A case for King of New York
First, a little bit of backstory to how I ended up with King of New York in my collection. In 2016, King of Tokyo was riding high at my household. The base game was getting lots of play and we were looking to enhance the experience. I told my wife to pick up the newly released 2nd edition of King of Tokyo Power Up. As I was headed out the door to work, she asked “This one?” and showed me a game box on her phone. “Yep, that's it.” A few days later, a box arrived and I opened it to find....King of New York Power Up. Oops. “Guess we have to buy King of New York now!” The look on my wife's face was not one of amusement.
When King of New York arrived a few weeks later (again, to the distinct lack of amusement from my wife), we broke it out and played a few times. I mean, come on, it has a praying mantis with a chainsaw and a robotic dragon carrying a colossal gun. How could I resist that? However, it wasn't near the hit that King of Tokyo was. The general consensus was that the additional depth it offered did not pay off in added “fun factor.” It was gently relegated to “the game you get out and pillage kaiju from to destroy Tokyo.”
Fast forward to a few months ago: I was having a “I'm not sure what I want to play” night. So, we all decided to unleash King of New York and give it another go. And this time, the experience was different. Over the last few years, we've become intimately familiar with King of Tokyo. We know all the characters. We know all the individual evolution/power-up cards for those characters. We know if I pick Meka Dragon it is going to be a freaking blood bath. We also know that we still have no idea of the proper way to spell Meca Dragon. But with this round of King of New York, we felt rejuvenated and reveled in the way it played differently from King of Tokyo.
First of all, the Evolution/Power Up cards for King of New York are (mostly) different than those used in King of Tokyo. All of the subtle rule changes that were added with the first two expansion characters (Cthulhu and King Kong) are also a bit varied. However, the biggest change is that there are now buildings to smash, army units that can attack, and the monsters can lumber around the different boroughs of New York instead of politely queuing up in Tokyo Harbor. To enable some of these changes, the 1,2,3 on the King of Tokyo dice have been replaced with Star, Ouch (skull), and Destruction faces.
The Destruction and Skull faces use tiles that are stacked in each borough of New York (three stacks in each area). They start out on the Building (Blue) side. By rolling the Destruction face on the dice, you can destroy a building and reap the reward. For instance, an apartment building may have a single hit point and reward you with a single Victory Point for leveling it. A power plant may have two hit points and reward you with two Energy that you spend to buy cards. Once a building is destroyed, it is flipped over to the Unit (Red) side. This is thematically perfect: the more havoc you wreak, the bigger the military response. Now, instead of simply buildings to smash, you have a jet or a tank looking for revenge. Sure, you can annihilate them as well but this is where the Skull (Ouch) dice face comes into play. Normally, you want to avoid the Skull face. Rolling a single Skull allows the military in your area of New York to fire upon your monster (Three units revealed? Now you take three points of damage). Roll two Skulls and they fire upon EVERY monster currently located in your area. Roll the coveted three skulls and the entirety of the military in every, single area fire upon all monsters. Forget about that sigh of relief when you realize you are safe from damage for the rest of a round. That almost never happens in King of New York.
The replacement of the “point” die faces would lead you to believe that winning via the 20 victory point condition would be distinctly harder. Instead, it allows for accumulating Stars/victory points from smashing buildings and fighting over the spotlight/victory points via the Superstar card. Roll three “Stars” and you take the single Superstar card. This means you are the ONLY monster who can get Victory Points from rolling Stars...unless someone rolls three Stars of their own and snatches the card back. It's a constant back and forth, punctuated with muttered declarations questioning the legitimacy of the other monster's heritage.
Since you can now earn Stars AND Energy every time you “Move it on up, to the east side” of Manhattan, getting a monster out of center stage becomes paramount. This becomes even more immediate if you let a monster smash some buildings and grab some health to extend his residency. Keeping your head down and cowering in the 'burbs can quickly lead to a victory point savvy player dominating Manhattan and winning in a astounding short number of rounds.
King of New York is a true horse of a different color when compared to King of Tokyo. Yes, it is built on the foundations of the “horse” of King of Tokyo and it is essentially still the same equestrian (Alert!: Out of control metaphor!) . But it includes twists like the negative impact of the “Ouch” dice faces that can suddenly become a positive if you manage to roll three of them and let the Army unleash on every monster in every area, damaging everyone AND gaining you a temporary 3 victory point boost. KONY also has a more “complex” card selection for you to purchase with your acquired energy. The quotes around complex are intentional, as they can require a bit of reading instead of a quick glance to ascertain their usage. Some cards can only be bought if you took a specific action that turn or may be discounted if you are in a particular part of New York. The old adage “Location, Location, Location.” comes into play as well. Now, the “Movement” phase isn't a simple “Am I in Tokyo/Manhattan or not?” question. You can stir up a hornet's nest of military in The Bronx, when you are sharing it with another monster, then slink away to Brooklyn, have a nice cold pint and wait for it to blow over.
Finally, we come to The Big Question: Why (WHY?!) are there no New York Power Up cards for the King of Tokyo monsters? Not having them for the 1st edition version, I can almost understand. But after the updated characters and artwork of KOT 2nd edition, why in the world have there been no King of New York Power Up cards? I NEED those Evolution/Power Up cards. I have promo characters that regularly sit on the sidelines because no one wants to play them without the uniqueness that the Evolution cards add to the game. For the love of Godzilla, release a damn “Visas for Japanese Tourists” expansion and put the Evolution cards out already!
And there you have my case for King of New York. I dismissed it for years as the deeper but less fun version of King of Tokyo. A couple dozen recent plays have forced me to reconsider and it is in heavy rotation at my household. Now it truly is a toss up as to who reigns as the better “King” of the table top. Color me a convert to the Cult of the New...York. (Assuming I can eventually bring my Mecha Dragon).