Published on December 18th, 2014 | by Rufus Hound0
King Of New York – Review
Average time per game: 40 minutes
Suitable for ages: 10+
Number of players: 2-6
This sentence that you are reading right now – yes, this exact one – is the survivor of many, many fallen brothers. There have been about nineteen others that I have written to begin this review, but each, once reread, needed to die. The problem? That I’m trying to review King of New York without reviewing King of Tokyo – its predecessor and the reason that’s so hard to do, is that I LOVE King of Tokyo. As a man who, for the last three years, has evangelised boardgames’ divine power, King of Tokyo has been the box I’ve opened most.
For the uninitiated: In King of Tokyo, you play a massive monster intent on the destruction of – yep, you guessed it – Tokyo. Giant Apes, Massive Nuclear Lizards, Cybernetically enhanced Rabbits – bizarre, B-movie leviathans coronated by either a) being the last monster alive or b) being first to 20 points. It’s comic book beautiful, they’ve nailed the theming, and – not to be underrated – can be taught to most semi-intelligent people in about ten minutes. A game packed with nail-biting moments, killing sprees, monstrous new abilities and screaming, table banging, air-punching fun. Like I said, I love it.
So, news that Richard Garfield was producing a new version set in New York genuinely excited me. Trust me, I’m as surprised as you that a 35 year old man can be juiced about the release of a boardgame, but I really have been. And now it’s here. Squee!
So, let’s start with what’s the same. You still play as one of six massive monsters. Rob (B9’s big brother), Drakonis (Power Rangers baddy), Mantis (Zorak on steroids), Sherrif (T-Rex in a cowboy hat. Obviously.) Captain Fish (A fish in a bowl, on a gigantic body. Obviously.) or Kong (Massive Gorilla styled by Daft Punk). Having decided which monster you want to be, you take the cardboard figure and the corresponding ‘Monster board’, which helps you keep track of your points and health, thus doing away with anything as old fashioned as ‘a bit of paper and a pencil’.
So far, so familiar, but the moment the board is laid out, it’s clear we’re not in Tokyo anymore, Dorothy. Where King of Tokyo’s board could accurately be described as ‘two dotted circles on a small square of card’, King of New York’s play area is four times the size, and divvied up into various boroughs.
Each borough has buildings in it, which, during your turn, you can choose to destroy in return for points, health or ‘energy cubes’ (basically the currency in the game – or should that be ‘currents-y’?! Energy cubes?! Current? As in electrical energ… no? Fine.) Now, this is an exciting twist on the old game. In King of Tokyo, though the trail of desolation left in your wake was heavily implied, you never got to do any actual destroying and, let’s be honest, what’s the point in being a massive, weaponised killgiant if you can’t beat the shit out of things, right? So, a welcome addition that’s definitely in keeping with the spirit of the game.
Then there’s the cards. Three of these are face up and available to players with enough ‘energy cubes’ (just think of them as money. Get money, buy power ups). The cards are one of my favourite parts of the game. Some serious thought has gone into what should be on these cards – not just the advantages they give the players (which can have a massive effect on the tactics you’ll use to win) but how those abilities would manifest themselves for the bizarre creatures in the game. Again, real attention to detail and a brilliant demonstration of how much thought has been put into every aspect of this game. There’s also two new cards that are permanently in play for King of New York – ‘Superstar’ and ‘Statue of Liberty’. These are available to everyone, and move around, player to player, depending on how the dice land.
Yes. Dice. For all the cards, counters and cardboard cut-outs, King of New York is a dice game. When it’s your turn, you get three goes at rolling the dice. If you’ve ever played Yahtzee, you’ll get this immediately. Basically, you roll the dice, keep the results you want and re-roll the ones that you don’t, but whatever you’re left with at the end of that third roll – that’s your result this turn.
So, the dice:
Claws – For Fighting
Lightning bolt – you get energy cubes (money!)
Heart – healing
However, new to King of New York are:
Star – ‘Celebrity’ – roll three of these and get the ‘Superstar’ card. If you have the ‘Superstar card, every time you roll a star from now on, you get a victory point.
Destruction – For destroying buildings
Monster Skull thing – ‘Ouch!’ – unleashes the army on you/the borough/everyone in the game.
So, how does it play? The answer is… really hard to give. I’m sorry. I know you want answers and a review that doesn’t give them to you is, well, a bit crap. The reason I spent so long writing that first sentence is that everything I feel about King of New York is in relation to King of Tokyo. It’d be like trying to recommend Back to the Future II or Temple of Doom, without referencing what went before. Does this game stand on it’s own two/four/six feet*? Yes. Undoubtedly. Is it really good fun and worth your money? Sure thing.
But is it better than King of Tokyo?
I’m not so sure. The brilliant thing about the original is that it had hidden depth. The more you played it, the more nuance revealed itself. It feels that, through trying to offer fans a richer experience, Garfield and Co have instead created a game that just feels more complicated. With KoT there were a few variables that players had to bear in mind, but thanks to the addition of boroughs, a ‘move’ phase in each players turn, fame, ouchs and some devilishly clever power-up cards, more time is spent making sure you’re playing it right, than just enjoying playing. Which probably boils down to me really knowing the original, and being less familiar with this one, like when Twitter tweaks it’s UI and everyone loses their shit and demands it’s changed back, until two weeks later, when they’re used to it and can’t imagine how they ever got by with the old one.
However, the reality of being a boardgamer is that you’ll probably spend a lot of time trying to convince different people to play them with you (or maybe you’re a lot more likeable than me, in which case you won’t). Being able to take a box off the shelf and quickly explain it to a handful of total newbies, without the whole experience becoming stupefyingly soul crushing is a massive, massive bonus. I could really do that with King of Tokyo – I’m not sure it’d be so easy with King of New York.
So, what I really think is this: Buy King of Tokyo. They’ve just reprinted it, so there should be some in stock (there has been a massive shortage for the last year – I only know this because of the number of people who have played it at my house, loved it then been unable to buy themselves a copy). Play it, love it. If you want to make it more complicated, buy the (really excellent) expansion packs. Get a regular game together and then, when you’ve got half a dozen mates who totally get how to play it, buy King of New York, and revel in all the extras. Either way, get a ‘King of…’ game in your life. Super fun, funny the sort of thing that even people who hate boardgames will get a kick out of. Now get out of my way while I kill this Cowboy Dinosaur with my stink attack.
*depending on which monster you’re playing