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Big In Japan – King of Tokyo and Power Up! review

KoTCOVER

Where most people associate this festive time of year with the usual combination of socks, jocks and chocolates (cheers to Tim Minchin for that one), I have a slightly curious Christmas connection: Japanese monster movies. I put this down to the British TV network Channel 4 showing a whole bunch of them one year around this time when I was a kid, and after soon I had a childhood obsession with Godzilla and his rubber-suited ilk. Giant monsters (known in Japan as Kaiju) terrorising the world are always an entertaining thing to watch and now you get become one yourself (kind of) to take on other mutant beasts or take down the city in Richard Garfield’s dicefest, King of Tokyo!

It’s a gloriously silly game where you get to win in one of two ways; either be the first to score twenty victory points or smash each of your opponents into the ground so much that they can’t get up again. In the box you get enough for six players to get involved and even with the maximum amount of people around the table you’ll be done in thirty minutes, meaning that it’s an ideal way to fill some time between bigger efforts or round off your games night… but how does it work?

Simply put, you chuck six dice and see what happens. Rolling three of the same number will score you points (either 1,2 or 3) while each additional digit gets you an extra point – in other words, rolling three 3s gets you three points and rolling 5 gets you five. Claws showing on your dice initially allow you to take control of Tokyo, but then they become even more vital as you use them to attack your opponents.

Now, here’s the only vaguely tricky thing to consider about the game, the concept of being In Tokyo or Not In Tokyo. If you’re In, all attacks effect ALL of the players who are Not In. If you’re Not In, the poor mutant who is In Tokyo takes the hits. In the case of a five/six player game, there’ll be two players maximum in Tokyo, balancing things out a little. And that’s the most convoluted thing about King of Tokyo; understand that and you’ve got the whole gist of the game.

Multiple Monster Mayhem

Multiple Monster Mayhem!

There are two other symbols on the dice as well; Hearts allow you to heal your Kaiju and Bolts bestow little green energy cubes upon you which can be spent on cards that will boost your monstrous abilities. Some are permanent (marked with a ‘Keep’ symbol) while others must be discarded to give you a one-off boost that is often very powerful. Everything from getting extra points through to bonus rerolls can be gained from your cards, so spend those glowing cubes wisely!

As the dice rolling continues, the game gets more and more raucous. King of Tokyo is not a game to take seriously, especially if you play with folks who may take offence at being attacked. With a lot of the focus on player elimination, some people may feel a little sore when they get ganged up on while they’re in Tokyo. You see, while you control the city, you can’t heal your Kaiju – any hearts that you happen to roll are useless, meaning that you have to push your luck and stay in as long as you can without getting wiped out. Once you decide to yield, you hand over Tokyo to the last monster that attacked (still taking the damage, mind you), try to patch yourself up and have your revenge.

Being dice based, there is of course a huge element of luck to the game, but that’s not to say that there’s no strategy in King of Tokyo. Deciding whether you should attack the beast in the city is as important as knowing when you should stop trying to defend it. Getting the right combination of cards can give you an edge, but should you rely on rolling as much energy as possible? This could leave you well behind the other players or allow you to construct a devastating last-place-to-first move… in Tokyo, you always have plenty of options available to you!

Small Box - Big Pandakai

Small Box – Big Pandakai

Now, having been out for a while and being that it’s a very popular game, the first expansion has recently hit the stores for you to add a little more to your battles. Power Up comes complete with a brand new monster – Pandakai – and a whole new game mechanism: Evolutions. These are different to the cards you get in the regular game in that each monster has eight powers specific to themselves that are shuffled and placed face down in front of the player before the game starts. Should you manage to roll three hearts (whether you’re In Tokyo or not) you may take the top Evolution card from your stack. When you reveal this new power is entirely down to you; some will give you a bonus from the moment you draw them, while others act more along the lines of an instant reaction.

