Who is the King of Tokyo?

Political Correctness

Though, technically we should be asking who the emperor is, this 30-minute board game is a bundle of monster-clashing fun!

I picked this game up for my fiancée and myself during Amazon’s tabletop sale a last month. It had been on my wishlist for about a year. I was happy to find enough reason to justify the commitment during the season of giving.

Unboxing the Beasts

King of Tokyo box
King of Tokyo Cover

The Objective

Once you understand the rules of the game, the name makes a bit more sense. A derivative of the children’s game King of the Hill, this dice-rolling strategy game is all about holding a position of power – in Tokyo City (and/or Tokyo Bay for games with five or six players) – and reaping the benefits. Meanwhile, those on the outside team-up and vie for the chance to overthrow you, claiming your position as ruler.

Each position has its pros and cons:

  • King of Tokyo City and Bay – Earn victory points at the start of each turn in these locations. You also have the ability to attack all monsters outside. However, they are unable to heal themselves in most scenarios. 
  • The Others – There is no limitation to your movement options other than only being able to attack the King(s). Unfortunately, you don’t passively earn any victory points (a common route to victory).

You claim victory by either gathering 20 points or being the last one standing!

The Turn

A turn consists of five steps:

1. Roll Dice

There’s six of them – sometimes eight. Easy enough. You even get to roll as many of the dice up to three times. Why?

2. Resolve Dice

As you saw above, the dice are not your typical dice valued one to six. In place of four, five, and six are a lightning bolt, heart, and claw.

  • Lightning Bolt – This represents energy. Each dice that shows a bolt grants one Energy Cube. Energy is used to purchase Power Cards. Power Cards give you specific abilities that are either triggered immediately or grant long-lastingly passive boosts.
  • Heart – This represents your ability to heal one point. Remember you can only heal outside of Tokyo City/Bay.
  • Claw – The reason we’re all here! A claw represents your ability to attack a monster in a different position than you are. Those outside Tokyo City/Bay only attack those inside and vice versa. Additionally, the monsters in Tokyo City/Bay have the option to leave (to heal up on their turns) only after they are wounded. You may not leave if no one attacks you.

King of Tokyo dice

To resolve the dice you roll with a quasi-Yahtzee feel, looking for sets (three or more) of a numeric value. Otherwise, you want to gather as many of a specific type as possible. 

If you roll six claws on your first roll, you are welcome to keep that. If you roll a pair of 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s you can keep the 3’s, then roll the remaining four dice. You get the idea.

4. Enter Tokyo 

If no one is in Tokyo, you must enter. Again, leaving is only an option once wounded. In those scenarios. the attacking monster must take the vacated spot.

5. Buy Power Cards

If you have enough Energy Cubes, you have the option to purchase one or more of the three showing Power Cards. Once a Power Card is obtained, a replacement is immediately flipped from the top of the deck for purchase (in the same turn). Just remember, there is no limit to the amount of Power Cards you can buy in one turn. Some are utilized immediately and then discarded, while others last for the game’s entirety. 

6. End Turn

You indicate your turn is completed by passing the rolled dice to the next player. Reminder, this is when the discard Power Cards would take effect. 

King of Tokyo Power Cards

The Verdict
My Experience

Hopefully, that’s enough to give you a clear picture of the playing experience. 

The first night, I lost a best-of-five series (2-3) as we navigated the instructions and decided on strategies that would work best. Is it better to eliminate your opponent or should the prioritization be on obtaining victory points? 

Playing later with four players I realized that this all can depend on who you’re up against. Any game that promotes dynamic strategies is a win for me.

Theme

King of Tokyo’s design, art, and craftsmanship are phenomenal.

The six monsters offer a wide variety, displaying odes to classics such as King Kong and Godzilla. They also give unique choices like a cybernetic kitten and a giant intergalactic penguin with laser guns (or as my fiancée called it, “a black chicken”).

Gameplay

The concept and pacing of the game are great. I’ve only played with four or fewer players, but from my experience, the more players, the more fun! 

I look forward to the mayhem that will ensue from six monsters battling each other. It will be a bad day to be a citizen of Tokyo when that happens.

Shortcomings

In King of Tokyo, I have two problems. One, with the Energy Cubes and the other with the Player Cards. The Energy Cubes are entirely too small; my future little brother and sister, who are 10 and 8, at times struggled to pick them up. 

King of Tokyo Energy Cube Comparison

Additionally, the decision to track victory and health points on spindles makes it difficult to increase/decrease them accurately. Sometimes just picking up the card would cause them to move, messing up scoring if you weren’t paying attention to your current totals.

My suggestion would be to either increase the sea salt-sized energy cubes 2- or 3-fold OR change their design to be circular tokens. For example, the number tokens in Settlers of Catan are a good size. The Player Cards should include a slider with notches to allow for more precise and explicit scoring.

King of Tokyo Power Cards

Score

It’s going to be hard to beat this game for the sheer fun it packs into a relatively short amount of time. The variation in Power Cards and different routes of victory keeps each game fresh. A few questionable design choices can sometimes remove you from the experience, but King of Tokyo still gets a strong recommendation from me! 

9.25/10

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