Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Perfect Job And Income Inequality

Imagine this job, and tell me it's not perfect:

* You join one of two unions, who will pay for your application fees.
* You spend several months in the interview process, and you get to beat up on the other union members.
* You can say anything you want, true or untrue, and you have a 50/50 shot of getting the job.
* The job is almost always guaranteed for 4-6 years.
* You're hired based on what you said during the interview process, but your employers have no real avenue to fire you if you didn't do what you said.
* The expectation is that whatever you do, either way, you'll fail.
* Even if only 9% of the decision makers that employ you like what you're doing, you'll still keep your job.
* You have a review every 4-6 years, and while the interview process is generally arduous, you have better than an 80 percent chance you'll keep your job.
* On the job, companies (clients) will pay your interview fees, and do much of your work for you, provided you simply agree with their point of view.
* Some companies will offer you a job to fall back on if your current job doesn't work out.
* You can vote with other union members to NOT increase your salary annually, but if you don't, it will automatically raise.
* Almost all of your expenses are paid.
* You're offered a full staff to handle your day to day work.
* You're given a private bodyguard.
* You're paid in excess of $150,000 a year.
* 47% of your co-workers are millionaires.
* The job affords you the right to break certain laws, such as insider trading, or sexually harassing one of your staff.
* Your job's only requirement that you only show up at specified times, and during those times you are required only to vote. You are allowed to abstain from the vote, but you need to be there.
* If you don't like the rules in the employee handbook, you can rewrite them and vote on them as you see fit.

Yes, I'm describing the US Congress.

While Wall Street may turn a blind eye to the protesters who are clearly piss mad about income inequality, I'd expect that Congress would not. After all, Obama himself stated that "We should spread the wealth." But do we really expect that Congress will act? I mean, why would Congress not see what's going on in the streets, or at least examine whether there is an income gap, and how to stop it?

Well, for starters, look at who enriches Congresspersons' "re-election campaigns" the most. Well, wouldn't you know it....the Financial industry as a whole is the #1 campaign donor, with a whopping $122,000,000+ going into the political machine.  Let's do some math...there's 535 members,  plus the President. So, $122,000,000 divided up by 536 people...let's see here...that's $227,611 for each and every elected official.  And that's just in 2008. And that's JUST from the Financial industry.

But wait, there's more!  Besides all that Federal "donations" (read: bribes) there's also lobbyists. People that go wine and dine people, offer things in return for votes or sponsorship of bills.  Best part? Many of the guys who got fired from their "perfect jobs" get to come back and talk with their old friends who kept their jobs. "Remind" them of the fact that when they were sitting in the front row that they made "compromises", and use those "reminders" to help steer the "still employed" Congresspersons of their "responsibilities". Guess how much gets spent on Lobbying. Guess! How about $3.51 BILLION ($3,510,000,000.00) dollars in 2010. I mean,  if you go back to the 536 guys....that's $6,436,567 per person! Six and a half million dollars was spent to help "persuade" Congress. But it's not bribery, right? No, these are men and women of honor. Their character is above repudiation; above the stain of bribery, right?

The argument I hear from Congressional apologists is that while the lobbying industry is there, they don't really change votes. There's no graft. But, the question is this: if it wasn't effective, why would industry and special interest groups spend three and a half BILLION dollars in a year? Who would spend that kind of loot on "persuasion", persistently over the span of decades, if it wasn't effective? Only Congress spends money forever on wastes of time like that, right? Yeah, lobbying is effective or it would've been replaced by a different system long ago.

But, let's take a step back. Get back to the "perfect job" and ask why these Occupy Wherever people aren't getting noticed in Washington. Let's note that it's not remotely conjecture to say that there is income inequality in the United States. It's proven. It's verified a trillion times over.  The wealthiest top 1% of Americans control 40% of the money. I can live with that. I'm sure that it's been earned. But, moving forward, don't you think that "Trickle Down Economics" has proven to be an abject failure? Time and time again we've proven that giving federal dollars to the richest people doesn't spur economic activity. We're in a terrible recession, for the second time in ten years or so, due to the failed policies of spending money we don't have, giving it to the people who need it the least.

So, let's get to the 1% theory. Does it hold water? Seems to be.

