Richard Garfield


No. of Players:
2 - 6



Strolling through the halls of the SPIEL'11 convention, there were a few games which created quite an uproar among the spectators. As usual, most strategy games are played in a more or less settled circle of players, but there is always the one or other game where people are bursting with laughter and creating quite a vivid atmosphere. One of these games was HEIDELBERGER's new

King of Tokyo, and indeed it's already the game's background which suggests that a lot of fun might wait in the box. The players adopt the roles of movie monsters, and they have chosen the woe-begotten city of Tokyo as a battlesite for their final quarrel for predominance. Each player wants his monster to become the most famous scourge of earth, and so the monsters have started a vicious battle disregarding all their surroundings…

To reach their goals, the players compete for scoring Fame-points, and the first monster which has accumulated 20 Fame points will have won the game. Thus, each player starts the game with a monster of his liking, possessing 10 Life points and zero Fame points. The traditional turn-by-turn action structure chosen for this game offers some likeness to modern dice games like Roll through the Ages, and so

King of Tokyo has some parallels to classic Yatzhee. The basic turn of each player consists of rolling and re-rolling a hand of six dice, trying to get useful combinations to perform actions, and so each player can make a total of three rolls with all or part of his dice in order to get a good combination of symbols. But which symbols can be rolled?

  • Each dice shows three faces with one-digit numbers ("1", "2" and "3"), and a triple of the same digit means that the player will score that many fame points. In addition, each additional dice showing the same face also is worth one further Fame point.
  • One face of each dice shows a "heart" symbol, and for each heart rolled the player's monster will heal one lost Life point (up to a maximum of 10 points).
  • This poses the question: how can Life points be lost? For this purpose each dice shows one face with a "claw" symbol, and for each claw rolled the player will cause one Life point damage to one or more competing monsters. But more about this in a minute…
  • The sixth and final face of each dice shows a "flash" symbol, and for each of these symbols the player is entitled to take an energy cube. These cubes are used to buy special Monster cards, and the cubes even can be saved over a duration of several turns until the player decides to use them for making a purchase.

Returning to the execution of a combat with the claw-results from the dice, it is important to understand that the first player who rolls one or more claw-results in the game must place his monster at a small gameboard showing Tokyo City. From that point onwards, the player who occupies Tokyo City will deal damage to all other monsters who are not in Tokyo, whereas damage rolled by all other players will be assigned solely to the monster occupying Tokyo City. So, the occupation of Tokyo is quite prominent and dangerous, but on the other hand it can also be quite rewarding since a player scores Fame points when moving his monster to Tokyo City and for each new turn which he begins with his monster at Tokyo City. And if damage caused to the occupant of Tokyo gets too high, the player may opt to leave Tokyo City after an attack, and this forces the player who has made the attack to take the position in the centre ring and move his own monster to Tokyo.


The Monster cards which are available for energy cubes allow the players to equip their monsters with many different kinds of enhancements. Cards are purchased from an open market of three Monster cards which were drawn from a random deck, and the effects of these cards range from one-time uses to lasting improvements. The benefits gained from these cards are manifold, and so a card like "Fire Breath" will cause additional damage to neighbouring players when they are attacked, "Gargantuan" means that the monster's maximum limit of Life points is increased by two, or "Solar Energy" gives the player one additional energy cube at the end of each turn. A total of 66 different Monster cards exists in the game, and so the monsters slowly may grow into quite sophisticated creatures with lots of special abilities.

As indicated by my introductory lines, King of Tokyo offers a quite high entertainment value because the players are quickly drawn into this easy-going gigantic face-off. On first sight the game initially scores by its classic movie theme and the very fitting artwork, but this initial good impression also carries on during gameplay. As with most dice games, the players may not expect to be in full control of their fate because luck certainly may not underestimated, but as The Red Dragon Inn has shown such luck-based mass-melee combat games offer some attractiveness on their own rights. There are some possibilities to make the one or other tactic decision (which card should be purchased, should the current occupant of Tokyo City be driven off in order to take his place), but nonetheless the game receives highest praise from audiences with a mind for atmospheric play. A monsterous roar here and a "boom"-noise there simply are necessary if you want to enjoy the full flavour of King of Tokyo!

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany