Friday, December 9, 2016

What's in a MEGAGAME - Part 1

This November I opted out of participating in National Novel Writing Month and instead decided to scratch my creative itch by trying my hand at National Game Design Month (which has a WAY cooler abbreviation: NaGaDeMon). I've recently become interested in megagames like Watch the Skies so I started work on "Kaiju Crisis: a Monster Megagame." If you don't know what Watch the Skies or a megagame is watch this video by Shut Up and Sit Down.

A few years ago, I wrote a two part piece about designing Daikaiju Director. Here's part 1 and part 2 if you're unfamiliar with them, but they're not required reading for this series. In this post I hope to cover some of the basic challenges and inspirations of designing Kaiju Crisis. Part two will cover more general megagame design anecdotes.


My main inspirations for this game fall into two categories: games and movies. If it wasn't for Watch the Skies, I wouldn't know what a megagame is so that's definitely a big one. The similarities are readily apparent in the game/subgame structure, but there are some key differences mainly in the way kaiju play vs. how the aliens work. The science and united nations subgames are combined and expanded in the Anti-Kaiju Taskforce subgame. I feel that the tech tree provides much more concrete benefits and risks, but I'll let the eventual play testing decide that.

The other game that's inspired me to tackle this project is Daikaiju Director and all of it's previous iterations and ideas. While Kaiju Crisis is very different from Daikaiju Director, a lot of the ideas I was toying with in the early days of its design have found a home. Where Daikaiju Director focuses on monster on monster combat, Kaiju Crisis focuses on destruction on a global scale and humanity's reaction to the monster threat. It also takes itself more seriously than the "making a monster movie" theme of Daikaiju Director. That's not to say that the game is devoid of humor, it's just a disaster simulation instead of a tokasatsu simulation.

As for the movies that have directly inspired Kaiju Crisis, the game is definitely most inspired by Toho's 1968 movie, Destroy All Monsters. The global destruction caused by the multitude of kaiju attacking simultaneously around the world is just the atmosphere Kaiju Crisis tries to capture. I also tried to emulate humanity's evolving response to monsters over the course of years fighting theme as seen in the Heisei Era Godzilla films. I re-watched all of these films as inspiration for mechanics and tech tree items while I was designing this game. While watching these movies, I wrote some reviews which you can read here and here. I'll be posting my review of Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) next week.


Creating a megagame had a lot of challenges. Some of them I expected, and others completely blindsided me. (Which is part of the reason I didn't completely finish the game this past month)

First and foremost of these is that you've got to play a lot of games to design a game and unfortunately I haven't had a lot of opportunities to play a megagame. I greatly look forward to participating in Ohio Gaming Brigade's Watch the Skies event in January, and I expect that I'll make a huge revision to Kaiju Crisis after playing. I encourage anyone in the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky area to check it out. Chances to play a megagame in the US are few and far between unlike in the UK.

Second, HOLY MOLY, creating a megagame is a lot of work! Not only are you designing multiple games that need to accommodate 20+ players and cohesively fit together, there's page long briefings that need to be written for each player. All of these briefings are unique and require quite a bit of thought put into them. While this made designing this game take way longer than expected, it has been a very rewarding and fun process. I look forward to seeing Kaiju Crisis play out for the first time sometime next year.

In Closing

November Game Design Month has been a challenging and rewarding experience. Expect part 2 of this series later this month and until then, get your kaiju fix by checking out some of my Heisei Godzilla movie reviews. I'll be highlighting more of their influences of both Daikaiju Director and Kaiju Crisis in future entries. Until next time, keep the good times rolling!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Heisei Series Review Part 2: Godzilla vs Biollante

Continuing our series of reviews of the Heisei Godzilla movies, this week I present to you my review of 1989's Godzilla vs Biollante. This time around we can really get a feel for the changes in humanity's (particularly Japan's) response to giant monsters. If you haven't read my review for 1984's the Return of Godzilla you can find it here. I recommend watching it before Godzilla vs Biollante in order to understand this film better. As I said last time: There will be spoilers, but do we really watch giant monster movies for the plot anyways? Well, for this one... Maybe.


