You already own the company, build a more attractive town to become a truly unstoppable force before your opponent.
Total Game Play: 30 minutes
Designer(s): Masao Suganuma
Artist(s): Noboru Hotta, Ian Parovel, Mirko Suzuki
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Alright, so I know what you might be thinking. Machi Koro? That doesn’t seem like it would be in Lily’s wheelhouse. And you’re right. Machi Koro is not my game of choice. It has been quite some time since I’ve played Machi Koro because it is a game that is very luck driven. And dice and I don’t have the best relationship. That being said, Machi Koro does hold a soft spot in my heart as it was something my brother brought into my life. I have fond memories of sitting around a table with him, his friend, and rolling the dice to see what was going to happen.
This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.
Machi Koro is a game of luck and trying to make the right calculated decisions. Each player will gain cards (which are laid out on the table – there is no hidden information) to get resources to gain cards until one player wins!
Machi Koro is a game for 2 to 4 players, this game plays well at any count as resources are gained over the course of your own turn as well as during other player’s turns.
Starting with the randomly determined player, the game will flow clockwise around the table with each player getting a turn until the game ends. There are no external phases or actions outside of a players turn.
The game setup includes each player getting their starting establishments and their under-construction landmarks. This represents the start of each players corporate city. (If I had to live in a corporate city, I want it to be one of the food ones. Hersey city sounds delightful – but for some reason I imagine it like a Willy Wonka minus the workers). These buildings will be the same for every player. Each player also will start out with 3 coins which I have to assume are tokens representing millions of dollars. Or at least thousands. The more I think about money in games, the less it makes sense.
The remaining coins are placed in a central area accessible to all players. A display of buildings in the supply is also set up. It’s important to note that these buildings are piece limited; there are only so many available on the market!
During their turn, a player will do two things: roll the dice and then purchase a building. Rolling the dice will activate buildings including yours and your opponents. After unlocking the station, a player can choose to roll either one or two dice. Once everyone has received their money, its time to purchase a building. Only one building. This could be either a building from the supply or one of the city’s landmarks. The cost for each building or upgrade is located in the bottom left corner of each card.
Concept: Different Establishments
Blue: The Primary Industry
Primary industry cards are one of the most advantageous cards. These are the big chain stores or suppliers. They allow you to get coins from the bank no matter who rolls the dice.
Green: The Boutique Shops
Boutique shops are a bit more local. They get income from the bank but only when you roll the dice. These buildings do not activate on other players turns. But, likewise, they also don’t give your opponents money so there is a tradeoff.
Restaurants get into a more insidious territory for the game. After all, red is often synonymous for attacking in board game color language. If you have a restaurant, you will take money from whoever rolled the number! Pure evil.
Purple: Major Establishments
Major establishments are even more brutal than Restaurants. They only activate on your turn but when they do, you will take money from EVERYONE ELSE AT THE TABLE. Major establishments can be absolutely brutal but they do require quite a bit of luck to pull one off. Luck is a skill, right?
The game ends when one player has built all four landmarks in their city. And, you probably guess it, that person also wins the game!
Who Will Like it?
Machi Koro is an interesting game because there is a lot of luck that goes into it but there is only one resource. There is more control and decisions than you would think in a game like this. I think this game is a step up in complexity from Settlers of Catan but definitely lives in that genre of game.
What I Think
I’m fairly confident that my personal opinion on this game is biased. There are just a lot of good memories for me that are definitely under a pair of rose-colored glasses.
What did I like?
I like the aspects of choice within the game. If something is working, you can double down on it. Or you can try to be different and see if that gamble pays off. Trying to figure out the right path down a street of constantly shifting lanes is an interesting headspace to be in. It kind of reminds me of the changing stairs in Harry Potter.
What didn’t I like?
This game heavily relies on luck. And I am bad at anything that requires luck. I feel like I can roll a six-sided die and somehow get a seven. And, as a result, nothing happens. Because this game does rely so heavily on the die roll results it’s hard to really plan ahead. While you are making choices, it can feel like a gamble to invest in certain buildings.
Machi Koro is a fun light game that is great for people who prefer lighter games or to introduce to someone new to the board game community. If your someone who enjoys luck, Machi Koro is a great time. If you’re someone who is frustrated by the luck of the dice, I would not recommend this game as I think you would be frustrated.
Rulebook/Learning the Game
Machi Koro has a pretty straightforward rule book with very few pages. Since there are not a lot of rules, very few examples are needed for this rulebook. The game is also straightforward so few edge cases will arrise, and all questions are covered with the unique situations.
The first time I played, I decided it was a good idea to heavily invest building types that followed the same number or die roll. This turned out pretty poorly for me because this type of investment resulted in a very boom and bust economy and as the game continued on, the strategy was not sustainable.
After the first play, I went for more diversification of my building portfolio. This gave better results than my first play but lady luck is never on my side.
I can completely understand why people like this game. Machi Koro is an interesting approach to managing and (hopefully) mitigating luck. But there is a lot of luck which generally is not my cup of tea. I don’t mind some die rolls or the randomness of a deck of cards but anything that relies heavily on dice rolls can be difficult for me. So while this game is in the collection for the nostalgia, it is not one of my go to games.
*See my rating scale Here