FTW Staff Picks - Machi Koro
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Genre: City Building
Designer: Masao Suganuma
Player Size: 2 to 4 Players
Game Length: 40 minutes
For fans of: CATAN, Dominion, Lords of Vegas
Playing Machi Koro always feels like playing inside on a roulette table. You know how odds and probabilities work. and yet you still make greedy decisions that tend to blow up in your face. Machi Koro is kind of like the marriage between 2 popular modern classics, CATAN and Dominion. While I prefer the game with its Harbor expansion, I thought it was more important to highlight the original as it was the catalyst to many things. Before there was Oink Games and its various imported Japanese titles, there was Machi Koro.
In Machi Koro, players are competing newly-appointed mayors, racing to complete 4 Landmark buildings to appease their citizens. Each player begins with a Wheat Field and a Bakery. Each turn plays out in 3 phases. First, the current player rolls a die (or dice). Second, the players whose buildings match the rolled number collect income. Finally, the current player has the opportunity to buy one new building OR complete one of their Landmark buildings. Blue buildings activate regardless of who rolls, Green buildings only activate for the current player, Red buildings only activate when someone other than the owner rolls and the Purple buildings are the same as Green, but each player may only own 1 Purple. Players continue until one player completes their last Landmark. That player is declared the winner of the game!
It may seem obvious to target 6, 7 and 8 as they are the most frequently rolled numbers on a pair of dice. But the progression of the game makes it so that players who wish to capitalize on these numbers must first build smaller, associated buildings. For example, the Cheese Factory (7) and Furniture (8) Factory score points depending on how many Ranches (2) or Mines (5) and Forests (9) that player owns, respectively. This along with the Landmark bonuses, provide just enough varieties in strategy to keep the game unpredictable. Plus, as always you are at the mercy of the dice.
The Harbor expansion of Machi Koro adds the ability to randomize the available buildings and limit it to 10 at a time. This to me, makes the game more interesting than just players building popular strategies, when all the cards are available. To anyone considering Machi Koro I would say its nearly necessary to keep the game re-playable for a long time. I've never been a fan of CATAN, so Machi Koro has completely replaced that game for me. It's more enjoyable and can be played in far less time. So next time your group thinks to play CATAN, maybe consider its long-lost, Japanese sibling.