If you haven't read my last review in the Heisei Series, I'll give an even briefer overview of what the Heisei Series is. It's the series of 7 Godzilla movies made from 1984 to 1995 that rebooted the franchise and features a tighter continuity than the old Showa era films of the 60s and 70s. Of the 15 films in the Showa Series, only the original 1954 Gojira remains canon.

Godzilla vs Biollante picks up right after the Return of Godzilla with teams of Japanese scientists and a malicious American paramilitary team digging through the rubble of Tokyo for Godzilla tissue samples. After a brief shootout and a cut to a fictional Middle-Eastern country named Sardia, the movies returns to 1989 to introduce the audience to a more competent and prepared Japan. In the 5 years since Godzilla was "trapped" in Mt Mihara, Japan has made great strides in computer science, materials, lasers, genetic engineering, and more. If Godzilla returns again, they will be ready... Or so they think.

This movie features some interesting themes of environmentalism and ethics. Cloning and genetically modified organisms were just becoming reality at this point in time. Humilin, or synthetic insulin produced by modified bacteria, had just hit the market in 1982, and the first mammal had been cloned via nuclear transfer in 1984. The ethics and responsible use of such technology was on everyone's mind as science fiction became science fact. The monster opposing Godzilla in this entry, Biollante, is a manifestation of everyone's worst fears regarding these developments being a hybrid of human and rose DNA inserted into Godzilla cells.


For this review, I watched Godzilla vs Biollante in Japanese with subtitles since I hadn't seen it in that format before. Most of these reviews will be for the English dub of the film since that is the only version I own. (I know, sacrilege for kaiju fans.) I did find that the dialogue in this version was much more natural and informative, and I'd recommend watching it this way if subtitles don't bother you too much.

This movie is good, like really good. Critically, it's probably the best of the Heisei Series, and it's personally my second favorite. (My favorite being the emotional conclusion to the Heisei Series: Godzilla vs Destroyah) It's got wonderful effects, a fresh storyline, amazing monster design, and a good human plot line. Toho was truly firing on all cylinders when they made this movie.

While the Return of Godzilla isn't a bad movie, Godzilla vs Biollante is superior to the preceding film in just about every way. Godzilla looked much better this time around than the occasionally derpy-eyed version from the 1984 film. Also, I can't recall seeing any wires during my viewing, which is more than I can say for some of the later entries in the Heisei Series. The human characters are compelling and the plot is solid. In other words, if you were turned off of the campy monster movies with crappy effects from the 60s and 70s, give this movie a shot!

Let me break my thoughts down even further with some special emphasis on the titular villain: Biollante and the reason for this series: the human response


Biollante is one of Godzilla's strangest foes to ever grace the silver scene, and my favorite monster design in this era. As an amalgamation of Godzilla cells, rose DNA, and DNA from Dr Shiragami's deceased daughter, she has one of the most convoluted origins of any kaiju. Biollante evolves throughout the course of the film from a strange looking rose to the magnificent beast pictured below.


Biollante towers 40 meters above Godzilla, making Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors look like a common dandelion. She is for the most part stationary, but her massive size and insane reach make her a formidable foe nonetheless. It is theorized by Dr Shiragami that Godzilla is inexorably drawn to Biollante because they are essentially the same being due to being made of the same cells. Whether this is true or not, Godzilla seeks out Biollante wherever she manifests. The two clash and at the end of the day Godzilla triumphs. However, Biollante's neigh indestructible "Godzilla cells" survive and are cast into the depths of space to plague humanity again someday. (But not in a way that you would expect!)

All in all, Biollante is a fantastic foe for Godzilla, and I wish she was featured in more movies.

The Human Response

As I said before, Japan is thoroughly more prepared this time around then when Godzilla attacked in 1984. The JSDF has a lot of new toys including, but not limited to: computer science, robotics, advanced materials, biology, genetics, lasers, and ESP. That's right, psychics try to stop Godzilla. They aren't successful this time, but they return in later films with greater abilities. While the rest of the world isn't really featured this time around, we get the sense that humanity as a whole is not going to be caught off guard again. If Godzilla or another monster rears its ugly head humanity will be ready for it.

