Tokyo is in shambles. Buildings leveled, fires erupting on the streets. I hear they have a King over there now. Not the benevolent kind, either. No, the monster sort of King, the sort who won their throne by stomping everything in their path to dust.
Well, Tokyo isn’t the only major city in the world, and it’s not the only stomping ground for giant monsters, either. Over here in the Big Apple we’ve got our own rules, our own monsters, and a whole new bag of dice.
How it Plays
It’s a lot like King of Tokyo, actually, but since it’s a standalone game in its own right, I’ll give you the full run down here. Besides, there are a number of differences, and I wouldn’t want you to get confused.
If you’ve played Tokyo you will find the turn structure familiar – you roll 6 dice and can re-roll any of them two additional times. You resolve the dice in any order you choose (which actually makes a difference this time). Then you can buy power up cards which grant new and exciting abilities, and finally you can move to a new borough. Of course if Manhattan is open, you have to go there, and there’s only enough space in each borough for 2 monsters.
The claws, lightning bolts, and hearts carry over from Tokyo. Claws attack other monsters. If you’re in Manhattan, each claw does 1 damage to every other monster outside of Manhattan. If you’re elsewhere, your claws just hurt the Manhattan dwellers.
Hearts restore your hit points, but can’t be used in Manhattan. Lightning bolts earn you power cubes, which can be spent to purchase power-up cards (and sometimes for certain card abilities).
Three new symbols – a Star (Celebrity), a Skull (Ouch), and a collapsing building (Destruction) replace the numbered sides from Tokyo and unlock all new abilities.
Celebrity is the direct replacement for numbers. 3 Celebrity in one turn nets you the Celebrity card. You score 1 point for that, and then you score a point for each additional Celebrity you roll. OF course, if you start your turn a Celebrity, then every star you roll gets you a point.
Destruction gives you a whole new way to interact with the board. Each borough has 3 stacks of buildings, and your Destruction rolls can be used to destroy them. You get a reward – points, healing, or power cubes – but as a result of your activities, more military shows up in your area (the building tokens flip to become military units). Fortunately, Military can also be attacked with Destruction rewards, although they are tougher than buildings.
Which brings us to Ouch. Ouch rolls make the military attack you. 1 Ouch and every military unit deals you a damage. Whaaaat? But don’t worry. 2 Ouches does the same, but the military also attacks any other monsters in the same borough. 3 Ouches escalates things even further – every military unit on the board attacks, which can be quite nifty. Also, when you roll 3 or more Ouches, the Statue of Liberty comes to life and awards you with 3 points for defending the city. Yes, I know. Of course, those 3 points are fickle, and if someone else rolls 3 ouches they will take Lady Liberty and the 3 points along with her.
Like in Tokyo, you are awarded for rolling in Manhattan for as long as possible. You get a point for entering. If you start your turn there, though, things are a little different. Instead of 2 points, you get 1 point and one power cube. However, the longer you stay, the better things get. If you’re in Manhattan, at the end of your turn you move up to the next level, which grants you better rewards if you stick out another round. Level 2 gets 2 points and 2 power cubes, and level 3 gets you 2 of each.
Of course, you can only leave Manhattan if someone damages you with claws, and as I mentioned before you can’t use Hearts to heal. (Fortunately, in New York, you can destroy buildings with Hearts on them to gain the benefit, even in Manhattan).
The winner, the King, is the player who earns 20 points first, or who knocks out every other monster.
The First Rule of Fight Club…
Let’s toss out the first rule for a moment. It’s a little bit difficult to talk about King of New York without referring to King of Tokyo; after all, it’s as much of a “sequel game” as any no-storied board game can be and it builds off of its predecessor’s success. I’ll do my best, but it might be worth checking out the Tokyo review if you’re unfamiliar with the game, because comparisons are bound to sneak in.
King of New York is a certain kind of game, and it seems to be built on two premises (premisi?): one, that rolling a fistful of dice is fun, and two that monsters fighting a battle royale with a booming metropolis as the backdrop is also fun. Put those two ideas together and you’ve got a smashing good time.
