Periodically I’ll be participating in the game night blog carnival, which gives me a chance to review some board games that might be a good break from your typical RPG session nights. Be sure to check out the other participants and their blogs.
Who doesn’t want to play a giant monster rampaging through a city, duking it out to be the King of Tokyo, and Iello games allows you to do just that.
A competitive game for 2-6 players, each person plays a giant monster laying waste to either the city before them or each other to claim victory. Play centers around a Yahtzee mechanic, where players spend their turn rolling a pool of dice, selecting those to keep and which to reroll. After three rolls players either score points, inflict damage to other monsters, heal themselves, or gain energy which they can spend on special abilities. The first to 20 victory points (or the last monster standing) wins the game.
Smashing other monsters requires a player to step up and become King of Tokyo. The lone monster inside Tokyo gains victory points for each turn they remain there. They cannot heal themselves, and all attacks from other players are directed towards them. On the flip side, all damage caused by the King of Tokyo monster is inflicted on all the other players.
The game plays out like a variant of king of the hill. It’s very tough to remain the King of Tokyo for long. However the constant earning of victory points and ability to do tons of damage to other players encourages people to push their luck, and try to stick it out for just one more turn. On the flipside, you become everyone's beating post and can only heal up if you step down from Tokyo, lick your wounds, and try to take the spotlight again on a later turn.
Players can (and will) be eliminated. It’s a classic beatdown on the leader until a new monster steps up to take over. And each turn a player will typically juggle with either trying to eek out a few victory points, or smash the King of Tokyo (or other players if you are the current King). What works for this game is the extra twist of special abilities and the small economy mechanic of spending energy.
Players can also focus on gaining energy when they roll their dice. This allows them to buy special powers from a pool of face up cards which are either one shot powers, or permanent bonuses. They do a variety of abilities, from being able to heal while in Tokyo, to inflicting more damage, to even earning additional victory points. It’s this small addition of the power cards that gives the game an additional push from being a simplistic elimination game to allowing for room of some strategic choices.
The Good - It’s a fun, light-hearted, competitive game with simple rules. Surprisingly players have a lot of choices during their turn, with a lot of direct interaction and the ability to snag up particular power cards before their opponent. There are a variety of paths to victory. Allowing a player to focus on victory points, smashing other players to bits, or a little of each. The components are nice and bulky, and the artwork is colorful and whimsical.
The Bad - This is not a heavy strategy game. It’s a push your luck game that can be heavily influenced by good (or bad) dice rolls. While it has an interesting theme, it’s not too heavily draped in it with the mechanics. You aren't really smashing through a section of the city and everything is represented as very abstract points earned through dice rolling. So it may not quite have that 'Rampage' feel that some might expect. While you can play with 2 players, the game can be lackluster with so few people.
The Verdict - King of Tokyo is a light, monster smash game that is short enough with just the right amount of complexity. You aren't going to have a complete game night revolving around this game. You will however easily have 2-3 quick bouts to see who is the toughest monster on the block as you gleefully tear into each other, picking up special powers, and laying waste to the city of Tokyo.
It’s a great, light, filler game, that is quick and enjoyable. While some might be put off by the elimination aspect of the game, it’s has just the right game length to not make it an issue. The simplistic rules are also a plus. Highlighting the fun, quirky theme of the game, with surprisingly enough choices and interaction to make the game worthwhile playing. A great game to add to anyone's collection and a decent family game to boot.