After a quick scene in the Osaka Bay to highlight the fact that conventional military can't deal with Godzilla, the JSDF deploys the new and improved Super X2.

Super X2

This version of the Super X is built from the remains of the original, but vastly improved. The new alloy armoring the Super X2 is twice as strong. This craft is also semi aquatic and piloted remotely, giving it greater reach and removing the pilots from harms way. The most impressive upgrade is the "Fire Mirror," which is made of synthetic diamonds. The "Fire Mirror" allows the Super X2 to reflect Godzilla's atomic blast back at him with more intensity, literally fighting fire with fire.

All of these improvements to the Super X show that humanity is getting better at dealing with giant monsters. This film also debuted the blue MBT-92 Maser Cannons, which are direct improvements to the red Hyper Laser Cannons used to distract Godzilla in 1984. Masers are continually upgraded and used against giant monsters throughout the Heisei Series.

The last new anti-kaiju weapon that appears in Godzilla vs Biollante is the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, or ANEB. This bacteria was genetically engineered from Godzilla's DNA to create an enzyme that broke down nuclear material making cleaning up fallout from a nuclear plant disaster, atom bomb, or Godzilla attack simple. This bacteria is weaponized and loaded into rockets, which are shot into Godzilla by a crack commando team. After a little coaxing (aka raising Godzilla's body temperature with masers, microwave mines, and a man-made lightning storm) it almost kills Godzilla and forces him to hibernate underwater where it is cool enough to make the ANEB go dormant again.

How Did This Film Influence Daikaiju Director?

When I first started working on Daikaiju Director in 2014, it was much more of a scenario based game that emulated specific movies, than the multiplayer free for all monster fighting game it has become. Godzilla vs Biollante as well as the American 2014 Godzilla were direct influences on the 3 player scenario I was working on where two players played as opposing monsters and the third player played as the ever evolving military.

While this type of gameplay hasn't made it's way into the current incarnation of Daikaiju Director, different game "modes" are being tested now. A military mechanic or player has always been something I've wanted to include, and I'm still coming up with new ideas everyday. I look forward to incorporating these elements back into the game now that the core game has been balanced.

What's Next?

That's it for this entry. Tune in next time for my review of 1991's Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, a very controversial entry in the Heisei Series. I'll also be posting soon about my National Game Design Month project so be on the lookout for that. Until next time, keep the good times rolling!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Heisei Series Review Part 1: The Return of Godzilla

As I posted on Facebook last month that I wanted to start increasing and diversifying posts on the Daikaiju Director website. This is the first in what I hope to be a long line of fun kaiju movie reviews with a special look at how each film influenced the design of Daikaiju Director. I'm going to begin with a series of reviews looking at the Heisei Godzilla movies paying special attention to the evolving human response to the threat of Godzilla and other giant monsters. The first film that I'll be reviewing is 1984's the Return of GodzillaThere will be spoilers, but do we really watch giant monster movies for the plot anyways?


Before I start I want to layout some background information regarding the Return of Godzilla and the Heisei era in general. If your a big kaiju movie buff then you probably already know all of this so feel free to skip to the next section.

What is Heisei Godzilla? For the sake of brevity, the Heisei era includes the 7 Godzilla movies made from 1984 to 1995. This series is characterized by practical effects and tight continuity, which is why it's such a great opportunity to examine how humanity's response to giant monsters changes and evolves over time.

The Heisei Series named after current political era in Japan, which started in 1989. Yes, I know that doesn't make total sense since the Return of Godzilla was released in 1984, but just go with it. Technically the later Millennium series and Legendary series also take place in the Heisei era of Japan, but they aren't considered part of of the Heisei film series. Confusing, I know. Maybe I should do a Kaiju History post sometime down the road...

