Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo


Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo is my favorite dice drafting game, as well it should be! King of Tokyo provides a rich game play experience, minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. It's the winner of several awards, including:
  • Best Family Game 2011 from The Dice Tower
  • The Dice Tower Seal of Excellence
  • 2012 Golden Geek
  • Best Children's Game from Board Game Geek
  • Best Family Game from Board Game Geek
  • Best Party Game from Board Game Geek
Those are just what are printed on the box! There are a total of 19 awards listed on King of Tokyo's Board Game Geek Page.

One of the things that drew me to King of Tokyo in the first place was the box art. A giant lizard holding part of a skyscraper, a gorilla with cybernetic enhancements, and a massive rabbit robot with an energy sword. Everything about this box art screams "there is fun to be had here".


If you haven't just one-click ordered this game from your Amazon Prime account, let me expound, and maybe get you to go to your local game shop and support a critical part of the community.

In King of Tokyo you are personified as a Kaiju (a Japanese word that literally translates to "strange creature".) The options include:








  • Giga Zaur (a gigantic, familiar looking, reptile)
  • Alienoid (a massive alien in a space-suit)
  • The King (the gorilla with the cybernetic enhancements)
  • Cyber Bunny (a little rabbit controlling a humongous rabbit robot)
  • Kraken (a Cthulhu-esque sea monster)
  • Meka Dragon (a fully robot dragon)
You get a Standee and a Character card with two wheels to track your Victory Points (VP) and your Health Points (HP). Your starting VP will be zero. Your starting HP will be 10. You may notice that your HP can go to 12. If you're lucky enough to buy the appropriate power card you may see you HP at 12 one day, but not today. 

There are two ways to win. Reach 20 VP or be the last Kaiju standing. If you are unfamiliar with the dice drafting mechanic, here is what you need to know. It all comes down to luck, and probability. In King of Tokyo you will be rolling 6 (six) dice. Each face of the die is unique. Statistics fanatics could give you the full probabilities of each side showing up. I am not a statistics fanatic. Here are the six (6) sides of the dice:



  • 1 (the 1)
  • 2 (the 2)
  • 3 (the 3)
  • Attack (the claw)
  • Energy (the bolt)
  • Heal (the heart)
The plot is, You roll the six dice and select dice to keep, and re-roll the ones you dislike for a total of three rolls. If you're having trouble with that then maybe I'm not the person to teach you how dice drafting works. Once you've figured out how dice drafting works please continue reading.

In King of Tokyo, you score Victory Points in a number of ways, and the most common way is from dice results. You score points in sets of three (3) numbered dice results. For example [ 1 ], [ 1 ], [ 1 ] Would be 1 VP, each additional die result of [ 1 ] would be an additional point. Therefore [ 1 ], [ 1 ], [ 1 ] = 1  & [ 1 ], [ 1 ] = 2 for a total of 3 VP with this roll.



Another die result Energy, indicated by the Bolt. For each one of these you keep at the end of your rolling, you get one of the little green energy cubes.










With these very useful guys you can buy cards from the deck at the end of your turn. Or, if there is a card you don't want the next person to have, you can spend 2 energy and wipe the board of cards and replace them.


Pro Tip: Buy these cards A.S.A.P.
So, you may be thinking how have you not mentioned Tokyo yet, isn't this game called King of Tokyo? Well, yes. But you cannot get into Tokyo without doing some damage. Which brings us to the Attack (claw) die result. The first player to have a final die result with an attack will enter Tokyo. You get one (1) VP for entering Tokyo. You also get two (2) VP's for starting your turn in Tokyo. Staying in Tokyo is painful & to make matters worse, you cannot Heal while you are in Tokyo. I'll cover healing later.


Kraken makes a Critical Hit!
While you are in Tokyo all of your attack results will hit every Kaiju outside of Tokyo. The other side of the coin is each of the attack results of the Kaiju outside of Tokyo only hit you. Fortunately, when they hit you, you have the option to vacate from Tokyo. You still take the damage from that attack, but it forces your assailant into Tokyo. They do get the VP for entering Tokyo but they are now completely vulnerable as you once were.

Re-read those two passages. Attacking, entering and leaving Tokyo, and gaining VP's are the central theme of this game. You will need a firm grasp on those concepts to claim the title of King of Tokyo.


The final die result, Heal, is indicated by the Heart. Each die with the heart on it brings your health back up one HP. You really don't want to run out of HP. If you do, you're out of the game. You will be stuck watching your opponents go on with the all the fun that King of Tokyo has to offer, while you sit and sulk. Remember there is no healing while in Tokyo.


Well, That wraps up my coverage of this truly great game. I want to share this anecdote with you: two weeks before Christmas, my brother mentioned that he wanted this game pretty badly, but its not cool to buy stuff for yourself just before Christmas. I agreed, and mentioned I also wanted to acquire King of Tokyo. Christmas morning, I opened my gift from my brother. Lo' and behold, he was fishing for a gift idea. I held in my hand the copy of King of Tokyo that I later would photograph for this very article. I stammered, walked over to the gift I got for him, handed it to him... It too was King of Tokyo. To my relief he actually did want a copy for himself. We laughed, and played our first game shortly after.


If you like what you read here, but need to see it in action before driving over to your Friendly Local Game Shop, check out King of Tokyo on Wil Wheaton's web show TableTop and the Board Game Geek TV show GameNight! on YouTube.



Matthew Ryan Robinson is an indie game designer and runs Broken Prism Games. In his spare time he also posts on three other blogs www.brokenprismgames.com about games he’s designing,  www.solvent cage.wordpress.com about his music tastes,  and www.360to180.com about his weight loss journey. You can probably meet him at Dallas Gaming Marathon on Thursdays or Open Stage on Mondays {Youtube Search: Open Stage Penguin}.