Machi Koro by IDW Games puts 2-4 players in the shoes of the city’s new mayor. To prove your worth to the citizens of your city, you’ll build a plethora of new shops, businesses and parks as a means of raising money to ultimately fund the creation of four major landmarks. The first player to successfully build all four landmarks is declared the winner.
We’ve had this game in our collection for quite some time, though I’ve failed to put words to it until now. It’s one of Steff’s favourite games, but it’s also one I managed to ruin. What the heck happened?
The game is played with a series of building cards and a pair of dice. Each player will start with a functional wheat field and bakery, along with the four major landmark cards which are flipped to their Under Construction side. Players will also start with three coins so that they can start shopping right away. Placed in the middle of the table is a supply of all of the different things you can purchase, such as stadiums, shopping malls and cafes among many others.
When play begins, players start their turn by rolling a die. If that die is equal to a number that may correspond to a number on the top of one or more of your cards. If it matches, you’ll get the reward that comes with the cards that match your die value. For example, by rolling a one, your Wheat Field card will earn you one coin from the bank. If you roll a number that isn’t covered by one or more of your cards, then you don’t get anything. After you roll the dice, you then can buy a card from the supply or complete construction on one of your major landmarks if you have the money.
As the game progresses, your city will generate more money, eventually allowing you to complete landmarks. These have a big effect on your progression, as they also unlock huge abilities. As an example, buying the Train Station allows you to roll one or two dice, opening up a new set of higher value cards that aren’t available at the start of the game. The most expensive landmark, the Radio Tower, lets you re-roll your dice once per turn, which can come in very handy.
The fundamental process of building a money-generating juggernaut of a city is a lot of fun. Having dice adds an element of chance, though there are considerations to be made about how you build your city. Do you try and grab builds that cover all available numbers so that you get something on every roll? Or do you focus on earning real big money on just a few numbers? The correct answer probably lies somewhere in between, which you’ll need to figure out as the game goes along.
Unfortunately, it is a game that can be figured out. After a number of plays, I devised a strategy that was easily repeatable and very difficult to beat. Since the game’s setup is the same every single time, you will inevitably find ways of breaking it, effectively sucking the fun out of the experience. I hear that The Harbor expansion fixes this by introducing variable setup, but I really think this is something that should be addressed in the main game. This is sort of happening now, as the deluxe version of the game comes with The Harbor and Millionaire’s Row expansions, so maybe this problem will ultimately right itself.
Machi Koro is a light, fast and fun game that works for a wide audience that happens to have one glaring flaw. You can probably get a good amount of time out of it until you run into that problem, though the optimum strategies will creep up eventually and require the purchase of an expansion to fix it. If you’re going to buy it now, I’d recommend going straight for the deluxe version to nip that problem in the bud.