Review: Machi Koro

in my last two reviews I took a look at two of the three Spiel des Jahres (pronounced shpeel des yar-es) nominees for 2015; Colt Express and The Game: Spiel so lange du kannst. Today I am going to look at Machi Koro by Kosmos, IDW Games and a plethora of other companies as well.

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

To sum Machi Koro up in a short summary, it is essentially Settlers of Catan without the board but with specialized buildings. That may not be super clear so let me give a little more detail especially for those who have not played Setllers of Catan.

In Machi Koro you roll one (or two) die and the number that is rolled triggers the ability of specific buildings assigned to that number. If the players have money, they can purchase a new building which gives them new numbers to try and roll or to multiply the effect when that number is rolled if they buy a copy of one they already own. Then play moves to the next person. Some buildings will allow you to collect when other people roll the number, some only when you roll the number and others when anyone rolls that number. Some buildings allow you to take money from other players and other buildings, from the bank. The game ends when one player buys the fourth improvement for their city (each of which also give their own special ability like rolling two dice).

courtesy of BGG
courtesy of BGG

That is pretty much all there is to the game. It is not a difficult game and it seems geared towards novice game players. Depending on who you ask, you might get very different opinions on this game. some people seem to really like the game and will be buying every expansion that comes out for it while other people despise the game and think it is broken (that is a particular pet peeve of mine, but that is a topic for another day).

What’s Good?

  • The graphic design of the game, including the text and colors of each building (denoting if it activates on your roll, any roll, or opponent roll only) is well done.
  • It is a pretty quick game which allows for repeated gameplay or as a filler when that is all the time you have.
  • While not groundbreaking, the game plays well and does exactly what it sets out to do. It allows you to build a city with varying strategies (even if people say there is one dominating strategy) and to test out different combinations of buildings to maximize every possible roll.

What’s Not So Good?

  • The box size for the US version is absolutely ridiculous in how much empty space it has. You could fit the base game and about 100 expansions in the one box (ok a slight exaggeration, but it is way bigger than it needs to be).
  • There aren’t many exciting moments in the game that will keep you coming back for more and more. It does it’s intended job well, but it might not be enough to get you excited to play often.
  • There is a strategy that seems to be way better than the others, but in all honesty, just don’t play that strategy or house rule it and that becomes less of an issue. It’s not all about winning the game

What’s The Best Part?

  • The instructions are very clear, easy to understand and easy to teach as well. That is an essential aspect to any game for newer boardgamers and Machi Koro nails it. You can open up the game, read the rules and start playing all within about 10 minutes or so without every really needed to reference the rules again.

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