King of Tokyo: Dark Edition (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Richard Garfield
  • Art: Paul Mafayon
  • Publisher: Iello
  • Players: 2 – 6
  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 10 (On Review Copy from Publisher)

King of Tokyo is a modern classic.  The game is often held up as a “gateway” game, and we here at the Opinionated Gamers put it on our list of 10 recommended intro games.

Publisher Iello released a special “Dark Edition” earlier this year.  Hailed a collector’s edition, the game features new, darker artwork, upgraded components, and even a new gameplay mechanism, the wickedness gauge.

I’m a King of Tokyo fan, so I was excited to try out the new edition.  And though I’m skeptical about the new mechanism, It has rekindled my love of the game and been a big hit with my family. 

The Gameplay

King of Tokyo is a dice game for 2-6 players, where each player assumes the role of a monster trying to invade Tokyo.  The game is a cross between Yahtzee — there’s a heavy element of rolling dice for sets — mixed with that king-of-the-hill game you probably played on the playground as a child.  

On a player’s turn, he or she roles 6 dice.  The dice have six sides — a 1 symbol, a 2 symbol, a 3 symbol, an energy symbol, a wound symbol, and a heart symbol — and players are often trying to collect sets of the symbols.  A player can roll up to three times, giving the game its famous comparison to Yahtzee.  

If players get at least three of a given number, they get that many victory points, also earning an extra victory point for each additional dice showing that number.  The new mechanic for this version is the wickedness gauge, which is triggered by sets of the numbers.  If players collect on 1s or 2s, they go up on the wickedness gauge 2 or 1 spaces, respectively.  The wickedness gauge allows players to earn tiles at set intervals — spaces 3, 6, and 10 — and those tiles give players special powers for the duration of the game.  For example, one tile lets you steal victory points from monsters you attack (level 3), one gives you a victory point per turn (level 6), and another doubles all of your wound symbols (level 10).  There are several of these in each stack, and they’re double-sided for increased replayability. You simply choose a side to put in the game.

The wound symbol is used to attack other players: if they are in Tokyo, they attack everybody outside of it, or if they are outside, they attack everybody inside.  Players take damage when attacked, and if their life drops to 0, they are eliminated from the game.  But players can also heal!  The hearts on their roll give them back health, unless they’re in Tokyo, in which case they can’t heal.

The last symbol in the game is the energy symbol.  Players can accumulate energy charges — they can take tokens that last round-to-round — and use it to buy special power cards.  These cards have a variety of powers — everything from bonus attack points, to boosts of health — and some have an immediate effect, while others last the duration of the game.  

A good portion of the game revolves around whether to be in Tokyo.  If Tokyo is empty on your turn, you must enter, earning one point for doing so.  If you’re still in Tokyo at the start of your next turn, you earn an additional two points.  If you’re attacked while in Tokyo, you can leave, which will force your opponent in.  In 5 and 6 player games, a monster is also in Tokyo Bay, which works similar to Tokyo.

A player wins if they earn 20 victory points, or if they’re the last monster standing, although certain in-game tiles and cards can modify this.  

My Thoughts on the Game

I’ve long loved King of Tokyo, and this Richard Garfield classic is now a signature gateway game in the hobby.  King of Tokyo is easy-to-learn, can be played by gamers and non-gamers alike, and has tense and engaging gameplay that naturally leads to laugh-out-loud moments and high fives around the table.  The game works at a wide range of player counts, plus a wide range of ages.  

But I’d like to use this review to comment on the Dark Edition specifically.  This is indeed a collector’s version of the game, with enhanced components and cool new features.  The new artwork by Paul Mafayon is gorgeous — the box is eye-popping with its accents and evocative cover — and the new bits (especially the translucent dice and energy charges) look fantastic.  

Iello always publishes games with striking art and attention to detail, and the Dark Edition is one of their more impressive products.  The energy cards have new art.  The tokens for tracking wickedness are tied to each of the six monsters.  The player boards — as always — are well produced.  The game board is well designed.  The rulebook is clear.  

When this first arrived, I fell in love with King of Tokyo all over.  

The only disappointment is the new mechanism.  The wickedness gauge seems like a good idea — it gives an extra reward for going after 1s and 2s — but overall I suspect the tiles lack balance.  The energy cards are balanced by different prices, but the wickedness concept does not have that: the tiles are simply sorted into three stacks.  After a few plays, I noticed my groups — both of them — rushing for the same wickedness tile (assuming it was in play).  It is called “Final Roar” and it is available at Level 3 of the wickedness gauge.  It says, “If you are eliminated from the game with 16 victory points or more, you win the game instead.”  It might just be the way my groups play — we tend to really attack, attack, attack — but everybody now rushes for this tile, and the person who gets it seems to win often since you can’t attack them when they get to high numbers of victory points.  The tile seems overpowered, and the fact that two independent groups came to that conclusion strikes me as evidence of that fact.  Of course, you can just play without that tile, which fixes the problem.

Overall, if you are a fan of King of Tokyo, this is worth checking out.  It does feel like a collector’s version of King of Tokyo, and you and your group will have dice-chucking fun with this fresh twist on a modern classic.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Chris Wray, Talia Rosen
  • I like it. 
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me…
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