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Cardboard Children: King of Tokyo

Psychic Probe is really annoying

Hello youse.

I've been hitting you with epic 2000 word monstrosities over the past month or so, so I'll keep this one nice and brief. I'll tell you about a recent game that's already been on the table more than most games in my collection. It's a game by Richard Garfield, the designer of the fantastic Magic: The Gathering, and I put it to you that you should have it in your house, in case I visit.


Sorry, King of Tokyo.



King of Tokyo is a game for 2-6 players and you'll usually fly through a game in about half an hour. Each player assumes the role of some kind of giant monster. There's a King Kong type of thing, and a giant robot with a bunny pilot, and a big dinosaur fella. You get the idea, it's like Rampage. Or like one of the Godzilla vs Kim Kardashian films. Each monster is, thematically, trying to enter Tokyo and destroy the other monsters and the city itself. You can win by reaching 20 victory points, or by being the last monster standing.

The monsters are represented by nice card standees, big colourful things, and there is a board that represents Tokyo itself. None of these components are really necessary to play the game, but the art is lovely and it sells the cartoonish feel of the game very well. In fact, I was quite pleased to see the game leaning on big colourful slices of art instead of plastic toys. It makes a pleasant change.

Now we come to the dice. The game's all about the dice. I like talking about dice. I like just saying the word “dice”. Dice.

The faces on the die show six different symbols. One, a lightning bolt, represents ENERGY. Another, a heart symbol, represents HEALING. Another, a claw symbol, represents WHACK. Yes, WHACK. Which is basically DAMAGE. Can I stop doing these CAPITALS now? The last three symbols represent 1, 2 and 3 points of Destruction. And Destruction equals VICTORY POINTS.

So, here's what happens in the game. There will always be at least one monster inside Tokyo, with the other monsters standing outside. Each player rolls six dice, and can then re-roll any of the dice twice. You're rolling, re-rolling and re-rolling to try to get an optimal set of results for whatever you want to do at that time. Energy symbols give you little energy cubes that can be spent to buy or activate cards. I'll let you guess what the healing symbols let you do.

The claw symbols allow you to WHACK each other. If you're outside Tokyo, your attacks only hit the monster who is INSIDE Tokyo. And if you're in Tokyo, your attacks hit EVERY monster OUTSIDE Tokyo. So, as you can see, you take some heavy attacks when you're inside Tokyo, because every other player is swinging at you. But on the other hand, if you're a pumped up, strong-ass monster, you might want to stomp into Tokyo to take big left and right hooks at every other player at the table. And hey, being inside Tokyo awards you victory points every turn, so it's a fast path to victory if you can stand up to the onslaught.

The Destruction symbols, those 1,2,3 symbols I mentioned. You want to try to roll three of a kind on those, to get that number in victory points. If you roll three 2's, you get 2 victory points. If you get four of a kind, let's say four 3's, then you get your 3 victory points and a bonus point. So good, lucky rolls can also speed you towards victory point glory. You can stand up, drop your trousers and shout YAHTZEE! if you want. If you want to be annoying.

This brings us to the cards. Hey, it's Richard Garfield, right? Of Magic, right? Magic: The Gathering, inspired by Cosmic Encounter – two games that lay out a solid ruleset and then let you have fun breaking the rules with new powers and combinations. Right? Right.

The cards are beautiful to look at, and lay out some powers and events for your monsters. If you can afford the energy to pay for them, you can really boost your character. One might give you an Extra Head, which gives you an extra die. Another, one of my favourites, gives you Wings. Not Paul McCartney's solo project, as interesting as that would be, but actual flappy wings. And these wings let you spend energy to fly out of range of attacks – as essential for a long stay in Tokyo. Psychic Probe is really annoying – it lets you re-roll another player's dice. Yeah. That's not a popular card. Seriously, the cards are fantastic – and yet you could easily play through a game without getting any on the table. It all depends on your focus. There's a lot going on in this brilliant little game.

JOHNNY: Oh man. I need a heal. I've only got 3 health left.

He rolls. ENERGY, ENERGY, 1, 2, 1, 3

JOHNNY: Oh shit. Um... I'll keep the two 1s. COME ON HEALTH!

He rolls four dice. ENERGY, ENERGY, ENERGY, 3.

JOHNNY: NO! I need HEALTH! Hang on...

JOHNNY spots that the HEAL card is available. Costs three energy. Perfect!

JOHNNY: I'll stick here actually. Take the energy.

DAVID, upon hearing this, uses PSYCHIC PROBE. He re-rolls one of the ENERGY dice. It comes up a 2.

No heals. Not enough energy for cards. JOHNNY is screwed.

DAVID smiles. (DAVID later dies in a car accident so, you know, Karma!)

If you love rolling dice, and you love fun, competitive, fast little games, King of Tokyo is a serious must-buy. I like the game so much I keep it in my living room. It's the kind of game you can pull out with some non-gamers and explain in five minutes. Then you can have fun taking big swings at each other while making big monster stomping movements with your legs.

Get it bought. A belter.


I'm so pumped for this.

Confession time. I've probably got a bit too many Dungeon Crawl-type board games. I've got HeroQuest, Warhammer Quest, Descent, Dungeonquest, Dwarf King's Hold, Castle Ravenloft – I could go on. But there's room for one more, right? Sure there is. There ALWAYS is.

Super Dungeon Explore is coming.

It's a dungeon crawling miniatures game, but this time styled after Japanese RPGs. The game is GORGEOUS. I mean, the miniatures are unbelievable. Go and check it all out here or at the Soda Pop Miniatures website.

Do I know if the game is any good? No. Do I care? No. But there's a little demo on the Soda Pop Miniatures website that'll let you try it out if the game matters to you. I really just want those amazing minis. TOYS! TOYS! TOYS!

I will see you guys NEXT WEEK! I LOVE YOU!

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About the Author

Robert Florence