But do the Occupiers, as many occupying forces before them, really believe they can change hearts and minds?  You bet your ass they do, and it's the idealism of youth that fuels that incredible belief. The problem is that they forget psychology. Most people, when faced with a decision, will choose to do whatever they perceive benefits them the most at the time. And while they're getting "donations" from bankers, the banks will never be held responsible for the carnage they've wrought upon the world economies.

As every occupying force should know, there's only two ways to break the will of an occupied people: win their hearts and minds (Bush Doctrine), or cause them so much pain they give up (Chuck Liddell Doctrine). Unfortunately for the Occupiers, they have no power to win the hearts and minds of Congresspersons (read: racketeers) making millions in the protection business, and they sure as hell can't cause them more pain than the local constabulary can cause them; they have no super-humanly strong overhand right coming from a crazy angle.

On the flip side, most people think Occupiers are nothing more than a bunch of homeless, lazy, dope fiend, radical hippies. Therefore, no heart-string pullers in hand and no mind control devices.  No leverage, no power. Not a snowball's chance in the coolest part of hell of getting anything more than an occasional bone, stripped clean of the marrow, to appease the great unwashed masses. When Congress has a 9% approval rate in the middle of a huge, calamatous recession and yet virtually all of the electable incumbents are re-elected, it's clear that it isn't working.

In other words, go home. It was a nice try, and I commend you fine folks for exercising your First amendment rights. But until the system changes, nothing will change for us 99%. It's not in their interest to change. When it comes right down to it, they ARE the 1%. In fact, they're above the 1% because they have the power to take from the 1%, and everyone knows that if you have something that can be taken, you never really had it in the first place. And Congress has the power to make anyone an offer they can't refuse.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Panic Station - I Never Knew Passing Gas To Thwart Alien, Parasitic Buttworms Could Be So Awesome

You enter the computer room and run a station-wide heat scan, only to find that two of your former team members are not what they seem. Their heat signature indicates that they have have been infected by an alien creature, and the infection has spread through the station at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, you have no idea who is infected. Every room you enter with one of your fellow team members runs the risk that they will attempt to infect you, and the only defense you have is either to attack them to keep them back, or to pass gas. Yes, this infection is most certainly rectal. This is the core principle that I learned while playing Panic Station: Beware the insidious buttworms.

Panic Station is a new game from my favorite artist-turned-designer, David Ausloos, who previously reskinned "Survive! Escape From Atlantis" for Stronghold Games. It's a four to six player romp through a remote mining station that quite skillfully recreates the events depicted in the 1982 horror classic, "The Thing", which is not only one of my all time favorite horror/suspense flicks, but has been called "the scariest movie ever made" by many. It has all the elements that one could hope for in a suspense game; thrills, tension, fast turns, tough decisions, and the single most important hallmark of any game, it is absolutely a blast.

Upon hearing about the Essen release of Panic Station, I was optimistic, as I always am, but I was also quite skeptical since this is Mssr. Ausloos' first published design. Turns out that I had nothing to worry about.  I've played this game six times now, and after pre-ordering it from Stronghold, then giving it away to a friend, and then re-preordering it from Coolstuff, I have to say that this game has absolute Game of the Year potential. There are some problems with the design, especially if you're the kind of asshat that needs to be spoon fed every possible scenario in the rulebook or a 30 page FAQ, but to the groups I've played with, it's one that has been perpetually requested and has been universally enjoyed.

The concept of Panic Station is fairly simple: up to six teams of two characters enter a complex that has been taken over by an alien parasitic life form, that has the unique attribute of looking like a big freaky worm, and the object is to torch the hell out of its hive, thus clearing the base. The challenge is that each two-character team consists of a human, who is inexplicably trained to use flamethrowers but not firearms, and an android who is programmed only to use firearms and not flamethrowers. You explore the station by expending action points, whose number is determined by the health condition of your team, to do such things as move, shoot, and expand the footprint of the base by adding room cards to the table. The trick is that every time you enter a room occupied by anyone else, you must trade a card from your inventory with them, or shoot them.

It all sounds pretty simple, but there's a catch: there's hardly any ammunition in the base to shoot people with and when you trade cards with someone, if they pass you an infection card, you're immediately infected and change allegiance. What's worse, the only way to stop from being infected is to pass them a card depicting a gasoline can. Did I mention that you're not always going to have a gas can, and to win, you have to have three gas cans in hand when you reach the hive? The game is just plain nasty, challenging, and instills absolute paranoia in everyone playing, especially if you play with some imaginative friends. I've even been known to paraphrase a dear friend, Simon Müller, by stating in-game, "Who invades my ass at this early hour!?" Fear the nefarious buttworm infectors.

