Saturday, July 20, 2013

King Of Tokyo

At first glance, King of Tokyo is a no-brainer for me. It is supposed to be a fast, push-your-luck dice rolling game of giant kaiju attacking Tokyo. The artwork is lovely, the game is clear and colourful, and the rules seem light enough to support quick play. Players pick their monster, then battle for control of Tokyo. Monsters inside Tokyo damage all monsters not in Tokyo, and all monsters outside attack only the monster occupying the city. To add a wrinkle to the drama, monsters occupying Tokyo are not allowed to heal with Hearts rolled on the dice, so you have to resign your position in Tokyo to an attacking monster if you want to survive at times. There are also power cards that can be purchased with energy. These give extra health, victory points, attack or defences, or other bonuses described on the card.

Even with everything going on, King of Tokyo is supposed to be a fast game. However, any time we played, it seemed to last over an hour, and more than once, over 90 minutes. That's a fair amount more than the suggested 30-45 minutes on the game box. I felt it dragged a bit, and while technically you were supposed to be able to win by victory points or last-monster-standing, elimination seemed significantly faster to do, despite dragging along even then. Winning on points seemed really hard to achieve. If you got knocked out early, rather than watch the remaining players battle down a few more hit-points and finish soon after, players were sometimes left sitting out for over half and hour. Also, while the box claims 2-6 players, the two player game seemed to play really poorly, and basically didn't work at all. After trying the game several times, I decided it was just not for me.

But, thanks to Wil Wheaton and Tabletop on Geek Sundry, I realized we were making a mistake in the rules. So, when friends asked to play again, I thought I'd give it one last chance, with the proper rules.

And it was immediately way more fun!

So what did we learn? What rule had we not followed, and in fixing, had changed the entire balance of the game? It must have been a major change, right?


When you roll three of the same number on the dice, you get that many victory points. So three 2's gives you two points. What we hadn't realized was that every extra number of the same value rolled adds one more victory point to the roll, so a fourth 2 would award us a total of three points, and a fifth would award a total of four points.

It seems tiny. In fact, it seemed insignificant. But it wasn't.

On the first game under the correct rules, the winner won on victory points! Even the two-player games became more involved, and again, our first two-player game was won on points. The games moved much faster, with some players focused on amassing points, while others went for damage. Players were much more inclined to push their luck and stay in Tokyo beyond what was probably advisable, sometimes to their advantage, sometimes to everyone else's. Getting knocked out really did just mean having to only wait a round or two before the game was finished.

With one tiny change, King of Tokyo has joined the list of games that I now enjoy as an opener, a game to play quickly before we jump into BattleStar Galactica, or Pandemic. As long as the players don't spend too long thinking about their turns and play it as intended, rolling and rerolling the dice as fast as possible, making their decisions on the fly, it's a fun, fast game. As mentioned above, the artwork is great, with each of the monsters looking unique. The dice are big and chunky, and feel great to roll, with the symbols and numbers printed very clearly.

In the basic game, all the monsters start the same, but an expansion adds unique decks for each monster. I'm not sure yet if I like this, as it lengthens the game, while you attempt to learn how best to use these cards.

All in all, as long as you read the rules and follow all of them, King of Tokyo is a fun, light game. I enjoy it, but I'm still glad I didn't buy my own copy.

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1 comment:

Karen Twelves said...

Sean finally talked me into playing King of Tokyo and I love it! We've played 2-player games more than larger ones, it's a very different game with different numbers of players.