King of Tokyo – 8 GPPs
Designers – Richard Garfield
Number of Players – 2 to 6
Publisher – Various
Straight to the Point – A simple, fun little game ideal for casual gamers or to start off a bigger gaming session, but can be repetitive without buying the expansions.
So this week I had the pleasure (read: fangasm) of watching Pacific Rim. Amid all the monsters wrecking skyscrapers and giant robots knocking ’em about with ocean liners, I was reminded of a cracking game where giant monsters and robots duke it out to be: King of Tokyo!
KoT puts you in control of your giant monster of choice, be it a robot bunny, a mechanical dragon or enormous ape a la King Kong. Your aim in the game is to either accumulate 20 Destruction points, or batter all your opponents into submission.
Play begins with all players outside of Tokyo. The first player to roll a Whack goes into Tokyo. From then on, players roll dice (more on this below) to either accumulate energy, heal up, Whack the other players or just earn extra Destruction points. Only one monster can be in Tokyo at a time (unless you have 5 or 6 players, in which case you can have two). The benefit of being in Tokyo is that you earn Destruction points just for being there; also, any Whacks you make will hit ALL the players outside of Tokyo, meaning you can potentially KO all your opponents in one fell swoop! The downside? Players inside Tokyo cannot heal, and whenever players outside Tokyo get Whacks, they only hit the player inside Tokyo. You do get the option to leave Tokyo as soon as you are hit, but you have to weigh up whether you can survive long enough to earn Destruction points against getting your mega-butt handed to you by a giant panda!
As mentioned, the game runs using dice. Each turn, the player rolls the special set of 6-sided dice. Heart symbols give health, lightning bolts give the player energy and claws allow you to Whack the other players The other three sides feature the numbers 1, 2 and 3, and will score you Destruction points so long as you roll at least three of a kind (for example, three 1’s gives you 1 Destruction point, three 3’s give you 3 Destruction points). Players get to roll the dice three times during their turn; after each roll, the player can decide to keep all, some or none of the results rolled. After the third roll, the player has to keep the results they have.
Whacks drop other player’s health, healing raises your own health and Destruction points allow you to win the game. Energy is used to buy special upgrade cards; these give various bonuses when bought, such as extra Destruction points, or a second head (letting you roll 7 dice a turn instead of 6), or even flame breath, making you deal more damage each turn!
So the basic idea is pretty simple; roll dice, apply the results, buy upgrades and pass the dice on. Simple turns make for fast turns, so player down time is low. Combine this with the fact that the dice results can affect all players, not just the roller, you end up with everyone constantly at attention and committed to what’s going on. Play time is also shortish at between 30 to 60 minutes, making it the perfect game for warming up a gaming session, or whilst waiting for all your friends to turn up (you know who you are, Johnny-come-latelies!) or even for people who aren’t really ‘into’ boardgames.
The game itself features a 50/50 blend of luck and strategy. Rolling dice will always add chance to any game, meaning that unfortunate players can actually have turns where they accomplish nothing. This isn’t common, but such is the risk you take. For people who prefer their games with pure control, this game is not for you! The strategy element comes from the choice of which dice to keep, and whether to stay in Tokyo and rack up those Destruction points.
The upgrades add a much needed touch of variety to this game. Without them, the gameplay would rapidly become repetitive; all the monsters are effectively the same, having no special abilities of their own to make them unique. This was addressed somewhat in the first expansion (King of Tokyo: Power Up!), where each monster got a deck of Evolutions that were based on themselves (the giant lizard Gigazaur gets the Evolution “Tail Sweep”).
Presentation is crisp and cartoony. The images are high quality as are the components, the cards and dice feel ‘substantial’, like they can stand up to some gamer abuse without showing wear and tear. The colouring is bright and engaging without becoming garish. All the monsters bear cheeky resemblances to their B-movie parentage, so everyone’s favourites are here!
So all in all, a fun, simple and accessible gaming experience whilst being very pretty to look at. The only let down is the replayability; great for a once in a while play, but not one to base a whole evening’s gaming on.
Images courtesy of boardgamegeek.com and IELLO