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Subject: Machi Koro - If You Build It, Coins Will Come (A Casual Gamer's View) rss

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H. M.
United Kingdom
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Back when I was a nipper, Monopoly was my family’s go-to game. After 10 minutes of arguing who was going to be what piece (DOG OR RACE CAR – I AM NOT BEING THE THIMBLE AGAIN), we’d start the game, have a few laps of the board – and basically give up when we got bored of it. We never quite graduated to houses and hotels, and I’m thankful we never put money on “Free Parking”, or we might still be playing to this day.

Now, if Monopoly is your game, good for you. I’m not knocking your tastes. But speaking for myself, I can now safely say that if I want to play a tabletop game involving the acquisition of property, Machi Koro is going to be my choice out of the two.

About the Game

Machi Koro (Dice Town) is a game that uses cards, dice and coin tokens. All players begin with the same setup, so no more fighting over race cars. This setup consists of three coins, two cards (a bakery and wheat field) and four landmarks – a Radio Tower, a Shopping Mall, a Train Station and an Amusement Park, all of which are under construction when the game begins. All remaining coins are placed into a bank.

During the game, players spend coins to purchase new businesses and buildings for their little town. Each building carries a number, which corresponds to a die roll. If yourself, another player, or in some cases both, rolls that number, then the card’s effect is activated. For example, any player rolling a 1 activates the Wheat Field, which allows all players with a Wheat Field to claim one coin from the bank. Other examples of effects including exchange of properties and claiming coins from fellow players. As such, a key goal is to buy a wide mixture of properties to profit from as many numbers / die rolls as you can.

Having more than one card of a type increases the effect respectively – e.g. someone with two Wheat Fields would claim two coins rather than one, and so on.

Buildings with more lucrative effects need a higher dice roll to be activated, and generally cost more coins to purchase. Building the Train Station grants players the ability to roll two dice rather than one, thus unlocking access to these higher rolls.

If a player has to pay debts on their turn, this is done before they claim any coins from the bank. If the full total cannot be paid, the player just gives what they can, and the rest is essentially written off. This mechanic ensures no player ever goes completely bankrupt, although you can be without coins for a round or two if you’re unlucky.

The most expensive things to build are your four landmarks, so you must make sure you save enough coins to do this whilst buying other useful buildings. The first player to construct all four of their landmarks is the winner.

Views

Now, before I express my own opinion on this game, I would like to give some thought to common criticisms I have seen in relation to it. These are:

1) that the game is simple and basic in nature
2) there's no real strategy involved - it's all basically luck and good dice rolls.

In both cases, I can say - fair enough. These views are understandable. However, I feel that these need not be entirely negative points. I confess that I speak as a casual gamer who is still very new to the titles of the tabletop Renaissance, and I was introduced to Machi Koro by a group of friends (with varying amounts of passion for the genre) whose main aim was to play a fun game together. True, there probably isn't enough substance here for this game to be centrepiece of a big gamer showdown... but I'm sure there are many other games that fit that purpose.

My defence would be that, sometimes, it can be nice and relaxing to play a simplistic, jolly game just for fun, even as a adult, and to have one on hand that newbies can learn quickly. For that, Machi Koro fits the bill. You needn't be a strategical genius to join in, and everyone there, regardless of skill, can have a relatively equal chance of winning. (Well, provided they buy the right cards, of course... which is arguably one aspect players do need to put some thought into.)

This game is fun to play, and relatively easy to pick up after a few turns. As I said, I’ve played it with friends, but also family members of various ages, and everyone has enjoyed it, so it doesn’t have a limited audience age-wise - provided people don't mind a more casual experience.

This is purely personal, but I consider the art style on the cards to be sweet and quirky. You build up one cute city!

It’s fair to say that you will probably find yourself getting more competitive later in the game, but this adds to the fun and excitement rather than causing genuine irritation.

On the downside, once people have quite a few properties, it can take a second or two for people to check if any of their cards correspond to a dice roll - particularly if it means they can collect debts from another player, who may well then be able to claim money back from the bank. However, this is just a little quibble, and doesn’t really ruin the game – you could even construct a reference sheet listing all the rolls and respective cards for quick lookup if you really wanted to.

I personally consider the lack of ultimate bankruptcy to be a brilliant move, as it ensures no player is ever left out and forced to watch from the sidelines. The game simply becomes a race to the finish to get funds and construct your buildings first, rather than being a more heavy-handed budgeting simulator.

Overall, a fun, fast-paced little build-‘em-up. Recommended.
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Tom Harrod
United Kingdom
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Re: Machi Koro - If You Build It, Coins Will Come
Nice write-up. As well as the game being a lot of fun, I can vouch from my experience* of Machi Koro that it’s pretty good as an ice-breaker for meeting new folks. You’re interacting with everybody in the game an even amount of the time – both giving and getting – and it’s not an intimidating brain-buster.

*Machi Koro was the first game I ever played with my gaming group – I rocked up at a village hall not knowing anyone and 10 minutes later found myself playing a 5-player game of this (with the Harbor and Millionaire’s Row expansions)!
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Dan Conley
United States
Milwaukie
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Very enjoyable review. Thanks for posting this. MK is such a great little game and has become a go-to game for me to play with non-gamers as a gateway. Loads of fun every time!
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John Di Ponio
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Great write up! This is a game I picked up in a trade thinking I might like it and has ended up being a lot of fun fun for the family. Its super simple to teach, people have lots of laughs and its just plain fun. No real thinking involved except for checking against die rolls when you have a lot of properties. I highly recommend it especially for all age groups in a family.
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James
United States
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Thanks for sharing your opinions on the game. I like it a lot myself, and two of my girls (9 and 12) enjoy it some. The biggest drawback I have had with the game is finding a good house rule on how many initial types of buildings to start the game with.

I found that the original rules could make for a very looooong ramp up time to get going, especially if one person is just not getting what they need. They would get bored or frustrated - especially if someone else got some early red cards and were targeting.

The best I have found is to either not play with the red and (purple?) complex cards to keep it less nasty, but it still suffers from a potential drag if the new buildings are showing up in a way that meshes well.

I want to like this game a lot, but I haven't found the best way to get it to the table for my family.

cheers,
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H. M.
United Kingdom
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I understand. My little one enjoyed it, but got a bit sidetracked close to the end!

Perhaps, if you felt the need to, you could create a variant with less landmarks and/or amend their cost, drop the Train Station effect, and stick with cards and dice rolls going from 1-6?

Or, everyone gets the 1-6 cards as a starter, and has to build their way up to the big numbers? And perhaps start with 5 coins, not 3?

In regards to card types, maybe introduce the other types gradually in later rounds, or have a house rule where, if a certain effect is played (e.g. property swap), it can't be used again in the next round, regardless of dice roll? Or it can only be used once per game, then the card is discarded?

I've never tried any of these ideas, so apologies if they prove to be game-breakers: especially the latter ones! I hope you find a solution.
 
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James
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All helpful thoughts are appreciated! Starting people off with a couple of buildings might not be a bad idea, just to give them a place to work from. Have to think on that one.

we have a couple of the expansions mixed in (we like the variety), but it can mean a really skewed market if late game cards are all that are showing up. I have tried having two markets of available buildings: one that are the 1-6 buildings and one that is all of the 7-13 buildings. That has worked better, but it still isn't quite tweaked the way I was hoping yet.

Cheers!
 
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