Jan 21, 2015

[Games] Machi Koro

It seems like a good number of interesting card games are being discovered in Japan as of late. Just look at games like Love Letter and Say Bye to the Villains and you'll come to understand what I mean. And thus it feels like global distributors are racing to acquire the licenses to release these games in other languages other than Japanese.

Machi Koro is a game that Tobie has been eagerly waiting for an English release for. He was so eager to play the game that he homebrewed a set using card images found online and English translations provided by other fans. It was a little rough going, but at least we got to try the game and rather enjoyed it a lot.

And now that the English version has finally reached the Philippines, I feel it's appropriate to write a review after months of including the game in our game nights.

Machi Koro is a a city building card game created by Masao Suganuma. The English version was published by IDW Games and it supports 2-4 players.

The game centers around the engine-building principle where you will try to build different structures (represented by cards) to help you with the main goal of building the 4 the landmark cards. Income is determined by a die roll (1-2 dice depending on what buildings you have) and an interpretation of the results. Then you may buy one structure and then your turn ends.

When the dice come up with a number corresponding to a blue card, anyone who has that card will earn income based on the card. Green cards only earn during your own turn when you roll the dice. Red cards owned by other players trigger when their numbers come up - the person who rolled has to pay the owner of the red card. And purple cards have some pretty powerful effects that trigger only on your own turn.

At first the game will appear deceptively simple at first. The initial turns may feel slow since you only roll one die and you only start with a single Wheat Field and a Bakery. But as you gather more cards and ensure that you have cards that match all the different possible die rolls, then your engine really starts to work and income becomes more steady.

What makes the game a lot of fun is the diversity of strategies available to you. Some players race to gather up cards that match two die combinations and try to unlock the Train Station Landmark as soon as possible. Others try to limit themselves to cards that only work when you roll one die in order to avoid the potential penalties of the two die cards. Others still focus solely on combination effects for cards like getting Forests and Mines (blue cards) in order to make the most of the Furniture Factory. And yet you can also focus more on red cards and hope to steal the income of other players to advance your own plans.

Thus the middle to late game phases of Machi Koro can get pretty exciting as the players all try to adapt to one another and hope the die rolls come out in their favor. The element of luck in this game makes it feel very American, however the rest of it is still pretty unique to itself. We've had games that feel like major upsets because of that single roll that lets the player win big for a single round.

The IDW Games release is a pretty good mix with a decent enough box that contains your cards and also acts as a dice tray of sorts if you so wish. They include a ridiculous number of cut out coins for your use, although we can't figure out how anyone could have multiple coins worth 10 each given the values of the structures in the game.

Machi Koro is a cute, clever and on the whole endearing little card game that I loved absolutely up until we got Splendor, which is another engine building game. I think that took away a little of the wind out of this game's sails, but it's still worth playing. Thus I'm happy to rate it as 4.5 fun chain effects in the game out of a possible 5.

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