King of Tokyo is a dice rolling game for up to 6 players released by IELLO and designed by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield. In King of Tokyo, players take on the role of one of several giant monsters (who happen to not look like any other monsters in particular) who are fighting for ultimate control of Movie Monster paradise; Tokyo City. The first monster to reach 20 points, or alternatively, be the only one with any remaining health, wins to become the true king of Tokyo (but not King of the Monsters, that title has already been claimed).
The game comes with a large collection of components including a small board, power cards, character cards, character pieces, stands, tokens and little green cubes. The game is set up with the small board (a picture of Tokyo with the locations Tokyo and Tokyo Bay on it) placed in the middle. Players then choose which monster they want to be: Giga Zaur, The King, Cyber Bunny, Meka Dragon, Kraken, Alienoid, and take the corresponding character card/board, piece and stand. The character boards themselves have two rotating dials on them. One representing health (starting at 10) and the other representing point score (starting at 0). Players then put their character pieces in the stands and place them near the board. The way the game works is mainly through its dice. 6 black ones with green symbols on them (and 2 extra green ones with black symbols on them). On a players turn, they roll all 6 dice, and compare the results. If they want to they can re-roll any number of dice, if still not happy, they can re-roll one more time. After that, they are stuck with what they whether they like them or not. If players roll a claw, this counts for an attack. If a player is the first one to roll a claw, they take Tokyo. If players roll a heart, they can heal themselves. If they roll a lightning bolt, they get some energy. If they roll 3 of any number, they score points equal to that number (so 3 3’s equals 3 points), plus any extra of that number equals one extra (so 4 2’s equals 3 points). Simple right, well yes in theory, but it’s a little bit trickier than that.
You see, when a player’s monster is in Tokyo, they can’t heal, so rolling hearts is pretty pointless. Also, when someone is in Tokyo, if they roll a claw or any number of claws, then they deal that much damage to every monster outside of Tokyo, however, monsters not in Tokyo that roll claws, only deal damage to the monster currently in Tokyo; so if you are in Tokyo and are taking too much damage, you might want to yield Tokyo to the monster currently attacking you. If you decide to do so, you still take that damage. Yielding Tokyo though presents another problem. When you take Tokyo you get a point, and every time it comes round to your turn, you get an additional 2 points if you are still there. So players (or monsters) will have to decide when they have taken enough damage to yield or to hold Tokyo for a bit longer to attain more points.
Monsters though do have options and opportunities. When a player rolls a lightning bolt they get a little green cube. These can they be used to buy power cards. Power cards have special abilities, some more complicated than others which can help you, or hinder you if someone else buys them. Some cards are permanent, while others are one use only. These power cards range from things like dealing additional damage, poisoning, growing an extra head, getting bigger, get bonus health, reduce other player’s points, coming back to life and deciding to become an omnivore. Alternatively, players have the option to spend 2 energy to wipe out the current selection of three cards to reveal three new ones and then choose from them.
King of Tokyo is a nicely designed game. The monster character cards deliver a nice way to keep both score and keep an eye on the health statistics. The use of dials is also more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use rather than having a card and using a small wooden cube. The artwork for Tokyo and the Monster characters is simple but effective. The little cubes are a wonderful addition. Their clear plastic see-through look makes them that little bit more special and thanks to them being all the same, there is no need to worry about general currency values. The power cards are also cheap which means they can be bought relatively quickly if the right dice are being rolled. The power cards also deliver an extra dimension to the game meaning that those who want to bide their time to get stronger can, while those who just want to roll point numbers and claws can too. It is also very easy to understand and does not rely on confusion between hit points and defence points when rolling claws, instead just saying you get hit, and how much health you subsequently lose. Additionally, I also like the many references to Monster Movies, many a time I have played this and have gotten into noting the references from the creatures and power cards and just enjoy reliving the memories of watching them. I am also always discovering new things. The power card deck is so big and has so many different cards in it, that every time I play it I am discovering new powers and abilities. I like that.
The game though I find does have one little disadvantage. It’s more of a rule that I still don’t understand no matter how many times I have played it; that being the area of Tokyo Bay. Tokyo Bay is used when playing with between 5 and 6 players. The idea is that there is another area of Tokyo, but I don’t understand why it is there, what the advantage of it is, how you get there and how you stay there. I can see the advantage of having two monsters in Tokyo, but this just leads to which monster attacks who when rolling dice. Having a second monster in with more players would also mean two monsters gaining points, but then how does one remain in Tokyo Bay if they are ousted by someone fleeing Tokyo. I just don’t understand the point of having it on the board, and subsequently since, don’t include it when I play it. I also find it hard to understand the part of the rules booklet that explains it.
While I do find the inclusion of Tokyo Bay confusing and or somewhat disappointing, it is a minor glitch in what is generally an easy, and very fun game. I just like the idea of being a Giant Monster and fighting for control of Tokyo (like a certain Giant Monster of whom I am a massive fan of). The game’s mechanics of dice rolling are nice and easy to just pick up and play, the character/monster cards are very easy to use and the addition of power cards are easy to understand and acquire (except for the batteries one). The artwork is terrific and the use of the monster stands are brilliant. The designer could have just used the cards as counters, but instead provides the stands to give a third dimension to both look and gameplay. When added to the board the monsters look huge. King of Tokyo is a game I rank among my favourite board games and is one I feel that everyone should try at least once. It’s not just its theme, but also how easy it is to play and how much enjoyment I have always managed to get out of it. I just can’t get enough out of being a Giant Monster and thrashing Tokyo, it’s so much fun.