Review: Pink Godzilla Dev Kit
Pink Godzilla Dev Kit is the debut card game from up and coming game designer Christopher Rama Rao. It's published by Pink Godzilla, a small on-line video game store located in Seattle, Washington (http://www.pinkgodzillagames.com/). The game is for two to four players and lasts about 30 minutes.
Before I go any farther with this review I must in all good conscience make a few disclaimers. Christopher is a friend of mine from my Tuesday night gaming group. I've been gaming with him nearly every Tuesday for several years now. Every now and then he talks me into playing one of his home-grown games but this is the first time he's managed to get something published. Furthermore, I am lucky enough to operate one of the few stores that is currently offering Dev Kit for sale (http://www.housefullofgames.com/). So while I am doing my absolute best to keep this review as objective as possible, I must acknowledge that there is a certain incentive for me to want to like this game. Hopefully you'll still believe me when I say with all honesty that this is pretty darn good card game.
Whenever Christopher was play testing Dev Kit with our group I always seemed to be involved in another game so I never managed to get in on any play tests. I'm kind of glad of that because it means that my first experience with Dev Kit was exactly the same as yours would be: I cracked open the plastic box in the comfort of my home and taught myself to play the game from the printed rules that come with the game. In fact, I still have yet to play this game with Christopher. I've only ever played it with my family and a few other friends.
Pink Godzilla Dev Kit is a card game about making video games. Players "build" video games by assembling titles, gear, and characters. When one of your games "goes gold" you score it and receive more cards as a reward.
The cards themselves are beautifully illustrated with video game parodies and inside jokes. There are parody video game titles like "Elders May Cry" and "Zilla II - The Adventure of Pink". There are potions for use in RPGs (role playing games), combination rifle/sword weapons for shooters, and silly looking keytars for music games. And there are silly parody characters like "The Elders", "Pixel" and "Pink Godzilla". The artwork is top notch and video game fans are sure to get a chuckle.
The game comes in a very nice deluxe plastic card box. The box contains 106 playing cards, a nice double-sided rules sheet, and a few extra promotional cards. The cards themselves look quite nice and shuffle well but if there is one area where the game falls short it is that the cards aren't quite as nice as they might be. They have square corners instead of rounded ones and they have black borders which I suspect may show wear faster than if they were white. But for a first card game from a very small company the production values are really quite good. The artwork, by artist David Linder (who I do not know) is especially good.
UPDATE: All of the above was true as of the initial writing but the second edition has seen some changes. First, the new cards are much better quality with rounded corners. Second, the plastic box has been replaced by a very nice tuck box (perhaps not as sturdy as the plastic box but it looks much nicer). Third, the artwork on the cards has been tweaked just a little and is now even more attractive.
Dev Kit is basically a hand management / set collection game with an auction mechanic and some clever card interaction mechanics. It's a pretty easy game to learn. The rules only fill two sides of a single page and I had no difficulty learning the game from them. It's simple but it offers plenty of opportunities for clever play and interesting decisions.
Players race to be the first to complete four video games. Each video game must contain at least four cards before it can "go gold": a title card, a character card, and two different gear cards. The cards can be played in any order but only certain cards can be used to make each of the four types of games. Green cards are used for shooters, orange cards are used for music games, pink cards are used for fighters, and blue cards are used with RPGs. Many cards can be used in more than one type of game but no game is allowed to contain two identical cards and there are very few cards that can be used in all four genres. Each card also has a number in the corner that is used as currency and also determines the value of each completed video game.
Each player starts with a hand of five cards. There are also five cards placed face up in the middle of the table which constitute a "resource pool". This pool is used for a sort of drafting mechanism that allows players to exchange cards from their hands for cards in the resource pool, thereby improving their hand. It's a nice mechanic that significantly mitigates the luck of the draw and it's essential to the tactics of the game.
At the beginning of a player's turn he refreshes the resource pool, making sure there are five cards available. Then he draws a card from the deck and adds it to his hand. Now he may either buy a card, auction up to three cards, or discard the lowest valued cards from the resource pool. If he chooses to buy a card, he exchanges it for one or more cards from his hand that total an equal or greater value. If he chooses to auction cards then all players select a number of cards from their hand and simultaneously reveal them. The player whose cards sum to the highest value wins the cards and pays for them by discarding the cards she bid.
Next the active player may play one or two cards to the table. Usually cards are played to continue progress on a game but some cards have special abilities such as allowing the player to play extra cards on his turn or draw additional cards into his hand. There's even a card that lets players swap for a card in the resource pool out of turn. The special abilities are quite well balanced and add a lot of tactics to the game.
As the final action of his turn, a player must decide if he wants any of his games to "go gold". A player is never required to "go gold" but until he does, he'll score nothing for his video games. Another incentive for "going gold" is that the player gets to add two more cards to his hand as a reward for completing a title. If this game is the first in its genre then the player gets a third card as a bonus for having completed it first. There are also cards that let other players benefit whenever a game of a certain genre "goes gold". Sometimes its best to race to gold as quickly as possible to collect the card bonuses. Other times it might be best to wait so that you add more features (play more cards) to the video game, thereby increasing its value and making it worth more when it's scored.
The game ends as soon as one player has completed four video games. Play then stops but other players with games in front of them with enough cards to be completed may declare those games "gold" also and score them. Bonuses are awarded for completing at least four video games and for having the first, second and third highest scoring video games.
Pink Godzilla Dev Kit is an excellent card game that offers a lot of great game play in a very simple package. It's simple to learn and quick to play. I particularly like how the game forces the player to constantly make difficult decisions. Should I keep this card in my hand for use in a future video game or should I use it as currency to buy another card? Do I use this card for its special ability or do I play it to the table to boost the value of one of my games in progress. Do I rush these video games to market in an attempt to be the only one to collect the four game bonus or do I instead focus on making each game as valuable as possible and hope that will be enough to put me in the lead?
The game plays equally well from two to four players and it offers enough strategy and tactics to keep it interesting over repeated plays. The fantastic artwork and the inside jokes are merely frosting on an already tasty cake. This is a very enjoyable game and I highly recommend it.