A few weeks back on Tabetop Tales I looked at Terror in Meeple City and how, for me, it felt like a board game incarnation of the classic arcade game Rampage. There is another title in my collection that involves monsters battling it out in a city that is a very different, but equally as fun game: King of Tokyo.
Released by publisher Iello in 2011, King of Tokyo is an absolutely beautiful creation from popular board game designer Richard Garfield – the mastermind behind the insanely popular deck building game Magic: The Gathering – who brings a vibrant, dice rolling game for all the family.
And the first thing that will be noticeable upon getting your hands on King of Tokyo is the insane levels of production – the component design is sturdy and absolutely wonderfully illustrated. The dice, the characters, the energy cubes and the cards are all fantastic! No question, in terms of quality you get so much bang-for-your-buck with this game coming in around the £25 mark.
King of Tokyo is essentially a battle between mutated monsters, gigantic aliens and bizarre aliens over who can claim ownership of the city of Tokyo. This is achieved by killing all other players or by (much more likely) being the first monster to reach 20 victory points.
Beginning the game, each player takes a monster of their choice and their matching score board, setting their health level to ten and victory points to zero. Players take it in turns to roll the six dice a maximum of three times, with each side having a specific effect. The number sides (one, two and three) equal straight up victory points if you can get a set of three or more of them by the end of your rolls. The lightning bolt equals energy cubes, with each rewarding the player with a green energy cube that is used as a currency to buy upgrades. The hearts restore life points to a maximum of twelve and finally the claws deal damage to your opponents.
Unfortunately you don’t have a choice of who you attack with you claws. If you are outside Tokyo, you attack the monster in Tokyo (and Tokyo bay if playing with five or six players). If you are inside Tokyo you attack all outside. If Tokyo is currently unoccupied, you attack no one but move into the Tokyo space. Players in Tokyo have the option to withdraw from Tokyo upon being attacked, making way for their attacker. While moving into Tokyo gets you one victory, and starting your turn in it gains another two victory points, players are unable to heal in the Tokyo space so the risk of premature death is greatly increased.
Energy cubes are used to buy a selection of power ups from a choice of three placed face up as a “market deck”. Anytime one is bought, a new one is drawn. These power ups include a whole host of permanent and one off abilities, such as a bonus dice, the ability to re-roll again, double energy cubes, body armour and so on. Very often in the game, the power up cards will prove to be invaluable.
A few expansions have followed for King of Tokyo, including a very interesting pack featuring a giant panda player character and evolution cards unique to each monster. These come into play by rolling three hearts. It has also spawned a separate standalone game with King of New York which follows the same rules of King of Tokyo but with a few additional rules. It’s definitely worth checking out as well, but somehow the additional rules actual detract from the gaming experience.
Overall, King of Tokyo is a game that has wide appeal. It works as a gateway game and it works with all the family. Its fun, it’s engaging and it can be played in around half an hour, making it a perfect filler game before moving onto something a little heavier. The randomness of the power ups really adds to the unexpected and there are genuinely moments of hilarity to be had.
In this day and age of wonderfully imaginative and complex games, some that even evolve as you play, it is so refreshing to have a title that demonstrates board gaming 101 to almost perfection. Ultimately, King of Tokyo has an advantage over the vast majority of other games on the market in that it has struck the absolutely perfect balance between all its mechanisms resulting in a strategically deep and simplistic accessible title. It has just the right amount of luck involved, it appeals to all ages, it has endless replay-ability. King of Tokyo is an almost permanent fixture in my game bag when I’m off visiting friends or family and games are on the agenda.
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, this game genuinely has some of the greatest production values going. Not only is it well worth checking out, it is a simply spectacularly stunning game! It’s absolutely beautiful!!
NEXT WEEK: I will be looking at what is essentially a kids drawing game and tell you why you should all rush out and buy it immediately!