Our good friend Xeo, the brain behind Wongamania, has launched a new financial board game Debtzilla! We had the privilege to play it before it was available for sale and here is some of our views about the game.
What is Debtzilla?
In the land of Banana Republic, an incompetent and corrupted government has caused a wave of crime and lawlessness in the Republic. A few brave souls showed up and decided to take on the mantle of Heroes – to combat the Villains who are scamming the hard-earned savings of ordinary Citizens. However, beneath every Hero lies a hard working citizen, who needs to work, save and borrow money in order to finance his crime fighting career. Yet, little did they know that their credit card bills are feeding the ultimate monster of mass destruction: Debtzilla.
(Learn more about Debtzilla)
Unlike the competitive nature of most board games, Debtzilla requires cooperation among the players in order to win the game. Each player chooses a character in the game and their powers vary. We find the character choices rather interesting and we will share more about them later.
Debtzilla: The Gameplay
Like a superhero in Marvel or DC Comics, each character works in the day to earn money and suit up at night to fight villains.
Each player will roll dices to hit a certain number in order to defeat villains. You can make certain moves to change the number of dices you have and buy gadgets which would increase your attacking power.
All the players have to cooperate to decide which villains to target, based on each character’s strength and weaknesses, as well as the gadgets each player has. Failing to do so would result the deaths of innocent civilians and that feeds the Big Daddy Monster – Debtzilla.
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Players win the game when all the villains and the Debtzilla are killed, and lose if the civilians are all dead.
Debtzilla can be quite complex at first as you need to weigh a lot of options and decide the best course of action. Most of the time we do not know if we have made the most optimal decision.
For example, in order to defeat villains you need to buy gadgets, but you also need to make sure you have money and settle your finances early in the game. If you keep building your finances and not empower your character with gadgets, civilians would die at a faster rate. Such dilemmas are common during the game.
After you have settled your own matters, you have to convince your team mates to take certain actions to benefit the group. There are so many avenues and paths to take which made the replay value very high. We would be able to draw new insights every time we play the game.
Debtzilla: The Heros
Famous characters with a twist (any resemblance is deliberate)
As mentioned previously, we loved the creative adaptations of the characters. Here’s the showcase:
Tweetman / Ronald Thumb – Does it resemble Donald Trump and Batman? Bet it does.
The Oracle / Wally Buffet – This is Warren Buffett of course!
Lady Easing / Jane Yeelen – The most watched central banker, Janet Yellen.
Iron Girl / Angie Merkling – Considered the most powerful political figure in Europe, Angela Merkel.
Debt Hulk / Bendemeer Puthin – Trump’s idol, Vladimir Putin
Ali Baba / Jack Horse – This drawing really looks like Jack Ma!
Debtzilla: Mastering Personal Finance
Our first observation was that Debtzilla had a lot of game value in it but financial lessons are less obvious. This was unlike Wongamania where the financial lessons were the core to the game itself. This means that Debtzilla would be a lot more fun and appeal to a greater number of people.
That said, practical finance lessons could be learned upon reflections after the game. The game designers have put alot of thought into the process, and have successfully replicated some of the complexity from real world personal finance management.
There are two domains of finance used in this game – Personal Finance and Economics.
Lesson 1: Managing Your Own Finances
The very first finance lesson is that each player has to manage his finances properly.
There are 8 cards – Savings, Insurance, Luxury, Budgeting, Debt Refinancing, Credit Card Loan, Student Loan and Housing Loan.
Each card plays a different role to your finances and you have to decide what is good to have and what you should avoid. This is the foundation of the game. Understanding how each card affects your finances will aid you to beating the game.
Another more sombre finance lesson is that because this is a team game. It isn’t enough if you take care of your finances while the other players don’t. Similarly, you might face the same problem in real life with some of your family members.
Debtzilla: Replay Value
We think Wongamania has outdone themselves with this new game because…there’s actually 2 different game scenarios and 6 different heroes inside the box (learn more). Each hero brings different dynamics to the games, giving rise to many, many combinations.
On top of learning about personal finance, players can also learn about:
Lesson 2: General Economics
The second domain is with regard to the economics. There are actually two monsters you can choose to defeat – Debtzilla or Inflationsaurus.
Debtzilla was an example of the 2008 financial crisis which was triggered by an overwhelming amount of subprime mortgage loans. It was too late when the loan defaults started a domino effect on Wall Street, with Debtzilla devouring Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers among others in its wake.
Players can learn the different debt scenarios in the game such as Credit Card Black Hole, Paralyzing Medical Bills and Interest Rate Shock.
Inflationsaurus relates to a hyperinflation economy. We have experienced this in Singapore with the Japanese banana notes during the Japanese Occupation. It was valued on par with the Straits Dollar but eventually devalued to 950 Japanese military dollars for 1 Straits dollar in a few years. It should be of no coincidence that Xeo named Banana Economy in this game.
Players would encounter hyperinflation scenarios such as Currency Crash, Oil Shock and Purchasing Power Drain.
To sum it up…
As a game, Debtzilla provides the fun factor and board game fans should find hours of enjoyment playing it. As a learning tool, players can also use the game to learn more about finances as it is a good place to start asking questions. What is hyperinflation? How does it impact me? How should I plan my finances so that I can get more cash flow?
Both Debtzilla and Inflationsaurus ‘big’, real world scenarios that occurred previously. Most people would find themselves helpless in these situations, but those who are prepared for them will tend to do better. Debtzilla gives us the opportunity to experience these crisis through gameplay.
We think Debtzilla can stand as a game by itself. It can also be seen as a tool to promote financial literacy. It depends on how you want to see it. Support Debtzilla