Machi Koro is a card drafting and dice rolling game in which players try to develop their city faster than their opponents. Each turn, players roll dice, reconcile the relevant actions, and then buy cards to earn them the money they need to develop their towns. The first player to finish all of the landmarks wins.
There are 19 different cards, three different coins, a couple of dice, and the rules. Players begin the game with their Starter Cards, and each turn they roll the dice. All other cards, the coins, and the dice are all set out in the middle of the table.
Setting up the first time took less than five minutes. Most of that time was punching out coins and sorting out the cards. After that, it has taken us maybe a minute to set up each time.
The Starting Cards include the four landmarks, a Wheat Field, and a Bakery. The landmarks start out pretty useless. Players must create an income engine using the establishments. The establishments activate on their number. Wheat Fields only activate on a roll of 1, but activate no matter who rolled. The bakery only activates on your own turn, but can be triggered on a roll of 2 or 3.
There are four kinds of establishments a player can put into their engine. Each has its own rules and rewards, but they all work together to keep all players engaged no matter whose turn it is.
- Blue cards are Primary Industry cards. These activate on everyone’s turn if their number is rolled. These cards give you coins from the bank. A roll of 1,2,5,9, or 10 can activate blue cards.
- Green cards are the Second Industry cards. These cards only activate for the player who rolled the dice. These cards give you coins from the bank as well. A roll of 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, or 12 can activate green cards.
- Red cards are Restaurants. These cards trigger no matter whose turn it is. The player who rolled that number pays each owner their value in Restaurants instead of earning money. Rolls of 3, 9, or 10 activate the red cards.
- Purple cards are Major Establishments. These activate for the current player only. These cards allow the player to charge money from other players, or even swap properties with them, without their permission! These cards only activate on rolls of 6, and there aren’t any other cards that benefit from a roll of 6.
Thanks to the miracles of math, chance, and probability, it is critical that players buy a variety of cards, so they can trigger as often as possible. A roll that doesn’t affect anyone is a wasted turn for everyone.
The four landmarks are the winning point, though. The most fun engine possible is useless if it doesn’t produce enough income for your developments. The only way to activate them is to pay large sums of money to build them. They can be completed in any order, and each of them has an ability that changes the game for their owner.
- The Train Station allows players to roll one or two dice each turn instead of one all the time. This Landmark costs 4 coins.
- The Shopping Mall increases the income of green and red cards for that player. This Landmark costs 10 coins.
- The Amusement Park lets you take another turn if you roll doubles! Because it isn’t useful until you have already bought the train station, and it costs 16 coins, it is difficult to make use of it at times.
- The Radio Tower allows the player to re-roll their dice once each turn. The new roll replaces the old one. This is a great card, but it costs 22 coins, which often makes it the last Landmark to be completed.
Everything you need is in the box. Unfortunately, the box is enormous. You might think you’d need lots of space for the 188 components, but that’s just not the case with Machi Koro. IDW has already published a couple of expansions, though, so the box is also big enough to consolidate them into one container.
Play is suggested for 10+, but kids who have a hard time organizing and tracking gameplay will struggle. There are few breaks, because every player’s turn matters to everyone. If you want to play with kids under 12, I suggest you enter the game with your patient hat on. You’re going to need it.
Play is intended for 2-4 players. There’s just no way to play with more. Not only are there not enough cards, but the rounds would become overly cumbersome. I prefer to play with 3.
The game advertises a 30-minute play time, but with kids, it spikes closer to 45 minutes. Adults who are already familiar with the game can play in as little as 15 minutes, thanks to the simple mechanics. Machi Koro‘s MSRP is $29.99, but it is often cheaper on Amazon.
IDW provided a copy of this game for evaluation.
Top image courtesy © IDW.