What is King of Tokyo?
After a few months’ gaming, I’m starting to get a good feel for what I like, and don’t like, in board games.
I love a well-designed game – solid pieces and great artwork all help, but I also want fun. I never have long to play a game, but I want to enjoy the time I do get as well as being challenged.
That’s what you get from King of Tokyo, the latest game from legendary designer Richard Garfield, who created games including Android Netrunner and Magic: The Gathering, which I haven’t played but have read plenty about.
As soon as you open the box you know you’re in for something special. Everything is colourful and highly-stylised.
Players choose a character designed to resemble some of our most popular movie monsters (The King is clearly King Kong), and a few that I wish were movie monsters (Mechabunny).
These monsters stand up on a small board which pictures Tokyo and Tokyo Bay. For a two player game, we only need to worry about Tokyo. We are also given scoring cards which include two little dials which are turned to add and subtract points and life. Score 20 points and you win, let your life drop to 0 and you’re out.
To play, a set of dice are rolled. On these dice are images of a claw (which takes a life point off an opponent), heart (which tops your own life back up), lightning bolts (energy cubes which allow you to purchase a booster card), and numbers 1-3. Roll three of the same number, and you get to score that number, so rolling three ‘1s’ means you score one point. Any matching numbers above and beyond this are an extra point on top (so rolling four ‘1s’ gets you two points.)
You also get to roll these dice up to three times, keeping helpful dice as you go. A nice little push-your-luck mechanic that encourages risk taking.
Players start outside Tokyo. If you roll a claw you get to move into Tokyo. This is the tricky bit. When you’re in Tokyo, all other players get to take life points off you, and you can’t use the helpful hearts on the dice to power back up again. You won’t want to stay in Tokyo long, but staying there has its benefits – you automatically score two points each time you remain in the city on your turn, so it’s a good way to build up points. Also your attacks will hit every player not in the city.
When you are dealt damage you can yield the city, and the monster who attacked you enters in your place, and the fighting begins again.
There are a large number of booster cards included in the box that have effects modeled on classic monster movie tropes, from a subway crash to a missile strike. These cards will grant you special abilities or help you steal from other players, or simply give you points. You want these cards.
The strategy comes in deciding whether to go on an all-out attack on your opponents, or playing it safe and collecting energy cubes in order to buy cards and unleashing more powerful powers.
But is it good for two players?
It is. I’ve played it with a range of different numbers, from two to four and I actually prefer the two player game in some ways. It’s certainly quicker, and one of the negative aspects of the game is that if you are killed you exit the game, even if your opponents still have half an hour of gametime left. That’s no fun. So with a two player game, once a player’s character dies, that’s the game over.
Granted, four players gives the game much more of a ‘battle’ feel, with three players targeting the same monster in Tokyo, but I still think two player works really well and recommend this as a great addition to your collection.
See the official game page here.
Check out Wil Wheaton’s tabletop playing through a game here.