If you like boardgames or have friends that do, then it is likely you have come across King of Tokyo in recent years. Along with Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and The Resistance it has become a must play game. For those of us who obsessively try to seduce our friends into the boardgameverse, many have successfully employed King of Tokyo as a gateway game. While it may have flaws, particularly concerns with replayability — even with the expansions — it is still a boardgame that you will find on the shelves of most modern tabletoppers.
• Designer: Richard Garfield
• Publisher: iello
• Number of Players: 2-6
• Release Date: Available Now
When I heard that Richard Garfield would be designing a game called King of New York, clearly as a sequel, I was very excited to see a game that would build on already great and established game mechanics, while also improving on some of its flaws, and it kind of did. Kind of. Actually, almost all questions about the new boardgame I could only reply with half-answers. Is it the same game but in a different setting? Yes, but not really. Are the game mechanics the same? Sort of. Could you still win just by rolling dice very well? You could, but… Is it worth buying if I already own King of Tokyo? Well, that depends. Only one question I could answer with complete certainty: is it fun? Yes!
I have come to realise that it is hard to objectively discuss King of New York without comparing it to its predecessor. So I have decided to let the monsters fight it out for the title of one true King!
Round 1: The Board.
In King of Tokyo the board is almost irrelevant. You are either in Tokyo (on the board, or could be in the centre of the table) or outside of Tokyo (not on the board, or could be anywhere else on the table). For International TableTop Day 2014 we printed people sized monsters for a giant sized game of King of Tokyo. When setting this up, a creative arrangement of stools and chairs served as “Tokyo” just fine. Therefore, if the board gets lost, nothing will change about the gameplay.
If the King of New York board is misplaced you would be in trouble. The board is much bigger and throughout the game all monsters are on the board and there is more interaction with the board. You can move from one borough to another, and Manhattan is also divided into three areas, each with different benefits. Secondly, unit tokens are introduced along with a new mechanic, which makes it very important to be in the right area of the board in relation to those units. The board is finally useful but, even more importantly, it is a fun addition. Therefore:
King of Tokyo 0 : 1 King of New York
Round 2: The Dice.
Both games have six types of dice sides. Punches (attacks), hearts (healing) and energy (currency) are still present in both games and the actions triggered by those dice are also unchanged. The other three sides, however, have been changed, and possibly for the better. In King of Tokyo, numbered dice sides symbolised the amount of victory points you could potentially earn. However, those points are not awarded in the most logical way. To start, in order to gain points of any kind you had to roll three dice of the same number. So rolling three dice of 3-s would award with 3 points. This made rolling 1-s the unluckiest or the most useless move in the game. Which, in the game so based on luck already, is possibly not such a terrible thing. If you have rolled four sets of 3-s you get 4 victory points, four sets of 2-s – 3 victory points, fours sets of 1-s – 2 victory points. ‘What? How? Argh?!’, you might ask. Yes, this makes no sense to me either but it is what it is, just roll with it.
Considering that only 20 victory points are needed to win the game and how generous the re-roll mechanic is, one of the main strategies is to simply continuously roll victory points. You could almost completely ignore moving into Tokyo, attacking or buying cards and still win the game. If you have adopted that strategy, you had very little interactions with other players in the game which could make the overall experience one-sided and disengaging.
King of New York attempts to scrap that game mechanic and introduces three new options, which still could lead to earning victory points but requires more planning and strategising. The most reminiscent of the old rules are the Celebrities. To make them valuable you still need to roll at least three stars, then you will be awarded with the Superstar card that gives you 3 victory points and 1 victory points for each additional Celebrity you roll while you have the card. As soon as someone else rolls three Celebrities, they take the card away and you lose your handy power. Although it is easy to get lots of points fast with that card, the game allows your opponents to prevent it from happening, where as in King of Tokyo no one, except bad luck, can stop you from continuously rolling 3-s.
Destruction attack human units on the board. Each attack earns you rewards which could be victory points, health or energy. However, units destroyed once are then turned to their red side, this now gives them a possibility to attack you as well. Getting victory points this way now always comes at the expense of possibly also getting damage. So how do the units attack? This happens when you roll Ouches. Depending on how many Ouches you roll, the unit attacks will vary.
