The Banana Republic is in a state of crisis and only you and your group of vigilantes can stop them!
Developed by Singaporean company Capital Gains Studio, Debtzilla is an economic deck-building game designed for 2-4 players to teach them about economy as well as spending wisely while having fun through the table top medium.
Players are to take on the role of vigilantes (be they heroes or anti-heroes) to take down villains who are scamming citizens, while running the city at night and holding a 9-5 office job to fund their hero expenses.
Once all the villains have been defeated, the final boss, Debtzilla, awakens and his strength depends on how much debt the players are in as well as how much the citizens have been scammed by the villains throughout the game.
This concept teaches players about budgeting by forcing them to control how much of money they borrow from the bank and making sure they have enough to buy gadgets to fight the villains. If one or the other is lacking, beating the game would be near impossible.
At the core of it the game is simple to learn, each round is split into 4 basic phases and 1 Boss phase:
The Working phase, where you can earn new cards to add to your deck, pay your debts or take new loans. New loans taken will increase Debtzilla’s health and debts that are settled will reduce it.
The Shopping phase, where heroes can use their hard earned or borrowed money to buy gadgets to help fight the villains in the next phase.
The Vigilante phase, where heroes select the villains they want to try to take out for that round. Any undefeated villain will scam citizens according to their scam value. Citizens that have run out of money will increase Debtzilla’s health by their wealth value. (If there no more villains to replace on the board after this phase, players will move on to the boss fight phase.)
The Resolve phase, new villains and citizens will fill up empty spaces that defeated villains or citizens used to occupy and Debtzilla’s health will also increase due to compound interest, which also sets a time limit for players.
Boss Phase, players fight Debtzilla at its current health with the working and shopping phase removed from the game. Beat Debtzilla and win the game!
Throughout all these phases there are 3 different ways to lose:
Debtzilla grows to maximum health due to the city being in too much debt.
All citizens have been completely scammed in the Banana Republic by the villains.
All citizens have been devoured by Debtzilla during the boss fight
The developers have also separated the boards into four segments to represent the phases as well as make the board more ergonomic to fit different sized surfaces.
The battle system requires a whole lot of luck in my opinion as players are required to roll certain dice numbers to hit a villain’s ‘weak point’ and only when all weak points are hit, the villain is defeated.
However, gadgets bought throughout the game can help manipulate the dice numbers e.g. -2 or +2 to the dice value or flip the dice and use that value instead.
Gadgets are a must buy as certain weak points have values like 7 that are not printed on a 6-sided die and require the value manipulation of a gadget. However, at the end of the day it’s still about the luck of your rolls as if you can’t roll the right numbers (like me) you’ll be stuck on the same villain for way too long.
Heroes chosen are also important as each hero has different sets of abilities that can change the tides of battle, some heroes give citizens wealth, so they don’t get defeated to easily, while some scam citizens to manipulate dice values.
They also have special moves that can be used when you have maximum happiness–something that can be earned through the act of drawing luxuries in your deck. Hero composition is a key factor of this game as too many anti-heroes or too many support heroes will either render you incapable of fighting villains or be in way too much debt.
The mechanics of Debtzilla is be the most innovative part of the whole game for me as each decision players make affects the outcome and I love the fact that every move counts. It’s always a constant battle between borrowing, spending and repaying.
Everything about the mechanics is relatable to real world situations and I do believe it’s a good way to give people a feel as well as teach them about budgeting and spending within their own limits. On top of that there is a hard mode where you play against Inflationsaurus instead of Debtzilla which helps to keep the game fresh.
The game does have its issues as well, the instructions for one is very messy with very sporadic areas of information. I also wish that the currency wasn’t in such a small value e.g. gadgets cost 3 Wongamania coins, with such small values I don’t feel the impact and value of such items and of course it feels more shiok to have hundreds of dollars.
The overall design of the game with the parodies of famous people and pop culture characters is a hit or miss. While they are mostly fine designs, some may find it a little uninspired and a touch childish.
Overall, Debtzilla is a great educational game for any player of any age, whether it will be a game to stand the test of time and many playthroughs is not as foreseeable as it does suffer from the deck-building stigma of getting repetitive over time.
However, if you want a game with a challenge and if you love economics and dealing with money with a superhero element tied to it, Debtzilla is a great game to pick up and play with friends or family!
Debtzilla is now available for preorder on Kickstarter!