King of Tokyo

Who doesn’t want to pretend to smash a city using a Bionic eyed version of King Kong!

King of Tokyo is a casual party game for 2-6 players designed by Richard Garfield, who created what is thought to be the first collectable card game, Magic: The Gathering. This review is mostly focused on playing with my family including younger children. The box recommends that the game is suitable for ages 8+ on the box and I played with my son, who is six but quite used to playing board games.

You play as a gigantic rampaging monster and are willing to do anything to be in control of Tokyo. Unfortunately for you, every other player has a similar goal, so your job is to control the city and inevitably fight the other monsters for the top spot. The game is played with dice rolls which determine many results such as victory points or damage to your enemies. To win you must get to 20 victory points or be the last monster standing. There are also power up cards which can be used to purchase different abilities for your monster.

How to play?

To start a game of King of Tokyo you place the very simple, small board in the centre of the table and each player chooses a character - my personal favourite being ‘Cyber Kitty’ a pink robotic cat with bionic claws. Most of the characters are inspired by pop culture and there is sure to be a character someone is desperate to be whether it’s the Cthulhu or a Space Penguin.

Next players will shuffle the power card deck and deal three face up which are placed near the board in easy reach of all players. The players then take the corresponding cardboard figure and Monster Board; the Monster boards have wheels on to determine the characters victory points and health.

To take a turn, the player rolls all six-black dice and then resolve their rolls dependent on the types of symbols that have been rolled. On the dice there are, numbers from one to three, heart symbols, monster claw symbols, and finally a lightning bolt symbol. The lightning bolt is the symbol for energy, allowing you to pick up energy cubs, which can be used at the end of your turn to purchase the power up cards.

Victory points are gained by rolling three of a kind of the same number. So, if you rolled three – twos you would gain two victory points, four – twos and then its three victory points and so on.

The heart symbol is used for healing and if you are outside of Tokyo you can heal for one heart on your board. The last side on the dice is the monster claw, which represents an attack. If you are in the City you hit all the monsters outside of the city for one damage for every claw you have rolled. If you are outside of Tokyo City the monster currently inside will losing health.

The next stage of your turn is whether to enter Tokyo City, there must always be a monster in the city, so therefore if no one is in the City you must go in. Entering and staying in the city will net you victory points, and If you roll the smash symbols you attack everyone out of the City simultaneously. The downside of being in City is you cannot heal while inside, regardless of your roll. If you do get attacked while in Tokyo and your health is getting low, you can choose to yield and leave the City and thus making the person who’s turn is next enter the city. The final stage of a turn is the ability to buy power up cards; you can purchase one of more from the three face-up cards near the board.

The cost of the cards is indicated at the top and you must have the correct amount of power cubes. If you have enough power cubes you can continue to buy as many cards as you like. These power up cards, make the game different on each play and add a strategic element to the game. Some of the cards effects allow you to roll extra dice, gain extra energy, health or even poison your fellow monsters. If you are in the city the power cards are the only way you can regain health while remaining in there.

In games of five-six players the Tokyo Bay space on the Board is also used. Tokyo Bay is used in essentially the same way as Tokyo City and the monsters who become king have the same rules, so can’t heal but can attack greater numbers of players. As soon as the game is down to four players, Tokyo Bay will become off limits. This element is introduced to keep the balance in larger games and it’s a smart touch that easily allows the addition of two players which is nice to see without having to purchase additional expansions - however I have yet to play it with more than four players so have not personally needed to use it.

How do you win?

Although this is predominantly a dice rolling game there is still strategy involved, especially due to the two different win conditions. Both victories; through VP or by defeating everyone else are equally good ways to win. Most players seem to determine their strategy after their first few rolls and if you start with a strong collection of victory points, it’s probably the way to go. The power up cards should also be a vital part of your game play as they can drastically change the course of the game.

As a peaceful individual, I prefer to win via the victory point route, so I try to stay out of the City to keep my health up by healing when I need to. I also find this ends up being a sneakier way to win. Most of the playthroughs I have had everyone is very focused on health and seem to miss my amounting victory points until its almost too late.

Is it fun?

One of the things I love about this game is how even the playing field is for all players - this is a game my six-year-old son can beat me at quite easily due to the mix of push your luck and strategy. It’s a welcome addition to our house where usually the adults would win most games.

The turns are fast paced and generally done in less than a minute so there is very little downtime, and the whole game will generally play in under 30 minutes which also makes this the perfect family or more causal players game.

The components in the game are well made and seem to last many plays without much wear and tear.

I appreciate the different monsters and love the art on them; there’s a monster for all personalities!

My son is a fan of the ominous looking Meca Dragon, but other monsters offer a cuter approach to the game; such as the slightly tubby space penguin. The monsters themselves don’t offer any special abilities or characteristics but they do make the game visually appealing.

Power Cards provide monsters with unique abilities

Something I do want to talk about in this game are the dice, in the very first edition of the game the dice were painted, which as you can imagine did not work out well, as after a lot of rolls these wore down quickly and the symbols began to be unreadable. I am pleased to say the designers realised the mistake hastily and now the game is sold with etched dice which don’t show the deterioration.

My criticism of the dice that we have in our copy is I think they are just a bit too big. If you use a power up card there are times when you are potentially rolling eight dice at a time, which even for my adult hands is a bit of an issue, but when playing with younger children is virtually impossible.

King of Tokyo is a great game for what it is, a dice roller with some hidden depth. My children will happily play this again and again, for me I am not sure I would crack it out on a game night, but I think would be well suited for introducing casual gamers to something fun and amusing.