King of Tokyo is a Yahtzee-like game inspired by Japanese kaiju movies. It was invented in 2011 by Richard Garfield, a game designer best known for creating Magic: The Gathering. In it, players choose a monster to control as they beat the tar out of each other (and the city) as only kaiju can.

The first edition comes with five monsters: Cyber Bunny, Mecha Dragon, Kraken, The King, and Giga Zaur. In the base version there's no gameplay difference between the monsters (the Power Up! expansion adds unique abilities to each). Like yahtzee, players take turns rolling six dice. You can reroll up to three times while saving the dice you want to keep. Players win when they're the last monster standing or reach 20 points and lose when they run out of health.

Different symbols on the dice have different effects. Numbers give points, hearts heal, claws deal damage to enemies, and lightning bolts give energy to buy Evolution cards, upgrading the abilities of your monster. All of the upgrades are an affectionate homage to kaiju movies. One of my favorites evolutions is Urbavore, which features a surprisingly cute caterpillar devoring a building. Others include Freeze Ray, Even Bigger, and We're Only Making It Stronger!. All are illustrated in a cartoony style that embodies it with a sense of humor.

There are two versions, the original from 2011 and a second edition from 2016. Both have identical gameplay, the only differences being the set of monsters you can play as and some minor art changes. There are also several expansions and a spin-off game with more complex mechanics, King of New York.

Being able to keep dice between rolls and customise your monster through upgrades gives a nice balance between luck and strategy. That said, its simplicity can make it get old eventually, which is why I personally prefer the sequal/spin-off, King of New York. And though it might seem like an odd detail, I've found that the minimal number of pieces make it very welcoming to new players who would otherwise be intimidated. I highly recommend it, especially for families and non-gamers. Four SKREEONK! out of five.

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