Released in 2011 by IELLO, King of Tokyo is a fast-paced board game that can be played by between six and eight people. Inspired by Japanese kaijju, you play as a monster trying to conquer Tokyo either by gaining the most power or defeating the other monsters.
Upon purchase, the game box includes a set of rules, 1 playing board, 66 cards, 28 tokens, 8 dice, six individual playing boards, six cardboard monsters on stands and an array of small green cubes. The overall design of the pieces is bright and colourful, in a cartoon-like style. Particularly appealing are the six monsters as they all have a unique colour scheme and sense of personality. The eight dice – six black and two green, are six sided and have the numbers one, two and three as well as three symbols, each indicating energy, attack and health.
Despite the reasonably large number of pieces, the game is relatively easy to learn and quick to play. On their turn, each player rolls the six black dice and then has a chance to re-roll any number of them twice. The game allows the players room do decide their own strategy; whether they want to try and focus on attacking other players, conserving their own health, or aiming to win by accumulation the most victory points. The players can also try to accumulate energy in order to purchase cards. Also very nicely designed, the cards give players special advantages in order to give them an edge over other players.
Overall the game is quite easy to learn as there aren’t too many rules, and most of the game play mechanics just feel like they make sense. The individual playing boards are extremely helpful as they allow players to easily record their health and victory points, meaning no time is wasted writing down points or collecting physical reminders.
When I personally played this game, I played with four other people and very quickly realised just how easy the game is to get passionate about. Early on in the game, one of the other players very quickly started to accumulate victory points, so the rest of us focused on attacking her. Immediately after, we realised this focus had allowed another player to accumulate points and then our focus shifted. This game seemed to a balance between fierce rivalry and uneasy truce. If I’m honest it started to feel a little bit like the hunger games. The further into the game we got the more evident it became that pretty much any strategy had a good chance of winning. One player decided to focus on buying cards, one on gaining victory points, one used a balance of attack and points, and I focused almost solely on attack. In the end, the game was won on points. If it had extended even one more round any of us could have won (except of course for the player we killed quite early on).
Having played this game, it’s easy to see why it’s won a number of awards, particularly two best family game awards. The game was created by Richard Garfield who is most well-known for the incredibly popular card game Magic: The Gathering. Since its release, IELLO has released several new characters for the game as well as ‘Power Up’ and Halloween editions. In 2014, King of New York was released, with new characters and set in New York.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. I found it easy to learn and play but it involved enough complexity to keep things interesting and allow for strategy. I also really liked the design of the game, and think the monster avatars worked well to make players feel more connected to their character. This is definitely a game I would play again, and a game I would recommend to others.