My son and I played King of Tokyo at Dragonfire this past weekend. He picked it out of a bunch of demo games because what 10 year old boy doesn’t want to play a huge Godzilla-monster stomping around Tokyo beating up on other monsters and/or giant robots. Yes, that’s right. In King of Tokyo each player plays the part of a ginormous monster/robot/thing and then proceeds to attempt to destroy Tokyo and each other in a massive melee free-for-all. It is both as silly and entertaining as it sounds.
At the beginning of the game each player picks out their monster avatar. My son chose the Godzilla one. Only they couldn’t call it Godzilla for obvious copyright reasons. I don’t remember its name now. I played a giant robot called Cyberbunny, I think. I do know that Gabriel immediately started making references to Pacific Rim so the game hit the right buttons for my son. Your monster starts with 10-12 Health and 0 Points. The object of the game is to be the first one to get 20 Points without losing all your Health. Losing your Health puts you out of the game. Normally I find a mechanic that removes a person from the game a negative thing but KoT plays pretty fast so it isn’t as big a deal.
How do you get Points? Well, on your turn you roll some dice and those dice can give you Points. That’s not the best way to get Points though. The best way is to enter Tokyo and stomp the crap out of it.
How do you lose Health? Other monsters stomp the crap out of you while you’re stomping the crap out of Tokyo. That’s a lot of crap being stomped.
The game is played in turns. The first player goes, then the next, and the next. Until you get back around to the first player. Pretty typical stuff there. On your turn you get to roll 6 dice. The dice are six sided and have different icons on each side: claw marks, lightning bolts, hearts and numbers ranging from 1 to 3. The player rolls the dice, looks at the results, keeps the dice that they want and rerolls the rest. They then repeat the process one more time. In essence, the player gets 3 rolls of the dice, keeping any results that they want each time.
What do the dice results mean? The claws (which are called Stomps) do damage to the other monsters. The lightning bolts allow you to collect Energy that you can spend on Power Ups. The hearts heal your Health. The numbers gain you Points if you get 3 or more of the same number (So, if you roll three 3’s then you get 3 Points). If on my turn, after all my rolls, I end up with three 2’s, two hearts and a Stomp, then I add 2 Points to my total, heal 2 damage from my monster and do 1 damage to some other monsters. All this is pretty straightforward and not terribly interesting.
Tokyo is what makes the game work. The game has a single space that represents Tokyo and only a single monster can occupy that space. Every turn that your monster starts out in Tokyo, you automatically get 2 points. While you are in Tokyo each of your Stomps damages every other monster at once. What’s the catch? Glad you asked. While in Tokyo the Stomps from every other monster damage you… and only you. Also, and this is the big one, while in Tokyo you cannot heal. The place that causes you to move quickest towards victory is also the place that likely makes you move quickest towards defeat. It’s a neat little juggling act that makes the game work.
There’s also special Power Ups you can gain by collecting enough energy to purchase them. I won’t talk about them much as they didn’t come into play in our game. They aren’t really central to how the game works but they do add another neat resource to balance. It adds a spice to the game but isn’t absolutely necessary.
Gabriel won our game. I landed in Tokyo early in the game and made an aggressive push to win. I got close too. I got to 15 Points. Unfortunately, I stayed in Tokyo too long and after I left the city I couldn’t roll any Hearts to (quite literally) save my life. Gabriel stomped the crap out of me and won because I died, leaving him King of Tokyo.
The two player game left a little bit to be desired. Tactical options weren’t quite as interesting because there were only two players. It was easy to see how adding a third, fourth or fifth player would completely change the game and make it more like a chaotic game of king of the hill with giant robot/monster/things. Players wouldn’t stay in Tokyo nearly as long as I did if there were multiple monsters beating on them. The game would run a bit longer, making Power Ups a more attractive option. I’m not sure where the sweet spot is in terms of players but it is somewhere north of 2.
All in all, this is a great little game. Simple enough for kids to play. Enough interesting tactical decision points to entertain adults. Fast paced. If you are looking for a new game that will fit into a 30 minute or so time slot, this is a good option.