This game has gained quite the traction since its release in 2011 and has had its second version released for it’s 5th Anniversary in 2016. Noticing everyone under the sun is giving a King of Tokyo board game review, I figure I should see what’s got everyone’s ground rumbling.

I’m sure most people have seen a monster movie, maybe even one of the old black and white Godzilla and King Kong films, I personally always find these a lot of fun, my latest favourite being Pacific Rim. Although I feel sorry for either America or Japan constantly having to deal with these massive terrors (they must be hot spots for these creatures), playing as monsters myself to defeat other monsters across Tokyo sounds like a great time as these movies come to the table!

I’m sure such movies were the basis for this game’s creation. The artwork and design of the box, pieces and all boards look awesome, a real comic-like feel that strikes the eye, with each monster looking intimidating when they are laid out on the impressive looking Tokyo board. The illustration of the monster boards too are really well done. The style of the game gets you into the monster-movie like role.

This game has won plenty of awards and has even inspired a sequel game, King of New York 2014, with both King of Tokyo and King of New York having expansions out. After recently watching film Rampage with Dwayne Johnson, I did feel like getting into some large creature antics myself.

Buy King of Tokyo

What Do You Get?

  • 66 Power Cards – Power cards have a name, a cost to pay in Energy cubes, a type (Keep/Discard) and an effect.
  • 28 Tokens and 2 Green Die – The tokens and green dice are used with certain Power cards.
  • 6 Monster Boards – These boards represent the Monsters you play. Each has a name, a dial for Victory Points and a dial for Life Points.
  • 6 Black Dice – Each die has six symbols that represent the actions you can take on your turn:
    • o 1, 2, 3: Gain Victory Points
    • o Lightning: Gain Energy cube
    • o Clay: Smash Monsters to lose Life Points
    • o Heart: Gain Life Points
  • 6 Cardboard Figures – These figures represent the Monsters you play as. Keep them near you. When you take control of Tokyo, place your Monster on the board, in Tokyo City or Tokyo Bay.
  • 1 Tokyo Board – Represents the City of Tokyo divided into two places: Tokyo City and Tokyo Bay.
  • Energy Cubes – Keep energy cubes you gain from lightning die faces. You can spend them to buy cards or to resolve or activate certain card effects.

How Do You Set It Up?

  1. Each player chooses a Monster and takes their figure and Monster board. Set your Monster’s Life Points to 10 and Victory Points to 0.
  2. Place the Tokyo board at the centre of the table, within easy access of every player.
  3. Shuffle the cards to form a deck.
  4. Deal the first three cards face-up on the table next to the Tokyo board. Place the tokens nearby.
  5. Put the black dice at the centre of the table. Set the green ones aside (some cards allow you to roll the green dice).
  6. Form a pool with all of the Energy cubes.

With 2 to 4 players – Use only Tokyo City

With 5 to 6 players – Use both Tokyo City and Tokyo Bay

How Do You Play?

The game plays clockwise. Each player rolls the 6-black dice. Whoever has the most claw symbols goes first. In case of a tie, players roll the dice until one player has the greatest number of clay symbols.


1. Roll Dice

On your turn, you can roll the dice up to three times. You can stop rolling anytime.

  1. First Roll – Roll the 6-black dice (and 1 or 2 green dice if you have a Power card that lets you roll them).
  2. Second Roll – If you like some of your results, you can set them aside and only roll the ones you don’t like again.
  3. Third Roll – If you change your mind, you can roll any dice you set aside again, along with any you still don’t like.

After you finish your three Rolls (or you decide to stop), continue to the Resolve Dice step.

2. Resolve Dice

You can resolve your dice in any order, but you must resolve all of them. Symbols rolled at the end of your last die Roll represent the actions of your turn.

Victory Points:

If you roll three-of-a-kind of 1, 2 or 3, gain as many Victory Points as the number. Each additional die rolled with the same face gains you 1 additional Victory Point. E.g. If you roll four “1’s”, the first three dice gives you one Victory Point, and the fourth extra 1 gives you another Victory Point, totaling in two.


