Board Games

Casino City-Building

For the hobby board gamer, there is always a question of what games to show your family. It is essential to remind ourselves that while we may enjoy complex games like Gloomhaven, Nemesis, A Feast for Odin, or Terraforming Mars, our gaming audience might not have the same tastes. That’s why it is so nice to stumble across a game everyone can enjoy. I feel Machi Koro is the perfect fit for light, quick family game time.

The Pandasaurus 5th Edition

Machi Koro is a Japanese-released game by Masao Suganuma in 2012 before being translated and imported into the U.S. It is currently being published in the United States by Pandasaurus Games. The new 5th-anniversary edition includes larger cards, chunky dice, and nice plastic coins.

In Machi Koro, each player plays as the mayor of a small town consisting of a farm and a bakery. On their turn, a player will roll a die. Then, depending on the number rolled, buildings matching the rolled number will collect income. The player who rolled the dice may then purchase a new building from the center display to aid them in future turns. Instead of buying a building, a player also has the option to build one of four monuments. Once a single player has developed all four of their monuments, that player immediately wins!

The Four Monuments

I feel many modern strategic games struggle with how to utilize randomness. It creates an unintended dichotomy of outcomes. If you get a desirable outcome, it is thrilling. If you get an undesirable outcome, you are disappointed and perhaps a touch frustrated at your lack of agency.

What I love about Machi Koro is its ability to capture the feeling of gambling. When the luck doesn’t go your way, you aren’t that concerned because Machi Koro gives you a plethora of tools to mitigate lousy luck. Instead of being apprehensive before a roll, since this roll could make or break the game, there is a much more relaxed feeling. Being so comfortable also makes the moments where you do hit the jackpot that much more exhilarating!

If you decide to specialize and focus on constructing many of the same buildings, you acknowledge you are making your odds worse in favor of a more massive payout if you do hit your number. If you don’t hit it, the choice of doubling down or diversifying is always interesting. Some buildings also activate on opponents’ turns, so I’ve found very few occurrences where players had no money to spend.

Machi Koro is careful not to outstay its welcome. Gambling is fun, but as games drag on, luck gets more frustrating. It sucks to lose a 1-2 hour game because of last turn luck. From setup to teardown, Machi Koro takes 30 minutes or less, even for the first time playing. The pace of play adds lightness to the games’ proceedings. Before you know it, someone has built their fourth monument. Play again?

Machi Koro also fills a niche by having such simple rules. Roll the dice, collect money, buy something! Being so easy to teach, I am not worried about whether it will be too much for someone who hasn’t seen modern board games before. For that reason, I think this is a perfect game for the holiday season. The game has a small footprint and is super portable!

I think Machi Koro knows what it wants to do and executes brilliantly. I think the game is accessible and fun to gamers of all experience levels. I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of this classic coming from Japan.

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