King of Tokyo's basic mechanic is rolling 6 dice, with 2 rerolls. This concept is at least as old as Yahtzee, and probably older than that. But King of Tokyo makes it fun by attaching the rolling and re-rolling to the exploits of large mutated monsters.
With the proper results, you can gain victory points (stars!), heal yourself, gain energy (currency) or attack your fellow players.
I've managed to play this bash-a-thon a few times and can finally share some insights.
Attacks cannot be directed, and I think this is part of the game's way to keep those health levels under control. When a monster inside Tokyo attacks, the damage is done to all other monsters. When any monster NOT in Tokyo attacks, the damage is always done to the critter currently ruling the city.
Damage is always being dealt, and is almost impossible to avoid.
So unless you are trying to heal above all other considerations, your health will slowly be ticking down even if you aren't occupying Tokyo.
I almost never heal. Hearts get re-rolled to try for attacks, or energy to advance my position. Only when you look down and realize you have 4 health left do those hearts start to look better.
As the name of the game suggest, you will win if you can stay in Tokyo long enough. But the straightest path to victory does not always lead into the city!
My current problem is my desire to stay in Tokyo when the evidence is clearly against it.
Winning with victory points seems the obvious choice at the beginning of the game. But since health is always slowly trickling down the end game often switches to who can kill all the other monsters first.
If you have 12 victory points (winning requires 20) and your opponent is down to 4 health, the logical choice would be to abandon Tokyo the minute the opportunity presents itself. Your opponent will not be able to heal, and you can swing your claws with impunity. Maybe heal up a little.
But after fighting over Tokyo all game long, you get a little sentimental. You've gotten used to fighting over Tokyo. You want to be the King of Tokyo. But you probably aren't going to be.
The last game I played it was OBVIOUS to everyone around the table, including me, that I should abandon Tokyo to the other last standing player. But I did not. And continued to roll my dice. And failed to attack with enough power. And was subsequently destoyed by the much more calculating opponent.
So my final words of wisdom are this…know when it is time to leave Tokyo.
But then we have the expansion to talk about.
It's been mentioned in many places this expansion is almost mandatory.
But I have almost no interest.
I haven't played with Power Up! and maybe that would change my mind. I'm just making assumptions right now. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions. We make an ass out of the umps or something. And its bad!
But look at my evidence:
1) Magic: The Gathering (Revised Core Set)
Take a look through the collectible cards present in Revised Edition. This is the "revised" core set, after the infamous Black Lotus and its Moxen brethren were removed from the printing schedule forever.
The cards are still horribly unbalanced. I had no idea what I was doing back in high school, but at least I understood you could get more value out of a Black Vise instead of an Armageddon Clock.
2) King of Tokyo Power Cards
Included within King of Tokyo are some power cards you can "buy" using the energy you collect during dice rolling. Very similar to Roll Through the Ages' "goods" mechanic, except KoT's energy does not also spread disease.
These cards are just as bad. There are some really good cards. There are some really bad cards. And the energy costs don't really match up. Which is fine, this just means you have to understand how to value the cards. Grab the ones you want, or flush (which the game lets you do) the row and draw some better cards.
Now, lets examine Power Up!
The expansion gives each monster their own static "level up" powers similar to the mutation cards. Each particular monster has a list of abilities attached to them that you can power up by rolling 3 hearts during your turn. But looking at the previous two factors, I have no confidence these powers are at all balanced.
Right now you can pick your monster based on appearances. Functionally, they are all identical.
I don't think I want to play a version of this game where one monster might be slightly better (or worse, MUCH better) than the others. This can only lead to arguing (especially among children) about who gets what and I don't need that.
There shouldn't be a "optimal" monster someone can prove mathematically is better than the others.
Instead we just grab out monsters and start rolling, and I like that.