CGFCG: King of Tokyo

When I was a little kid I consumed movies and shows about giant monsters and creatures destroying/defending big metropolis cities. Shows like The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Transformers and most specifically the Daikaiju movie series of Godzilla and Gamera. Watching these giant beasts absolutely demolish cities, my favourite moments were mostly when these giant monsters were fighting other giant monsters in this epic territorial battle.

Often I would have fantasies of all of these giant monsters all together in the one city – as their own boxing ring – to duke it out, Monsto e Monsto, and to find out once and for all, who the strongest and best of all of them was. But no movie I have ever seen has done this, so I guess I may never know.

That is until I played King of Tokyo.

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King of Tokyo box and it’s contents.

King of Tokyo was designed by Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: The Gathering, and it pits everyone, who controls their own gigantic Monster, such as Gigazaur (which is essentially the combination of Godzilla and Reptar, from Rugrats), The Kraken, The King (a cute name for what is clearly meant to be King Kong) – and many others – in the goal to be the last monster standing in the heart of Tokyo, or when Tokyo has been completely annihilated (when somebody reaches 20 Victory Points).

To do this, on each players turn they roll six dice, each side having a unique symbol representing different actions such as healing, gaining Victory Points getting energy cubes and attacking. You can reroll any number of these dice to a total of three dice rolls, after which the actions on the dice are carried out. At the start of the game, nobody starts in Tokyo, but as soon as someone rolls at least one Attack symbol they move into Tokyo.

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There are pros and cons to being in Tokyo, however, such as when you first enter Tokyo you get a Victory Point, and for each of your turns that you start in Tokyo you get two Victory Points! The bad news is that you can’t heal yourself by rolling Hearts in Tokyo. The good news is that when you’re in Tokyo all of your attacks affect EVERY player that isn’t in Tokyo. However, all the attacks every other player not in Tokyo is directed to – you guessed it – the Monster(s) in Tokyo! There can be more than one monster in Tokyo, but only when there are 5 or 6 active monsters playing, they may inhabit and attack Tokyo from Tokyo Bay!

So, what’s the fail safe if it gets too hot in Tokyo? How can you leave Tokyo? The only way to leave Tokyo is to yield it to the Monster attacking you; they attack you, you take the damage, it hurt a bit more than you care to admit, and you forfeit the city with your spiked tail between your legs and you let the monster who attacked you take your place.

The Kraken says "No retreat. No surrender!"

The Kraken says “No retreat. No surrender!”

You may be asking, how do you get an advantage over the other players if you’re all on the same playing field, rolling the same dice? The answer lies within the Action Cards that anyone can purchase with the Energy Cubes gained from rolling the Energy symbol on the dice. Action Cards adds a whole level of strategy to your actions such as poisoning other Monsters when you attack, or just gaining Victory Points.

You can also spend two cubes on your turn to discard the Action Cards in the available pool and draw new ones. Which is also a good strategy if there’s a good card you aren’t able to acquire, but preventing other players from getting it too would be just as advantageous.

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Some Action Cards from the game.

Play continues clockwise until one Monster is left standing, or has reached 20 Victory Points, and is declared the King of Tokyo!

As far as game mechanics go, it is one of the most easiest games to learn and to teach others, just like with the previous games we’ve reviewed in Casual Games for Casual Gamers, Dixit and Tsuro, I just hand over the dice to the new people, tell them what each die action does and tell them to start rolling, not even taking longer than 2 minutes to get the game going. And gameplay doesn’t take that long either, with just two people playing, you’d be looking at a 5-10 minute game, and with six players, just 30 minutes.

To exemplify how simple the game is you’ll rarely ever have to check the rulebook for gameplay discrepancies, because the game is so straightforward. The only time I check the rulebook is usually to relearn what happens when there are two people in Tokyo and what that entails, but that usually just comes from not playing this game as much as I probably should.

Because I love this game, it’s a great game to play when you’re waiting for your friends to arrive to your games night or even play to just kill some time when you and your family are bored. It’s simple, it’s easy, there’s barely any strategy involved, because your strategy is basically revolved around your first dice roll on your turn and deciding what dice you want to keep and what dice you want to reroll. The only time spent reading is when you have a few Action Cards giving you an advantage, which can sometimes dictate your strategy, but doesn’t deter too much from the gameplay experience.

King of Tokyo is a lot of fun but for some people it may not scratch that itch for board games because of how light it is. If you feel the game could do with more depth, such as character abilities, the Power Up! expansion is always an option.

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Power Up! expansion cards.

This expansion adds a deck of cards to each monster giving each one a more thematic power up more related to their Monster. They work exactly the same as Action Cards and as such makes for strategy to play the Monster that suits each player’s play-style.

Overall, King of Tokyo is one of the most fun casual board games I’ve ever played because of how quick and easy it is to both teach and learn, I’ve even used it as an infection setter to get people into board games. For example, after one games night with a couple of friends, one of which is obsessed with Monopoly and doesn’t play much else, and the other is a bit more reluctant to play board games, they both finished playing the game wanting to know where they could get it from and the reluctant gamer even said “I never knew board games could be so much fun!”

King of Tokyo is the King of the Monster games.

The Rundown

  • # of Players: 2-6
  • Game length: 30 minutes
  • Designed by: Richard Garfield
  • Published by: iELLO
  • Game type: Family Games
  • Cost: $45~$68

Watch King of Tokyo being played on TableTop!

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Justin Hallam-Stephens

I am the founder of the former Melbourne-based board games meetup group, Meetings With The Board (currently inactive). I am an aspiring game designer, a feminist ally, and I like playing my ukulele. On rainy days I like to make pillow forts and watch Firefly. @JHallamStephens

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3 Responses

  1. July 7, 2014

    […] Click here to read the full article on Popculture-y.com […]

  2. November 29, 2015

    […] screams fun (as the poor, innocent Japanese population screams in terror). I’ve already done a review on King of Tokyo before, so I’ll spare you the details, but basically you are a giant monster rolling dice to […]

  3. November 29, 2015

    […] screams fun (as the poor, innocent Japanese population screams in terror). I’ve already done a review on King of Tokyo before, so I’ll spare you the details, but basically you are a giant monster rolling dice to […]

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