Billion Road is a fascinating and colourful digital board game styled game for PC and Switch that could best be described as ‘if Monopoly had Kaiju’s and it was a dice race’. Whilst it may on the outset look like it has close ties to Monopoly or Fortune Street, Billion Road carves a much more simplified path – placing style over substance.
Each game takes place on a lavishly realised map of Japan. Each space is a Japanese town and these towns in turn are divided into regions. Your goal is to make more money than anyone else and to do that you’ll need to buy these towns up! You do so by landing on them and buying various property on these lands and they can levelled up by repeated landing on the same spaces. There can be up to 10 or 12 properties per town with a wide range of prices and anyone who lands on the town has the chance to buy any of those properties. If you lucky and rich enough to buy everything, you’ll get a multiplier bonus but it is not often something you can do early in the game.
Instead, Billion Road is actually a dice rolling race game with a ton of modifiers running in the background. Each round of the game starts off with a random dart being thrown onto the map of Japan and its a race to get there first. You can go by land but if you’ve got to cross the country you can also shortcut with boat and air travel. The game points you in the direction that is theoretically quickest but some routes have more traps on than others. Each space between a town is filled with roulette wheels to win or lose some of your cash, buy powerups or collect kaiju. Kaiju act as tiny monsters that give your character powers. These can block other attacks, change how the roulette wheels work, steal money from others or change how buying property may work. There are quite a few and you can have up to three with you at one time. These are important because between moves you’ll be able to trigger their active or passive abilities to alter how the race to the target destination is going. Moving people back or warping them elsewhere is a key game mechanic. The first person to land on the destination town perfectly wins that round and gets a cash bonus. They also receive a bonus god tier kaiju to help them for the next round that can double their dice roll, steal money from others and generally aid their quest. This can be helpful as often the winner of one round is then the furthest away from the next destination. Second and third get a smaller bonus and the furthest away gets nothing except a cursed kaiju. These will half your dice roll, make your backup kaiju tired or even disappear or the most painful one halves your bank balance every couple of turns. Basically – never, ever be last. It is a pain!
As the bonuses from the races create huge swings in the rankings, its this rather than property buying that actually changes who wins most. Property buying becomes almost an afterthought at times until the dreaded giant kaiju monster appears on the map! These events usually happen every 6-12 turns and sees an AI kaiju attack certain regions of Japan. If you have property in those regions, you’ll want to battle that monster so that you can save your properties from damage which will reduce their value. You can summon one of your three own pet kaiju’s per turn to battle the monster and this runs like an old turn based RPG battle. If you beat the kaiju you get a big reward but if you are the only one with properties in the targeted region, you are unlikely to beat the monster in time. Your properties are then damaged and your bank balance plummets.
The game ends after a set number of turns agreed at the start and the one with the biggest bank balance wins.
Billion Road has loads going on but the key issue is that its really a giant dice rolling race. There is little strategy involved and all of the random elements of the game are designed to throw barriers at your progress and all feel negative. It is rare to have something good happen and as a result the fun, zany setting feels like its actually ganging up on you. It almost feels like its designed to make you rage quit at times. This is specifically true when battling hard AI characters who happen to get the exact number they need to hit certain targets all of the time. Local and online multiplayer both work a treat though to combat that if you have others willing to invest the time… and invest time you’ll have to! Much like Monopoly and Fortune Street, Billion Road takes hours to play. A 30 turn game took me 6 hours to complete. One character was completely buggered very early on in the game so they must have been utterly bored to tears but as you can never go truly bankrupt, the game gives you some money to keep you in the game. There are a few variants that eliminate last place every 5 or 10 turns which will speed things up a bit but still expect to sink a couple of hours in.
Whilst the game feels perverse at times – designed to make you angry – I love the game show setting. The graphics and colours are good fun although some of the show interruptions happen too often and repeat themselves too quickly. They also have little actual sway on the gameplay either because nothing trumps winning the dice race. I feel like a no bells and whistles mode would halve the time to play a game and make it a bit more enjoyable for long term players.
It is a tentative recommendation for Billion Road. It made me rage and it trips over itself to entertain in a way that stretches the experience too thin yet it has charm and replayability. Just don’t expect Fortune Street or Monopoly styled gameplay – this is a race game first and foremost with some property buying on the side.
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A very simple racing game padded with charm, character and plenty of rage inducing modifers.
Plenty of different things going on at the same time.
Local and online multiplayer work well.
The game isn't nearly as strategic as it makes itself out to be.
Everything is designed to hamper you which makes playing it a weirdly stressful and infuriating experience even though its still moreish.