Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 30 Minutes
Play Time (Goof): 30 minutes – 60 minutes
Designer/s: Richard Garfield
I’ve spent many years of my life in love with Kaiju. That haunting sound of ‘Godzilla’ roaring beneath the ocean. The hundreds of hours I spent destroying cities in ‘War of the Monsters‘. I remember watching wide-eyed as I saw ‘Pacific Rim‘ for the first time. And as much as I know in my heart that many of those movies are filled with bad acting and cheap effects; I still find myself watching and rewatching in awe at the majestic primal creatures of unique backgrounds and brutal stories.
So when I first saw ‘King of Tokyo’, let alone the designer was none other then Richard Garfield (I have spent an embarrassingly large amount of money on Magic: The Gathering in my life), I wont lie that my expectations were really high. One might even say skyscraper high. And even though I knew that there was a real risk that I would fall from the empire state building, I couldn’t help but smile as I picked up the dice and prepared to punch that stupid Kraken in his stupid face.
So did the city crumble beneath my giant Gorilla feet or did I crush the game under my real life feet in frustration?
The rules in this game are really simple. I don’t think a good game needs simple rules (I have spent many weekends playing Twilight Imperium) but they help to get new people to the table and to play with younger people. My siblings and I recently played a game of ‘King of Tokyo’ and they understood the rules within the first round.
I would normally feel that a game based on dice rolls and rerolls would be a high luck/low strategy style game. And to be fair there is a large amount of luck involved. I don’t mind luck in a game, it keeps things interesting and means that everyone at the table theoretically can win. But if a game is about luck then I demand a level of luck mitigation. And with the special cards that are available for purchase, you can shape your play style as you progress.
The cards you can purchase also create a really interesting side game, because you can pay a small price to “sweep” the three cards available for purchase and put out three new ones. This means that if you keep a track of the energy stores of each opponent you can try to limit their access to powerful cards. This gives players just slightly more to think about, and helps keep players invested on other people’s turn.
This game is a king-of-the-hill format, with players vying for control of Tokyo. The fact that you cannot heal while in Tokyo is both a positive and a negative for me. It’s awesome that you have to decide whether to keep pressing your luck as all the other monsters take swings at you. It’s great for baiting other players, maybe an enemy with few health left takes a shot and you drag them into Tokyo to get beaten on by the rest of the table. It’s not so great that in the luck based game, you have one side out of six on a dice that is useless.
I’m not normally a fan of elimination games. When I sit down with a group of people at a table I tend to want to play with all of them and for all of us to be engaged. A few exceptions to this rule would be games like ‘Coup’ or ‘Zombie Dice’ where they are quick and if you get knocked out then you’re only out for a short time before the next round begins. King of Tokyo falls into that second group. There is a very small likelihood you’d be knocked out early. Most of the eliminations that have happened in our games tend to be in the last five or so minutes. With a couple being around the ten minute mark. The threat of elimination gives you more to consider with your actions.
I’m aware that I’m about to complain about something that is fixed in one of the expansions. I’ve done this before but I thought I would take a moment out to explain why I still think that this is a negative if they’ve later fixed it. When you buy this game, you probably wont be buying the expansion with it straight away. Because you may not even know if you like the game yet. So with this game in its base state, the problem still exists. And in this case it happens to be that the character’s are exactly the same as each other. There are no character powers or roles. Nothing to differentiate a giant bunny in a cyber suit from a giant radioactive lizard. And that really bothers me. We’ve actually supplemented the monsters with a ‘My Little Pony’ doll and a LEGO Yoda and had absolutely no problem with that. I really feel it’s a problem if your components can be replaced by my sisters’ Barbie collection.
Pros: ++Options,+Simple, +Engrossing
Cons: –No character abilities
One thing that surprised me is the dice feel like they carry weight and when you throw them, you can imagine you really are a giant monster putting your immense weight behind a punch. It’s nice to have an action you take in the game feel like the action you’re imagining taking.
The theme of taking over Tokyo is fun and makes sense. The mechanics and theme blend nicely to create a light strategical “take that” feel. It’s not entirely immersive, but it has moments where you land multiple punches and feel like you can take on the world.
The cards you can purchase are also great thematically. You can easily picture your monster being mutated through radiation into having a second head or developing camouflaged skin. My monkey normally ends up a mutated mess of abilities by the end of the game that would have Merian C. Cooper turning in his grave.
Theme is another area where the lack of uniqueness to the monsters makes the game suffer. They feel like cardboard cutouts instead of giant monsters, or even rubber suits with specially crafted backstories. The reason most people love Kaiju movies isn’t just that it’s a cool looking creature, but also because of the origin story and the unique abilities that accompany each creature. I honestly believe the drive to make the game simple has created one of the games biggest letdowns.
Pros: +Weighted action, +Mutating monsters, +Take that
Cons: –Bland monsters
What I love about the production of this game is that the artists really knew what type of game this was meant to be. The monsters are cartoonish and light-hearted. Much like the game itself. It wouldn’t have been outlandish for the artwork to have been darker and more realistic but it wouldn’t have the same synergy.
The components are of a great quality and the artwork on the cards are consistent and satisfying to look at. The stands that hold up the creatures do their job well. I think that IELLO did an excellent job with the production in this game.
Pros: ++Synergy, ++Excellent Quality, +Great artwork
King of Tokyo is fast paced, unbridled fun. It feels like you’re sitting around with a couple friends smashing toys together screaming “rawr” at the top of your voice. And since I became an adult I find my friends less willing to smash toys together and scream “rawr”, so it’s a nice feeling.
I give ‘King of Tokyo’:
I would highly recommend ‘King of Tokyo’ to both experienced gamers and those new to the hobby. I’ve enjoyed this game with my younger siblings and my adult friends. So get yourself a copy and beat your chest or roar as you fight over Tokyo.