King of Tokyo
- Designer: Richard Garfield
- Players: 2-6
- Time: 30 Min
Just when you thought it was safe to get some sushi, Tokyo happens. I don’t know that there is another city on the planet that has been ravaged by more 200 ton monsters than this small island’s capital. If I were them, I would seriously think about moving. Or at least consider building a giant electric fence or something. King of Tokyo is a wonderful simulation of the mayhem that happens in this perpetual, monster playground of a city, and it does so in a most enjoyable way. It taps into that special part of your childhood that thrilled in seeing a giant creature run wild through a city, and in a world that often takes itself too seriously… tapping into your childhood may be just what Dr. Frankenstein ordered.
Here’s how it works. Players begin by choosing a creature from one of six fanciful and somewhat familiar-looking characters. Each one is amazingly illustrated, and when standing in front of your player board becomes the embodiment of all your ambitious plans to reign supreme. These wonderfully imagined standees make the game amusingly transporting, allowing players to climb inside the heads of some of the most whimsical antiheroes ‘B’ monster movies have ever produced. Maybe you want to play as The King: a giant primate who has clearly just escaped a secret military complex of some kind. Or perhaps you’ll relate to Cyber Bunny: a psychotic rodent whose Napoleonic complex will leave the city in rubble at the helm of a 200 ton pink robot. If you’re like me, you may be drawn to the Kraken; an ancient cthuloid lurking in the deep waters outside of Tokyo Bay.
The board itself is small… confusingly small to many who sit down for their first play. However, they soon discover that the majority of the game takes place in the mind of each player as they press their luck in a no-holds-barred match to see who will be the last monster standing. On a player’s turn they will rattle half a dozen of the most satisfyingly tactile dice known to man out onto the table. The symbols on the dice are set off in an electric green hue further adding to the fervor of the game. Claws will strike at your enemies, hearts will help you lick your wounds, numerical values will score you victory points, and lightning bolts act as a currency by which to purchase incredible super powers making your already powerful monsters even more powerful. Each of these elements is a valid path to victory, and like Yahtzee, you will get three rolls to put together a varied assortment of lethal combinations.
The most enjoyable part of the game are the monster upgrades, because who wouldn’t want to trick out their monster with even more monstrously monsterific stuff? You will spend the energy you acquire when rolling lightning bolts to purchase things like second heads, nova breath, psychic abilities and even offspring. Each upgrade allows you to modify your dice rolls, earn victory points or deal out even more damage when laying siege to your opponents. The illustrations on each of these upgrade cards are just as detailed as the standees themselves, thus further immersing players into a world where you can body check another player into a skyscraper or pick your teeth with a flag pole.
Honestly, I can’t say enough about this game, and just looking at it makes me smile. This is the perfect game for families as time and again I discover that anyone can win regardless of skill level or age. My father, who does not play board games, joined us for a Tokyo city throw down… and ended up winning the game! Kids will love the theme, and the older folks will appreciate the comfort of the Yahtzee mechanic. And if this game isn’t enough to satisfy your kiaju-driven hunger, King of New York was released last summer as a stand-alone game set in the Big Apple. It includes six new monsters, dice and island board making it a richer, if not slightly more complex, gaming experience. There are also two expansions for King of Tokyo that throw a Pumpkin Jack, Boogey Woogey and Pandakai (a giant panda bear) into the mix.
Pros: Anyone Can Play, Over-the-Top Fun, Magnificent Production Quality and Art, Simple and Quick
Cons: Dice Haters Gonna Hate
Want more insight? Check out Episode 4 – The Struggle Bus from our podcast library.