Review: "Godzilla Card Game" from Bandai
Hey kaiju fans, I'm Astounding Beyond Belief, and I just got a package in the mail from Bandai. Last month, a message from them landed in the Wikizilla inbox asking us to enter a raffle. The winning channels would each be sent a copy of the new Godzilla Card Game, on the condition that they produce videos reviewing it. Well, we won, but since none of us live remotely near each other, only one could film the actual review. Okay, that's enough of a preamble, let's cut this sucker open.
Despite its name, the Godzilla Card Game is not the first Godzilla card game. Toy Vault produced "Godzilla: Stomp!" in 2011, while there have been a few unique trading card games in Japan. There's also "Godzilla: Trading Battle," a card game inside a video game. The Godzilla Card Game runs on the Chrono Clash System, developed by Wizards of the Coast veteran Ryan Miller. It was previously used for a Naruto card game—and yes, the two are compatible. Now, despite appearances, this game doesn't have booster packs: the box contains all the cards you need. It also comes with two single-card tournament packs. You’ll already have the cards inside, but these ones are shinier.
The Godzilla Card Game comes with four preconstructed decks of 54 cards each, plus six Extra Deck Battlers for each deck. You have a great deal of freedom in customizing them: the main restriction is the number of colors you can have in a deck. At the start of each game, you draw 5 cards and set down 5 more cards to serve as your Guardian Stack. You can win by destroying all of your opponent's guardians, then attacking one more time... making your opponent run out of cards... or earning five quest points by giving your battlers personal guardians and hoping your opponent doesn't attack them on their next turn. In practice, we found that an all-out attack is by far the wisest option. The titular Chrono Clash gauge is set at zero at the start of the game. Every time you play a card, you pay its cost by moving a counter the corresponding number of spaces towards your opponent's side of the gauge. If you're playing with more than two people, this would be the opponent to your left. When it reaches or exceeds the "1" on their side, your turn ends. Extra Deck Battlers are the outliers: they can only be drawn through certain card effects, and summoned by sacrificing battlers on your side of the field whose cost equals or exceeds theirs.
I first played the Godzilla Card Game against my friend Nate, a longtime Magic player and board game enthusiast. Here's how our first match went.
I started out with a bang by summoning Monster X, the most powerful card in my regular deck. This immediately ended my turn, as unless they have an ability stating otherwise, battlers cannot attack the turn they are summoned. Nate promptly demonstrated one of those abilities by launching a Sneak Attack with the Super X-2 against my Guardian Stack. I revealed Rainbow Mothra, who, lacking a guardian ability, was simply discarded. As a consequence of the Sneak Attack, Super X-2 was destroyed immediately afterwards. But simply playing it triggered another ability, allowing him to draw a card from his extra deck while reducing Monster X's strength by 1 until the end of his turn. He followed that up with Garuda, whittling Monster X's strength down to 6, and ended by summoning GX-813 Griffon.
I responded by siccing Monster X on his guardian stack. One of his abilities allows him to target two extra guardians with each attack. Unfortunately, that never came to pass, as the guardian ability for Armed Attack allowed Nate to return a card of his choice to its owner's hand. Next I called upon Aqua Mothra, and finished with a Desghidorah Sneak Attack, targeting two guardians. The first card he flipped was Moguera, weaker than Desghidorah with no guardian ability. The Super X-3's guardian ability allowed Nate to tap Aqua Mothra, leaving him open to attack. That was the end for Desghidorah… but one of his abilities takes a battler with six strength or less with him. I chose to destroy Griffon, activating two legion abilities: Nate got to draw two cards, putting the battlers into his hand. If he drew any action cards, he would have to discard them.
He deployed Garuda against my Guardian Stack. Awakening let me draw 1 card from my regular deck and 1 card from my extra deck. Then he played his own powerhouse: Kiryu-Type3. The Machine Dragon has toughness, allowing him to set a face-down card beneath it which effectively serves as an extra life. I untapped Aqua Mothra and dove at his guardian stack. This time, Star Falcon sent my battler back to my hand. A Sneak Attack by a second Desghidorah eliminated the final card in his Guardian Stack and brought down Garuda. Thanks to Kiryu's ability, this activated two legion abilities instead of one. Mirroring my first attack, Nate targeted my guardian stack with Kiryu and Gravitational Beam sent it back to his hand. He ended his turn by calling in a second Garuda and Sneak Attacking with a second Griffon. Battra Larva, my guardian, allowed me to tap Garuda. At this point, any battler with Sneak Attack would win me the game. For the sake of comedy, I chose Fairy Mothra.
In our second match, we tried out the Godzilla decks. Nate won easily, as I couldn't come up with anything to stop his Modified Gigan. He's quite the powerhouse, with toughness, an extra guardian attack, and the ability to reduce the strength of an opposing battler by three when he attacks. This loss was not an outlier for the Shin Godzilla deck: in further testing, it failed to record a win against any of the other decks.
When I first heard that the Godzilla Card Game ran off a preexisting system, I worried that I was getting something closer to a deck of Pokémon playing cards than the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Fortunately, the Chrono Clash System fits Godzilla pretty well: the keys to victory are high-powered battlers and aggressive tactics. That does make the questing mechanic feel extraneous, however, and games often end after just a few turns, leaving most of your deck unused.
The cards themselves are gorgeous. If they look familiar, it's because a lot of the pieces were originally used for a couple of "Battle Spirits" expansion sets from 2015 and 2016. "Battle Spirits" also just came out with a new Godzilla set, and plenty of the old cards didn't make it into the Godzilla Card Game. That leaves me hopeful for future expansions, but somewhat disappointed with the current monster selection. Out of 80 battlers, 42 are some variation on Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah, or Mechagodzilla. Kaiju from the Heisei and Millennium series are well-represented, but not those from the Showa series or the Reiwa series. Still, there are some deep cuts, like Matango and the Showa Moguera. There are also zero MonsterVerse battlers, but I assume that's a licensing issue.
Finally, because this is Wikizilla, I do have to draw attention to the names of the cards. For an officially licensed product, there are an incredible number of bizarre spellings. "Megaron" might be the worst offender, considering his name has been spelled the same way in English since at least 1976. Speaking of years, sometimes the cards specify them for kaiju who only appeared in one movie... and poor Kumonga doesn't even have the right year.
Nerd-rage aside, I have no problem recommending the Godzilla Card Game. It's easy to learn, it's fun to command an army of kaiju, and everyone gets the same cards to build their decks from.