Equal Opportunity Smackdown - King of New York Review

King of Tokyo............ahhhhh King of Tokyo, how we love thee! Well maybe love is a strong word, I do really enjoy the game, but "love"? Maybe not. It's really good and great fun, though when you throw in the expansions it can take a while to get through with lots of players (see my review). My biggest pet peeve with the game however is that it's possible to sit back outside of Tokyo and just win by hoarding destruction points (I prefer to call them fan loyalty points) which is a fairly boring way to play.

The "Power Up" expansion confounds this by having lots of turns where people just sit back, put their feet up and roll for evolutions. The evolutions are cool and all, but as time has moved on, it doesn't feel like the smackdown that I enjoy about monster movies in general...........and don't get me started on that recent Godzilla trash!

So now we have King of New York, essentially a revision of the original with some tweaks to the rules, but still retaining the same mechanics - roll dice in Yahtzee style, get the symbols you want, beat up the other monsters, win the game. Many would worry that this is so similar to King of Tokyo that it's not worth having both and is merely a cash-grab. Newcomers to the franchise will be confused as to which one to buy. Cult of the old or new? Let's check it out!


"You had me at the sight of a fish hurling a boat on a chain!"

Designer: Richard Garfield
Publisher: Iello
# of Players: 2-6
Ages: 10+
Play Time: 40 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 581 / 7.68
Dice Tower 2014 People’s Choice Rank: n/a
Category: Dice Rolling Fighting Game

  
I Want To Be On Broadway

Each player will take a monster and on their turn will roll 6 dice. The symbols will allow the monster to hit other monsters, heal, charge up energy, blow up buildings/units or potentially cause a retaliation from the armed forces.

The first monster to roll a claw symbol (fight) enters Manhattan and the longer they remain there, the more points and energy they will receive. From there they can damage all other monsters, but they can also be hurt by them as well and no longer heal up.

A player can also roll to blow up the various buildings that occupy each district for extra bonuses, but in doing so, the building tokens flip over and reveal armed forces from jeeps to jets and tanks. If players roll "Pain" symbols on their dice, those armed forces can attack the monsters inflicting more damage.

The game ends when one monster is left standing or when one monster reaches 20 fan points (yeah I'm sticking with that definition).


The Same King As Last Time?


If you have played King of Tokyo, you’re going to instantly feel at home here – the core mechanics of rolling the dice, picking symbols and beating on other players with comedic monsters is all there with nothing lost. Even the components feel the same – the same chunky black dice and colourful artwork.  There are some additional rules, but they don’t over-complicate the experience – you could teach this to young children or non-gamers just as easily as before. 




EXTERMINATE! ANNIHILATE! DESTROY!


Previously you didn’t actually destroy anything as a monster, it was all simply rolling numbers on the dice and getting 3 of a kind. Here now we have a much more thematic approach. The numbers have been replaced with some more interesting options.

Firstly you can roll “Destroy” symbols which allow the monsters to destroy buildings in each district, represented by tokens with varying toughness and rewards. All well and good, except that when a building is destroyed, it is flipped over to reveal one of the armed forces that now occupies the district ready to inflict some harm. The bigger the building, the more threatening the unit. Now you have a risk/reward choice – do I go on a rampage for bonuses, but run the risk of getting shot to pieces before I can get out of there?

Rolling “Pain” symbols can cause the armed forces to fight back. One hurts only you, two hurts all monsters in the same area and three hurts every monster on the board. It’s very amusing to have the humans do the dirty work for you while you laze back in Manhattan impressing the fans. But be careful when rolling that last re-roll, because it only takes one pain symbol to potentially cause you some unwanted damage, so now we have an additional push your luck choice.

And finally we have probably the less interesting of the new options, that being the “Stars”. Roll enough of these and you became the Superstar of New York – continue rolling these and you’ll earn points much like with the numbers in King of Tokyo. It’s a neat gimmick, but probably the weakest part of the game overall.


I love the buildings and units though. The theme of actually destroying a city finally gets a chance to shine and gives the game more of an epic feeling as you picture your giant monster getting riddled with bullets from passing jets and bombarded by tank shells. Just like in the movies! King of Tokyo was missing this quality.




What Godzilla Was Missing




You might have gathered I was less than impressed with the recent movie! They should have taken a leaf from this game. Because of the increased pressure from dodging the armed forces and the greater rewards for being in Manhattan, there’s a greater emphasis on combat and less on turtle tactics. 
Players are laying blows this way and that and every heal that you roll is precious.

As a result the game is more frantic, more chaotic and in some ways quicker to play than the original. Monsters can die much more easily in this game and when you’ve got the full complement , it’s just a smack-fest.  I usually stayed away from large group games of King of Tokyo especially with the expansions, here I welcome them with open claws.


Even the new power cards seem to favour more aggressive tactics, with many of them requiring you to have first destroyed a particular building or unit as a prerequisite. They may seem more expensive in terms of cost, but some buildings will give energy cubes and staying in Manhattan now rewards energy as well as points – yet again a good incentive to get in there – this game doesn’t reward cowards.  




Verdict


Like King of Tokyo, this is a highly enjoyable game for all ages. It loses none of the charm or fun that the original had, but in my opinion tweaks the game in areas I felt personally needed improvement and for me they're all for the better.

Finally there is an emphasis on smacking other monsters about and so the game is even more chaotic than the original and thus the "turtle" tactic is actively discouraged. Even the theme comes out stronger with the introduction of buildings to destroy and armed forces that fight back. There's a greater incentive to remain in Manhattan and even the power cards are a little more interesting this time round. The only minor issue I have is the odd selection of monster characters, but that's a very personal nitpick and there's nothing saying you can't simply use the ones from the old game.

I will happily play both games, but King of New York is the clear victor in the duel here. So much so that I'm currently debating whether to leave King of Tokyo in my collection even with its expansions. Upping the aggression and theme in this game, but without complicating it has elevated King of New York to a new level of monster smash fun. 


You Will Like This Game If:

  • You've played and enjoyed King of Tokyo - it's the same game with a few tweaks.
  • You like laying the smackdown - this version is a lot more aggressive than King of Tokyo
  • If you're new to the franchise and want a fun, family game for all ages. 

You Will Not Like This Game If:

  • You don't like dice games - it's a lighthearted luck game with some extra choices.
  • You already own King of Tokyo and were expecting a dramatic change.
  • You don't enjoy the possibility of being eliminated.

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