Gain one Energy cube from the pool for each lightning symbol rolled. Place them in your reserve in front of yourself. Keep Energy cubes until you spend them.


Monsters that are not in the same place as you lose 1 Life Point for each claw symbol rolled.

  • If you are in Tokyo (Tokyo City or Tokyo Bay) and you roll a claw symbol, all Monsters outside of Tokyo lose a Life Point.
  • If you are outside of Tokyo and you roll a claw symbol, all Monsters who are in Tokyo a Life Point (Tokyo City and Tokyo Bay). These Monsters can then decide to Yield and leave Tokyo or stay. Monsters who Yield Tokyo still lose a Life Point.

Each claw symbol results in losing one Life Point. If a Monster loses their last Life Point then the skull symbol appears and they are eliminated (their Keep cards and Energy cubes are discarded).

Since no Minster starts the game in Tokyo, the Monster who plays first does not cause to lose Life Points with the claw symbol.

Life Points dealt from a Power card effect is different from a claw symbol. A Monster can only Yield when losing Life Points from a claw symbol.


If you are outside of Tokyo, you can gain 1 Life Point for each heart symbol rolled. If you are in Tokyo, the heart symbol you roll does not let you gain a Life Point (you can only gain Life Points with Power cards). You cannot gain Life Points above 10.

Effects of Tokyo:

Being in Tokyo (Tokyo City or Tokyo Bay) has some advantages and disadvantages:

  • You gain 1 Victory Point when you enter Tokyo.
  • You gain 2 Victory Points if you start your turn in Tokyo.
  • Monsters in Tokyo cannot use the heart symbol, but they can still use Power cards to heal.

Moreover, targets of your smash depend on where you are:

  • The claw symbol of Monsters in Tokyo cause all Monsters outside of Tokyo to lose a Life Point.
  • The claw symbol of Monsters outside of Tokyo cause all Monsters in Tokyo to lose a Life Point.

You can only leave Tokyo after losing a Life Point from a claw symbol rolled by another Monster.

3. Enter Tokyo

If no one is in Tokyo, you must enter and place your Monster in Tokyo City. You can only Yield when you lose a Life Point from a claw symbol rolled by a Monster. No Monster starts the game in Tokyo. The first player must enter Tokyo City during this step.

4. Buy Power Cards

Power cards can be one of two different types:

Keep – Keep these cards face-up in front of you until the end of the game (unless something tells you to do otherwise).

Discard – Resolve these cards immediately, then discard them.

You now may buy one or more of the three face-up cards. To buy a Power card, spend as many Energy cubes as the cost indicated at the top of the card. Replace bought cards immediately from the top of the deck. New cards are immediately available for purchase.

You can also spend 2 Energy cubes to sweep all three face-up cards to the discard. Then reveal three new Power cards from the deck. They are immediately available for purchase. As long as you have enough Energy cubes, you can continue to buy sweep cards.

Powers cards:

Opportunist – If there are two Opportunist cards in play (because of mimic), the first Monster clockwise from the Monster whose turn it is gets first opportunity to buy newly revealed cards.

Fire Breathing – The Monsters of the players seated to your left and right each lose 1 Life Point. They lose this Life Point even if they are in the same place as you. If there are only 2 players, your opponent loses 1 Life Point.

Mimic – Mimic copies the effects of a card as if it had just been played (with tokens, for example). If the copied card is discarded, Mimic no longer has an effect and you take back the associated token. You can place it on another Keep card at the start of your next turn.

Poison Spit & Shrink Ray – Poison and Shrink tokens stay even if their associated cards are discarded. You cannot remove these tokens while you are in Tokyo: you must be outside of Tokyo to use the heal to remove tokens.

Metamorph – Discarding your Keep cards happens in the End of Turn step. You get back the full cost of the card as printed, even if you bought it at a discount.

5. End of Turn

Certain Power card effects activate at the end of your turn. Once you’re done, pass the dice to the player on your left.

End of Game:

The game ends at the end of a round when a Monster reaches 20 Victory Points or if only one Monster remains.