The addition of Power Up has left me feeling a little muddled, and it’s all down to how many people I happen to be playing with. If there are three or four of us sitting around the table, it’s a welcome extra that adds another layer of strategy to the game. However, with five or six people involved things take a turn for the negative; it really begins to drag. As you get to heal as well as draw an Evolution when you roll those hearts (assuming you’re Not In Tokyo), it adds a LOT of time to the game. The basic King of Tokyo is a speedy, silly experience, but if you’re still playing the same game after an hour when a few players are still just slogging it out, slowly trudging towards a conclusion… it just doesn’t feel right.

King of Tokyo should be like the epic battles at the end of every Kaiju movie; quick, brutal and daft, and 99% of the time it’ll be exactly like that. Just be a bit wary of adding the expansion in when a lot of people want to play. By keeping it simple, the game will move along at speed and will never overstay its welcome. The old films never worried too much about overcomplicating things, so why should you?

Designed by Richard Garfield and with art by Benjamin Raynal, King of Tokyo was originally released by IELLO in 2011. The Power Up! expansion came out in 2012. The game plays in around half an hour and between two and six can get involved. If you’d like a copy, Gameslore does the base set for £23.99 and the additional set for a tenner

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The Magnificent Seven Return – 7 Wonders: Leaders review

So, 7 Wonders, yeah? Award winning game, bloody awesome, lots of fun, seven players building a wondrous society through the medium of cards in half an hour… everyone knows it. If you’re unaware of it, Antoine Bauza’s excellent game has players drafting cards in order to create great civilisations by first collecting resources then using them to pay for buildings. The different types will give you boons and points, and over the space of three rounds (representing three Ages) you’ll eventually – hopefully – create one of the Wonders of the World. The most points wins… and that’s about it.

Or at least it was until M. Bauza decided to prolong the 7 Wonders experience by coming up the first “proper” expansion for the game, not counting the promo boards representing the Mannequin Pis and Catan Island. Leaders adds a whole new element to the game – actual forward planning. Rather than just seeing what cards are handed to you and seeing how you can best utilise them, Leaders sees you given an extra four cards at the start of the game that may well influence how you play…

Some of the thirty six Leaders found in the box.

Like in the base game, these cards are drafted and you’ll play one of your chosen leaders face-up the beginning of each Age. By checking out what leaders people have selected it could well give you an insight into what kind of strategy they’re aiming for and, as such, will effect how you play as well as what cards you’ll pass round the table. It also means that your opponents will have the same knowledge, so do you focus on using your leaders and risk people screwing your plans over.

It’s a whole new level of gameplay to consider and one that lends itself to those who are more experienced in the world of 7 Wonders. With so many new ways of scoring points – including stealing them from under the noses of other players – it’s certainly not something I’d throw newbies into, or at least not until they’ve got the workings of the base game down. While it doesn’t add a huge amount of complexity to the game, it’s an extra thing to concentrate on that could put them off. Stick with folks who know what they’re doing and you’ll be grand.

ROME DEMANDS WONDERS. Actually, that’s the wrong game, isn’t it?

There are also four extra Guilds and a whole new Wonder to play with, this time representing the city of Rome. As you would expect, it’s pretty Leader heavy, but after several plays it feels pretty balanced when compared with the other Wonders available.

Production wise, it’s on the same level of quality as the original release. The artwork is lovely throughout, with the various leaders gorgeously realised by artist Miguel Coimbra. In order to pay for these extra cards, you actually get a bit more cash at the start of a game and so there’s a whole bunch of new coins (worth 6 money) included too. Unfortunately, if you have the first edition that came with the wooden coins, you may not be too pleased to know that the new 6-value ones are thick card. For those who are fussed about such stuff, places like spielmaterial.de will be delighted to supply you with plenty of discs to replace the infidel cardboard…

All told, Leaders is a great expansion for an already excellent game. Adding perhaps only ten minutes on to a game, even with seven players, is totally fine. The only downside – if it can even be called that – is that there’s a bit more maths to handle at the end (which you’d expect, of course) but hey! That’s why the excellent Boardgame Scorer App by Forrest Wang exists!