But make no mistake about it; there are dice, and plenty of them. Your success in the long run is more due to the luck of your die rolls. It can be pretty blatant; even with 2 re-rolls, if you end up with 1 of each symbol and another player rolls 6 claws, there’s a clear advantage. However, that’s a pretty extreme case – usually results are more mixed and things tend to even out over the course of the game. But you gotta know what sort of game you’re getting into.
I’ve derided games before for relying too much on luck, leaving players feeling like their choices don’t matter and everything is meaningless, but therein lies the key difference, the fork in the path where many games go astray and King of New York does not. You do have choices, and your choices affect the state of the game drastically. You may not always end up dropping the dice exactly the way you want, but if you make good choices based on the rolls you do get, you’ll make significant headway towards victory.
Another big difference is that your die rolls don’t so much as make the difference between success and failure, but what you can and cannot do on the board. And, even moreso than King of Tokyo, there’s always something to do. These games have often been called a more thematic Yahtzee, but more often than not the individual die result matters more than the overall set.
Here’s a clear example that contrasts Tokyo and New York. Let’s say you roll your dice, and you end up with 1 of each symbol. With one exception (a certain power-up card that rewards you for a complete set), in Tokyo you get to do 3 things with that roll: damage a monster in Tokyo, heal yourself 1 point, and earn a power cube. You have 3 “dead” dice left over. In New York, at least 5 of the dice will do something, possibly all 6 if you’re the celebrity. You can damage, heal, power up, destroy a building (and get a reward for it), potentially score a Celebrity point and… well, take an Ouch. So that’s not as good, but at least something is happening. Building rewards are especially useful, as the rewards give you even more agency. Wanted a healing roll but got Destruction instead? You’ve probably got some buildings you can knock down to get just what you need. Then you can leave that borough for a more safe area.
The end result is that the game is filled with activity. You’re always doing something, whether it be blowing up other players or destroying buildings. The level of destruction is amped up drastically from Tokyo, and it’s all visible on the board. It’s no longer just a pad with an “on” and “off” button, it’s a city that falls apart as you make it fall apart, and then starts to fight back. It’s a whole lot of fun to see unravel.
The increased activity also makes the game go faster. There are more ways to score points, there are more ways to earn power cubes, and there are more ways to damage monsters. You can win without ever entering Manhattan. You can win by staying in Manhattan longer, made even more possible by the buildings you can destroy to regain health.
In short, it’s exactly what a game like this should be. It’s energetic, it’s got a lot of heart to it. You get a fistful of dice to roll, a stack of buildings to knock down, and a bunch of enemy monsters to knock over. The added complexity over King of Tokyo is minimal, and in fact having locations and buildings to destroy and everyone existing somewhere on the board makes more sense to people than the whole on the board/off the board situation. The theme carries the additional rules.
Should you replace Tokyo if you already have it? Well, I did. I find the spread of actions to be far more enjoyable than trying to roll sets of 3’s, and the additional player agency provided by Ouches and Destruction make for a more interesting, immersive experience. Although, to be fair, I was able to hand of Tokyo to my nephew, so it’s not like I’ve lost access to the original.
You can combine the two games, although the only thing you can really “add” other than the original monsters (simple window dressing, they don’t have unique powers) are the Evolution decks from the expansion. You can do it, but since those cards expect the original set of dice, you might run into some confusion.
The component quality is similar to King of Toyko, but actually a little improved. My copy of Tokyo, at least, had some misalignment with the character dials making some numbers hard to read; the ones in New York seemed to have solved this issue. The dice are large, solid, and engraved. The board is big but not too big, and all of the icons are clearly visible. Boroughs are divided up by color, but I don’t know how it looks to color-blind people; the actual colors don’t matter, as long as you can see the borders. At least the borough names are quite large.
So, do I recommend King of New York? Yes, yes I do. It’s a very enjoyable dice-rolling monster mashing extravaganze that really ups the monster game with all new levels of destruction. With new strategic routes and new ways to crush your friends and get crushed, New York really takes things up to a new level. If you play King of Tokyo a lot, it’s probably worth looking into to enhance your game. If you don’t own either, definitely look at King of New York.