I’m still relatively new to any board game which doesn’t involve having a top hat or a small yappy-type dog as a playing piece, but when I saw Machi Koro in my local branch of Travelling Man I knew it would make a great birthday present for my lady.
She really enjoys all things cute and kawaii, so I knew instantly with this cover that I was onto a winner – provided the game was fun to play. And we weren’t disappointed.
Since its unveiling on Sunday morning I’ve had a couple of two-player and four-player games, and found it to be just as fun either way; unlike Adventure Time Fluxx (another gift for the birthday girl) where the contrasts with the original version mean it’ll be more fun with more players, playing just one opponent works just fine here in Machi Koro.
Objectives and gameplay
Your job as the newly-elected mayor is to build your small town into a thriving city by completing construction on four major projects – the Landmarks. This is done by earning money from a roll of the dice and collecting the resulting funds from the Establishments you already have. Once you’ve earned enough money to pay for the four projects, you’re the winner.
You start off with two Establishment Cards and three coins; roll the dice, take the actions as described on the card(s) with the number you’ve rolled and then choose which new facility (if any) you’d like to build. As you amass more properties, you’ll become wealthier through the income your properties generate, and with certain cards are even able to tax your opponents – and be taxed yourself.
As you get to spend more on the bigger and better properties, you’ll find that certain Establishment Cards like the Shopping Mall can be very favourable, as they can potentially multiply your income each time you roll the right number.
Game design and mechanics
Machi Koro is a beautiful-looking card game; everything from the box art to each individual card looks fantastic, and I personally felt a surge of pride each time I looked down at my growing town. The game system is very well designed too; for my relative newcomer status everything was easy enough to grasp, although it can get a bit confusing when there’s a lot of money changing hands at once.
Most appealing in terms of strategy is that as the game begins, everybody starts at the same level; it’s just a matter of working out the most financially viable system in determining how you spend your income from the bank, and of course hoping that the dice are always in your favour.
There was just one small issue with the game mechanics of Machi Koro. The Establishment cards are numbered 1-12 and you need to ‘unlock’ the second dice by building the Train Station before you can get any benefit from the cards numbered 7-12. However, I’ve found on every single playthrough so far that I haven’t needed to use that second dice – in fact, barely anybody bothered on any of the games we played last weekend. It’s no big deal though – I’ll just experiment a little more next time I guess, and see how it affects my winning record.
To sum up, I’d definitely recommend Machi Koro to anyone who wants a game that’s fun and quick; at only 30 minutes playing time, it may prove a bit too filthy casual for some, but for people who are just dipping their toe in like myself, it’s proved to be time very well spent in city-building mode.