King of Tokyo: A Family Board Game to Play With or Without the Kids
There are many ways to categorize family board games. There are board games for toddlers that would be far too boring for big kids, and there are board games for big kids that toddlers simply can’t play. There’s also a sweet spot for family games where kids of all ages have fun together - and even parents legitimately enjoy playing along as well. But, even more rare than that is a family game that adults would still choose even if the kids weren’t around - and that’s absolutely the case with King of Tokyo.
My wife and I recently had a game night with our friends. Our friends have several young children as well and they all love to play together. Since it’s a family-favorite game, we decided to bring King of Tokyo. This was not a family game night, however, it was an adult game night. The kids played downstairs while the adults played King of Tokyo upstairs. I'm sure you realize that not every board game we play with our five-year-old has the power to be described this way.
King of Tokyo was made by Richard Garfield and published by Iello - and their recommended age says 8+. But our son actually began playing with us when he was only 4 years old. The reason this might be possible is because there isn't necessarily any reading required (there aren’t any secrets - you can just tell your kids what the cards say). And the choices to be made are not difficult to make or explain at all.
It's also very easy to help youngsters keep track of their life and their stars on their game card. However, games do last about twenty to thirty minutes, so the ability to focus for that long is basically the biggest requirement. If you’re worried about that, another good option is always to team up with someone and play one monster together, which is what we often do with our littlest.
Luckily, the imaginative characters and the design of the cards make King of Tokyo something easy for our little guy to focus on. The characters themselves are certainly my son's favorite part, and I find it hard to disagree. I personally prefer to play as Cyber Bunny, a rabbit in a giant robot suit, and my son likes Gigazaur, a very Godzilla-esque creature.
Occasionally he is more interested in pretending to be Gigazaur than rolling the dice. He might stomp around the house a few times in between turns. In fact, just a moment ago I said, "hey what do you like best about King of Tokyo?" and he very matter-of-factly said, "Gigazaur."
How to Play King of Tokyo
Gameplay consists of rolling the dice up to 3 times, similar to Yahtzee, and trying to collect things like attacks, energy cubes to buy cards, and hearts to heal yourself. If you happen to be inside Tokyo, your attacks attack everybody else at the same time (powerful!), but you can't heal yourself. However, everyone else attacks only you (risky!). Because of this you have to choose wisely when to give control of Tokyo to someone else and go lick your wounds outside the city.
Special cards that you can purchase change your power in all sorts of different ways, and are the real secret to making the game different every time you play. There’s a new strategy possible every single time based on what’s available in the store. It's actually quite fun just to flip through all of the cards to see the art and imagine what you could do with the powers.
King of Tokyo is one of those board games with a solid mixture of luck and strategy and multiple paths to victory available for you to choose from. You can be knocked out of the game by running out of hearts, and you can win by being the last monster standing or by being the first to 20 victory points.
The Fun Continues
There are also some optional expansions available that add new monsters and even more powers to the game. But make sure to buy the original game first because the Halloween and power-up expansions require the base game as well. Since the theme and the characters are our favorite part of the game, it’s really fun when new monsters are released.
I'm always happy that the kids get to use their imaginations when we play this game - and bonus points are definitely awarded for practicing things like strategy and basic addition and subtraction. I'll always think of King of Tokyo fondly because it was the first big strategy game we played together with our son where things really clicked for him - and I suddenly realized, "hey, we're really having a family game night here!".
Have you played King of Tokyo before? What's the first board game in your house where it felt like your kids really began to stand on their own two feet? Let us know in the comments below.