November 11, 2014
We’ve been looking forward to the release of Machi Koro since March, and we’re really happy to finally see it on our shelves. It blends elements from several of our favorite games to create a new experience that is thoroughly enjoyable. Machi Koro is about building a thriving community with the use of cards that get added to each player’s tableau. Like Dominion, each card in turn gives specific functionality to a player which allows them to acquire more income in order to buy more cards. All of this hinges on the roll of the dice each turn, which determine what card types will produce on any given turn, much like Settlers of Catan.
Each player starts the game with two face-up Establishment cards (which represent different aspects of industry: factories, markets, restaurants, etc.) and four face-down Landmark cards (which represent the fruits of that industry: shopping malls, amusement parks, radio towers, etc.). The object of the game is to be the first player to activate all of his starting Landmark cards by fulfilling the requirements of that activation and then turning them face-up. All other cards are placed on the table within reach of the players as the supply to be purchased throughout the game. Each card has a cost on it as well as its name, type, game effect, and the number needed to be rolled in order to trigger the effect. Effects can range from collecting coins from the bank to taking coins from other players.
On a turn, the first thing a player does is roll a die, with the number rolled determining which purchased cards are triggered. Some cards only trigger on the active player’s turn, other cards are triggered on any turn, and a few cards are only triggered on other players’ turns. This means that everyone is involved through the entire game, a feature that is highly desirable and unfortunately not common enough in many other board games. After rolling the die, the active player may make a single purchase from the supply cards, placing that purchase in her tableau; that card then becomes a part of her community to assist with the eventual goal of activating all of her Landmark cards.
In addition to being necessary to win, Landmarks are also some of the most powerful cards in the game. (As an example, the Station allows a player to roll one or two dice!) Not surprisingly, they are also more expensive to activate. Generally, the cards that trigger on a roll of 1-6 are early-game engines to help bring in income. The cards that trigger on 7-12 accelerate the endgame and deliver big payoffs needed to help build Landmarks. Strategies can’t always be repeated from game-to-game simply because of the random dice-rolls that trigger different Establishments. So a good Machi Koro player must stay sharp and quickly react to the changing board as well as the strategies of the other players.
As mentioned earlier, the card-buying mechanic is very similar to Dominion and other deck building games like it. The dice-rolling mechanic tends to remind players of Settlers of Catan, while the community-building theme shares much in common with Suburbia. But even with these similarities, Machi Koro is really its own creature. My personal test of a good game is whether I want to play it again as soon as it’s done, and this definitely passes the test. Machi Koro delivers good strategy and resource-management combined with luck in a little game that you can finish in about 30 min. It’s fast, easy-to-learn, and very attractive to boot. And it’s obviously set up for expansions, which we’re expecting to see in the coming year. We hope you’ll give it a try!