Let the masses tremble before your mighty… mass as you control giant monsters, aliens and robot bunnies to compete for the title of KING OF TOKYO! It’s a Kaiju battle royale in this fun little dice game designed by Richard Garfield, the cat who unleashed Magic: the Gathering on the world.
Each player starts by choosing a monster that will be his or her proxy in the battle for Tokyo, which will then be represented by a cardboad standee and a monster card with two dials. The dials represent the monster’s Health and also delicious honey flavoured Victory Point stars. Each turn, each player will roll six special six-sided dice that will determine what the monster gets to do for the turn. The player also gets to reroll any or all of his dice another two times before locking in the results and resolving the dice effects. The dice effects are:
Lightning Bolt – Energy: The player collects a number of energy cubes equal to the number of Energy results shown on the dice. Energy can be used later to buy special cards which provide one-time effects like damage, healing or points, or stay in play to provide a permanent bonus. Three special cards from the deck are always revealed, and each can be bought for its Energy cost at any time after the dice results are resolved. 2 Energy can also be used to discard the face up cards and reveal 3 new cards.
Paw – Attack: Each Paw result is an attack unleashed by the monster. Monsters always attack every other monster that is not in the same location, and the only locations are in Tokyo or out of it. There is only one spot in Tokyo for a 2-4 player game, and two spots in a 5-6 player game. Monsters deal damage equal to the number of Attack results, which then reduces the victim’s health. When a monster in Tokyo has been dealt damage from an attack, that monster may choose to yield Tokyo to the attacking monster, but only after the damage is dealt. If Tokyo is unoccupied, like at the start of the game, then the attacker may immediately enter Tokyo. Monsters attacking while in Tokyo deal damage to all other monsters outside Tokyo.
Heart – Heal: Each heart allows the monster to regain 1 point of Health. However, Heart results are ignored if the monster is in Tokyo. Healing can still be achieved through special cards.
1,2,3 – Points: The numbers are for scoring Victory Points. However, to score points you need to roll three-of-a-kind of a particular number to score that many points. There is also a bonus point for each additional identical number rolled. For example, rolling a 3 and four 2s will result in 2+1 = 3 points.
The purpose of the game is to either be the first to obtain 20 Victory Points or defeat all the other pansy ass monsters and be the last (and best) monster standing. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Let me spoil the review for you: I love this game. I love it for what it unashamedly is: a fun dice-fest with a great theme and beautiful components. The theme in particular is one that I have always enjoyed. My brother and I used to watch a lot of Ultraman, and I remember watching a Gamera movie when I was in the hospital and being immensely entertained, so I have a pre-existing love for the giant monster theme. In fact, one of my favourite games on the old Playstation 2 was War of the Monsters.
That was one game that really benefited from destructable environments (impaling your enemy with a broken radio mast is one of the few pleasures in life) and one that I really wish will return in some form on a console.
The art and design of the game is just amazing. It’s cartoony without being childish, and has a really fresh and exciting colour pallette. I love the ripo- I mean, homages, to classic kaiju characters like Godzilla, Gamera (Friend of Children) and Mothra. The names, art and powers of the special cards really highlight and embrace the tropes of the giant monster battle genre and is one of the main selling points for me.
Gameplay wise, the game plays fairly quickly, even with the full complement of 6 players. Strategic decisions are few, and it’s usually based just on the dice rolls. If you’re looking for a quick game with surprising depth of strategy, this is not the game for you. One thing it provides in abundance though, is pure unadulterated fun. My game group always has a good time with the game, as we wail away on each other and try to cause as much destruction as possible. However, we usually play with a house rule of starting with 3 energy so that everyone gets to buy cards quicker as the cards are what we really enjoy.
I can’t say enough good things about this game, and it has become a staple for my game group when we want something quick and fun to start or end a gaming session. I know it probably isn’t for everyone, but this is one game I would never turn down. So for me, I give King of Tokyo 5 out of 5 Fire Blasts!