Let's talk about the bits for a second. The first thing that you'll notice is that the game comes in an embossed metal tin, which sounds awesome if you're looking for a new dope stash box, but in reality, the box is non-standard size and thus you will have some heartburn trying to find a proper place on your shelf for it. Once you look inside the box, you'll find a sticker sheet, a bunch of wooden disks in many colors, a big pile of cards, a D4 die, a index card sized cardstock board, and a rulebook. Everything is quite nice, with the exception of the rulebook. While it is easily readable and understandable, the organization could have been better, and it could've used a couple more pages of explanations of key points to defuse the "rules lawyer nerdrage".

I found it to be quite an easy game to learn and play, but if you look at the Boardgamegeek forums you'd think the rulebook contained no words and only a pair of stick figure depictions attempting coitus. Such is the nature of nerd-dom, I guess. Anyhow, everything, including the rulebook, was great in my opinion. My only gripe is that the tin is not a standard size, and is embossed, which makes it harder to store than most games. All that being said, the designer has put out an updated rulebook and FAQ document which alleviates any concerns that one might have, so you can download either and you're even more prepared to take on the buttworm menace.

Before you can play the first game, you need to apply stickers to the disks, which takes 10 minutes or so. After that, the game is good to go, and you can begin to set up. Setting up requires you to pull three cards from the room deck: the hive, the terminal room, and the starting room. The rest are shuffled, with the terminal room put somewhere in the middle of the deck and the hive being placed somewhere in the last five cards of the deck. Then, each player is given three infection cards in their color, their two character cards, two status cards, and their two player disks. You must then pull the Host card, one gas card per player, and two random item cards per player less one. Shuffle these, and hand two each out to each player. Once all of this is accomplished, set the starting room in the center of the table and set the status board off to the side. You're now ready to catch, or torch, some buttworms.

The game is taken in two phases, with the first being the parasite phase. Except on the first turn of the game, any buttworm parasite tokens that are on the board all move in one direction, which is determined by a die roll, and then wound anyone in a room they end up occupying. I'm assuming rectal incursion followed by hemorrhaging is the method of attack. After this has been resolved, the players may begin their turn.

Each player, in turn, may then use their allotted action points to perform tasks, and the action points allocated to them are determined by how healthy their characters are. The default is Actions allowed are determined by what items they have in hand, which room they're in, and other specific instances. A neat thing about this game is that each player has two characters in the game, and the action point allocation can be used by one character or the other, or both.

First, players can explore, which consists of drawing the top card from the room deck and placing it adjacent to either of their character tokens. The room cards are double sided, although the sides indicate the status of the room rather than having unique sides, and thus the players always know which room will be next to be placed. Some rooms have icons on them which depict areas rich with items, rooms that cause buttworms to appear, cabins that allow you to perform actions on a station terminal, and other things. Any room with any icon can be searched, allowing a character to draw items from the item deck, and this is the only way to bring new cards into the game.

Another action type allowed is to move into an adjacent room with one of your character pawns. Even this can be dangerous as some rooms have a buttworm icon which forces you to bring a buttworm token into play. Also, if you enter a room occupied by another player's token or tokens, you must either trade cards with one of them or attack one of them. This is the mechanic which causes people to become infected and the primary way to gather information on your team. Every room has openings on the card that indicate viable passageways, and some doors are security doors that require you to have a keycard to pass through, although a special room will allow you to open all the security doors for a round. More on that later.

Now, as I noted, each player but one starts the game with three infection cards, and two item cards. Chances are that most people picked up a gas can card, which is both a key to winning the game as a human and one of the only ways to defend against a rectal incursion from another player. I mean, since the creatures look like worms and the only way to defend against an infection is by passing gas to the infected player, I've deduced that they are indeed buttworms. I guess I could've explained that earlier, but this is a suspense game and I wanted to keep the suspense going for you. Because of the initial distribution of cards, one player is guaranteed to be the Host, which is the primary antagonist in the Panic Station. His goal is to infect as many people as possible, create as much strife and paranoia as possible, cause as many parasite tokens to enter play as possible, and to attempt to thwart the other player's exploration and subsequent uncovering of the hive location.

