It’s been awhile since we’ve posted an installment in our Tabletop Terrors series, but since we’re getting a new Godzilla movie this year, it seems only right to talk about King of Tokyo from Iello Games.
King of Tokyo was designed by legendary designer Richard Garfield. He also created this little game called Magic: The Gathering. You may have heard of it.
What kind of game is KoT? Well, it has the simplest board you’ll ever see. The board has two spaces on it.
Unless a whole bunch of people are playing, you’ll only use one of those spaces. It also has dice and cards. Is it a dice game? A card game? A board game?
Each player chooses a monster. These are very cleverly named to avoid all copyright infringement claims but are clearly modeled after big critters we all know and love. The giant ape is The King, the giant radioactive lizard is GigaZaur, the robotic giant lizard is MechDragon, and so on. In the base game the monster chosen really doesn’t matter, but in the near-mandatory Power Up Expansion, each one has its own “Evolution” cards that allow them to gain new powers specific to them as the game progresses.
There’s also a Halloween Expansion with two new monsters, Pumpkin Jack and Boogey Woogey (which come with their own sets of Evolution cards); “Costume” cards, and lots more.
When play begins, the first player to roll an attack symbol takes over Tokyo. Once there, when they attack, they attack everyone outside Tokyo. However, everyone else attacks THEM. They can only leave Tokyo once they’re attacked; then they can choose to switch with their attacker, putting them in the hot seat.
The problem is, you only score victory points when you’re in Tokyo. The first monster to 20 wins the game!
Every player rolls six special dice on their turn. The dice have numbers and symbols. The numbers represent energy, and the symbols represent attacks and health. Roll 3 of a number, and you collect that many energy tokens. Roll an attack symbol, and that’s an attack point. Roll a health symbol, and you regain a point of health.
It’s the dice that drive the game, but as you’ll see from the above photo, cards play into it as well. You use your collected energy token to purchase ability cards. These cards provide their owners with special abilities that make them stronger, healthier, or allow them to do more damage to their opponents. Some stick around for good; others are used once and then discarded.
Using abilities to modify things, players take turns at the dice. You have three chances to finalize your roll. Each roll you can save as many of your dice as you like or re-roll. By doing so, you can shoot for specific goals, such as a focused attack or a gain of many energy tokens.
Since you cannot regain health if you are in Tokyo, the game becomes a fast-paced slam-fest where players try to take down the current King before they score enough points to win. Managing your health while gaining points is the key to success.
KoT inevitably becomes a festival of trash talk. A great game to break out with friends, most of the abilities (and the expansion packs’ Evolutions) are effectively dick moves. Much like Munchkin, the name of the game is screwing over your friends for maximum gain. Steal their abilities, knock them out of Tokyo, or force them in when they’re hurting and can’t survive the focus. Either way, the objective is coming out on top, and giant monsters don’t play nice.
Like most of Garfield’s games, this is a masterpiece of design. It falls outside most genre staples yet is easy to learn and incredibly fun to play for novice and veteran alike. Once you add in the expansions, you’ll quickly find a monster whose style fits yours, and you’ll be ripping the limbs off your buddies in no time.
Learn more about King of Tokyo at the Iello Games website.
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