King of Tokyo: Game Review

I honestly do not know where to start with this game, but it’s safe to say my group and I all learnt something about ourselves and each other because of it…… and may need to go home and have a good think about our choices.

King of Tokyo is essentially a simplified whilst also expanded adaptation of the classic dice throwing game yahtzee. It was designed by Richard Garfield, the creator of ‘Magic – The Gathering’, and produced by Iello Games in 2011. It is an expanded dice throwing game which incorporates a board, player tokens and upgrade cards. The game costs around $40 and it is for audiences aged 8 and over.

No one in my group recognised that it was a yahtzee adaptation in the beginning because none of us had really played it before. We picked up the rules pretty quickly however as the instruction booklet clearly described how to play with examples and diagrams. The playing board is quite simple, it represents Tokyo city where no more than two players can be at any given time. each player is given a character playing piece and a corresponding scorecard which keeps track of your health and victory points.


Player Tokens

Like Yahtzee there are 6 dice, however instead of numbers 4, 5 and 6 there are three Icons that incorporate and new element to the game, which enables players to win in more than one way.

  • Heart: the heart symbol represents health, if you roll a heart you receive +1 health.
  • Claw: the claw symbol represents attack, if you roll a claw you attack one or all players (more detail below)
  • lightning: the lightning symbol represents energy which can be used as currency, if you roll a lightning you gain+1 energy.



The game also involves cards which can give your character upgrades, and can be bought with energy. The better the upgrade the more energy it costs.

To win the game the player must either be the first to collect 20 victory points or kill all the other players before they do. Brutal.

It seems simple enough, but until you play you have no idea. This game is so much more than simply trying to collect points or kill your opponents, it’s about the mind games, the shaky alliances, the ever present struggle of whether or not it is better to be in or out of the city of tokyo. I still think about it, and I still don’t know.

The artstyle of this game is one of its greatest features, very much inspired by Garfield own game Magic – The Gathering, all of the characters, tokens, cards and even the board create an atmosphere that feels like you’re in a cartoon horror/action comic. Even the design of game play emphasises the artstyle; for example when you attack another player, or enter the city and become the king of tokyo it adds to atmosphere and you truly feel all powerful.

I would just like to take a moment to point out that this group had only met each other a week ago, and still at a very new/polite stage of friendship before playing this.

In the beginning everything was quite tame. We started out by simply getting a feel for the game and how it all worked. Each player would roll the 6 dice, keep the ones they wanted and repeated 2 more times in hopes of getting either a combination of numbers  to earn victory points, or gaining health/energy/attacks. Having not really worked out tactics, most of us just accumulated health and tried for victory points.

It wasn’t until a couple of attacks deep that I think we realised what we had gotten ourselves into. If you roll a claw  you can attack a player, if you are outside the city (board) you have to attack one of the players inside, if you are inside the city then you attack all the players outside. Depending on how many claws you roll is how many attacks you deal out.

This is where the game gets political; if you’re trying to win killing everyone you have to be aware that you’re making enemies, and if they roll an attack then chances are they’ll hold a grudge and attack you by default. on the other hand if you try to win by accumulating victory points you can’t peak to early or you have to do it secretly. One player managed to get to 19 points fairly quickly and as soon as we realised we panic attacked and killed her before her next turn. This moment was the turning point of the game.

Absolute chaos.

None of us still didn’t really knew what tactic worked, one player essentially created her own isolated economy of energy and used it to buy ability cards, most of us forgot to collect victory points because we were to busy settling grudges and accumulating health to sustain this endeavour.  Yelling, so much yelling.

In the end I managed to win the game by somehow collecting 20 victory points (unintentionally but i’ll claim it) whilst the other players believed I was trying to kill everyone to win (I was).

For what we thought was a slow game turned very fast paced and suspense-filled. Yahtzee, who’d have thought?




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