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Game Review: King of Tokyo
Sean Keller Faculty
April 15, 2015

This article is my sixth in a series of game reviews I will be writing this year. The game I will discuss in this review is King of Tokyo.

Let’s take a quick look at the list of the other games I have reviewed this academic year, along with their genres:

Dixit: creative party game with evocative art
Settlers of Catan: resource management and trade negotiation game
Ticket to Ride: game of set collection and fulfilling destination tickets
Pandemic: cooperative game with cubes and disease cards
Dominion: deck-building game

That’s very interesting, Mr. Keller, but what if I just want to roll some dice and attack my opponents? What about a game in which the last player left standing wins? Isn’t there a game for that?

Yes, there are many attack-oriented games on the market. In order to simulate certain features of historical battles, or the difference between firing a rocket-propelled grenade and a machine gun, these games are often complicated, requiring a steep learning curve as well as frequent references to a rule book or combat manual. This can make it hard to learn the game, or to get new players to the table.

Iello Games, the designers of King of Tokyo, focused on making their game combative, yet simple, fast moving, and fun. Let me describe the game so you can determine whether it may interest you.


An abbreviated game summary:

  1. KingOfTokyoPlayers choose from one of six monster characters. Each character comes with its own little personal game board. Set the Victory Points dial to zero and the Life Points dial to 10.
  2. Players begin the game “out of Tokyo.” After some initial rolling of dice, one player will find himself “in Tokyo.” Play begins.
  3. On a player’s turn, she rolls and re-rolls a set of dice up to three times. Results on the dice allow the player to gain Victory Points, Heal (gain back Life Points), acquire special power cubes, and/or attack the character which is in Tokyo. Attacks from outside Tokyo ONLY affect the player in Tokyo.
  4. Any attack from the monster in Tokyo is applied to each monster outside of Tokyo. In other words, if the monster in Tokyo inflicts damage of -2 Life Points, each character outside of Tokyo will lose 2 Life Points.
  5. Every time a player in Tokyo commences his turn again, he earns valuable Victory Points. However, he also no doubt has been pummeled by the attacks from those monsters who are outside Tokyo. Since players cannot heal (gain Life Points) while in Tokyo, it typically does not take long for that player to decide to leave Tokyo. If this occurs, the last player to attack him must take his place in Tokyo.
  6. Players can spend their special power cubes to buy cards which give them various unique abilities.
  7. The first player to 20 Victory Points wins.

I find King of Tokyo to be a delightful light game. Even before game play begins, it is fun to pick your own cartoonish character and accompanying player board. Should I play as Cyber Bunny, or Kraken, or Gigazaur? The little 3-D character stands don’t add any essential aspect to the flow of the game. However, it is more visually pleasing than sliding around the 2-dimensional cardboard pieces most games employ.

Clearly the game play revolves around rolling dice. In some games, good rolls provide options, and bad rolls can be difficult to overcome. In King of Tokyo, the undesirable dice results can be re-rolled a few times, so each player will almost always end up with numerous actions to pursue. It is not unusual for a player to gain some Life Points, attack another monster, earn Victory Points, and gain power cubes——all during a single turn. Each player will be able to perform at least one or two interesting actions on every turn.

Next, the game is easy to understand. A quick skim of the rulebook will get most people to the table within ten minutes. Handy printable reference cards are available on-line, so players can keep a cheat sheet of important rules in front of them as they learn the game.

Despite an uncomplicated set of rules, the game is not without considerable strategy. How long should I leave my monster in Tokyo? Which dice should be re-rolled? Should I try to roll power cubes, so I may purchase special ability cards? If so, which cards? How do I balance attacking other monsters with my own needs for Victory Points and Life Points? In some games, a player needs to commit to a strategy for a significant amount of time in order to see how it “plays out.” In King of Tokyo, players can easily change their focus on their very next turn. The game fluctuates quickly, and it is easy and natural for the players to adapt to the current state of affairs.

With all of the attacking this game requires, players need to make sure they are comfortable with the “Take that!” aspect of King of Tokyo. Players will both absorb and deliver plenty of damage in this game, so it may not be a good match for young children who may be upset when their parents or older siblings repeatedly slash a fellow family member’s Life Points! I suspect that teenagers and adults will find it just part of the fun.

While the game inherently possesses tons of “replayability,” expansions like Power Up and Halloween provide more variances and characters to spice up the experience. Some sleuthing on ebay might land the rabid fan some of the promotional cards/characters. Also recently hitting the board game stores is a sister game called King of New York, in which some more complicated options, including the acquisition of Fame Points, occur in the five NY City boroughs.

King of Tokyo has won numerous awards in its few years of existence, including the 2012 Golden Geek Best Party Game, the 2013 Guldbrikken Best Family Game, and the 2013 Netherlands Spellenprijs Best Family Game. It has been a nominee and finalist or many others. While certainly not “heavy,” brain-burning, or deep, King of Tokyo can provide light-hearted fun for the crowd who is interested in a short dice rolling game with lots of action.

The Boyden Library offers three-day loans for King of Tokyo, and the many other top-notch board games (like People’s Choice #3 Ticket to Ride and #1 Pandemic) in their collection. If you need assistance with playing King of Tokyo, first check out some of the excellent video tutorials on If you still have questions, I would be delighted to help. Happy gaming!