This review was originally posted on my blog at IGN.com where I post my thoughts and reviews on boardgames from the perspective of a video gamer. I'd love it if you checked it out and leave a comment or follow - http://www.ign.com/blogs/brkinney/
How many of you remember this?
Ah...the simple pleasures of cruising across America, smashing station wagons, scaling tall buildings to swat helicopters, keeping your energy up by eating delicious humans, and generally causing all sorts of grade A ruckus. This was the Rampage series. Beautiful in it's simplicity. You would beat up everything on the screen, and then move on to the next city. Every now and then there would be a power up that would enhance your destruction, or an obstacle that would hinder your rampage, but all in all it was pure, unadulterated carnage and it was just plain FUN!
This Christmas I received a gift that immediately rekindled Rampage memories when I laid my eyes on the box. The gift was King of Tokyo.
King of Tokyo is a tabletop dice-rolling game for 2 to 6 players from acclaimed game designer Richard Garfield (you may know him from a little game called Magic: The Gathering). Like Rampage: World Tour, King of Tokyo is beautiful in its simplicity. The game is easy to grasp in a few minutes, but provides hours and hours of fun.
In the game each player chooses a monster to play as. There's a souped up mechanical bunny, a Godzilla lookalike, King Kong's Krazy Kousin, a Kraken (if only so you can yell, "RELEASE THE KRAKEN" over and over again), a space invader from another planet, and a robot dragon. Check out the cool art style of these cardboard stand ups.
The object of the game and your goal as a giant monster is to be the first player to 20 victory points, or to be the last monster standing. Each player starts the game with 0 victory points and 10 health points, which they keep track of during the game using player counters with dials. Players can score points by rolling certain dice combinations, entering Tokyo, or staying in Tokyo for an entire turn around the table. Each turn players roll dice in hopes of getting certain combinations. The first 3 sides of the dice correspond to the numbers 1,2, and 3, and the other 3 sides have symbols for hearts, claws, and lightning bolts. You get to roll and re-roll these dice up to 3 times saving the ones you want (ala Yahtzee), and then you resolve the results of the dice. Rolling three of any number gives you that numbers victory points - i.e. rolling three 2's would give you 2 victory points. You also can receive an extra victory point for each additional same number that you roll over the set of three (if you roll four 2's, you would score 3 victory points). Rolling claws lets you attack other monsters. If you are inside Tokyo you attack all monsters outside Tokyo. If you are outside Tokyo, you attack all monsters inside Tokyo. Hearts let you heal your health points that you have lost from attacks, but you cannot heal while you are in Tokyo, and lightning rolls allow you to gain energy cubes which are the currency for buying power cards (more on these later).
I mentioned earlier that what makes King of Tokyo great is its simplicity and nowhere is that simplicity more evident than on the gameboard that is included with the game. In today's world of modern board games there are a lot of convoluted games that have huge boards with tons of spaces and zig-zagging pathways...King of Tokyo's board, is not one of those boards. Its board has one space. ONE SPACE! Ok, actually it has two spaces, but one of them isn't used if you aren't playing with more than four people. The board has a space marked "Tokyo" and another marked "Tokyo Bay". When a player moves into Tokyo, he gains one victory point, while inside Tokyo (or Tokyo Bay for a 5-6 player game), if the player can survive until their next turn inside of Tokyo, they would then score another 2 victory points. Anytime a player is attacked while in Tokyo, they have the option to stay in Tokyo, or they can yield it to the player that attacked them. If Tokyo is yielded to the attacking player, that player must go into Tokyo, it is not an option. If a players health points are run down to zero, they are defeated and removed from the game. Basically the dynamic of choosing whether to attack, stay in Tokyo, or yield Tokyo is a good mixture of push your luck and king of the hill. Now, the dice rolling and the larger game of "chicken" that goes along with the play inside of Tokyo is fun enough on it's own, but when you add in the power cards that you can purchase with energy cubes, the game really goes to the next level. Throughout the game there are 3 power cards that are placed face up next to the board. There are two types of power cards, cards that are kept for the entire duration of the game and give you a special ability, and cards that are immediately discarded and give you a one-time score boost or ability. These abilities range from dealing out extra damage with certain dice combos, to giving players an extra dice to roll each turn, to allowing players to change the faces of their dice, and much, much more.Anytime a card is purchased, a new card from the deck replaces it next to the board so there are always 3 available. These cards really are the lifeblood of the game and add a ton of variability and replayability to it. It isn't surprising that a man who made a name for himself with a card game, would come up with such awesome power cards that really take this game over the top. The illustrations on the cards are colorful and unique and the names of the different powers range from clever to laugh out loud funny. Buying and using the power cards, while being aware of your opponents power cards, is a key to victory in this game.
Cards grant you special powers your monster can use during the game
Well, if you haven't picked up on it yet, I LOVE THIS GAME. It is very fast and light (can be played in around 30 minutes or less if people are extra aggressive in knocking out monsters), but also has some fun decisions along the way that keep things interesting. The biggest thing I enjoy about this game is there are a ton of "up out of your seat" moments. Things are tense when you are in Tokyo and if your opponent is on her last roll and she needs to roll one more claw to knock you out of the game, or if someone is on the brink of winning and a power card is played that zaps them of 5 of their victory points. There is a lot of interaction, a lot of laughs, and a lot of hollerin' to be had with this game. Although there is player elimination (usually something I don't enjoy in games) it is not a big detractor from the experience because, much like Rampage, it is a fun game to just sit back and watch. Plus, since it is so light and fast, the next round will start up in a few minutes, so even eliminated players don't experience much downtime and feelings aren't hurt. The components in King of Tokyo are cartoony, bright, and colorful. Usually I am not a fan of cardboard stand ups, as nowadays so much can be done with plastic miniatures, but the cartoony cardboard stand ups just feel right with the theme of this game. You are monsters smashing through a city and each other, the monsters don't need to be represented in great plastic detail, they just need to be FUN, and the artists the publisher, Iello, really nailed that point. The other components are great, especially the dice. You get 8 big, chunky dice that really make a racket when they hit the table and feel great to roll. As I said earlier the cards are illustrated beautifully and take the game to another level. I have played King of Tokyo with people from ages 10 all the way up to 60 and everyone grasped the rules easily and had a great time chuckin' those huge dice and trying to knock their friends and family out of Tokyo. If your family enjoys playing Yahtzee at holiday gatherings, you should pick up this game and blow their mind at the next get together. As far as negatives go in this game, I will really have to be nit-picky. My copy was actually missing one of the cardboard stand ups for one of the monsters, but an email to Iello's customer service took care of that quickly. Another drawback I can see with some gamers is that there just isn't a ton of strategy that goes along with this game, the decisions are fairly simple, and this one is far from a brain burner, so if you are looking for a "meatier" game to play you may want to look elsewhere. Also, as with anything that involves dice, the luck factor in this game is fairly high.
Overall, this is a great game, and has become my go-to choice when trying to introduce friends and family to hobby games. It is light-hearted, has mechanics that are instantly recognized (basically Yahtzee on steroids, with a competitive angle), and above all is just fun. If you miss the days when you would put a quarter into the arcade machine and go on a Rampage across the globe, then King of Tokyo would be a smashing good time for you. I would rate this game as a 9 on the BGG scale.
+Beautiful in its simplicity
+Great components, especially the monsters and dice
+Plays up to 6 people
- May be too light for some, luck factor
-Player elimination is present
I agree... I simply love this game. It's the one game that my non-gamer friends will enthusiastically get behind and want to play multiple times.