Classic Callback: King of Tokyo

Welcome to Classic Callback, where Marti, @fluffymeeple, checks out some of the great games of the past so that new gamers can get a fresh look at what we think of them! This month, we’re going to be giant monsters overthrowing Japan in the Yahtzee-mechanism based King of Tokyo!

Game: King of Tokyo
Richard Garfield
Main Game Mechanisms: 
Area Control, Dice Rolling, Press Your Luck
Number of Players:
2 to “6”
Game Time: 
25 to 60 minutes

The Game: King of Tokyo is a game where you play giant robots, monsters, and aliens that are trying to rip apart Tokyo – and each other! The game is a beat-em-up game that revolves around the Yahtzee mechanism (roll once, keep what dice you want to keep, re-roll the rest of your dice up to two more times to get sets).

There are 6 different faces on each die – 1, 2, 3, energy (lightning bolt), healing (hearts), and attack (claws). Sets of 3 of the same number grant you that many victory points. Healing doesn’t work inside of Tokyo and attack lets you hit the people outside of Tokyo/Tokyo Bay (if you control it) or the creature in Tokyo/Tokyo Bay (if you are outside of it). Energy gives you these little green cubes that you can collect in order to buy any of the three cards that are in the marketplace – these cards grant your monsters powers that can give them a leg up in the game!

You win by either being the last monster standing, or when you hit 20 victory points.

Why It’s Worth a Classic Callback: 

It Causes a Ton of Laughter. This past weekend was my birthday weekend, and I actually really had an itch to play King of Tokyo. So, we took it to Scott’s – and laughed a whole heck of a lot. And we took it to a friend’s family’s house and played with 8 players (hence my “6” up top – if you’ve got the characters, you can play it – there’s just a bit of down time). Guess what? Tons of laughter and “oh man!” and stand up moments. It really gets everyone involved, even if they weren’t super enthusiastic about it at first glance.

The Yahtzee Mechanism is Familiar and Easy to Teach. Almost everyone has played Yahtzee at least once in their lives, and most people understand how the mechanism behind the game works. While it’s definitely a lot more than “glorified Yahtzee,” it does make that basic game easy to teach – you can get people going with the game quickly and then guide them with the extra stuff. Within 2 or 3 rounds, guidance is no longer needed and everyone is having a great time.

Iello is Still Supporting the Game. Some games (Dominion, lol) go too far when it comes to keeping up with expansions and whatnot. Iello, I believe, is doing it right. They just reprinted King of Tokyo in 2016 with some updated art and some character changes. They added the Power Up expansion (which is for more experienced players, but we love adding it in) shortly after the initial 2011 printing, and they add new characters from time to time, which add some twists on the game. I’m particularly fond of Cthulhu, which was the first “character pack” after the reprint.

They also did a great job with it and King of New York – you can actually use the standees from King of New York in King of Tokyo and vice versa, making for a ton of variety of who you can play. While it doesn’t make much of a difference what character you play (unless you’re playing with Power Up), it’s still great to have tons of characters to choose from.

Who Won’t Like King of Tokyo? 

  • If you don’t like player elimination, then you won’t be too fond of King of Tokyo. I actually see this as the game’s only flaw – players get eliminated and you have to sit for a bit. I think that it’s still fun to watch everyone else be crazy, but YMMV on that.
  • People who don’t like “take that” or “mean” games probably won’t be too fond of King of Tokyo. There’s a lot of beating each other up and being mean – that’s the point of the game! Sarah and I are often Care Bears when it comes to gaming, but King of Tokyo is a game we like that has a lot of take that.
  • Those who don’t like lighter games might not be too fond of King of Tokyo. It’s super light and not incredibly thinky, unless you add some of the expansion content in. That being said, Scott enjoys King of Tokyo, and he’s a big strategy guy, so YMMV.

Who Will Like King of Tokyo? 

  • People who don’t take their gaming too seriously will love King of Tokyo. I’m all for the mantra that games are about having fun with the people you play them with. And that, above everything else, is what King of Tokyo has to offer people.
  • Those who crave a social experience from their gaming will get a lot from this game. There is some downtime between turns – while actions from everyone will often include you in one way or another, you can have light conversation without interrupting the game.
  • If you’re someone that likes to choose the “intensity level” of their games, King of Tokyo is totally for you. There are so many things that you can add in with expansions and new characters, and that variety is something that keeps us coming back to King of Tokyo again and again.

Have you tried King of Tokyo or it’s more “gamerly” version, King of New York? How do you like it? What sorts of things do you like about this series of games?

Game On!
Marti – The Fluffy Meeple

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