Machi Koro is a fast paced game of city building. Two to four players starting with only two establishments will roll dice to earn income, purchase more Establishments and hope to be the first to build their city’s Landmarks. Each Establishment and Landmark has a special ability that activates when a certain number is rolled on the die, so you can never be certain whether you will be helping yourself or your opponents. The first player to build their four landmarks wins!
To understand the game you have to understand the cards. There are two basic types of cards in Machi Koro: Establishments and Landmarks.
These cards have a number (or range of numbers) printed across the top and provide Income. There are four different color Establishment cards. Each color determines how Income is paid:
- Blue (Industry): This Establishment pays income to the owning player during any players’ turn.
- Green (Shops Factories and Markets): This Establishment pays income to the owning player during that player’s turn only.
- Red (Restaurants): This Establishment pays income to the owning player from the person who rolled the dice. (Ouch)
- Purple (Major Establishment): This Establishment pays income to the owning player from all other players, but only during the owning player’s turn. (Big Ouch)
These are the cards that start off face down, but when purchased, add an effect for the owning player:
- The Station: allows a player to roll two dice instead of one.
- The Shopping Mall: earns the owning player an additional coin from Cafés and Restaurants.
- The Amusement Park: allows a player to take an extra turn if they roll matching numbers with two dice.
- The Radio Tower: allows a player to re-roll their dice once each turn.
Ok ok… how do you play?
Players start with a Wheat Field and a Bakery in play and their four Landmark cards face down. The rest of the Establishment cards are grouped together and laid out for all to see. Each player starts with 3 coins. During your turn you roll a die (or dice later in the game), then potentially earn Income. The number rolled (total of the dice if two are rolled) is referenced with the numbers across the top of the Establishment cards and Income is paid out based on the number rolled.
Simple right? Sure, at first. In the beginning of the game each player only has a Wheat field and a Bakery. So if a “1” is rolled, all players earn one coin (From the blue Wheat Field). If a 2 or 3 is rolled, the player whose turn it is earns one coin if they own the Green Bakery.
Once each turn, you may purchase one Establishment from the Pool of available Establishment cards. Simply pay the cost in the lower left corner and place the Establishment in front of you. Your city just grew! This will key off of future die rolls and earn you even more Income.
And so it goes, each turn dice are rolled, adding to (or taking away from) player’s fortunes until one player has enough income to pay to flip their fourth Landmark card and stand and gloat over the other players!
Who would enjoy this game?
What a dandy little game from Masao Suganuma! Some key elements make it irresistible.
First, a ridiculously simple game turn where you roll a die and read the results makes the game instantly playable and all players begin the game with an exact even chance to succeed. It’s the strategy that emerges during gameplay that takes the game to another level.
Establishment cards vary from the very basic, (A Ranch where you get one coin when anyone rolls a “2”) to the ridiculously mean, (A Family Restaurant where you get two coins from the player who rolled the dice – very awful when it’s your turn and everyone ELSE has a Family Restaurant… or two). Some cards key off of others. (The same Ranch card has a small “cow” icon and the green Cheese Factory pays 3 coins for each “cow” establishment you own.) And so on. Building your city wisely is key. And yes, all Income hinges upon the roll of the die. For this reason, two considerations that emerge from this is when to roll one or two dice, and when to purchase higher numbered buildings.
The more powerful cards in the game require a roll higher than 6. So you’ll start off rolling that one die and hoping for the best. But as your city grows, you will want to build that Station Landmark, move away from the single die and start trying to get the big numbers. This is a key strategic moment in the game. Each turn, you can decide to add to the lower numbered Establishments, and roll one or two dice. (Keeping in mind you can roll 2-6 on two dice as well!) This is also affected by what other players are buying! If your opponents start to get those big numbered Establishments, you may feel safer rolling one die. This is an elegant mechanic that produces great emergent strategy.
Lastly, you don’t have to build your Landmarks in order of cost. Building the Radio Tower early, (22 Coins!) can have you re-rolling die every turn, but it’s expensive so you will be in a standstill while your construction workers complete the huge project.
This combination of luck and strategic choice (along with the cute artwork from Noboru Hotta) is what makes the game just so darned alluring. It can be a bit repetitive after several plays, but wait! There is an expansion promised (Machi Koro Plus!) that will double the number of cards in the fall.
Highly recommended for a crisp, quick, city-building game.
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