Anyways, the Return of Godzilla is the first entry in the Heisei Series. It ignores all previous Godzilla movies besides the original 1954 film, Gojira. If you can't stand the cheesiness of some of the older films, then this is the perfect jumping on point. This movie can be enjoyed without having seen any other Godzilla movies. The only thing to keep in mind for younger viewers is that this movie was made in the middle of the Cold War and it pulls a lot from the politics of the time. This movie has only recently been made available on DVD and Bluray so it is finally easily accessible in America.

The Review

After 9 years out of the spotlight, the King of Monsters makes a triumphant return in the Return of Godzilla. While I normally prefer my kaiju films to feature the clash of two or more titanic monsters, this solo outing hits all of the right notes with me. It has the ridiculous monster movie science that I love and an interesting conflict centered around the awkward complexities of Japan's position during the Cold War.

The conflict of the movie is threefold. In one theater, you have Japan dealing with Godzilla's first appearance in 30 years. The atomic horror that is Godzilla has returned to a vulnerable Japan. The Japanese government isn't entirely caught off guard though. They quickly re-purpose the anti-nuclear aircraft, Super X, to deal with Godzilla instead of a  Russian or American attack. With its titanium-platinum alloy hull and newly added cadmium missiles, it represents the government's best hope at defeating the King of Monsters. While I can't speak to the actual properties of the platinum titanium alloy they used, cadmium is used in real world nuclear reactors to slow and control the reaction. It makes sense that these missiles would be particularly effective against Godzilla and his nuclear powered biology.

The second conflict involves the two super powers of the era: the USA and the USSR. As Japan scrambles to repel Godzilla's attack, these two countries send representatives to urge Japan to allow them to nuke Godzilla. They both say that they want to strike him while he's in the Sea of Japan, but they won't hesitate if he moves into Tokyo as projected. Obviously hits a sore spot for Japan given not only Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the plethora of nuclear tests that inspired the 1954 Godzilla movie.

Given the Cold war politics and a anti-nuclear super aircraft, how could this get any crazier? Well the third facet of the conflict involves a group of scientists that want to lure Godzilla into a volcano using birds. Yes, you read that right. The heroes of the film try to trick Godzilla into falling into a volcano by manipulating the same magnetic navigation instinct that birds have. While his magnetic navigation instinct never comes up again in the Heisei series, it does set the stage for the monster mind control technology exhibited in the later films.

All things considered, this is a serious monster movie with some great cinematic moments. While the characters are sometimes forgettable and the science can be hilariously inaccurate, it's miles better than many of the Godzilla movies Toho gave us in the 70s. It's an excellent reboot for my favorite franchise and one of the top 3 Godzilla movies I'd recommend to monster movie newbies.

How Did This Film Influence Daikaiju Director?

It didn't, at least not yet. I began development on Daikaiju Director 2 years ago and I only watched the Return of Godzilla for the first time in September. As I tinker with the military faction and armed response deck this movie will definitely leave it's mark. I want the human military player to have a variety of avenues of attack. Much how the government in the movie argues between deploying Super X, luring Godzilla into a volcano, and using nuclear weapons, I want interesting choices to be the hallmark of the human player. I'll delve more into this later in this series where I talk about the variety of super weapons developed to defeat Godzilla.

What's Next?

The next entry into this series will examine 1989's Godzilla vs Biollante and how humanity ramps up it's response to Godzilla. I hope this review was informative, and if you haven't seen the Return of Godzilla I hope you give it a shot. Until next time, keep the good times rolling!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dayton Designed: The Aftermath

Last Saturday we had the opportunity to run a playtest with other local game designers at Ohio Gaming Brigade's Dayton Designed event. It was a resounding success. The event itself went amazing and we got a ton of great feedback. If you made it out and got to play Daikaiju Director, thank you! If you didn't, fret not. Ohio Gaming Brigade will be running similar events in the future and Daikaiju Director will be making appearances at other gaming conventions. We want to thank Star City Brewery for hosting the event, Ohio Gaming Brigade for organizing it, and all of the playtesters for making it as amazing as it could be!

Now on to the nitty gritty...