Pros Of The Game

  • Really good artwork and style throughout the game
  • Many ways to play with a good amount of strategy
  • Tension increases as the game goes on and is always unpredictable
  • All of your moves are important leaving risk or reward
  • Fun outwitting opponents with great interaction
  • Easy to learn and room to increase skill

Cons Of The Game

  • Theme doesn’t really connect with the gameplay
  • All of the monsters do the same thing
  • A lot of luck is involved
  • Can be frustrating if you’ve lost and you must wait until the game ends
  • Not a hugely immersive game

Should You Get King Of Tokyo?

Designed by Richard Garfield, this game is for 2-6 players, and gameplay lasts around 45 minutes. The pieces look long-withstanding and sturdy. The custom dice look great but might be a tad too big to roll. Regardless, as mentioned previously, this is a well-made game with effort put into the details and quality of the materials, fitting because we want tough monsters. The newer art on the upgrade cards to look amazing. This is a cool looking game.

A problem though you initially notice is you don’t exactly get the monster terrorises/monster fight feel you were initially expecting when looking at this. Rather than unleash chaos and destruction, you just destroy the city by earning Victory Points based on where you are on the board. The theme doesn’t really tie in with what you’re doing, things happen really just by standing either in the city or out of it, which kind of leaves a lack of connection between you and the game. It all looks great, but there’s an element of substance removed here.

There’s also an issue with variety on what the monsters can do, they all do the same thing. I wouldn’t of have much of a problem being left with the last monster available when everyone is picking dibs on monsters before a game if they are all just replicas that look different. Each monster should have their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, special abilities. An expansion is available to do this called “Power Up!”, however this should already be engrained into the original game because it really needs that variability.

Where it might have little variety in monster ability, there is at least some when rolling dice. You have many ways you can play King of Tokyo. Do you want to heal? Do you want to attack? Do you want to earn Victory Points? Do you want to get more Energy cubes to get the better Power cards? Attacking a monster in Tokyo can mean you taking its place, opening you to attack in future turns. However, not attacking them can mean they can continue gaining Victory Points to win. Plenty of options like these drive the game.

It does rely on what you get with the dice, so the tension gets higher as the game progresses, with players hoping to get what they need to take advantage. There is a large chunk of luck here, but the game tries to put you in control more by deciding which rolls you are satisfied with and whether you wish to roll again. If you don’t get what you want in a turn, you still usually have something to do whilst you wait for your next turn, however haters of games involving luck would not have a good time here.

Saying that there is still strategy involved. You need to look at what circumstances to take hold of. Since only one player can be in the city at a time, the saving grace from you just chilling and collecting Victory Points, is you being forced to action by others rolls or you try to get into the city yourself if you get an attack claw symbol. I just wish it had more of that monster causing mayhem kind of vibe. However, you can still have a good time and enjoy it for what it’s really about.

The heart of the game involves the amount of risk and reward you can get from all of your rolls, handling your position on the board when aiming for Tokyo, and managing what damage you take and give to others. The premise roots from whether it’s worth gambling to either get ahead or set up for failure.

There is good unpredictability each time you play to keep you invested, mainly because of the luck factor. Dice rolls and Power cards are randomized each play, so you can never predict how the game will go or how others will play it.

The game is very easy to learn and understand, regardless of age or skill, the instructions are short and have plenty of diagrams and pictures to emphasize how to play.

When it comes to the types of versions, the only real difference between the first and second editions of the game is the artwork. The boards, pieces and cards have all improved designs without changing in gameplay. Even the rulebook has been given more images and example graphics. Plus, the monsters Kraken and Cyber Bunny have been replaced with Space Penguin and Cyber Kitty, so if you’re wondering whether to switch from old to new, it depends on whether the new art is worth the extra money.

Some have compared this to a new version of Yahtzee, which feels about right since it’s so heavily dice-based. If you’re into this you’ll find it hard to get too frustrated by the dice not going in your favor. Games are quick, not heavy, and you can turn the tables to claim victory even near the end, which leaves a big grin on your face, whilst at the same time anything you planned out all game can be demolished in a heartbeat. So the risk/reward factor really shows here, that in itself can be entertaining.

