Monday, October 3, 2011

Dice Game Review - King of Tokyo

Transcript from a private conversation that may or may not have occurred in my head the other day:

Me: I wish I could find a really cool game that I could break out quick, play in fifteen minutes, then put it away when everybody finally shows up.
Also Me: Yeah, but those tend to be so empty and crappy and boring. Half the time they're just abstracts, and I never feel like I did anything, and the other half are about medieval France.
First Me: No kidding. What we need is a quick game with something awesome, like giant robots or monsters.
Responding Me: Yeah, and they need a stupid amount of violence. I have a pretty short attention span, and need constant bloodshed to keep my interest.
Me Again: Sorry? I wasn't paying attention.
Second Me: Ass. I'm going to punch you in the teeth. That should wake you up a little.
Original Me: Sure, stupid, but they're your teeth, too.
Angry Me: Know what? Your breath stinks.
Snarky Me: Well you're the one who had to have onions on your burger!

I don't often have very productive conversations with myself, and this is one example of why I can never get anything done. Maybe if I could focus, I could come up with games as fun as King of Tokyo, and afford some professional psychiatric help.

King of Tokyo is the coolest filler game I've played in a while. It's got an actual story, more or less - giant monsters and evil robots competing to claim domination over Tokyo. That's more than most fast games can claim. Plus there's the hilariously awesome art, the enormous chunky dice, the nifty cardboard standups and the seriously entertaining cards. Before you even read the rules, King of Tokyo beats the pants off most filler games.

It's a pretty easy game, too. You roll dice that will tell you if you do damage to other monsters, gather energy, heal your wounds, or smash the piss out of Tokyo to get some victory points. Then you use your energy cubes to buy cool mutant abilities, like parasitic tentacles or an extra head (extra heads are very handy if you shoot lightning out of your mouth, as long as you're not trying to make out with your other head when you fire).

You'll keep track of your health and victory points on a cool little spinner card in front of you, and when you hit someone hard enough, you may be able to move into Tokyo. Staying in Tokyo has proven to be hazardous to your health, so you may not want to stay very long, but there is the upside that if you're in Tokyo, you get to smash stuff. Now, for you and I, stuff like money or power indicates that you're doing really well, but giant monsters measure success by how many buildings they can eat in a minute. So wrecking buildings and staying in Tokyo is how you win, unless you get killed doing it. You can't win the game if you're dead. Duh.

There's not an enormous amount of strategy or difficult decision-making in King of Tokyo, but that's fine with me, because you can spend twenty minutes pounding the crap out of each other and then take a break when the pizza guy shows up. You roll the dice, keep some and reroll others, and try to get the dice that get you what you want. If you really need to beat up your enemies, you want the damage, but if you're trying to mutate into a super-booger, you need the energy. Take a beating in downtown Tokyo, and you'll need to run off and roll those hearts.

Of course, the dice almost never cooperate, so what you do with your turn is not entirely up to you. That's actually just fine with me, because whatever you do, it's going to be fun. Eat a fuel tanker and get some energy. Throw tanks at your enemies. Cower and lick your wounds. It doesn't much matter what you're doing, because it's all fun.

I can see control freaks hating King of Tokyo. It's extremely random, and you don't have a whole lot of control over what you can do. If the dice won't show you what you need, you could wind up with a handful of nothin'. And if you don't really care for giant monsters destroying Tokyo, then you definitely aren't going to like this game (also, you may not have a soul).

I've complained in the past about games that are too random, but there are reasons that King of Tokyo is good random, and other games are bad random. In this game, the random stuff is a hoot. Maybe you don't get what you need, but you'll probably still get to punch King Kong in his oversized reproductive organ. So you didn't roll any hearts, and still can't heal, but you managed to get some energy cubes and trade them in for a commuter-train snack cake.

