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Review of Reviews: Machi Koro

Posted Thursday, 11-Jun-2015

A compilation of reviews for Spiel des Jahres board game nominee Machi Koro.

Contributed by Troy Pitschman


From Japanese board game designer Masao Suganuma (Diamonsters), Machi Koro is a game known for its simplicity and its high level of player interactivity.

Published by IDW Games (Kill Shakespeare, Tammany Hall, Awesome Kingdom: The Tower of Hateskull), Machi Koro is a fast-paced city-building card and dice game.


How do you play Machi Koro?

Designed for 2-4 players, Machi Koro is a game that you can play with just about anyone.  As the newly elected mayor, players are tasked with trying to be the first city to generate enough revenue to build four “landmarks”.


The first player to build all four 'landmarks' is the winner of Machi Koro.
The first player to build all four ‘landmarks’ is the winner of Machi Koro.


Greg Schloesser from Opinionated Gamers briefly described the gameplay in his article about the popular Japanese game:

“Players roll dice and spend money to acquire new establishments for their growing city.  The first player to successfully construct four special building wins the race to build the model city, thereby winning the game.”

While this game may appear to be have a huge ‘luck’ component, Machi Koro has a surprising strategic element to it.  The most obvious example of this is deciding which buildings to invest in since different buildings offer different advantages to players.

Paste Magazine’s Keith Law explains, “The market cards come in four categories, with separate cost/benefit calculations depending on when they’re activated.


Players build their cities via 'Market' cards.
Players build their cities via ‘Market’ cards.


Another strategic element to consider was described by The Guardian’s Owen Duffy: “Multiple copies of the same building pay out repeatedly… This poses an immediate strategic question: is it better to build a city that generates a small amount of cash on any die roll, or gamble with one which gives you huge payouts?”


Is Machi Koro the right game for you?

If you’re looking for with fast interactive gameplay with a small group of friends or even the family Machi Koro could be for you. Thanks to the game’s dice rolling component Keith Law praises its randomized gameplay:

“That random element makes Machi Koro a good family-strategy game to play with kids old enough to understand just a little bit of math”


Dice add to Machi Koro's randomized gameplay.
Photo Credit: BoardGameQuest.com


Apart from its family-friendly ruleset, Machi Koro is great for players looking for a game with little to no inactivity.

Tony Mastrangeli’s BoardGameQuest.com article expands on this sentiment: “Turns go by very quickly, and most players should stay engaged even when it’s not their turn.  The cards lend themselves to a decent amount of player interaction, whether it’s from stealing or just gaining money from the bank.”

What others are saying in reviews of Machi Koro

Tony Mastrangeli of BoardGameQuest.com also commented on the playful feel that Machi Koro gives:

“It has an almost cartoony feel to it that works really well for this game.  Machi Koro is a light game that has a bunch of randomness to it, so it seems to fit in my opinion.”

On the flip side, Mastrangeli also comments that “that’s also where one of the flaws of Machi Koro (with the standard rules) rears its ugly head.  There are some really powerful combos in Machi Koro and it’s pretty easy to just cheese those over and over every game.”

Owen Duffy also gave the game a mixed review calling the game, “quick, light and approachable,” but criticized the game’s imbalance. He writes, “Its one main flaw is that that certain cards often seem more powerful than others, although the randomizing element of the dice has some mitigating effect.”


Machi Koro was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award.
Machi Koro was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award.


Opinionated Gamer’s Greg Schloesser critiqued the balancing issues with Machi Koro and its luck-heavy game play: “There’s lots of decisions to be made and one or two of them might even matter, but the simple truth is that if you’re lucky with the dice, you’ll win and if you’re not, you won’t.”

While the game may have balance issues and the strategy seems to wear thin after players learn the best combos, Machi Koro nonetheless remains an enjoyable game that is praised for its accessibility and its smooth game play.


Ready to buy?  Find the best prices for Machi Koro on BoardGamePrices.com.

Published by BoardGamePrices.com

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