Trading cards has some restrictions, though. A player may never trade an infection card of his color unless he is infected, and a player may never reveal his hand to another player unless forced to do so by another player using the hand scanner card. A player may also never trade an infection card of another player's color unless he has absolutely no alternative. The one omission in the rules that caused me frustration is that even in the updated version of the rules, there is no mention of what to do if a player has no cards other than their own infection cards to trade. I can only surmise that the player is forced to take a card and give none in return, thereby completely leaving them defenseless. I like that option the best because it's the nastiest, and the game's spirit is all about nastiness.

Moving on, the next action type you can take is to search a room. To do this, you must simply be in a room that depicts any icon, and draw a card from the item deck. There are all kinds of useful items in the deck, such as heavy weapons which have a higher rate of fire than the norm, ammunition to power the weapons, hand scanners that allow you to look at another player's deck, medical kits that heal your characters, armored vests which defend from attack, combat knives which allow for attack without using ammunition, and finally, gas cans which are truly the coin of this realm. There are also "parasite alert" cards which immediately cause a new buttworm to spawn in or around the searching character's location.

When a room is searched for the first time, you must flip the room card over from the grey, normal side, to the red side. When a room's status is red, if the room is searched again, parasites spawn when the room is searched any subsequent time. This is a very slick mechanic because it allows infected players to simply seem like they're loading up on goodies, since there is no hand limit, when in reality they are trying to force other players to spawn parasites by changing all the rooms to the red side.

The next action you may take is to attack an opponent or a roving buttworm. While a player's Android token is the only one who can use firearms, both characters on a team are capable of using a combat knife. Using firearms requires you to not only have ammunition, but in order to play a card to the table such as ammunition, the knife, or a heavy machinegun, you have to have at least five cards in your hand, plus those you wish to play to the table, at the time. Ammunition cards are four-sided to indicate you have four bullets, and each time you use them you have to rotate the card to the appropriate number to indicate how many bullets you have left. Guns always hit their intended target and always do one point of damage per bullet.

Knives, however, do not require ammunition, and unlike guns, knives require a die roll with a 50/50 chance of scoring a hit. All characters only have four life points, and when any character's life is halved, so is that character's action point donation to that player's action point pool. Thus, a player who has an android with two life and a human with four is allowed three actions per turn instead of four. This allows infected players to whittle away the humans' ability to gather items and explore while allowing humans to weaken the suspect players' ability to cause chaos.

Aside from using weapons, some item cards can be used as an action, and those that cost action points are marked with an appropriate icon. Using the hand scanner, which allows you to look through another player's hand, costs an action. Healing one of your characters costs an action as well. Some items do not require using an action to use them, so they are essentially free.

The final action type that you can take is room-based; in other words, it depends on which room you're in. The rooms with icons in them perform different functions, such as the medical bay that allows you to heal a character. One room allows you to draw three items rather than one when you search, and the icon that has a magnifying glass allows you to search it with others, allowing others in the room to take items without themselves initiating a search. Of all of the rooms available, the most useful are the terminal rooms. These allow you to do one of three things, all of which are critical.

The first is to allow all security doors to remain open until the end of the round. This allows free passage of all players through the doors, which is incredibly handy if all of the keycards are at the bottom of the item deck. The second thing you can do with the terminal is remotely explore, allowing you to place the top room in the room deck in any legal space adjacent to any existing room. The last thing you can do, which is the most important as well, is to run a station-wide heat check. The heat check mechanic allows all players to know precisely how many infected players are in the station.

The heat check mechanic works a lot like a mechanic in the Indie Board and Card game, The Resistance. Each player puts a status card on the "true" area of that little board you set to the side at the beginning of the game, and then puts the other status card in the false pile. If you're infected, you have to indicate that you are by placing your infected card on the true pile. The initiator of the scan then rounds up all the true cards, shuffles them, and reveals the number of infection status cards to everyone. After doing so, the player rounds up the false cards, shuffles them all together, and then hands one card of each type back to each player. Nothing adds tension like the simultaneous realization that someone was infected and not a soul at the table noticed it.

The end of the game comes when one of several situations occurs. If the base has been completely overrun by the aliens, as determined by a heat scan, the Host and his minions win. If an uninfected player has three gas can cards in his hand and on his turn has his human character in the hive room, the uninfected players win. There's another endgame scenario involving being the sole uninfected player and not having the ability to gain the required three gascans, but I can't really see that happening; I think it was put in to avoid a stalemate situation. One thing to note: I immediately houseruled that only the host wins for the infected team so that players have no impetus to get infected, since if you're a douchebag who "has to win", you might decide to just seek out the host and change teams when it's convenient.