Another reason the luck doesn't bother me is because the game ends before it can start irritating you. On top of being madcap hilarity and violent hijinks, King of Tokyo's random factor doesn't wear out its welcome by taking all afternoon. This is not a serious game for serious people. It's a giant-lizards-destroy-Tokyo-and-eat-small-children game for people with a sense of humor, and it plays so fast, you'll be done before anyone gets tired of it.

I'll be keeping King of Tokyo for a good long time. It's fun, violent and hilarious, and it's perfect to break out while one guy is out on a beer run. If I could create my ideal filler game, I'm pretty sure this would be it. The voices in my head agree on this one.


2-6 players

Great art that really brings the game to life
Doesn't take itself at all seriously
Fast and furious and full of old-fashioned monster beatings
Splendid components make it even more fun

Extremely random
Not a lot of depth (which works great for this, actually)

I reviewed King of Tokyo specifically because a reader asked me to. But Iello still won't return my emails, so the only way I could get this game was through Noble Knight Games. If you want to read more reviews of requested games, you gotta tell Noble Knight. The best way to do that is shop at their online store (it doesn't hurt to mention my name). If you're going to be King of Tokyo, get it here:


Enrique said...

How's the setup? Is it Kids of Carcassonne time or Hey! That's my fish? Can a 5 yr old who plays Survive, Adventurers and the above mentioned play this? LAstly, is the violence graphic in the art, or more abstarct like Scape?


Matt Drake said...

The violence is more absurd than anything else. It's pictures of giant robots driven by bunnies ripping off the tops of buildings. No headless people or anything.

It takes about one minute to set up, unless you take a long time to shuffle cards.

And yes, if the kid can play Survive, he can play King of Tokyo.

Enrique said...

Awesome! Been looking at this one, but sometimes the illustrators throw in a dismembered bloody arm or something and he's kind of young for that. Also, the short set up helps a lot since we usually play something before bedtime and you know they never accept just one game. That's why Kids of carc is great for that too while Hey! takes a bit longer to set up and so gets played less. Thanks for the info Matt.

Sarebear said...

I bought this today, after looking into it a bit. My daughter with high-functioning autism (very high) often gets impatient when games approach the 40 minute mark, and since it takes us 45-60 min to play Dominion (we're not expert gamers who can assess card combos lightning quick), she rarely plays that with us, or Thurn and Taxis. Oddly enough, she has patience for the two hour (or plus, with expansion(s) Cataan, for most of the duration.

Anyway, in looking for quicker games that aren't necessarily 2 player only, this looked great, and I knew the theme would appeal to all of us. I knew with her autistic love of smooth plastic that the energy cubes would help attract her to the game, lol! Trying to give her enriching activities to help when we limit her time on the computer.

SO, this was great for that! I did have a couple problems with the rules, the typos are minor issues, but a couple other things seemed conflicting with other stuff, or well I think a few more words would have helped.

Also, the cards they DO show and explain in the rules, only cover most of the marker chits, there's one not covered so you'd have to fish through the deck to figure out what the pile of three is for.

As well, the cards are not the normal or high-quality cards you expect from a deck of cards, especially with what I paid (almotr $45 with tax, and I complained about the price saying suggested retail was $10 bucks lower but they said they were going with suggested retail . . . ouch.)

BUT! These minor cons aside, I LOVE the game, and my daughter and spouse seemed to have a fun time as well; my daughter won, pulling out a sweet VP roll to just push past my husband and hit 20. (I had read on the forums VP win condition was 14, but not in my copy of the game).

This is quite fun especially with a limited attention child.

Sarebear said...

If you could in your reviews occasionally note if the game scales well to two players, that would be helpful as 85% of the time it's my husband and myself; I'll be investing in Jaipur, and some of the Kosmos games, but it'd be nice to have multiplayer games that play well at 2 player but can be brought to family gatherings and played with more!

Note: our first game of this, we used no chits/markers at all.

Dustin said...

Great review. I cannot find this game anywhere!