King of Tokyo

King of TokyoKing of Tokyo is a kooky game of monster mayhem. The game was designed by Richard Garfield, who also created great games like RoboRally, The Great Dalmuti, and some obscure collectible card game. King of Tokyo is published by IELLO, which is a weird name for a company, if you ask me. I want to pronounce it like someone afraid of the color yellow, like Hal Jordan in the 1960’s. EEE-YELLOW! The game plays from 2 to 6 players of ages 8 and up. Play time is supposed to be around thirty minutes, but it will depend on the people you are playing with and the level of analysis paralysis at the table.

The colorful box is filled with equally colorful components. You get a game board to represent the city of Tokyo, stand up card stock monsters, monster boards with built in wheels to track conditions, some plastic energy cubes, 66 power cards to customize your monster, 28 counters used to mark the use of special powers, and 8 dice. The components are really impressive. This first time I played this game, I thought it was the most overproduced product I had ever seen. I don’t know that I was too far off on that, but I soon realized after a few plays that even if it’s not the meatiest of games, it’s a lot of fun with the right people.

The goal of the game is to be crowned king of the monsters. You accomplish this either by accumulating enough points or by destroying your fellow monsters. Winning by destroying the other monsters is much more fun, I think. Each player starts with a monster. My wife likes The King and my son usually picks Kraken. I have a special place in my heart for Alienoid, cause I don’t think he’s really evil, just misunderstood. Players start with 10 hearts (life) and no victory points. Monsters don’t have any special abilities at the start of the game, other than being giant monsters the size of skyscrapers, of course.

On your turn you roll the dice up to three times, and from your final roll you can collect points, heal damage, inflict damage, or earn energy cubes that you can use later to buy additional powers for your monster. This is all pretty simple except for collecting points. You can collect points by rolling at least three of the same number. If you roll three 2s for example, you earn 2 victory points. If you roll three 1s, then you earn 1 victory point. However, each additional you roll after the third earns you another point, so if you roll four 2s, you collect 3 points. Richard Garfield is a mathematician. You get used to this.

Once you are done rolling, you resolve the dice.

  • Collect victory points.
  • Take energy cubes.
  • Heal.
  • Attack
When you attack, who you damage depends on if you are in Tokyo or not. Apparently, if you stand in the middle of Tokyo, everyone wants to kill you. If you are in the middle of Tokyo; however, your attacks affect all other monsters. Because of this, if you stay too long in Tokyo, you will most likely be destroyed. Moving into and staying in Tokyo earns you victory points, but while you are there, you cannot heal damage. I think this is because tiny humans are screaming and shooting rockets at you. You can retreat from Tokyo, and your attacker must take your place.
If you have enough energy cubes, you can buy cards. There are always three face up cards to choose from, and you can spend cubes to wipe them clear and replace them if you wish. The cards make this game a winner for me. The power cards can be single use or can stay with your monster through the rest of the game. NOW ALIENOID HAS PARASITIC TENTACLES!
Now end your turn. Seriously, in the rules it says, “End of your turn.” I love stuff like that, like “Place board in middle of the table.”
King of Tokyo contents
Look at all the colorful bits!

The more I played this game, the more I liked it. Eventually, I’ll get my own copy, because my family really enjoys it. If you take it too seriously, you’re not going to have any fun. Just jump in there with your monster and try and destroy everyone. The only potential problem is that if your monster is killed, you are eliminated. If you have cautious players trying to win by the accumulation of victory points, then the game can drag on too long. If everyone goes for it, then it’s groovy.

I have heard that there may be an expansion to King of Tokyo, which would add some abilities to individual monsters. I don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t think I like the idea. I would rather have some 3D figures to replace the card stock stand ups. There are also King of Tokyo Promo cards available if you can find them. The 66 cards in the base game are plenty for me.
Have you played King of Tokyo? What do you think? Do you have a favorite monster? Does the player elimination aspect bother you? I’d like to hear what you think!

2 thoughts on “King of Tokyo”

  1. King of Tokyo didn’t SOUND like something I would care much about, but I was pleasantly surprised. We’ve only played it a couple times, I was eliminated first both times, and I STILL liked it. Why? Because it’s such a tightly designed/developed game. I think the game was polished to be just the right length, just the right randomness, just the right interaction. There’s some take-that possibilities, but they don’t go overboard (which would let the game devolve into chaos, or otherwise require the players to do the balancing). I’m a sucker for smart physical production, too, and IELLO did a bang-up job with this one. The art sets the mood, the components work fine, and it didn’t go crazy with plastic figs. Not that those would’ve been bad, but in a weird way I think figs would’ve been the game taking itself too seriously, while the cardboard standups give the game more of a cartoon quality that’s perfect.

    If you haven’t started listening to the Games With Garfield podcast, you should. Richard Garfield is rare among game designers in that he really likes to talk about his process. Even better, he likes to play other designers’ games and talk about them. After a long hiatus he’s back to posting some shows with his production partners, and even has short segments called “Game Glimpses” where he includes the reaction of his kids and their friends. Also, his recent podcast #23 talks about expansions in general, and his challenges developing one for King of Tokyo that didn’t damage the original game’s charm. Highly recommended.

    I think King of Tokyo would’ve been a far better choice for Spiel des Jahres than Kingdom Builder was.


    P.S. The Gravatar icons are keyed to your email address, but I didn’t know they use case-sensitive email addresses. Weird.

    1. Thank you for the podcast recommendation, Mark. I have to have something to listen to while I wait for yours. Although, you’ve been doing a great job of getting them out on a regular basis.

      I wasn’t too surprised with Kingdom Builder winner the SdJ. I haven’t played the other nominees, but I like Kingdom Builder as much as many of the previous winners. It’s fine. I play it with my kids. They got if for me on my birthday.

      I like the Gravatars and the hover cards, but I think I have to tweak the function in my theme to really make it nice. I will check into the case-sensitive issue and see if there is a better way to make it work.

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