Spice it up! with Kaiju Crush

I loved my grandfather. He died on Flag Day, 1995, at the ripe old age of 84, having lived a very full life. He was a shop owner in retail and then in groceries, running a tiny little butcher shop in his hometown. No matter how busy he was, and he stayed busy even in his “retirement”, he always had time to visit with his many grandkids.

I used to love to visit him on Saturdays. He had an old box type television, with a terrible picture, but the picture size and quality did not matter to him. We’d sit on his ancient couch, and we would watch baseball or boxing. In his advanced years, I am not sure that he could follow the baseball teams or the actual boxers anymore, but he loved watching those two sports. He was a diminutive fellow, only about five feet tall, but he had a big heart and he loved big punchers. To my regret, I never got the chance (or even thought) to ask him why.

As the years go on, I am nostalgic for those simple times with my grandpa on the couch. He loved card games, too, but he was not into playing any board games as far as I know. But I wonder, what if I could find a game today that would have excited “Paw-Paw” (a traditional Cajun name for your grandfather)? Is there a game that appeals to gamers like me, but is easy enough to teach to new gamers that we could get started right away? And more importantly, would it recreate the tete-a-tete that comes with my grandfather’s favorite sport, even if it is not exactly about the sport of boxing?

I think I may have found that game.

Does your game group like easy to teach, fun fillers that still pack a punch? Do your friends like simultaneously scoring Euro style victory points while getting some Ameritrash take that action and some good monster theming, too?

Well, then, let’s Spice It Up with Kaiju Crush from Fireside Games.

Kaiju Crush is a two to four player game built around a simple concept. The players are Kaiju-style monsters (think Godzilla) rampaging across a city skyline, crushing buildings and scoring points along the way. When two monsters occupy the same space, there’s an epic screech and howl as they launch into each other with a furious attack, with a chance at scoring extra points.

The game is designed by Justin DeWitt and Tim Armstrong, and plays in about 45 minutes. Justin was kind enough to provide me with a copy after I helped him demo the game multiple times at GEN CON 50, so I feel like I know the game pretty well.

img_0185THE COMPONENTS:

Kaiju Crush comes in a smaller sized box about ⅔ of the size of Fireside’s Castle Panic type boxes. The artwork on the tiles and monsters inside is fun and very much an homage to those old Japanese style monster movies, but with a modern look. The game comes with plenty of easy-to-read tiles representing buildings, monuments, bridges, and parks for the city, each with points and characteristics, that you build out into an equal sized square. Plus, there are four different monsters, each with different player powers, represented by well drawn cardboard standees.

img_0146THE GAMEPLAY:

The gameplay is very straightforward and will be easy to teach even to non-gamers. Players first set out a grid of buildings and parks, and then choose a monster and a starting space. Each player is then given an action card to use on their turn. There are different action cards representing the way a monster can move on its turn.

Players play the action card in their hand to move around the city smashing the buildings — or they can choose to use the “community” action card. If they do, they actually swap action cards with the community, and now other players can use that card. Once the players land on a city tile, they smash the building and place one of their own monster markers to represent that they have control of the space.

img_0159Control may not be permanent, however. If two monsters are on the same space, a duel happens to see if one monster can “flip” the tile its way. The duel mechanic uses the tried and true rock, paper, scissors (“RPS”) method, but throws in two additional elements. The claw, tail, and foot all beat each other in the usual RPS circle, but a “monster breath” card beats the claw, tail and foot. The last card, however, is the spike — and that card can only beat one other card, the powerful breath card.

Players draw five cards, and then in rapid succession, play a best of five RPS using those cards. The monster that wins more often during the duel wins the battle, and can earn extra bonus tooth points (randomized between one and three, and hidden information until the end of the game.) The battles are quick, fun and noisy, as players began playing the meta game trying to learn what typical strategies each other player employs to win the RPS shoot out.

img_0176SPICE IT UP:

So why is this game spicier than your typical little filler?

First, it is a little bit longer at 45 minutes (and it generally takes that much time to finish the game.) That is just enough time to feel like your group has actually gotten an almost meaty game in, while not forcing anyone who showed up late to your game night to feel like they missed out on any games. (Show up earlier next time, Gordon!)

Second, stomping the buildings with special action cards, choosing whether to take the community card and giving up your action to the next player, and battling out in RPS fashion would have been plenty enough for most gamers. Did the designers stop there? Nope, the designers added one more fun scoring element. The game comes with a set of special end game bonus cards that can be used to up the ante. For instance, a typical bonus card gives you extra points at the end if you can create a specified geometric pattern with the marked spaces. Players will be casting furtive glances at those cards,  especially late game, and the fight between monsters as to who will fulfill the conditions on the bonus cards can really get exciting.

Finally, while the battles are definitely a hoot (and for many players, the best part of the game), I like the strategy in moving the monsters around to score points. Landing on a park, for instance, never ends your turn, but instead forces you to take another move. Using the community and personal action cards to fly around the board after bouncing off of multiple marks means that your competitor monsters can never truly consider an unsmashed building to be safely out of your reach. It is a beautiful thing if you can pull off a double or triple bounce move to land right in the middle of your opponent’s push for a geometric shape that fulfills a bonus card.

img_0130FINAL THOUGHTS:

So, that’s Kaiju Crush. The design team at Fireside Games is known for bringing to the market games that will appeal to both hobby gamers and non-gamer families alike. Kaiju Crush definitely fits in that category.

I have successfully taught and played this game with dozens and dozens of gamers over four days at GEN CON, and the skill levels and interest ranged from brand new geeks to hard core gamers, and all had no trouble picking up the game within a few minutes.

img_0167It is obvious to me after watching so many games that while the game appears to favor luck, in actuality, good old fashioned Euro type planning and strategy really helped most of those experienced in those genres win. Leaving aside the excellent theme, the core of this game is the puzzle of the tile scoring with the dueling aspect as a nice dessert, so players that can figure out the optimal moves, grab some extra tokens from a battle or two, and maximize the bonus scores, will always do a little better.

If my grandfather were still with us, I could have seen me breaking out Kaiju Crush on the coffee table in front of the couch on a chilly Saturday morning in January. I would teach him how to play the game and emphasize the pugilistic nature of the duels. I can almost see the twinkle in his eye when he would eventually best me with a spike on the last throwdown of the cards, slapping that card with a flourish right on top of my last played breath card. I imagine that he would chuckle and say, “Next time, my boy.”

Next time, Paw Paw. Next time, indeed.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

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