Jul 11

Review: King of Tokyo


pew-pew-pew *booooom*

“ARG! GRRRRR!” *smaaaash*

“Oook-ook, aaa-aaa-aaaAAAA!!!”


Growing up, my siblings and I never had the joy of watching any Japanese kaiju films.  Godzilla really doesn’t count, even if it did have a cool soundtrack.  Don’t even talk to me about King Kong.

We had an Atari 2600 and played Rampage, though.  It was a simple game.  You move your monster around a cityscape, climbing up skyscrapers and bashing away until you turn it all into rubble.  You can eat soldiers and recover health.  You can whack other monsters.  There wasn’t a lot of strategy to it.*

We used to watch Power Rangers as well.  There may have been plots to the episodes, but generally it was one guy in a monster suit battling another guy in a mecha suit.  The continuity of collateral damage from each episode seemed unimportant. Again – pretty standard stuff, as the genre goes.  I may have been more interested in discussing the relative charms of the Yellow Power Ranger vs the Pink Power Ranger, though…

With all the versions of this genre, the fluff is more important than the substance – and this is where King of Tokyo comes as a bit of a surprise.

Monkey smash!

In King of Tokyo, you are a Big Monster (or, if my fiancée isn’t playing, you can be an Evil Bunny Inna Mech Suit.)  On the face of it, it’s a strategy-light, dice-rolling extravaganza – perfect for parties, kids and filling time whilst waiting for people to turn up for more serious games.

You roll some dice.  You can choose to reroll as many dice as you like up to two times.  Dice can restore health (heart symbols), score those patented Victory Points (numbered faces), grab energy cubes (lightning bolts) and, most importantly, to whack other monsters (clawed hands.)  Energy cubes are currency for buying power cards with special abilities and one-off bonuses.

If anyone rolls claws and no one is in Tokyo, they go into Tokyo.  If they’re in Tokyo, they hit everyone for that amount of damage.  If they’re not in Tokyo, they hit anyone in Tokyo for that amount of damage.  Whoever is in Tokyo takes the damage and can then give up Tokyo, and the person attacking goes in.  With larger numbers of players, there is space enough for two in Tokyo at any one time.

It’s pretty obvious to start with that being in Tokyo can be Painful.  If you move into Tokyo, though, you get a Victory Point™ – yay!  And if you survive until the beginning of your next go, you score two Victory Points™ – double-yay!  But whilst you’re in Tokyo, you cannot heal damage.

Yeah – it’s very obvious that Tokyo = Pain.

First to 20 Victory Points wins; or last one standing.  3 – 2 – 1 – FIGHT!


The power cards can give you some nice abilities.

For a game called ‘King of Tokyo’, no one really wants to be in Tokyo at all.  You can get knocked out very quickly by vindictive players if you try, and you get very little back in terms of Victory Points.  You will probably try to reroll those claws away into something more helpful, like energy cubes.  Some of the one-off cards can be great, after all – turning a bunch of energy cubes into Victory Points™ as well, or something to keep you alive.  Best to play on the safe side, right?

Let me make this clear – King of Tokyo with a bunch of play-it-safe folk is boring.  Yahtzee boring.  Snakes and Ladders boring: it’s a race to roll the right numbers, and that’s it.  If you invite a bunch of ardent euro-gamer types to try it out, the first game will likely be very play-it-safe.

Here’s what I recommend you do.  Channel your inner eight year old.  Give them the dice and let them decide what to keep and what to reroll.  I bet you a large sum of nothing at all, they will want to smash things.  Offensive cards look cool and tasty.  You will gleefully jump into Tokyo, because it allows you to hit not just one person, but everyone!  Who cares about Victory Points?  It’s about the the sound of screaming, the smash of concrete and the satisfaction of hitting things very hard with other things!

As soon as someone decides to upset the apple cart and start throwing claws into the fray, everyone else has to either fight back or try to heal back up.  This can – and will – disrupt whatever other plans they had in mind.  It’s complete chaos… but in a good way.  Your choices become much more interesting.  Can you afford to stay longer in Tokyo to kill off someone else, or get out so you can heal up and take a breather?  Should you try to roll the last few points, or go for a kill?

After a few of these games, it becomes very clear that there’s a deeper strategy.  It’s not about whether you choose to go for claws or do something else: it’s often about when to go into Tokyo and when to stay out.  If your opponents are all on low health, they will be too scared to try to hit you in case they land up in Tokyo themselves.  If you’re nearing the VP goal, jumping into Tokyo and ceding it immediately can get you some easy points.  Even if you can’t get in, forcing others to deal with their impending mortality slows them down as well.  There are lots of roads to victory in this game, and they all lead to Tokyo.

The components are great quality and the artwork really pops.

I’ve heard that the expansion adds some variable player powers, bringing weight to which Big Monster (or Bunny) you choose to play.  As it stands, though, the base game is a lot of laughs.  The art is fitting and a bit cartoony; the dice are excellent quality (and I love the colours!) and the little standees, though simple, are a great addition to the game.  They could’ve been tokens or little wooden monster meeples, but the cutouts really allow your inner eight year old to have some fun. stomping over the other players.

And isn’t that what boardgames are all about?


*Interestingly, there is a dexterity game coming out soon called Rampage as well.  It looks promising and will likely be a great hit at Essen – keep an eye out for it!

1 comment

  1. boardgameking

    Good work!
    Check out my review here – http://www.boardgameking.com/reviews/king-of-tokyo/

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