Let us start with where I am coming from with this article. I have always loved the classic Godzilla movies. Sure the movies were goofy and fighting was often hilarious, but it was all in good fun and they often contained helpful lessons about protecting the environment. I was quite thrilled to see that Privateer Press was trying to bring the action of Japanese monster movies to the tabletop. However, take a dive beneath the surface and it seems that building a game in this genre could be easy to screw up.[I suppose you could say that about any genre though.]
First off, I am making the assumption that this game will follow the standard paradigm of Godzilla movies in that a battle will feature only a few monsters. In terms of battles featuring only a handful of figures, Privateer Press is not the first company to design a game like this. Wizkids tried a few years back with Shadow Run Duels and Wizards of the Coast gave it a run last year with Transformers. I never played Shadow Run Duels, so I really cannot comment on that game other then it was not successful and the pieces all found themselves in the bargain bin in a hurry. As for Transformers, it had about as much detail as a game of Paper, Rock, Scissors. I can't speak for everywhere, but around here it never found much of an audience and the pieces are no longer even available. Everything is not doom and gloom though because games in which players control only a single character have been popular for years. Ever head of Dungeons and Dragons? That is just one of the thousands of RPG games made throughout history. So why have miniatures games in the last few years have had a poor track record in this category? Well it comes down to options. In most miniature games, any given figure only has a few choices of options to make. Usually a figure can only move and make one type of attack. As a result, most miniatures games scale down poorly. If you don't believe me, try following the “playing with only one pack” rules included with many Wizkids games.
How does Privateer Press avoid this horrific fate? The answer is too add complexity. Classic Battletech may be a beast of a game, but thanks to its high level of detail and unit management, it excels at small scale games. Or just take a look at Privateer Press's other game Warmachine. The Battlegroup boxes make exciting games because each figure have plenty of options from which to choose when it is their turn to activate. In addition, incorporating some RPG elements into this game give monsters more depth and will make players feel more attached to their creatures. Being able to use the same character game after game gives players an incentive to keep playing. Each time they play, their character grows stronger and new and better tactical options emerge. So why do I feel that complexity and detail is the answer to building a successful game like this? That is the approach I took when I made a Godzilla style game a number of years ago.[That game is shown in the picture to the right.]
Unfortunately, collectible miniature games have mostly been based on simple rules with the goal of having players buy lots and lots merchandise[Sometimes, many of these pieces are completely worthless]. Maybe Privateer Press will destroy this stereotype, but it is too early to tell at this point. I guarantee that The Tabletop Battlefield will be doing a full review once this game hits store shelves later this year.