Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Dr. Anthony Betrus
Game Connoisseur 

The King Of Tokyo

 

Last updated 4/29/2015 at 3:53am



Sometimes you find a good game, and sometimes a good game finds you. This was the case for me with The King of Tokyo, Richard Garfield’s 2011 board game (Garfield is also the creator of Magic: The Gathering). I received this as a Christmas gift, and it’s been a hit in our house ever since. The basic concept of the game is that each player choose one of six Kaiju monsters (think King Kong or Godzilla), and then a battle ensues over who will ultimately become the top monster in the city. The core game mechanic is Yahtzee esque dice rolling, where the player rolls six dice, and then chooses which to keep and which to re-roll, up to two times. There are two winning conditions: either knocking out the other monsters, or accumulating twenty victory points. Certain dice rolls allow the player to accumulate green cubes that they can then use to purchase ability cards that modify their monster (extra head, nova breath, poison spit, spiked tail, armor plating, etc...). In the base game, each monster starts out exactly the same, and then becomes unique through the modifier cards (this changes in the Power-Up expansion, where monsters start out with some modifiers). The game takes about 15-20 minutes per round, and is highly replayable, as you never know how the game will play out.

In each of the games we have played the game has always played out differently. One game might be a aggressive physical battle of attacking, healing, and counter-attacking, and the next a strategic chess game of monster tactics and counter-tactics focused around abilities. Tactics can be overt or subtle, and there is a refreshing element of chance involved in the game that keeps you on your toes. This means that players are constantly shifting strategies in reaction to what comes up on the dice on your turn, as well as what happens on the other players’ turns. Mike Tyson perhaps said it best: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” and this could not be more true than in this game. What I particularly appreciate is the elegant press-your-luck tension in the game, where you are forced to constantly assess how low you allow your health to go before reconsidering your tactics (if your health reaches zero you are eliminated). For example, if you control Tokyo, you accrue Victory Points, and when you attack from Tokyo, you damage every other monster. The catch is that when other monsters attack, they all damage you, and you can not heal while in Tokyo, and regenerating health is critical to survival. This means that in a typical game every monster controls Tokyo at least once. And while I like to think through deep strategies and tactics, my eight-year old daughter reminds me that sometimes you just need to go with the flow, allowing the dice rolls and cards that appear to guide your choices. For example, if she sees the “Extra Head” card, she will do whatever she can to accumulate the seven cubes needed to purchase it, and giving her the perk of rolling a seventh die on her turn. I even introduced this game to my retired parents, both in their sixties, and they thoroughly enjoyed it as well. It really does have universal appeal, for both young and old, and for serious or casual gamers alike. I suppose it was inevitable that this game found its way into our home, and judging from the smiles on my daughters’ faces after they win a round, it really is good to be king.

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