7 Wonders: Leaders was designed by Antoine Bauza with art by Miguel Coimbra and was released through Repos Production and Asmodee (amongst others) in 2011. You can pick up a copy for around £20 (though it’s currently £16.49 at Gameslore) and is well worth the investment. Now, when is Cities out…? 

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News & Stuff – July 2, 2010

The big news of the week, of course, is the announcement of this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner. The SdJ is one of the biggest prizes in gaming with nominees and winners able to expect a healthy boost in sales worldwide, despite the award only covering games released in Germany in the past 12 months. Former victors include classics such as Ticket to Ride and El GrandeDominion took the title last year. While complaints about the lack of ‘heavy’ games on this year’s shortlist were many – Fresco being the only game that could be considered so – the actual winner that the panel chose was Dixit by Jean-Louis Roubira (and art by Marie Cardouat). The premise of Dixit is that one player acts as a storyteller, choosing one of the cards in their hand and coming up with an esoteric sentence about it – other players then choose one of their own cards that they think would also fit, and the chosen cards are all shuffled together. The other players must then choose which image was selected by the storyteller – if everyone (or no-one) gets it correct, the storyteller gets nothing but the others get points. In the case of there being a split decision, points are awarded to those who were correct and the storyteller, and the role moves on to the next person. 

A very very pretty game.

 

I’ve got a copy on the way, and after a few plays I’ll let you know my thoughts on it. For now though, the forums that are exploding with bile because Dixit won should just chill out. The SdJ panel are notoriously random (Niagara, anyone?). Awards mean nothing if people don’t like the game (or even the concept behind it), and complaining won’t make them change their minds. If Dixit isn’t for you, then so be it – go play something you enjoy instead. There’s plenty of other games out there. Like Agricola

Agricola has been one of the biggest names in games since it came out in 2007, hovering around the top of their best games list and regularly getting to the tables of gamers around the world. Naturally wanting to continue his success, designer Uwe Rosenberg has been keeping the game alive with extra expansions (like card decks) but now has gone full on with the announcement this week of Agricola: The Goodies. What was originally meant to be a small print-run of 2500 copies in English (with a further 500 in Spanish) sold out within a couple of days of being announced – to stop people from being ripped off, the producers have announced that more will be printed shortly. Most of the stuff that comes in the box is already available in Germany – hence the English / Spanish only printing, but if you’re lucky enough to pick one up, you’ll be getting four new decks (including the X-deck of aliens!), double sided player boards, a bunch of stickers and… you guessed it, a huge pile of wooden animals, vegetables and resource tokens to pimp your copy. 

There are people who will sell their grandmother for this.

 

Agricola: The Goodies is out soon, and will cost $60 / £40 – a lot of money for an expansion, but people will go mad for it. Knowing how popular the unofficial Agricola animeeples and veggieples made by the guys from Board Game Extras are (and how much they cost) it actually works out quite reasonably in comparison! However, think to the future… if this is The Goodies, how long will it be until we see The Baddies..? 

I don’t think it’s actually possible for me to do a news post without mentioning Fantasy Flight Games somewhere. This week is no exception, as a bit more information about their upcoming re-issue of the classic DungeonQuest was released from FFG Towers. Yes, it’s basically a prettier version of the truly hardcore dungeon crawler that we know and love (even if it destroys us nine times out of ten), but one thing really grabbed my interest. In a fantastic bit of cross promotion, all the heroes that come with the new version of DungeonQuest will also be fully compatible with several other FFG releases; namely Runebound, Descent and Runewars. Sure, it’s pretty much just a way for the company to get people interested in their other releases, but I think it’s a rather interesting idea. Will this see a rise in cross-compatible releases from other companies in future? A Small World map for Ticket To Ride from Days of Wonder, for example? Only time will tell. 

Yes, I'll invariably end up getting it, even if my last copy was cursed.

 

And that’s it for this week. In case you missed it, Episode 5 of the podcast is available through iTunes right now. If that’s not to your liking, you can always grab it directly from the site by right clicking and saving on this link here. Comments and questions to littlemetaldog@gmail.com as always, please! Have a great weekend.

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