King of Tokyo Review

King of Tokyo puts you and your friends in shoes (paws?) of giant monsters that are battling for supremacy. Though they don’t share the names of the most iconic kaiju in popular culture, it’s not hard to see who Godzilla and King Kong are among others. Your weapons of destruction are energy cubes, cards and dice. Lots of dice. Only one will remain when the smoke clears, but is this a battle worth fighting for?

There are a lot of components that form to make the King of Tokyo experience. Character standees are accompanied with cardboard scorecards to track your health and victory points. The simplistic board is used to indicate which player is in Tokyo or Tokyo Bay. Cubes are used to purchase the power cards. There’s also six custom black dice and two custom green dice, the latter of which is only used in specific cases.

Turns play out sort of like Yahtzee, in which you roll a set of dice once, lock in what values you want to keep and then roll the rest. You can do this until your third roll when everything is locked. Three of a specific number value gives you that point value, while lightning bolts, claws or hearts give you one of each. While the goal of the game is to be the first to score 20 points, simply rolling for points isn’t really a viable strategy.

Besides being at the mercy of your dice rolls, the problem is that approach is that your opponents want to kill you. It’s also in your best interest to kill them so that you have less competition. You will want to reserve your attack dice to inflict damage on them while saving heart dice to heal yourself. If your health hits zero, you’re eliminated from the game. Collecting cubes is also a good idea, as they let you obtain cards that give you any number of different power-ups.

Adding further complexity to that mix is the city of Tokyo itself. Players who enter the city get one victory point for entering and two victory points for each turn they start while in Tokyo. Also, while you’re there, all of your attack points do damage to everyone outside of the city. However, you can’t heal while in Tokyo, and every other player’s attack points will only hit you. Being in the city is a great way to earn points, but you’re also putting yourself at a greater risk of being killed, thus eliminated from the game. It sucks to have to watch the rest of the game play out from the sidelines, though you can generally avoid death by focusing on healing when you’re in the jam. Sure, the dice won’t always fall your way, but you generally have enough opportunities to take care of yourself before things go too far.

Because of the factors at play, your priorities will constantly change as the game progresses. Much of the work is done by the dice, but choosing the appropriate values and knowing when to hop into and out of Tokyo adds just enough strategy to make things interesting for those looking for depth. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of skill from this one, but the game gives you a lot of opportunities to make decisions that will impact the outcome of the game as much as your dice rolls will.

Thanks to its short learning curve, King of Tokyo is a great game to break out at a party with a more casual crowd. The game claims to support 2-6 players, though 3-4 is probably your sweet spot. With 5-6, the downtime gets to be a bit much. With only two, there isn’t really much of a battle going on. I played it with three and I had a really good time dueling dice with my opposition.

The only thing stopping me from buying this right now is the looming release of King of New York. Based on the early rumblings from Iello on the Board Game Geek forums, we know that:

1. Monsters will be able to move through different districts on the board.
2. The humans will definitely strike back!
3. The game should be a bit richer than KoT, but not much more complex.

Then again, this may not come out until much later in the year and I’m notoriously not a man of patience. If you don’t want to wait for King of New York, you’re still getting a quality game for your collection that may still stand on its own after its sequel is released.

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