Overall, although rolling Celebrities feels like almost cheating, I think the decision to get rid of victory point rolling mechanic was a good move. I also like that the creator tried to give monsters outside Manhattan more things to do. This made it more about strategy – choose which units you want to destroy or which borough is best to move into – than about blind luck dice rolling. However, this created its own set of problems, but for now: point for King of New York.
King of Tokyo 0 : 2 King of New York
Round 3: Is Tokyo / Manhattan the place to be?
The names of both games imply that Manhattan and Tokyo are the places you absolutely want to fight to occupy. In both games that is the easiest way to earn victory points. However, to balance it out, the gameplay tries to adopt ‘to win big, you have to risk big’ approach. It is fairer but also more competitive and fun. This absolutely works in King of Tokyo. While in Tokyo you cannot heal and everyone else is attacking you. Being in Tokyo is dangerous, and could be a deadly affair. The gameplay is very dynamic as monsters often jump in and out multiple times in a round. You count yourself incredibly lucky if you have managed to pick up a card that heal you or if you have managed to get out to roll some much needed hearts.
In contrast, Manhattan is like a monster retirement island. Whenever you receive damage, you could just destroy some health units around you. That is, if your opponents, preoccupied with destroying everything in their sight and rolling Ouches, will even remember to attack you. Personally, I think the game would be much more dynamic if the units, which are more useful than they are dangerous, are only placed in boroughs, or at least no units with health abilities are put in Manhattan.
King of Tokyo 1 : 2 King of New York
Round 4: The Monsters.
Gigazaur! Mecha Dragon! King! How awesome are these names? Even Cyber Bunny is quite cool, especially, when after playing a game for twenty times you finally realise that it is a tiny bunny is a huge robot suit. Now then, please compare to Captain Fish (is that even a monster?), Sheriff (who is a dinosaur…what?!) and Kong (King’s other half?)… I don’t know whether to cry or to laugh. The monster designs themselves also has not impressed me, and whenever I decide to play King of New York, I am always tempted to replace the new monsters with those from King of Tokyo box. Which, in fact, is completely possible and would change nothing about the game as different monster types are equivalent to different coloured meeples, and mechanically add nothing to the game. Only I always feel so much cooler when I play as a Mecha Dragon… To conclude, for the stupidity of ‘Captain Fish’ I will award King of Tokyo with the whole 1 point and additionally subtract 1 point from King of New York!
King of Tokyo 2 : 1 King of New York
Round 5: The Cards.
Both games have special power cards that can be purchased with green energy cubes. Having played both games a lot, I still constantly pick up cards I have never seen before. Although, I welcome this variety, in both games the quantity substituted quality. I could not name one really great card in either games because they all have blurred in my mind. To be honest, as far as I am concerned the card set from King of Tokyo could have been used in King of New York and I would not have spotted it. No points.
King of Tokyo 2 : 1 King of New York
Round 6: The Gameplay.
The beauty of King of Tokyo is that the rules can be explained in less than five minutes and, except for the rolling victory points logic mystery, is very easy to understand. King of New York is a bit more complicated, not substantially, but by the time you go though all the possible Ouches outcomes, a considerable amount of time has passed. It is still easy to understand but definitely has more depth and rules. Which is not bad at all! The game just slightly shifted its accent. If I want to play something relaxing for 25-30 minutes, I will play King of Tokyo. If I want something with a more strategic focus for 45-50 minutes, then I will pick up King of New York from the shelf. Points to everyone!
King of Tokyo 3 : 2 King of New York
I am a very happy owner of both King of Tokyo and King of New York and both games are played regularly in my household. To me, King of New York has done enough new and interesting things to justify the purchase. While, Mecha Dragon, Gigazaur and others have climbed to the top of the pedestal, this was a close fight. I have nitpicked both games so much only because this was a hard decision to make in regards to the two boardgames that are both really good and I would recommend either in a heartbeat. If you have not yet played either of them, I suggest you get a copy. Whether that copy is King of New York or King of Tokyo or even both, I hoped this helped.
Copies of King of Tokyo and King of New York are available to play for free at Loading Bar.