All things considered, this is a really tense, fun game. We didn't stumble one bit the first time I broke this out, but the second time I forgot to tell my friends that you can't pass someone else's infection cards during a trade unless it's the last option, and it cost me. I was the host and attempted an anal probe attack, but was blocked by the dreaded passed gas. Unfortunately, when the player I tried to violate was up, he traded with another player and passed my infection card.

Subsequently, both players knew that I was the host, and it reduced my chances of winning to roughly zero. I gave them a run for their money, though, because I kept announcing loudly and with conviction that those two had just traded, and one was the host while the other was the new minion. I almost had them believing it, right up until the next player used the terminal room to verify how many infected players there were. It was right then, that very moment, that I knew I was fucked. Still, it's a lot of fun to be the host.

The only downside of being the host is that you're alone in your quest for malfeasance, and timing of trades is incredibly important, as noted above. Attempt infection too early and you tip your hand. Attempt infection too late and the chances of having your infection blocked by passed gas. The flipside is that if you successfully infect another player, both their android and their human is infected, and the newly-created infected team has three new opportunities to spread their ill will due to that player's three infection cards.

I played another game where I, as the host, expended all of my infection cards without successfully infecting the enemy, all the while convincing the other players that the person I tried to infect was actually attempting to infect me, both through loud protest and spending all my actions attacking that player or "searching for ammunition", which was simply a ruse to buy me time while I turned all of the grey rooms to red.

Being uninfected is fun, too, and far more tense from the beginning on, where the tension only starts for the host when he attempts his first infection. The human player really needs to watch everyone, observe both their demeanor and their board action, and trust absolutely no-one until later in the game. And even then, watch your buddy like a hawk, lest he be turned to the buttworm side of the Force while you're not looking.

Why Panic Station Mines Awesome Sauce:
- The tension of this game is unbelievable
- Great artwork throughout makes this look nice on the table
- Fast turns allow you to play a 5-player game in an hour and a half and offers surprisingly little downtime
- The promo cards from preordering add a TON of cool stuff to the game, unlike the usual "collector" garbage
- You get to make jokes about defending against buttworm attacks with passed gas

Why Panic Station Has Been Buttwormed:
- The rulebook was a little muddled, although highly serviceable
- Tin? Really? Did nobody think that it might be nice to have a box that fits on the shelf like the other hundred?
- If you didn't get the promos, well, sucks for you, because they rock

This is a truly fun, very easy to understand, fast-playing game for anyone who likes suspense, tension, and absolute, unabashed fuckery of the highest order. Lying, accusing,'s all in the tin. All I can say is that it's just a slick, bad ass, nasty little game.

4.375/5 Stars

Learn more about Panic Station at Stronghold Games, here:
Here's the latest rulebook, which will be packed in the second printing, or so I am told:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks To Those Who Serve Us All

From all of us at the Superfly Circus, our thoughts are with those of deployed to the various sandboxes of the world, sitting in scorching heat, catching incoming mortar fire while you're just trying to make it home. Our thoughts are with those at Ramstein Air Base, Walter Reed, and other military hospitals where you may be recovering, or if you're taking care of America's finest. We're thinking of you if you're just sitting at a desk in a Quatermaster's office, making sure that the supply of tobacco, whiskey, and ammunition makes it to where it needs to go to keep our men and women supplied. We're with you in spirit if you're standing guard at the South Korean DMZ, sleeves rolled up in 10 degree weather, proving you're tougher than those sons of bitches across the no-man's land.

The Superfly Circus supports each and every last one of you. While we may not always like your orders, and we know you may not either, the fact is that having the courage and honor to do what you do every day, on my behalf, on behalf of my wife and little girls; the sacrifices you make, the lives put on hold, all of it...we're damned proud of every last one of you.

Someday, maybe, the world will be at peace and we won't need Minuteman missiles, F-22 Raptors, the Charles Vinson, A-10s, and M-4 Carbines. Until that day, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts because without you manning those weapons, without the steel resolve required to stand firm when every instinct in every facet of your soul tells you to run like hell and get the fuck out of there, YOU are the difference between me being able to live a free man and living under the tyranny of a dictatorial regime that would do us harm. YOU are the reason our cities aren't being devastated by the madness of power-hungry megalomaniacs and idealogical zealots.