The Good

We got to show off the new Daikaiju art last Saturday and people responded very positively to it. The artist did a fantastic job and we will be showing each piece off as they get colored by our colorist. As said before, this playtest went amazing! People were so excited to play Daikaiju Director that we had a line that we couldn't get through with the time allotted. Next time we hope to have more copies of the prototype and more tables so everyone gets a chance to play. The people who did play only had positive things to say and there were more than a few epic moments that surprised everyone at the table, like the Double Earthquake!

When the player playing Vulcanus played "What a Twist" before dropping "Earthquake" everyone at the table knew something big was happening. After demolishing most of the city with excellent attack rolls, the player just laughed and said, "I do it again."

The second "Earthquake" was just as effective as the first and helped cement his lead in Ratings Points. At that point, the other players began to gang up on Vulcanus, but it was too late in the game. A few double-crosses and failed attack rolls later, Vulcanus emerged victorious in the third and final game of the night.

The Bad

Two obvious issues arose at Dayton Designed. The first is that when teaching the game to new players, they often didn't know how to best utilize their Daikaiju's specific strengths and abilities. This is normal for any game that people are unfamiliar with. This led to a few players mimicking other players' moves to their own detriment. This will hopefully be mitigated by improved Daikaiju cards that have strategy suggestions and a story blurb for each monster. Unfortunately, this issue meant that sometimes, monsters didn't perform to the best of their ability and feedback was skewed towards monsters that weren't necessarily as good or bad as players thought. We realize now that feedback isn't always helpful when it's just "Eelian felt the most powerful" and "Vulcanus won this game" unless it's put into proper context. More about that in a future article though...

The second problem we had was in one game the scene counter got bumped and nobody noticed. This led to a game lasting somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 turns instead of the usual 10. While it was great that the testers enjoyed playing Daikaiju Director so much that they didn't mind playing a more, the people waiting to play were understandably unhappy about this. In an effort to mitigate the risk of such a thing happening in the future we are switching from a scene counter die to a large card with a track printed on it. We will also use this track to mark each player's Ratings Points, which hopefully will help clear up player's positions relative to each other.

The Ugly Gi-Ant Elephant in the Room

Or lack thereof we should say. In our last post we promised a playtest of the new Gi-Ant variant at Dayton Designed. Unfortunately, we didn't feel that it was ready in time for the playtest and elected to just run normal games of Daikaiju Director. It will happen in the future, but it needs a few things before we are confident in sharing this new variant with the world:
  1. It needs to be complete and tested by the designers of the game. We don't want to give you an unfinished, broken product to play with.
  2. It needs the space to be played. As we are focusing on finishing the core game, we don't want to sacrifice play space for the core game to test a variant that probably won't be included at launch.
  3. It needs to look good. With the quality prototypes presented thus far, we want Gi-Ant's twist deck and the Gi-Anthill prop to look like it belongs with the rest of the game. 
 That being said, we will be testing this variant along with others at future playtest events.

In Other News

We want to expand the content on this site so be on the lookout for more game design posts related to Daikaiju Director and other games in general. We will keep you updated on other fun events in the Dayton area as well as other cool games being made around here. In addition to that, since research for this game requires multiple viewings of every kaiju film we can get our hands on, be on the lookout for movie reviews! We plan on review individual films as well as series while providing insight into their historical context and their influence on Daikaiju Director. Hopefully this diversification in content will expand our audience and entertain you guys, the readers.

That's all for now. Check out the Facebook page and Twitter for more updates and keep the good times rolling!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dayton Designed: a Playtest with Other Local Game Designers

If you've been keeping up with the news we've posted on the Facebook page, then you know that the Ohio Gaming Brigade is hosting a playtest night for local Dayton game designers. Daikaiju Director will be there along with many other great games like Galatune, Bellum, and Just Got Real. I'm excited to have the opportunity to showcase a game I've been working so hard on for the past 2 years alongside so many other talented designers.

