[Review] Machi Koro

Machi Koro designed by Massao Suganuma and published by IDW and Pandasaurus games is one of the most played games in my collection as it’s fun, light, and a great length for an after work easy game session, at about 30 minutes.

Machi Koro is a dice rolling, city building, card game where players must make money to build a series of landmarks in their city, the first player to buy the set wins. Players reach their goal by buying a range of different establishment cards which activate to make the player money when the number depicted on them comes up on the dice.

The most successful players put together a good economic engine to rake in the dough when their numbers come up. But, as this is a dice based game, winning not only needs good card choices but a big pile of luck too.

Don’t feel like reading? Check out my micro review on YouTube.

On each players turn they roll the die/dice and all players check to see if any of their cards activate by seeing if the number on the dice matches any of the numbers on the top of their establishment cards.

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colour coded establishment cards

Some cards activate on your turn, others activate on another player’s or anyone’s turn, some involve taking money from the bank, others involve taking from you rivals.
Handily the cards are colour coded to make this process easy.

Once everyone has taken their actions the active player may choose to buy a new establishment card from the central tableau, or construct a landmark to help reach their end goal.

The landmarks also have special powers which can make a big difference to winning the game and can only be activated once the player has build that landmark.

And gameplay wise that’s pretty much it, so you can see how easy this game is to learn and teach to others. It’s another reason why Machi Koro gets go much play.

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Some Landmark cards

Machi Koro unleashes your inner capitalist, you long for the great feeling when all your investment in the dairy industry finally pays off, or one of your opponents falls foul of your sushi empire, and there is a great amount of player interaction in this game. It’s light and fun and feels almost akin to a party game as everyone digs in to the bank when a number that benefits everyone is rolled.

Luck does play a big roll in this game so it may not be for everyone’s taste. It can get a little frustrating when you set up an effective money making mechanism and then nobody rolls the number you need. But luck always changes as the game goes on and the fact the game is somewhat unpredictable keeps it engaging and stops people getting bogged down in strategic decision making which would massively alter the dynamic of the game.

Tactical decisions are possible though, I’ve won many a game by saving money when my opponents have no cards that can steal from me, keeping myself broke when they have lots of those cards thus preventing them making any money, or rolling just one die when rolling higher than six had the risk of bankrupting me, and so on.

The art and design of the game is clean and vibrant, on the whole (not so much with some expansion cards) the text is clear and easy to understand. The rules are unambiguous and each to learn from.
The components are of decent quality, the coins in my set are showing signs of ware, but that just shows how much I’ve played this game, often multiple times in a row.

The space the game uses up depends on how many cards the player has bought so it can take up quite a bit of room but you will be fine at your average dinner table even with all four players (five with the expansion).

In my opinion the Harbour expansion for the game is essential to it’s longevity. With the base game you have a set number of cards in the central tableau so after a while it could get a bit samey. The expansions add a drafting mechanism to the beginning of the game and a load more cards to keep the game fresh every time you play.

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Less useful cards from the Millionaire’s Row expansion

I also have the Millionaire’s Row expansion, I bought it as I play the game so much, but it’s not necessary. Some of the cards seem to be only relevant in certain circumstances, for a short period of time, or are just plain strange, like the loan office where you get 5 coins but then have to pay 2 every time it activates for the rest of the game!

So if you like social games then this if for you, if you like family games this is for you, if you like a mix of luck and tactics then this is for you, if you like making loads of money while your mates go bankrupt then this is the game for you.

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I highly recommend Machi Koro coupled with the Harbour expansion.
I’d also advise you to consider the new stand alone version “Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City”. It uses the same gameplay as the original, takes cards from the original and expansions, and adds new ones. It tidy’s up the gameplay and fixes a couple of minor issues for an even smoother, clearer game. So, maybe you might want to jump straight in with this one.

Either way, you need Machi Koro in your board game collection!

For more opinions on this game check out this Meeple Box review:

Thanks for visiting!

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