You can feel a little frustrated if you lose, are out of the game, and you have to wait for everyone else to finish the current game. But I guess the risk wouldn’t be there otherwise if you can just play again instantly. Also, with the amount of time per game, by the time you’re out it’s not that long before you can play again next time.

Though there is competition and strategy here, it is not a powerhouse in those fields. You won’t get full immersion in which you have full control of how you play. The level of play and rivalry has detail but is not intense, the aim with this game is to provide simpler play based on dice with an attractive theme.

This game is a big hit but with certain people it can be a mixed bag. Some feel it is more of a lighter game to play occasionally that you want breaks from. Others are proper hooked and can enjoy it over and over. Either way though most say it is certainly one to have in your household for the level of fun you do get, and then how much fun you can keep over time will be mixed between people. If you enjoy dice games, you’ll most likely enjoy this.

If you set yourself up knowing what you’re getting into with this game, you will have a great time here. Though not really connecting with the theme and seemingly simple, when you get into it and start playing you begin to find out the challenge and tactical prowess it brings. This can be easily learnt and taught with room to expand your skill and gameplay. The luck element is a large factor and may not be for all whilst it also brings plenty of randomness. It’s a great member of tabletop gaming that works well and brings good interaction between players, being very family friendly.

King of Tokyo is not the end-all-be-all, it’s not perfect. The theme is quite separate from the gameplay, there’s a lot of luck, the monsters are the same and players can be eliminated all game. But what makes this game stand out so well is the way you can out strategize opponents in a fun and enjoyable format, and the fact it can still be enjoyable to a great enough level to outshine those flaws, really makes it an effective game that is worth trying out regardless and see how much fun you can have.

I can see this game being relevant for quite some time, and maybe over time it will improve. As mentioned it already has the “Power Up!” expansion to differentiate monsters. All I know is, we need this Godzilla versus King Kong rivalry settled once and for all! Chucking them in the game would raise my eyebrows very high.

Thank you very much for reading my King of Tokyo board game review! How do you find it? Do you enjoy how it’s set up? Do you like the style and artwork of the game? Is there anything you would change about it? Do you have a good time with others playing it? Do you like the amount of strategy you get from it? Please feel free to leave any comments!

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6 Replies

  1. Thanks for the comprehensive review of the King of Tokyo. I’ve checked many other reviews of this game but none of them was as detailed as yours. Thanks for the time to put this together.
    It’s a bit dissatisfactory to see that the theme of the game is not connected with the gameplay. The theme is what gets me in the most. Mayb they can fix this in the future.

    1. Cheers Ivan! Glad it could help. Yes it’s a bit of a shame there, the best games have the theme incorporated into the gameplay. Hopefully they will consider it with future editions moving forward, but there are plenty others that does this well. I’m currently working on a review of the game Dixit which matches these up very well, so keep an eye out! Have a good day!

  2. Great review! I’ve never heard of King of Tokyo before so it was good to see this review. I like the cover with all the colors for sure! Some of the best games out there are based on luck. I think of Risk as everything is determined by dice rolls. But strategy games are something I’ve been interested in, so maybe I’ll give this one a shot! Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Bobby! The box, style and coloring really attract the eye. Agreed, there are plenty of popular games that are all about luck, and others that are all about strategy. If you feel like switching it up, I’m sure this could at least give you something new and interesting, all the best!

  3. This game looks really cool. My son is taking Japanese in high school and he is planning on a senior trip to Japan as well. This would be a great gift for his birthday in a couple of weeks. I will be sure to bookmark this page so we can reference it later when we have questions. We love to play board games as a family, so this is right up our alley. Thanks for your very comprehensive review.

    1. Hi Steve, I didn’t realize there were school that did trips to Japan, very cool. This game would certainly be a good thematic gift for when he goes. Hope I can help with any queries you might have. It’s always nice to hear families still enjoying board, glad this helped, all the best!

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