You have just been appointed as major of a small town. You’re ambitious and you want to make this town a success. It has to become one of the highlights of the region. A town with an amusement park, a nice big mall and a state of the art train station. That’s your goal. To do that, you first have to stimulate small businesses and invest in the local economy. The success of these businesses, however, does depend on the roll of a die. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.
What do you get for your money?
108 Cards, 54 coins. 2 dice and the rules.
How do you play the game?
This game is pretty easy to explain. You start the game with a couple of starting establishments and some landmarks under construction. Every turn you roll the dice and you receive some money if the cards say so. Your goal is to be the first to build all the landmarks.
That costs money. You get money, or more money, by building other establishments from the middle of the table and activating them, by rolling the number on that card.
Every building has a number and an ability. You have cards that activate when you roll a certain number in your turn, cards that give you money when other players roll a specific number and cards where other players have to give you money.
In your turn you roll, activate cards, receive money and possibly buy and build one card from the middle of the table. Every landmark you build also gives you a special ability. One of them, for instance, gives you the ability to throw two dice instead of the one you use at the beginning of the game. Two dice give you the ability to activate cards with a higher number.
Well, that’s it really. Be the first to build all your landmarks and you win the game.
There are things about this game I like and things I don’t like. I like the simplicity of the rules and the easy and straightforward mechanisms. This means that you can teach the game in a minute and start playing almost immediately. The way different cards, with different colours, score makes sure that you are engaged throughout the whole game. Some cards activate in your own turn and others during other player’s turns.
I like the way that you can build an engine by buying cards that work well together, but this also has its drawbacks. The market will always be the same and once players know what works well they will go for these card combination in future games too. This might cause you to have a similar experience over and over again, with the only thing that changes is the results of your die role.
Buying these specific combinations of cards is almost obligatory. You have to use them to win. Well, not have to, but when someone does go for one of the more obvious strategies, you’d better ride along or adjust to another pre-build strategy fast or otherwise you won’t have a chance, especially when he gets his engine going early in the game.
The dice can also be a blessing or a burden. That’s logical, it’s a dice game. When you roll badly, you not only won’t get income yourself, but you might also be helping your opponents. This means that you can’t do anything on your turn and you give others the chance to advance even faster.
This happened during my first game of Machi Koro. Not to me, but to another player. He rolled badly, turn after turn, after turn. He couldn’t do anything, which is sort of funny at first, but after the third and fourth terrible roll in a row, it’s not any more. It just made the gaming experience less enjoyable.
You do have some control over the result of your die roll. In the beginning of the game you have to be a bit lucky, but along the way you can buy more and more cards, so if you don’t buy cards that give you money when you roll a five, it is pretty much your own fault and has nothing to do with luck any more if you do roll a five and you don’t get anything.
Flavour and Theme
It’s a city building game. You build all kinds of buildings, starting with simple buildings and after a while you are able to build the more luxurious ones.
That’s the idea. However, I do not think this game is very thematic. The different abilities of the buildings don’t always make thematic sense to me.
I think the game looks nice. The illustrations are very colourful, bright and cheerful.
Quality of the components
The quality is just fine. No complaints here.
This game is just not for me. It doesn’t mean that I dislike the game. I think it’s quite enjoyable when played with the right people. It’s a perfect game to play when you want to play a game with non-gamers. It’s a very solid gateway into the gaming world. It plays in half an hour, everybody is involved throughout the game and it is very easy to teach.
However, as a board gamer, it leaves me cold. It feels like Catan and that’s a game you also never hear me asking you to play with me. I can see it’s a good game and I know that many, many people like to play Machi Koro, but I feel indifferent about it.