Design: Richard Garfield
Illustration: Various Artists
It’s the end of the world! At least it is for anyone in and around Tokyo, as a group of rampaging monsters and giant robots leave a trail of destruction through the city and surrounding areas, destroying buildings, eating and squashing civilians, and even attacking each other in their wanton bloodlust. There is no chance for humanity in this battle, and soon the monsters will have destroyed everything in the city and each other, leaving only one clear winner of the title, “King of Tokyo” (or what is left of Tokyo, anyway!).
King of Tokyo is one of those games that fits so neatly into all sorts of board game categories. It is straightforward and easy to play, making it great for new gamers. It is easy and has monsters beating the snot out of each other, making it appealing to kids and science fiction fans. It supports up to 6 players, with fairly quick game times, making it a nice game for social gatherings or family nights. It contains a few dynamic and shifting strategies, designed by the master game designer Richard Garfield (Magic the Gathering), which even though the game is a simple one to follow, can also appeal to players with a fondness for more tactical games. And even though the game is competitive, with a group of players, alliances and targets can change during a game resulting in some scheming and co-operative play, and a bit of good ol’ fashioned back stabbing, and most importantly lots of player interaction.
To become the last monster standing in the ruins of Tokyo city, with the gigantic bodies of the other, defeated, colossal beasts lying at their feet, the players must achieve victory through combat and wreaking havoc. Players take turns in which they roll a set of custom dice which decide what actions the player will be able to take. They can do damage to other monsters, heal wounds, build up energy, or score victory points directly. Energy is used to buy cards which can either upgrade the player’s monster with a unique ongoing ability, or provide a powerful once off effect. Victory points can be obtained from the dice rolls, some of the cards (at the cost of energy), and from holding Tokyo and fighting off the other monsters trying to get into the city. The first monster to 20 victory points wins, and monsters suffering lethal damage are defeated. The cards offer a lot of variety in the special abilities and once off affects, and choosing what to purchase and how to manage one’s energy can be an effective tactic in itself. When players roll the set of dice in their turns, they are given to opportunity to re-roll some or all of the dice a further 2 times, so choosing which dice to keep and what dice result to focus on each turn can also be quite strategic, while still having a bit of randomness to keep things unpredictable (but with three rolls to get the results you’re after, that’s a lot less unpredictable than a lot of other games, like any D&D player who has rolled a 1 at the worst moment knows).
All in all, King of Tokyo is a hell of a lot of fun to play. It is really well designed, with no ambiguity or confusion in its rules or process (well none that I encountered anyway), which is actually quite something, as most games usually have pages of Q&A, and with King of Tokyo I really don’t see the need. The theme is enjoyable, the presentation looks great while keeping the game in an affordable price range, and it’s fast to set up and fast to play. It’s also quite a social experience, with players interacting with each other, and quite excited to see what each other do, instead of everyone just sitting there and biding their time until their own turns. I don’t really have much bad to say about King of Tokyo, it’s definitely a game that is well deserving of its many awards and gaming achievements.
Boardgame and graphic novel enthusiast. Marvel or DC? Image. Old-school gamer. Avid role-player. Kermit for president. I believe that werewolves will rule the world one day.
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