After hearing a lot of things about King of Tokyo, I finally got a chance to sit down and play a game on International Tabletop Day. I played the game not once, but twice. And that was enough for me; I don’t see myself playing the game again.
I had heard a lot of good things about the game, even while I was actually playing the game. But I wasn’t a fan. In my opinion, the game is designed with 7 – 12 year olds in mind. And that isn’t a bad thing, I mean kids need games too, but I’ve had so many adult gamers tell me “it’s a great game”, and talk about the strategy behind it, that I was hopeful. Before I go Dark Willow on everyone, let’s talk about some of the positives.
The game centers on large monsters battling it out. I’m pretty sure this is what draws most people into the game.
The game has customized dice. This is another draw for some people.
That’s about it for positives.
Now for some negatives:
Player elimination. Sometimes the game doesn’t last more than 15 minutes and for these games this isn’t as big of a deal, but when two players have been knocked out and two remain in the game, and then the game drags on for another 20 minutes after the first two players are eliminated, it kind of sucks.
Some card combinations make it nearly impossible to lose. For me, this means the game is essentially broken. I had Wings on my second play though and with only one player left in the game, I was basically guaranteed a victory. Wings cancel all damage for two energy cubes. All damage. As long as I had more than two energy there was no way I could lose. And I always had more than two energy. It was very annoying for the other player, and almost equally annoying for me since this just prolonged the game.
All a player does on their turn is roll dice. That’s it. Then they get to re-roll some or all of those dice, and re-roll one final time if they choose. There really isn’t anything else to the game.
If you do not occupy Tokyo, then there is a lot of downtime between your turns. If you do occupy Tokyo, there is still downtime, but you might get wounded while waiting. Basically, you wait while the other players decided which dice to reroll, and then decide which dice to reroll again.
At its core, King of Tokyo is a dice rolling game not too far removed from Yatzee. Only thing is there is no cup to shake up the dice in King of Tokyo. But there should be. The dice are really large, which is another reason I think the game is really geared toward kids. Another one of Richard Garfield’s games is Ghooost!, which cannot be confused for anything other than a kid-friendly game. And again, that’s okay. I own a copy of Ghooost! and look forward to the day I can play it with my son (he’s too young right now). But I would never tell an adult gamer that Ghooost! is a great game with lots of strategy and that they should own it and play it on adults only gaming days/nights. Somehow though, King of Tokyo seems to have moved beyond the kid-friendly space and I’m not sure it should have.
Of the two games I played, I lost the first one (by a lot) and won the second one (by a lot). That’s fairly typical for me. The first time I play a game I don’t really try to win, but instead I want to take in everything. The first game did not last more than 15 minutes for five players. The second one dragged on and on (and on and on some more; the back and forth was simply ridiculous) and the other player that lasted to the end did not really enjoy it. Since I had Wings, there was really nothing to he could do to wound me. Essentially, I had to hit him enough so that he hopped out of Tokyo and then just sit there until enough rounds went by that I accumulated enough points to win. So it was a sad, drawn out victory. Apparently, there is a decent amount of discussion about the Wings card (and other cards/rules as well).
If luck was on my opponent’s side, it is possible that he could have won by rolling enough victory points on the dice, but he had to try to get hearts instead or I would have beaten him by reducing his health to zero. So even with being able to re-roll the dice multiple times, decisions are kind of forced and luck plays too big of a role.
Now, I realize that a lot of people are going to say there is a decent amount of strategy involved. After all, one has to choose if they are going to go after victory points, or be the last player with health. But this isn’t really a decision a player makes, but is more based on the luck of the dice results. Did you roll a lot of monster claws? Maybe you should go the damage route. Did you roll triple 3s? Most players will collect those victory points. Sure, you can try to force it, re-rolling all of the claws in hopes for some energy or victory points, or vice versa, but that could potentially mean you will end up with nothing. For this reason, the strategy is weak at best. Or rather, it is very simple and everyone has the same strategy, which is to re-roll the dice so that as many of them as possible share the same result.
And which power cards that are available to the players is luck based as well. They are shuffled and only three are available to choose from at any time. Sure, a player can force new powers to replace the old ones, but there is no guarantee that they’ll be any better. So, if a good card is on the table the first player that has enough energy to pay for it will get it.
All of the luck and the super repetitiveness of the game turned me off. And I really wanted to like the game. I was really looking forward to playing it and it was actually on my Wishlist, which reminds me that I need to go remove it before someone buys it for me.
The reality is that even if I had an 8-year-old child to play this game with, it is probably the last game I’d want to play with them. With so many other great games out there, and lots with educational value, this game doesn’t offer that much. Now, if I had two children between the ages of 7 and 10, then perhaps I would buy this game as a means for them to occupy themselves. Maybe.