Who would win in a fight, King Kong or Godzilla? What if an alien, a bunny in a robot suit, a sea monster, and a giant, mechanical dragon joined the fight? The board game King of Tokyo, by the designer of the card game Magic: The Gathering, brings together great movie monsters for a huge battle royal in Tokyo. The game is easy to learn, plays quickly, and is a lot of fun.

Inside the Box

• 66 cards • 6 monster boards • 6 monster tokens with plastic stands • 8 six-sided dice • 50 energy tokens • 28 tokens (for specific cards effects) • Color rulebook


King of Tokyo is like the schoolyard game King of the Hill. One monster will be in Tokyo, or two when five or six are playing, and everyone else will try to beat up that monster. The game is often played until there is only one monster who still has hit points, but the game can also be won by reaching 20 victory points. On your turn you roll six dice, but you can reroll all or some of the dice two more times in hopes of forming sets of points or increasing certain actions. The six die faces are:

– A Claw: Each claw deals one damage to a foe’s health points. If your monster is not in Tokyo, then you damage the monster in Tokyo. If your monster is in Tokyo, then you damage all monsters not in Tokyo. – A Heart: Each heart heals your monster one health point. If your monster drops to zero health, then you are out of the game. A monster in Tokyo cannot use hearts to heal, which is okay because you should be dealing damage when in Tokyo, not playing it safe. – A Lightning Bolt: Each lightning bolt allows the monster to collect one energy cube. These cubes can be spent at the end of your turn to buy enhanced abilities for your monster through power-up cards.. – 1, 2, and 3: Roll three-of-a-kind of a numbered die face and get that many points. Each additional matching number is worth one more victory point (2-2-2 is two victory points, while 2-2-2-2 is three). A monster on the board can choose to run away after taking damage, but it will still lose health. The player whose monster forces out the other must then go into Tokyo. Entering Tokyo gets you a victory point; staying there until your next turn gets you two points. Power-up cards bought with energy cubes are the key source of variety in the game and allow for exciting choices and interesting interactions. Some cards help monsters avoid damage, deal more damage to certain players or in certain situations, gain victory points (often at the cost of health), or gain energy faster or in other unusual ways. The number and variety of power-up cards means you are unlikely to see the same card across three or four games.

The Expansion: Power Up!

There is already an expansion called King of Tokyo: Power Up!, which adds two things to the game.It adds the giant panda Pandakai, allowing up to seven to play the game. The most substantial addition is the evolution cards, which are specific to each monster and grant ongoing or temporary special abilities. Some resemble power-up cards in the base game, but many are unique and thematic. For example, Alienoid focuses on gaining energy, Mekadragon deals damage, and The King gets bonuses for occupying Tokyo. It’s thematic and adds a nice layer for more serious gamers, while increasing the complexity only slightly. When you choose your monster at the start of the game, you also take its stack of eight evolution cards. If during the game you roll three hearts, then you may draw one of your monster’s evolution cards, which can then be played at any time. While technically a variant, I always play by having everyone start with an evolution card at the start of the game to increase variety and strategy.

Why You Might Like King of Tokyo

– Theme: Classic movie monsters fighting it out in Tokyo is cool, and you don’t have to be a geek to get into it. People usually have fun playing giant monsters beating up on each other.

– Easy to learn: Grade-school children can play and have fun. The rules take a couple of minutes to explain and are easily grasped by nongamers. Since all game information is public, you can coach new players through their initial turns. Best of all, the game makes sense and is fun the first play; new players don’t need to muddle through learning it. Thanks to its quick play time and simplicity, King of Tokyo is the most-played game in my collection. – Luck: You’ll like King of Tokyo if you appreciate the large role that the luck of the dice plays. Luck makes this a more forgiving game and a bad decision or two can be overcome. This makes King of Tokyo a great family game and good for nongamers. Serious gamers may still enjoy it if they are in the right mood, but it will not feel satisfying to them.

Why You Might Not Like King of Tokyo

– Luck, again: You might make the right decisions about which die to reroll but still not roll what you need. That randomness may frustrate players who prefer that the best decision-maker wins over those pushing their luck. My initial plays of King of Tokyo soon felt too shallow to scratch my boardgaming itch, and I wished it had a little more depth. – Player elimination: For many gamers, this is a red flag. We like everyone to be in the game until the end. King of Tokyo’s player elimination isn’t devastating because the game plays in less than half an hour. Unless you take too many health risks, you probably won’t be eliminated until later in the game. If you do get knocked out, you might you might spend 10 minutes out of the action, but the game is fun to watch.

Expanded Play

– Before the expansion, the game felt too light since the difference between the characters was cosmetic. The Power Up! expansion adds a feeling of greater synergy and focus with the specific monster evolutions while retaining its simplicity. The additional decisions and increased variety feels more satisfying and keep me engaged.


Who will appreciate King of Tokyo?

Children: Yes, 5+ with a parent’s help, 8+ alone. Nongamer friends: Yes. Board game enthusiasts: Yes, as a “filler” played at the start or end of the night. Heavy board gamers: Maybe, though it may feel unsatisfying if played as anything other than a filler. How hard are the rules? Read once and you’ve got it: Probably. Play once and you’ve got it: Yes. Keep the rulebook open the first few times: Probably not. All players should read the rules beforehand: No. How much Luck vs. Strategy exists in the game?Luck outweighs strategy to a moderate extent. The better player will win a little more often.


King of Tokyo is a game you should own. The ability to play with children, nongamers, and gamers makes it versatile. It is a lot of fun, in part because of the theme, but also because the simple decision-making remains interesting. King of Tokyo will never be the star of game night, but it could be the star of your next family get-together or become your children’s new favorite game. If you enjoy this game, consider the expansion; it adds to the game’s flavor (though I would not include it when teaching new players how to play). If you think about value in terms of hours of fun for the price, then King of Tokyo has outstanding value. The expansion may be disappointing considering the components you get for your money, but if you play King of Tokyo often, then the expansion is worth it as well. Richard Garfield and IELLO have created a game that is easy to learn and fun to play, and I think you will enjoy it.

King of Tokyo Second Edition Designer: Richard Garfield Publisher: IELLO Games, 2012 Players: 2-6 Ages: 8+ Play time: 30-45 minutes Mechanic(s): Dice-rolling, Press Your Luck Weight: Medium Light – “You can play well your first time” MSRP: $39.99