How to Win King of Tokyo Strategy and Tactics

emily mini profile pic By Emily

King of Tokyo brings out the competitive side of everyone I play with but what is the best King of Tokyo strategy? Some strategies lead to winning far more often than others.

gigasaur king of tokyo
Gigazaur from King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is a published by IELLO and designed by Richard Garfield, the man behind Magic: The Gathering.


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The game is heavily dependent on how the dice rolls go. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any strategies you can use to boost your odds of winning.

How to win King of Tokyo? There are three main strategy options. Be aggressive, go for victory points or upgrade your monster with cards. The key to winning using any strategy is to choose which one you’re going to follow and stick to it.

In this article, I cover each strategy option, look quickly at the probability of rolling the dice you want, and extra tactics to help you win. I don’t cover the rules here as I assume you know them!

There are three main strategies to win King of Tokyo.

  1. Hit everyone
  2. Go for victory points
  3. Upgrade with cards

Whichever strategy you choose, just make sure you stick with it! A mixed strategy can work because the game is very luck dependent, but it’s better to have a strategy, stick to it and make the dice do what you want.

Strategy 1 – Hit everyone

Play according to what the game theme suggests – hit the other monsters to be the monster in charge of Tokyo!

This works best with a group of 2,3 or 5 players because the ratio of people hitting from within Tokyo to people hitting Tokyo is more favourable. In a 4 player game, it is particularly difficult. In a 6 player game, it is only effective if the other player in Tokyo is also playing aggressively.

Number of players in king of tokyo and hit ratios
Number of players in King of Tokyo and hit ratios

With 4 or 6 players there are too many monsters outside of Tokyo to deal damage to you. So it becomes more difficult to stay in Tokyo for a whole turn to collect the victory points and have the chance to dish out the hits you want to.

It can still be effective with groups of 4 players if you play with a group who are only interested in collecting victory points instead of hitting other monsters. Then you stand more of a chance of staying in Tokyo for a full turn without taking too much damage.

Remember that the ratio changes during the game as players are eliminated. So you could go for an aggressive strategy and enter Tokyo when the odds are more favourable.

How to play it

With a group of 2,3 or 5 get into Tokyo as soon as you can. Some people will avoid Tokyo early on in the game while they are rolling for victory points and energy. This is a good time to jump in! You have full health and can usually make it through a full round and get some easy victory points because everyone else doesn’t want to go in this early in the game.

While you’re in the city only keep rolls which land on claws. Because each hit hurts every other player each claw you roll is effectively multiplied by the number of players in the game. That’s good value per claw!

Deal as much damage to everyone as you can because you want them to be focussed on healing on their turns, not collecting victory points or hitting you. Then you can stay in Tokyo for longer and collect more victory points without needing to step out to heal.

Throw as much damage as much as you can and try to wipe some other players out early on. Then there will be fewer characters hitting you in Tokyo you can stay in there for longer. Plus, there are fewer turns per round so you get your 2 victory points for being in Tokyo much faster.

Some cards have bonuses which allow you to heal.

Cards can be used to heal you when you are in Tokyo. It’s only the heart dice rolls which can’t.

Buy either cards which give you health or the cards which cause you to deal more damage.

Assess the game situation after a few players have been eliminated. If there are only a couple of opponents remaining and they are on low health, then keep rolling claws. If they have quite good health, focus on rolling for victory points and leave Tokyo when you’re next hit.

Why it is effective

The maths are in your favour. If you are hitting from within Tokyo, every claw you roll means that everyone else has to roll the same amount of claws to heal themselves. This hinders the other players from rolling dice for victory points, energy or claws because they have fewer dice available.

What to watch out for

When you start dealing massive amounts of damage to your opponents they will get annoyed. Then they will turn on you. They will all hit on their turns until you yield.

In my group, as soon as the person in Tokyo’s health gets to 5 or below they will take a chance on rolling 5 claws to wipe the player out. They’ll use any extra re-roll or damage cards they have to make that happen.

Strategy 2 – Go for victory points

Sit back, relax and focus every dice roll on rolling as many three-of-a-kind numbers as you can. Also known as ‘turtling’, this strategy can lead to a very boring game if everyone uses it, but it is an effective way to win.

It works especially well when there are 4 or 6 players in the game and entering Tokyo is a risky strategy.

How to play it

Every turn just focus your dice rolls on getting as many three-of-a-kind numbers as you can.

Work with the numbers that you roll. Keep any numbers that you get two of and try to roll more of those. So if you roll two 1s in your first roll then try to roll more 1s instead of being greedy and going after three 3s. The probability of successfully rolling two dice on the faces that you want in a reroll is tough and gets tougher the fewer dice you are re-rolling.

Don’t keep any energy rolls on your first few turns, just keep rolling for more numbers. After you have some points, then you can keep the occasional energy and buy cards which boost your number of victory points.

Keep an eye on your health. If the game is close to the end you may be tempted to leave out healing to chance it on collecting the last few victory points needed to win. This could be a valid strategy but see how your first roll goes.

If you roll a couple of numbers then it could be worth going for it. But take a look at the probability table below and try to remember your chances.

If you roll a claw and have to go into Tokyo, try and make it through one full round to get the two victory points for staying in. Get out before you take too much damage, though. You don’t want to waste too many dice rolls trying to get hearts when you get out. It reduces the number of dice you have available to roll for numbers.

