Skip to main content

King Of Tokyo (Acquire-To-Zendo)

🏙️ It's Good To Be The King...



2011, 2-6 players
Complexity: light/moderate

Terrible monsters rise from the sea. A fearsome robot dragon descends from the mountain. A horrid alien creature lands from outer space. For some reason, there's a bunny piloting a mech. The creatures fight for domination, laying waste to the city of Tokyo as they duke it out. Many will battle, but only one can become the king.

Let's See It In Action


In King Of Tokyo, you and up to five friends battle for control of Tokyo using the cunning skill of dice-rolling. On your turn you will roll all six dice. After the first roll, you set aside the faces you want to keep and then roll again. You do the same after the second roll. After your third roll, you resolve whatever is on the dice.


There are four different resources you can acquire during a turn. Hearts give you health. Claws give you attacks against other monsters. Numbers give you victory points, but only if you have at least three of the same number. Lightning bolts give you energy that you can use to buy cards, which can give you either a one-time or permanent bonus. These can make it easier for you to do damage, give you a boost in energy or stars, or give you new abilities like an extra die roll or spending energy to gain health.


The centerpiece of the game is the king-of-the-hill mechanic around control of Tokyo. At any give point, there can only be one monster in Tokyo (or two, in a five-to-six player game--before the fifth and sixth players have been eliminated). When a monster in Tokyo attacks, it does damage to all monsters outside of Tokyo. But when a monster outside of Tokyo attacks, it can only hit the monsters that are in Tokyo.


Being in Tokyo is great! You get a star for entering and two stars if you start your turn already there. But! While you're in Tokyo, you can't heal, and you only have ten health to start. Any hearts you roll while in Tokyo just don't count. This means that while you're there, the other players will be gunning for you.


When you take damage, you have the option to flee, and when you do, whichever monster hit you enters Tokyo and becomes the new focal point of the action. If you run out of health, you're eliminated from the game. Whichever monster gets to twenty stars first win.


As in real life...

What Makes It So Good?

King Of Tokyo is best described as a press-your-luck dice game, which is both true and misleading. While there is a strong press-your-luck element to the game, it's not like Zombie Dice or Craps where you let it ride until you choose to stop because a certain dice combination will end your turn and make you forfeit your winnings. Instead, King Of Tokyo gives you a fixed number of die rolls to try to make the best hand you can. This means you need to be adjusting your strategy on the fly to whatever the dice give you. If you want hearts but your first roll gives you energy, sure, you can just re-roll everything, but maybe you need to see if there's a better play going after cards.

Fortunately, there are many paths to victory. You can focus on keeping control of Tokyo. You can sit quietly on the sidelines acquiring victory points by rolling numbers and hope no one notices you. You can just try to gain energy and get powerful cards. Or you can go super-aggressive and try to knock other players out of the game.

Also, there's the king-of-the-hill mechanic around control of Tokyo, and that's where a big part of the press-your-luck comes into play. Once you're down to six or fewer health points, it's conceivable that someone could knock you out of the game on a single turn. So if someone is attacking you, you need to balance your options. Is it worth it to stay in the city and get the two-star bonus on your next turn? Or would it be better to cede the points and heal up on your next turn so you can come back swinging later.

The fact that there's always someone in Tokyo gives the game a ticking-clock. Victory points are constantly being assigned. It makes for a fast game with a lot of tension. But the tension is balanced out with a goofy aesthetic and art that draws heavily from the kaiju films that inspired the game. I'm also a big fan of the big, chunky dice. There's a great tactile element to them.

What's Not To Like?

There are a few cards that feel awfully unbalanced. Extra Head gives you a bonus die that you can use for the rest of the game. Shrink Ray lets you steal dice from other players. These are expensive cards, but if someone manages to get their hands on them, they've pretty much won.

And I'm never a fan of elimination games. There's nothing less fun than a risky gambit that gets you booted early and you spend the rest of the game watching other people play.

Is It Expansible?

There are a number of expansions and promos for the first run of this game. I've got both the Power Up and Halloween expansions which add new monsters and cards. Power Up added the most durable mechanic, giving monsters individual decks of cards that they could draw from if they roll three hearts. There's a second edition of the game with different monsters that has added a slew of its own standalone monsters, and I'll be honest that I just haven't kept up with it. Recently, they put out a "Dark" edition with less childish art and some slightly altered mechanics.

In general, I like adding new monsters, but these expansions and new versions add more complexity without really making gameplay any better. It's already a very busy game. It doesn't need more stuff to be keeping track of. There's also a sequel, King Of New York that adds a whole lot of complexity and makes the game almost unplayable.

Final Thoughts

This is another great gateway game. It's easy to pick up, offers a lot of variety, plays quickly, and engages players rapidly. There's not a ton of depth to it, but there's enough to keep track of that even a seasoned gamer isn't going to get bored.

Tune in next week when we parcel out land in Kingdomino...

In Acquire-To-Zendo, Kurt is going through his favorite board games in alphabetical order. Read the explainer or see more posts.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Alexandra Rowland And Bad Faith Accusations

This morning, writing twitter was blown up by a post from Alexandra Rowland accusing Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear of some nasty manipulative behavior. I have reason to believe that Rowland is acting in bad faith.

Seven or eight years ago, Rowland and I were in the same writing group. I didn't know them well, but we became Facebook friends because that's what you do. At some point after we fell out of contact with each other, they made a post about an affair with an influential older male who had lied about being in an open marriage and proceeded to manipulate and gaslight and emotionally abuse them.

I didn't know any of the people involved other than Rowland, but I was affected enough by Rowland’s post that I can still recall reading it all these years later. So when I saw Rowland's blog this morning, I assumed it was the same situation... except the dates weren't right. The Bear/Lynch events took place in 2016, but the post I remembered was older than that. So I w…

My Recent Experience With Daily Science Fiction

Update: On March 3rd, they re-issued my story with a blanket apology to the subscribers for the error. In terms of fixing the original mistake, this feels both thorough and sincere. They have still not reached out or responded to me personally. If and when that changes, I will note it here.

Update: On March 21st, Jonathan apologized via email for the mixup. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is now settled.

If you follow Daily Science Fiction, then you probably saw this morning's email that started "Major glitches on the spaceship DSF" and you may be wondering what some of that was about. Well, this is what some of that was about.

So I recently had a story accepted by Daily Science Fiction called Marla Corbet: Living (With The Invaders). (I never got around to a formal announcement, so if you'd like to read it, you can find it here. It's a very silly thing about an ersatz Martha Stewart. And human hair. And alien poop. You'll love it.) It was accepted on …

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Ramin Djawadi
Title:Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack
Released: 2013
Genre: DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh


He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above.

While all of the soundtracks for GoT are very listenable, this is my favorite. It has A Lannist…