Machi Koro

3 12 2014

 

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Machi Koro is a City Building/Set Collection card game for 2-4 players designed by Masao Suganuma whose other titles include Candy Chaser and Diamonsters. The game is set in the fictional Japanese city of Machi Koro and involves the player having to build a city from nothing more than a Wheatfield and a Bakery. On each turn one player roles a dice and depending on what buildings they have built, they gain income and can build up their town. The only problem is, is that there are three other players out to do the same thing.

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Players start with a Wheat Field, a Bakery, 3 coins and 3 un-built Landmarks and ends when all four different landmarks are built. In order to build those landmarks however, players need to pay for their construction, and they’re not cheap. They range from 4 coins to 22 coins and the starting ‘establishments’ the player controls produce no more than 1 coin. So the player will need to build up their settlement into a city in order to be able to produce more money so that they can eventually build their landmarks, which consist of an Amusement Park, a Radio Tower, a Shopping Mall and a Train Station. On a players turn they roll a dice, and if the number on the dice matches (when using two dice, it’s summed together) a number on one of the establishment cards in their city, then they perform that action. Most of these involve collecting money from the bank, or sometimes other players, and then using that money to build another establishment to increase the size of their city and hopefully produce more money. There are four different types of establishment card though, and each colour does something different:

  • Blue (Primary Industry): Receive money from the bank during anyone’s turn.
  • Green (Secondary Industry): Receive money from the bank on your turn only.
  • Red (Restaurants): Take money from the player who rolled the dice.
  • Purple (Major Establishment): Take money from all other players but only during your turn.

This system of establishments means that players will need to decide carefully about which establishments they construct during their turn. Blue cards will create income for the players during anyone else’s turn (including their own) provided that the correct dice number is rolled. Green on the other hand provides you alone with money for the green cards you have, and also means that no one else will make money either, however it is the same the other way around. Green does also offer some multipliers depending on what other establishments you have, but they can only work during your turn which is equally bad. Red only works on other players turn, which is a bit annoying, however if the number on the dice matches the number on one of your red cards, then you receive money from them; that is, if they have any money. Purple meanwhile work a lot like red, but only provide money on your turn and only when you roll the same number as it, however if you are successful, not only do you take money from other players, slowing them down as a result, but you also increase your coffers.

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Cards can also be bought and used several times over. For instance, you can have more than one Wheatfield, or more than one Café, or more than one Cheese Factory meaning that the effects of buildings can be multiplied. So for instance, if someone rolls a one and a player has four Wheatfield’s, they will receive four coins, one for each Wheatfield.  This applies to many establishments, the ones with multipliers especially meaning that if you have more than one multiplier, you just use it over and over again. However, this rule of more than 1 type of building does have one other little rule. A player cannot build more than 1 of each different landmark and purple building. So a player can’t have more than 1 Radio Tower, or more than 1 TV Station. They can build several different purple buildings and landmarks but only one of each. These buildings provide extra little abilities though that the other coloured buildings don’t provide; from being able to roll an extra dice (which allows the player to activate the abilities of the higher number buildings, provided they rolled that number), to having an extra turn.

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In a sense Machi Koro is an ‘engine building game’. By that I mean a game where the player builds up an engine or a formula that as it gets bigger, it pays out more as a result. When you begin you have a small settlement, as the game continues, you have a fully working city which provides more income allowing you to build much bigger things more quickly, where as in later on you start off relatively slowly. The games use of dice and different colour/type cards means that it really comes down to luck as to who gets money and when. The mechanic of stacking cards improves chances of more pay-out while the diversity of establishments improves chances while also allowing room for creativity in the gameplay and themes for its setting. Another thing the game also offers is that some buildings are not held down to one number, nor the only card with that number on them. Some buildings have 2 numbers increasing the chance of them being used, while some have the same number as other establishments, bringing with it the possibility of more than one being activated at the same time. The relatively slow pace of the game (as in being allowed to build no more than 1 building per turn) also means that it is not a quick game either. While it is quicker than most games and in a sense is a quick (possible party) card game, it is not a quick 5 minute or 10 minute game and can last to close to half an hour for most games; allowing the game and players to breathe, take their time and fully enjoy the experience, of which it is an enjoyable one at that. Although I would say that another landmark or two would benefit the gameplay also; allowing room for those who would prefer perhaps a longer game as well as more red cards to fully utilize the ability to take other people’s hard-earned (rolled) Cash.

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With a very basic yet beautifully colourful look and a very quick but complete instruction booklet, Machi Koro is a terrifically fun game and one that can be enjoyed many times over and over again in one sitting. Its main mechanics work well together and provide hours of replay enjoyment too as you’ll want to try other techniques and make a better gameplay system while also remembering chances of probability and the luck of the dice roll. From hard-core enthusiasts to casual gamers, Machi Koro a terrific addition to anyone’s board game collection.

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GENEPOOL

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