So we thank you.

And we also thank the families of the folks who serve our country with honor and distinction. The fathers who raised their children to love freedom, and to have the courage to send them off to dangerous jobs in dangerous places. To the wives and husbands who cry alone at night that they may never see their loved one again. To the children who go without a father or mother because their parent is a true American patriot. To those of you, we say thanks.

And even though it's an American holiday, we say thanks to our allies' troops that, in many cases, don't even have a dog in the hunt, so to speak. Folks that have no business being embroiled in conflicts that their countries sent them to primarily to appease American politicians. To you, your families, and to your nations, we thank you for what you do for us. While political alliances come and go, individual alliances are not so easily forgotten. To the British, the Poles, the Japanese, the Canadians, and all others who serve your countries and fight alongside Americans, you will not be forgotten. And we thank you.

Thank you all for what you do. Thank you for making the world less chaotic so that free societies can exist, and individuals are free to seek out their own, personal brand of happiness. Without the sentries at the gate, without good men and women who knowingly choose to stand watch against the oppression of hate and madness, we would surely perish.  We'll always be in your debt, and we'll always owe you more than we can ever repay. The best we can offer is a true, heartfelt thanks, and knowing that we honor you not just as soldiers, seamen, airmen, marines, and coasties, but as individuals who are truly the finest representatives of what freedom means: The choice to make a difference in the world, no matter the personal cost.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

King Of Tokyo - How A Giant Bunny Robot Stomped The Eldritch Quiddity Out Of Recent Dice Games

From GenCon 2011 until just recently, companies have decided that dicefests are the new deckbuilders. We've seen Elder Sign, Quarriors, Bears!, Martian Dice, and now King of Tokyo come to fruition, and I'm quite excited that publishers are finally realizing that deck building has been done to death. I'm a huge fan of tossing overstuffed handfuls of dice at unsuspecting tables, so the fact that dice games may be the 'next big thing' gives me great joy. The only problem is that the games, thus far, have either been too light, too abstract, or just totally, unabashedly retarded.

Enter King of Tokyo, a game that has more "personality" than Minka, succeeds where the inexplicably popular Quarriors miserably fails, and costs about half to boot. The game is a big, wet tongue-kiss to the glans of anyone who wants a dyed-in-the-wool Ameritrash game that doesn't take 2 hours, isn't incredibly deep, isn't sadly shallow, and can seat from two to six players. It's totally a Goldilocks game that hits the balance just right, and for 25 bucks, it's a total no-brainer.

The concept of the game boils down to six big baddies doing big baddie shit in the capitol of the most infamously unlucky place on Earth, Japan. Not enough that America nuked them not once, but twice, not enough that they've recently nuked themselves once, not even enough that Katsuhiro Otomo nuked them. No, apparently every big bad monster in the known universe wants to devastate Tokyo as well. I truly weep for the people of Japan.

Anyhow, each player rolls dice and can heal, hurt, score points, or gain energy which is used as the currency of the game to buy cards which represent mutations and events which change the game. These little green cubes have colloquially been known by my friends as Energon Cubes, for what it's worth. Players can be eliminated, and the only way to win is to earn 20 victory points or to kill off every other big baddie in the game. In short, it's awesome.

Not only is the gameplay slick and polished, the bits are damned fine as well. First, the art is really campy, but not sloppy, and fits the theme very well througout. Then there's the cards, of which there's a metric assload, which all detail cool things that your monster can buy or do. On top of that are six standies, six standie holders, and six character cards with two wheels a piece to track stats. While the cards are a little on the thin side, the standies are really stout cardstock and the character stat trackers are superbly executed. The last little bits are the eight dice, two of which aren't always used, the energy cubes, and a eight inch square board that represents poor Tokyo and Tokyo Bay, the two locations that monsters can attack.

Now getting into the rulebook, I don't even think there's 5 pages. It's a very simple game, and some of the more wonky powers that cards represent are given as examples in the book to allay any confusion. While it's easy to read and understand, there's some terms that aren't covered in the glossary, such as "neighbors", and some of the card timing could've been explained a little better, especially the card that provides you wings that allow you to pay two energy and avoid damage. All this considered, unless you're a fun murdering, rules lawyering asshat, this game is totally playable without a single point of contention.