The details for the event itself can be found here, but the gist of it is that the Ohio Gaming Brigade is running this event at Star City Brewery on Saturday October 22nd from 6pm to 10:30pm. Star City Brewery is a great family friendly establishment that I've frequented myself many times in the past. They have great beer, a fantastic atmosphere, and an extensive board game library that is available to use if play testing is filled up or just not your style. There will also be a raffle with some pretty neat prizes.

As of right now, there will be two regular games of Daikaiju Director games for people to play was well as a never before played 5 person variant featuring the original 4 Daikaiju teaming up to take on the King of the Ant-Hill himself, Gi-Ant, and his newly redesigned Mut-Ant swarm. I recommend everyone who is looking for something to do that evening to come check it out and support local designers. Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 22, 2016

UD Con XXIII: Mad Scientist Con

It's that time of the year again. UD Con is just on the horizon, and I am excited to announce that we will be having not 1, but 2 playtests there this year! That's a 100% increase in kaiju awesomeness from last year!

Click the image below to for more details about UD Con XXIII: Mad Scientist Con

FASFAC is hosting the Con in the Science Center on UD's campus this year March 4th through 6th. If you want to playtest Vulcanus, Space Hunter X, Eelian, and Fenrir come to the Fishbowl between 7 and 8 pm Friday. If you want to tryout 4 never before tested Daikaiju then come to the Fishbowl between noon and 2 pm Saturday. If you're at the convention but can't make those times, find me and I'm sure we can get a game started at an open table.

I'll also be running a panel about giant monster movies for beginners at 9:30 pm Friday in Room 119. Whether your a total newbie or a kaiju film veteran, it's sure to be a blast. Hope to see you there!

Until next time, keep the good times rolling!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

An Actual Playtest for Ants

This past weekend I hosted an amazing playtest with some awesome individuals. The purpose of the test was to see how the changes made after the Gen Con Playtest held up while introducing a new monster: Gi-Ant.

Gi-Ant is unlike any other Daikaiju introduced thus far. What started as a joke from the Gen Con Playtest has turned into a monster that may go on to become a fan favorite. It could be said that he is a synthesis of Eelian and Vulcanus, but don't let that fool you! While it's true Gi-Ant can burrow to escape danger and cause city shattering earthquakes like Vulcanus, his real strength lies in his ability to spawn tiny Mut-Ants!

These Mut-Ants are terribly hard to balance. Expanded action economy is no joke in a game like Daikaiju Director. I want the Mut-Ants to provide an obvious benefit to Gi-Ant, without breaking the game, and I believe I almost hit the mark. Gi-Ant didn't win any of the games in his debut playtest, but he was a force to be reckoned with and a lot of fun to play. He'll definitely need to be tweaked before the final release, but there's a solid foundation to build from.

Now on to things that were completely broken...

If you follow the Facebook page, then you probably know that Daikaiju Director had its first kaiju kill in scene 1. This all happened in the first game of the playtest! Fenrir moved, pounced on Eelian, and then played an impressive combo of Twist Cards that ended up doing 6 damage to the space snake thanks to Fenrir's "Vicious" passive ability. Veterans of playtests past have commented on how Fenrir is either really good, or really bad. He's a glass cannon kaiju killer. After this I'm leaning towards believing he's either too good or too bad. I'm going to make some slight changes to his offensive and defensive capabilities, while hopefully maintaining the spirit of the monster.

The other games highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the other monsters. We had a very even spread of winners throughout the afternoon. Only 2 out of 4 of the playtesters had played Daikaiju Director before, and one of them had only played it at the first UD Con Playtest. Needless to say the game has changed quite a bit since then! We were also joined by a fellow game designer, Zac Reed, who has his own game, Life is Card, available on

Please check out Life is Card here!

One of the best moments for me this past weekend was to see the playtesters have so much fun playing Daikaiju Director. Despite minor necessary rules clarifications and balance issues, everyone had a blast, and at the end of the day that's what gaming is all about.

If you don't already, Like Us on Facebook as well as Life is Card. I should be updating soon with details about this year's UD Con playtest along with some other exciting announcements. I'm currently looking for an artist to help with some concept art. If you know someone or are interested yourself please email Daikaiju Director. Until next time, keep the good times rolling!