Quick Shots: Machi Koro

Recently I had the opportunity to try out a card game I’ve been eyeing for purchase for a while: Machi Koro. Cyrus and I were checking out our brand new local board game bar, Well Played, and I spied it on their shelf. We hauled it down, ran through the setup, and played a game. I had hoped it would be good, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was impressed enough that a couple of days later I went out and bought it. So here’s my quick hit thoughts on the game now that I’ve played a few rounds:

--The concept in short: Machi Koro is a card based game about building a town as quickly as possible. You build your town, sort of the way you fill out your side in Magic, Pokemon, or Hearthstone. But instead of pulling from a randomized deck, you are buying cards from a communal pool of face up cards. In order to buy cards (which represent different buildings and business in your city), you generate money based on dice rolls, with different cards paying out on different numbers. Some cards pay you when you roll a specific number, others pay you when anyone rolls a specific number, and still others allow you to swipe coins from other players stashes. The ultimate goal is to build up enough cash to buy four specific buildings, each of which unlock extra abilities for your city as you go. First to build all four wins the game, and that’s that.

--It’s an excellent pick up and go game: I took Cyrus and I perhaps 5 minutes from opening the box to starting the first game. The rules are simple, straightforward, and easy to learn and remember. It’s also very easy to introduce to new players: it just takes a couple of minutes of quick explanations to grasp the basics.

--There is plenty of depth. This, in combination with the previous point, is the key hallmark of a great game. If I can learn it in 5 minutes but find new strategies and ways to get ahead every time I play, then it’s good. Now, granted, we’re not talking chess...there’s only about 15 different cards to choose from, and some of them do the same thing, just based on different numbers rolled. But overall, I can see different strats developing. Perhaps one game you focus on low level buildings, grabbing lots of them because they are cheap, and getting rich on sheer volume. Or you could focus on the handful of cards with huge payouts, and pray the dice fall your way. Or you could play the troll game and focus on those cards that let you steal money from the other players to hinder their progress. Plenty of options, and of course it all depends on lovely, delicious chance.

--It’s fast! Reflecting on the simplicity of the rules and gameplay, rounds are quick. I’ve found 2 player games shouldn’t really last longer than 15 minutes once both players are comfortable with the rules. Having 4 players will slow things up a bit, but there’s more cash flying around, so some of those strategies of pulling funds from other players could pay off faster. But either way, this definitely feels like a good game to have on hand to fill in a short gap at a party, or while on a roadtrip, etc.

--I actually want the expansions. There are two expansions so far for the game that add a bunch of new buildings for your city. As I play it more and become more set in my strategies, it totally makes sense to add new cards, which can really expand the possibilities. But that said, this game is completely enjoyable without the expansions, which I appreciate. Especially coming from the world of video gaming, where so many base games are crippled to force people to buy DLC/expansions. Machi Koro is great by itself, but good enough to want more options.

--Dat visial design, tho. Love it. Cute, engaging, and descriptive. Love it.

Overall, Machi Koro is great. It combines all the aspects that make a great starter game, a good way to introduce non-board gamers to the hobby in a smooth, fast, easy, and fun way.