Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Machi Koro

Game Title: Machi Koro

Designer: Masao Suganuma

Manufacturer: IDW Games & Pandsaurus

Year: 2012 (?)

I recently picked up Machi Koro in a charity shop in Cambridge, UK for a bargain of just £1. However much bad press I have heard from fellow gamers about the game, especially since its Spiel des Jahres nomination, £1 is an undeniable bargain and I was therefore happy to give the game a chance and form my own opinion after playing the game.

Machi Koro is a card and dice game in which each player is developing their own city to please the city’s demanding inhabitants and increase the cities wealth. Each development is represented by a card, available to be bought by any player from the central tableau of 15 cards. There are 6 of most types of card and when they have all been bought, the supply of these buildings runs out, much like in Dominion. Players may also choose to build their landmarks, which are four cards that each player can buy to gain a special ability. The first player to build all four landmarks wins the game.

On a player's turn they first roll the dice. At the start of the game one die is rolled, however once a player has built the Train Station, they may roll two dice. The resulting total on the dice activates all card bearing that number. Sometimes this result activates only for the current player (on green cards), but sometimes it activates the blue cards which give the bonus to all players with that numbered card. Typically the result of a dice roll means that players gain money either from the bank, or in the case of red and purple cards, from other players.

Each player's identical starting hand of four landmarks (left) and two city cards - a Wheat Field and a Bakery which activate when a one, two or three is rolled. The wheat field activated when anyone rolls a one, whereas the bakery only activates on your turn.
After rolling the dice, the player may then purchase one card. Cards have differing costs depending on their reward, the likelihood of given numbers of the dice roll and whether the card activates on every dice roll, or just your dice rolls.

The game has an attractive and cute art style and is simple to learn and therefore has become popular with a certain group of people and this probably explains its nomination for the Spiel des Jahre. But, ever since playing this game for the second time, I have really not enjoyed it. As I feared, the bad press I have heard was very true to my thoughts on the game. The game is almost entirely luck based and has a huge runaway leader, or ‘the-rich-get-richer’, problem. If you make a successful roll and gain money, you can then buy cards that make it more likely you will make money on your next turn. Meanwhile your opponent may get unlucky and roll no matches with their own cards, or even worse, rolls that seem to match everyone else’s cards except their own! There is also no tactical player interaction, you can’t prevent the runaway leader from winning, no matter how hard you try to buy up all the cards they want or buy the attacking style red or purple cards.

Halfway through the game and it would be very surprising if the player at the bottom of the image did not win!

It is a shame that my opinions on the game are so negative. The game actually contains some nice ideas, such as the different cards that might activate on every turn or just your turn, or the level playing field created by being able to build your tableau from a central pool of cards available to all players. It also saddens me that a game that is so suited as a gateway game, requiring no prior knowledge of games whatsoever and looking attractive on the table, is likely to give new players a lack-lustre 30 minutes where all but one player feels very hard done by due to dice luck alone. I am sure this game would not have got me into gaming!

Unfortunately Machi Koro has not found a place on our shelves and gets a 3/10 rating, mainly for looking nice and being playable. Hopefully someone will take some of the positives and make a better game with them soon.

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