Why it is effective

  • Unless you are hit by the person in Tokyo, you don’t need to spend dice rolls on anything but numbers
  • If you get hurt you can just roll hearts for one turn and carry on rolling for numbers
  • When everyone has is on low health, they usually focus on healing and not damage dealing

What to watch out for

When the other players discover that you are the furthest ahead, they will come for you. They will target you with their cards to reduce the number of stars you have, and hit you to eliminate you from the game.

To keep the other players away, don’t draw attention to your high number of victory points.

Try these tactics to keep the attention off you.

  • Draw attention to the other players around the table and what they are doing.
  • Keep quiet.
  • Talk about something other than the game on your turn to give the impression that you’re not taking it too seriously.

Strategy 3 – Upgrade with cards

Some players in King of Tokyo completely ignore the cards and focus only on dealing damage and victory points. But going after cards can be a valid early game strategy and one that’s often overlooked. You’ll need to switch to either an aggressive or victory points strategy later to win King of Tokyo.

The effectiveness of the card strategy highly depends on which cards are available at the beginning of the game.

How to play it

At the beginning of the game assess the cards available. Are there any that will help you go for the victory points or damage strategies? If there are, roll for as many energy as you can on your first turn. Only keep those.

Only buy cards which support your overall game strategy of either collecting victory points or dealing damage. Don’t split your cards between the two and dilute your strategy.

Ideally, buy cards which support your strategy and are KEEP cards. They make your character gets stronger permanently as they do not disappear after one use.

The only other cards you can buy are energy creating cards because these will allow you to buy more cards and give you more options. These tend to be more valuable in games with more players because the game lasts longer. So you will have more turns where you build up your cards before switching your focus to hits or victory points.

Keep collecting cards until you have enough to deal heavy damage or acquire lots of victory points by using them smartly. Then change your strategy to aggressive or victory points and go all in.

If you went for the hit strategy and are super boosted with cards, then head into Tokyo and smash everyone with your awesome damage. You’ll likely deal a lot more damage than normal so may only need to stay in there for 2 turns to wipe everyone.

Why it works

Your character gets permanently stronger with every KEEP card that you buy.

The cards allow you to bring some more control and strategy to the game, while everyone else is at the mercy of the dice rolls. You have certainty and strategy to your game rather than just luck.

What to watch out for

Waiting too long to switch your strategy to damage dealing or victory points. If you leave it too late, no matter how good your cards, are you’ll struggle to catch up with everyone else.

The cards available are not cards that you want to buy. You may need to just pay 2 energy points to sweep all the cards and draw 3 new ones. Only do this if you think the game will last long enough for you to buy the cards before switching your strategy to damage dealing or victory points.

Players paying two energy cubes to sweep the cards when there are some cards that you want. This is frustrating and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Dice probability

king of tokyo dice
Me ready to roll King of Tokyo dice

How the dice land will greatly affect your chances to win King of Tokyo.

You’ll often find yourself in a situation where you need at least so many hits to eliminate a monster on a certain number of hit points. Or you’ll find yourself trying to roll for those last few victory points.

Here is the probability of rolling a certain number of the same dice on the face that you want. Not the probability of rolling just any face at 3 of a kind.

You can see that it isn’t too hard to roll for 2 of the same type that you want, 3 at a push, but trying for 4, 5, and 6 is very tough.

Number of dice rolled
Data from Boardgame.business

Tactics

Sweep up

Keep an eye on the cards and sweep all the cards or buy some if they will very clearly give one of the other players an advantage.

Sweeping only costs 2 energy. So if you know that someone is going to buy the amazing 7 energy KEEP card, you don’t need to buy it to block them from getting it. Just sweep the cards.

Do the opposite

It doesn’t pay off to do what everyone else is doing.

If they are all acting aggressively and you act aggressively and enter Toyko, they will come for you. You will take a lot of damage, need to leave Tokyo before a full turn is complete and won’t get the victory points for starting your turn there. Then you’ll need to then use all your dice rolls to heal so that the person who has just entered Tokyo doesn’t eliminate you on their first roll.

If everyone is being aggressive, sit back, roll for victory points and let them get on with it.

Likewise, if everyone is being passive and quietly rolling to gain victory points then you are missing out on an opportunity. Enter Tokyo, hit everyone and force them to roll to heal, while you enjoy the easy victory points from staying in Tokyo and not getting hit by your passive opponents.

Do not let the dice lead

Do not follow whatever the dice give you on your first roll. Instead, reroll everything if you need to, and make the dice give you the results that you want.

That includes re-rolling a set of numbers when you need health. It is tempting to keep them, but what use are the victory points if you’re eliminated on your next turn?

Avoid claws on low health

So you’re on really low health, and you desperately need to roll hearts. The last thing you need right now is to end up in Tokyo.

What most people do is roll the dice, keep the hearts then re-roll anything that isn’t a heart. But what they forget is that they also need to avoid rolling claws! So instead, re-roll only the claws.

Otherwise, any of the re-rolled non-hearts might end up being claws.

Draw people on low health into Tokyo

If you’re in Tokyo and a person outside is on low health and they roll a claw, yield and force them to go in. Everyone else will go for them and eliminate them from the game!

Hail, the new King of Tokyo!

Raaaarrrr!

Hopefully, the next time you play you’ll feel more in control and get the advantage you need to win King of Tokyo.

If you want to improve your win rate in other games then take a look at my article, 39 Ways to Be Better at Tabletop Board Games and Win!

See what other people are saying about King of Tokyo in the Amazon reviews.

Have fun!

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Emily
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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