King of Tokyo
Tokyo has been besieged by monsters! Revel in this theme-heavy game and use your dice to defeat your opponents to be crowned the King of Tokyo!
In King of Tokyo you take on the role of one of six monsters intent on destroying Tokyo, but you don’t share well with others. You have six dice which you’ll roll up to three times each (similar to Yahtzee) that will allow you to attack, refill your life, gain energy, or go for points. When another monster is in Tokyo, you can attack them in an attempt to move into Tokyo. When you’re in Tokyo, you can attack all of your opponents. Of course, what good is being a monster if you can’t have super powers? As the game progresses, you can spend energy to buy power ups to aid in your conquest.
Can you conquer the world (or at least small parts of it) armed with a monster and six dice? Each turn you’ll roll the six dice, setting any number aside and getting two re-rolls of as many dice as you like. The sides of the dice are: heart, lightning bolt, claw, 1, 2, and 3.
Hearts allow you to gain life (you start with 10 and are eliminated if you hit zero), while lightning bolts give an energy cube that can be used to purchase power up cards. Each claw will damage your opponent(s), and the numbers are worth stars (victory points) if you get three-of-a-kind or better. To win, you’ll either need to amass 20 stars, or be the last monster standing.
Much of the game will revolve around Tokyo. Only one player can be in Tokyo at a time (two if playing with 5-6 players). A monster in Tokyo will damage ALL players outside of Tokyo with each claw die result, while a monster outside of Tokyo will use claws to attack the monster(s) in Tokyo. You gain points for moving into and beginning your turn in Tokyo, but you can’t heal while you’re there. A monster may only leave Tokyo after being damaged, with the attacking player taking their place.
Energy cubes can be spent to buy cards, three of which are showing at any time. Each card has a cost and shows its effect, which is either immediate (cards reading DISCARD) or ongoing (cards reading KEEP). You may also spend two energy to clear the current cards and see three new cards.
The game is fast paced with players often aiming for different goals as the game goes on. Perhaps you want energy early, or plan to go on the offensive. As claws are thrown around, some rounds will leave players desperately trying to roll hearts, while others may try to fly under the radar while rolling for points. With two victory conditions, every game will play differently.
The first things you’ll notice when playing King of Tokyo are the six large, well detailed monster stand-ups. Made of thick cardboard and standing 3-4 inches tall, they really stand out. Each player also gets a matching, well illustrated monster board with two wheels that track stars and hearts.
The dice are oversized with green symbols printed on black. Energy is represented by small green translucent cubes that really fit well with the theme of the game. The deck of Power Up cards (66 total!) really bring the theme of the game together. They’re fun, with whimsical designs that are themselves entertaining to go through. There are some small round cardboard tokens that are used with some of the cards, and a small (8×8 inch) game board that serves as Tokyo.
While the board isn’t strictly needed (it exists to allow the monster(s) in Tokyo a place to stand), it’s a nice addition. I wonder if some of the space could have been used to give a turn summary, but after playing through one turn you’ll have things down anyway. I have heard some people have had trouble with the ink coming off of their dice. For what it’s worth, after dozens of plays with my copy I haven’t seen a problem. There is rumor that future editions will come with engraved dice.
The rulebook is mainly two pages of rules and one page of special information. You’ll be able to learn the game in 5 minutes, and it takes even less time to teach. The game is straightforward enough that you could teach it by talking through your first turn.
Who will enjoy this game?
King of Tokyo is a perfect light game. It is easy to learn, easy to teach, and a great deal of fun. You can play it with non-gamers, or as a break between heavier games. It’s not mentally taxing, yet keeps people interested, even on other player’s turns as they discuss what they would do if they were the person rolling. I’ve seen a 6-player game end as quickly as 10 minutes, with games almost always over in 40 minutes (generally closer to 30).
The theme comes through in every part of the game. This is especially true with the cards, many of which remind me of the old NES/arcade game Rampage. My personal favorite joke in the deck is the existence of two cards, Herbivore, and Urbavore. With other cards giving you an extra head, or “It Has a Child” that brings you back if you are eliminated, the game feels very well designed and integrated. It would be nice if the individual monsters had some sort of power that made them play differently, but balancing such a thing would likely be a nightmare; plus, this sounds like a perfect avenue for either expansions or player creativity (…paging the boardgaming.com House Rule section!)
Richard Garfield has taken a dice rolling game with cute monsters, and layered an enjoyable monster brawling good time on top of it. The game works for many different types of gamers, with an attractive look and king-of-the-mountain feel. Add in the multiple winning conditions, 30-minute play time, and easy to grasp rules and you have one of the best games of 2011.
Author: Andy Warta
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