You know, there just aren’t enough board games about that most beautiful and simple of concepts; giant monsters beating the crap out of each other, and stomping a city to dust. Oh sure, there’s a few, one of the most well-known is Privateer Press’s Monsterpocalype, but seeing as I don’t have the required £18 gajillion to get into that game, I turn to one of the most fun group games I’ve ever played; Richard Garfield’s King of Tokyo.
Each player takes the role of an iconic monster (dibs on Kraken forever btw), and gets ready for the mother of all kaiju throwdowns in Tokyo. Gameplay is simple; on their turn, a player rolls six of the custom dice, which are marked 1, 2, 3, Attack, Heal, and Energy. With each roll, the player can set aside any number of dice, and roll the remainder, until they’ve rolled three times and determined their final score, similar to Yahtzee.
If a player has three or more of the same number, they gain Victory Points. The first to 20 Victory Points wins the game. If the player has any Heals, they heal themselves (duh), if they have Energy they get some Energy points (used to buy new powers such as Telepathy, Fire Breath, or – my favourite – Wings), and if they have Attacks, they do damage to rival Monsters. Depending on where they are determines who gets damaged. Let me explain…
The board has a space for a monster to enter Tokyo City, and in games with 5 or 6 players, the Tokyo Bay area is also used, so that there can be two monsters in Tokyo. A monster initially enters Tokyo when they end up with an Attack in their final dice score and there are no monsters in Tokyo. From there on, it becomes a calculated risk to stay in Tokyo, or yield it to your rivals. When in Tokyo, you gain 2 Victory Points every turn, and your attacks hit everyone outside Tokyo. However, when you’re in Tokyo, you can’t heal, and everyone outside Tokyo can beat on you. If you’re damaged when in Tokyo, you can yield to your attacker, letting them take your space, giving you time to heal on the sidelines. Like I said, a calculated risk; do you stay in Tokyo, and hope you can survive the attacks of everyone else so that you can dish out the pain when it comes back round to you? You don’t need to be Tokyo to win the game – after all, it’s the first to 20 VPs or the last monster standing – but being in Tokyo makes it a lot easier to win… but it makes you more of a target! Aaaargh!
The early game is usually one of people desperately re-rolling Attacks, because no-one wants to be the first into Tokyo with a target on their head! In my experience, people tend to build up Energy as a priority, buying fancy upgrades so that when they do enter Tokyo, they can dish out as much damage as possible to everyone else (with upgrades such as Extra Head, Spiked Tail, Acid Attack, etc), or so that they can survive attacks and rack up VPs by staying in (with upgrades such as Wings, Armour Plating, or Camouflage). There’s a few upgrade cards that can also give a quick boost of VPs, usually at the cost of suffering damage, and though some players might scoff at these, they can let someone win the game out of goddamn nowhere; Laura and I played a game today where I had accumulated a bucketload of Energy, which I used to buy News Team (which gives you 1 VP when you buy another card), then Skyscraper (gives you 5 VP, plus 1 from my News Team) and Tanks (4 VP at the cost of 3 damage, plus another extra VP from News Team). Boom! Out of nowhere, 11 VP, winning me the game even though Laura had a load of awesome extra powers like the much-coveted Mimic and Parasitic Tentacles.
King of Tokyo is an excellent game; I know it’s a painful cliche, but it truly is easy to learn and difficult to grasp some of the deeper strategy behind it, and know when to back off, when to be aggressive, when to take risks, how to prioritise your dice rolls… all that good, crunchy stuff. There’s also an add-on, Powered Up!, which adds a new monster to the line-up (a giant kung-fu panda, because… umm…) and a load of new upgrade cards, including unique powers for each monster, so that the arguments about who gets Mecha-Dragon can become even more bitter and heated.
Pah! Mecha-Dragon, Alienoid, Gigasaur… we all know that there’s only one true King of Tokyo.