Family Game Night: King of Tokyo

For this week’s family game night suggestion, I’m once again turning the blog over to my husband, our resident game designer and expert.

family game night king of tokyo

Family Game Night #32: King of Tokyo

What kid wouldn’t love to rampage around as King Kong or Godzilla? King of Tokyo allows you to do just that, refreshing Yahtzee-style dice rolling in an exciting new way. The game works for children as young as five as well as with adult gamers.

How to Play King of Tokyo

Players chose a giant monster, alien, or robot to compete in a king-of-the-hill type contest. It doesn’t matter which character you choose, as they are all the same as far as gameplay goes; however, some expansions do add special powers to the monsters.

On a turn, the active player rolls six custom dice. Each die features: 1, 2, 3 (points), heart (healing), lightning bolt (energy, used as money), and claw (attack). As in Yahtzee, players roll the dice up to three times, with players rerolling only the dice they did not want to keep.

After the last roll, all rolls are locked in. The player may then take a number of actions based on the dice results.

Rolls of matching numbers give you 1, 2, or 3 points. Hearts allow you to heal. Lightning bolts let you collect energy cubes and buy upgrade cards with special abilities. Claws let you attack the other players: if you are not in Tokyo, you attack the player in Tokyo; if you’re in Tokyo, you cause damage to all the other players.

The player in Tokyo who is attacked may choose to stay in Tokyo and possibly earn extra points, or leave Tokyo and work on healing up (healing is not allowed inside Tokyo).

The real fun of this game, besides destroying your fellow monsters, is figuring out just how big of a risk to take. Will you survive until your next turn? Will you be able to focus on points instead of attacking?

Winning King of Tokyo

The goal is to be the last monster standing (everyone starts with 10 life points), or be the first to reach 20 points.

As with many dice games, luck is a big factor—but this doesn’t usually feel terribly unfair. There are ways to mitigate the luck of the dice.

One of the only possible downsides for some is that players may be eliminated from the game. This can happen with 15-20 minutes of the game remaining. Because of this negative, modern games generally steer clear of this approach to game design.

However, the game is usually quick enough that getting eliminated is not a big deal. In most games, players will be out of the action less than five minutes while the game concludes.
king of tokyo characters

Variations to King of Tokyo

Iello, the game’s publisher, recently released an updated version of the game, containing the coveted Space Penguin. In addition, there are also many promos and mini-expansions plus a stand-alone sequel called King of New York. If you don’t mind a little friendly mayhem and destruction, King of Tokyo might just be your family’s new go-to board game.

Summary of King of Tokyo

Number of Players: 2-6

Recommended Ages: 8+ (we’ve played with younger)

Reading Required: Yes

King of Tokyo can be played in less than an hour and usually in less than 45 minutes. It’s always a popular choice at camps and family reunions. The components are well-constructed and fun to use, and kids really dig the theme.

The only problem with King of Tokyo is that your kids will want to play it all the time!


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