’t have it in stock, be sure to inform them of the inferiority of their inventory.