(Part of a series, reviewing games I played in September 2013 at That Board Gaming Thing.)
Designer: Richard Garfield
Publisher: IELLO (among others)
Playing time: 30 minutes
(Image courtesy of trenttsd@BoardGameGeek)
It is many a person’s dream to dress up in a rubber suit, and fight a massive battle with their friends over a scale model of Tokyo. Or perhaps that’s only my dream. In any case, King of Tokyo allows you to do just that, in a less stifling fashion.
Each player takes on the role of a daikaiju (giant strange creature, or as the rules say: Monster). Your goal is to keep your Monster in Tokyo (or Tokyo Bay, if playing with 5-6 players) as long as possible and rack up victory points — the first player to reach 20 points wins the game. Of course, everyone else will be attacking you and trying to drive you out of Tokyo so they can take your place. If you stay in too long and the other players manage to whittle your life points down to nothing, you are eliminated (no friendly Euro rules here!).
The turn sequence is simple. If you’re in Tokyo, collect 2 victory points. You then roll the dice and resolve the results. If you’re outside Tokyo and end up attacking the player there, and they choose to retreat (alternatively, if there’s no one there already), then you will take their place and receive a victory point. Finally you may buy cards if you choose to.
You get six dice to roll, and may re-roll any or all of them twice to reach your desired result. Three sides are numbered 1, 2, and 3 respectively. These will give you additional victory points equal to the value on the die if you roll a triplet, and one additional victory point for any matching die beyond that. For example, if you were to roll four 2s, you would get 2 victory points for the triplet, plus 1 additional point for the extra 2, for a total of 3 victory points.
For the remaining sides, one allows you to collect an energy cube, which you can save up turn to turn to buy cards. One side has a heart on it, which can restore one point of health if you’re not currently in Tokyo. And the remaining side has a claw on it, which will do damage to whoever is where you’re not: i.e. if you’re outside of Tokyo you can attack a daikaiju inside of Tokyo or Tokyo Bay, and vice versa.
The final and optional step is to buy cards, which can give you points, give you health, give you special abilities (such as a death ray, or fire breath), or combinations of the three. Three cards are revealed face up to start, and as players buy them they are replaced. They come in a variety of costs — the more powerful the card, the more it is. So you have a choice of buying the cheap card that can help you now, or saving up for the more powerful card — assuming you last that long.
I had heard about King of Tokyo when it first came out, and I have to admit I was a little skeptical. But the game quickly won me over. As I said on Twitter recently, there’s nothing like the visceral feel of rolling a big pile of dice. And that’s combined with three different push-your-luck mechanics — first whether to continue to roll and improve your results; second, if you’re Tokyo, whether to try to remain there and capture the 2 points on your next turn, or escape while you can before you get eliminated; third, whether to jump on the cheap card or wait for the energy to buy the better one. All of this combines to make a fun and tense little game. We’ll definitely be picking this one up soon.
Final verdict: Buy.