Friday, March 14, 2014

Game Review: King of Tokyo

Things are finally settling down in our new temporary abode so its time for another game review!  Yes, its finally time to review the game that has dominated our table ever since we first played it, iello's King Of Tokyo.

What's In The Box?
When I opened the box, the first thing I noticed was no instructions... because they were attached to the outside of the box.  Full color and very well laid out, they do a very good job breaking down the game step by step.  They also have a brief glossary and overview of some of the somewhat questionable cards you can bring into play throughout the game which is very handy and to me shows that they put this game through its paces before releasing it to the masses

There is also a small but very colorful board that also has some handy in game reminders, a set of eight special dice, a deck of power ups you can purchase in the game, energy cubes (no they're not candy!!!), a number of pre-punched counters, boards to track each monster and a cardboard figure for each.  All of these are full illustrated and really help to capture the giant monster feel.

As a nice little plus, the box also comes with a tray liner that lets you keep everything nice and neat in the box between plays.  Overall, just great looking components and presentation.

How Do You Win?
Winning the game is elegantly handled and one of the things that I really love about the game.  There are two ways to do it.  You can either be the first monster to earn 20 Victory Points or you can be the last monster standing.  Why do I love this?  More on that later.

How Do You Play?
The basic mechanic of the game is similar to Yahtzee.  You roll six dice up to three times looking for different sets and combinations.  The difference is that in addition to the numbers one, two, and three the dice have a claw, heart and lightning bolt.  So what does it all mean? Let me explain.

As I mentioned before, one of the ways to win is by scoring 20 VPs and you can do this with the dice by rolling sets of three or more ones, twos, or threes.  The set of three is worth the number rolled (so three 2's are worth 2 points) and each additional number increases that by one point (so five 2's would be worth 4 points).

The other symbols work slightly differently.  Each claw that you roll will do a point of damage to the other monsters, while each lightning bolt earns you an energy cube and each heart will heal a point of damage.  None of these need to be rolled in sets and there isn't a bonus it you do (so one claw does 1 point of damage and five claws do 5 points).

Once you have rolled your dice, its time to resolve what's happened.  Damage is applied, healing is done and point are earned according to the final outcome on your dice and depending on whether you are in Tokyo or not.  At the start of the game there are no monsters in Tokyo but as soon as one of the monsters resolves at least one claw that monster will move into the city.  This is an ideal situation in some regards since you are trying to become the King of Tokyo after all and does have its perks, but there are some slight drawbacks as well.

One of the perks is you earn extra VPs every turn starting when you first move into the city.  The turn you move in you earn 1 VP and every turn you begin in Tokyo you earn another 2 VPs.  You also damage all of the other monsters when you attack; roll two claws and everyone takes two damage, roll five and they all take five.  Sounds pretty good, right?  The downside is that you can not use any hearts that you roll to heal yourself and if any of the other monsters roll any claws they are coming right at you.

The good news is that you can yield Tokyo after you are attacked (after you take the damage of course) to get yourself out of the cross hairs for a little while.  As soon as you do this, you move your monster out of the city and move whoever just attacked you in.  Unfortunately this means that your opponent will immediately earn 1 VP and then earn more at the beginning of their next turn (assuming they are still there) but sometimes you just have to step back and lick your wounds.  While outside of Tokyo, you can heal one point of damage for each heart rolled and any claws you roll are applied to whoever is currently in Tokyo but no one else.

So what about those energy cubes that have been piling up?  Those are used in the next phase of the game to buy special cards to power up your monster.  Some of them have a permanent effect for the rest of the game while others are played immediately but almost all of them can give you some kind of edge in the game.  This is also where those extra two dice come into play as there are specific cards that you can buy that will let you roll an extra die (or two if you've greedy!) during your turn.

How Does It Measure Up?
I can honestly say that right now this is my family's absolute favorite game to play.  With 32 plays in less than a year, this game has blown all of the other games in our collection out of the water but the question is why?  There are several things that really make it stick out for me.

The mechanics are very straightforward (after all, who hasn't played Yahtzee before?) but the theme gives the game a really enjoyable twist.  The artwork is also very well done with a fun cartoon quality to it and the monsters are diverse enough that there's going to be something for anyone.

Above all this one of the things that I really enjoy is the built in timer that is inherent with the mechanics.  As soon as someone rolls a claw, they are going into Tokyo whether they like it or not and the race is on!  Leave your opponent in there too long and they'll quickly reach 20 VPs and steal the game but be careful of getting yourself sucked into the spotlight as everyone else will now be gunning for you.  This really keeps the game from going too long but it isn't so rushed that it feels forced.  A great little balancing act that not many games are able to pull off so well.

This is one game that I am very glad we added to our collection and I definitely recommend giving it a try.  There are also two expansions which add even more to the game... but more on those later.  Until next time...

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