Setting up is a breeze, which is awesome as well. You set the board in the middle, pick whichever creature you want to play with, get the standie in its holder, take the stat sheet, and make a pile of cards. Three of these are laid face up, and these are the ones that players can buy initially. That's it. Choose a first player, and begin the assault on the proud Japanese homeland.

Each player, on their turn simply rolls the dice and decides what to do from there. Each die has a one, two, three, heart, lightning bolt, and claw on it, and each performs a different function. Numerals, when rolled in triplets, score you that many points, and for each additional numeral you get that matches your triplet gains you one additional point. For example, if you roll three twos, you get two points, and one extra point for each additional two you roll. Lightning bolts earn you one energy cube each. Hearts heal your monstrosity one point each, up to the maximum of ten, provided you're not in Tokyo. Claws hurt players that are in Tokyo if you're outside of Tokyo, and hurt all players outside of Tokyo if you're inside.

You can reroll any dice you wish, with three possible re-rolls allowed per turn, and once you either stop rolling and keep the results or run out of rolls, you resolve them. The trick is that if you wound someone in Tokyo, they may choose to yield the city, and you have to enter. While you may choose to leave, you are required to enter if the city is vacant or recently vacated when you roll even a single claw. This simple mechanic makes King of Tokyo one the daimyo of press-your-luck dicefesting, because if you accidentally roll a claw and are forced into the city when you're on the verge of death, you are unequivocally fucked because it's a sure thing that your opponents are going to beat you down and take you out of the game.

The good thing about being in Tokyo is that you earn a point for just entering the city, and if you manage to stay there for an entire round, you earn two points for not abdicating your position. While two points doesn't seem like much, most of the games I've played ended up with a couple of players low on health with 17 or 18 points, battling it out for a win. Now normally there's only one monster at a time allowed in the city, but if there's five or six monsters still in the game, one monster may occupy Tokyo while another occupies the Tokyo Bay location, doubling the chances of being hit when you're outside the city, but allowing you to tag two enemies at a time as well.

At the beginning or the end of your turn, but not any time during, you may purchase powers using cubes. The cheapest power we've seen was valued at three, and the most expensive was valued at seven. These powers are so various that I could not possibly list them all, but my favorites are those like the "Two Heads" card that allows you to do an extra point of damage and the Nova Breath that allow you to do damage even if you didn't roll a claw. Other notables are those that allow you to re-roll numerals for free and those that heal.

Some cards, however, are not mutation buffs, they're events that can do various things. One card allows you to buy it and immediately heal two points of damage. Another causes fighter planes to come swooping in and hit you for several damage points but grants you an immediate five point boon. Another cool thing about the cards is that if you don't like the cards that are showing or want to deny a power to someone, you can pay some energy and change them all out.

The end-game comes when either all players but one are dead or when any player gets their twentieth point. It's always tense, always climactic, and always a total blast. I was one of the first to pooh-pooh this as yet another dicefest in Chancetown without merit, but I have totally eaten my words. This game rocks like Kiss and AC/DC playing together at a birthday party at the Playboy Mansion. I was shocked to find out how much I enjoyed it. This is a game that may even knock my old big monster favorite, Monsters Menace America, from the top slot in Monsterland. While it absolutely does not have the epic feel of taking over a city block by block or territory by territory, this game is the best game with an oversized monster theme I've ever played.

Why King of Tokyo Is The King Of Dice:
- Fast turns will not allow asshats to play on their Iphone between turns
- Great art, bits, and outlandish monsters really get you in the mood to destroy Tokyo...again
- The game's all about tension, important decisions, and fuckery that would make a senator blush (or take notes)
- The replay value's immense...I played this twice in a night and wanted to play two more times that night

Why King of Tokyo Should Be Exiled:
- The rules could've had a little more meat to explain the more exotic cards
- The box says 2-6 players, but I'd not play less than three at a minimum

This game is phenomenally fun if you like a lot of randomness that is mitigated by important decisions. It's just a truly wonderful hour-long romp through Chancetown, and the fact that every single action you take is crucial, from deciding to vacate Tokyo or not, which card to buy, or when to roll or stay with dice. This is twice as fun as many 50 dollar games I've bought, and this will surely hit the table more often than most. This game trumps Elder Sign and Quarriors, so if you only wanted one of the current generation of dicefest games, this is without a doubt the one.

4.5/5 Stars

Check out the game's site here, but you'd better speak French if you go:été/IELLO/King-of-Tokyo

Or, you can check the BoardGameGeek.Com page, which is more useful: