The cute colourful city of Pandasaurus Games‘ Machi Koro just got bigger…… Ohyaō Gozaimasu, Machi Koro 2!
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Designer: Masao Suganuma
Artist: Noburu Hotta, Masao Suganuma
Release date: 2021
Favouritefoe score: 7.5/10
* Set Collecting * Engine Building * City Building * Dice Rolling * Tableau * Card drafting * Racing * Random Production* Passive Rewards * Fun * Light *
Mayor of Machi Koro 2!
If you are completely new to Machi Koro world, don’t be alarmed that Pandasaurus are already on volume 2! Comparing them side by side, the latest game is very similar to the original in theme and objective. But there are a few fun tweaks that justify its arrival (more on that later!).
Just like its predecessor, Machi Koro 2 is a sweet city building game where you each take on the role of a Mayor with city lights in their sights. Bedecked in your regal chains, you are racing to build the best city you can, and the best city has three landmarks. But to be able to afford those sky high construction costs, you need establishments. And that is because buildings generate income. Lots of lovely landmark purchasing coins!
And the range of establishments and what they do are mainly what sets Machi Koro 2 apart from Machi Koro. Lots more buildings with lots more special money making effects, and the power to start each city from scratch!
City Set Up!
Machi Koro 2 is child’s play to set up: You’ll have three rows of 5 face up cards. 5 establishments from the deck numbered 1-6, 5 from the deck numbered 7 – 12, and then 5 Landmarks. The remaining cards are placed in their respective piles ready to replenish said rows when spaces become vacant. If any cards are turned over which match those already revealed, stack them together and draw a new one to fill the gap. Each player then receives 5 coins from the bank.
Your starting city will be based upon what you choose to buy with your initial 5 coins. Unlike Machi Koro, you can splurge on up to three establishments of your choice (so long as you can afford them!), making for unique urban spaces from the get go. Thereafter, each turn will limit you to buying one establishment or Landmark.
A Turn Around The Town!
Turns in Machi Koro 2 are also easy as 1,2,3……
On each turn:
- You roll one or two dice (note that you can do this from the very start unlike Machi Koro which needed a Landmark to trigger it). If you roll both, then you have to use the combined total.
- You get (or take!) the money that the establishments with that matching number produce; and then
- You build aka buy a new establishment with the money just generated and add it to your city tableau.
The game ends when a player has bought their third Landmark.
Establishing an Engine!
So how do you choose which establishments you want to buy when you’re rolling in coins? Well, you don’t have free reign, Mr. Mayor! Your choices will ultimately be determined by how much money you actually have in your public purse.
And that is the motor inside this quick, light, colourful little engine building, set collecting, city buidling game. Buying establishments that pay out when Lady luck shines down is your petrol power. And when your little motor is running efficiently, the money flows! And that opens up big buying power!
The dice can be fickle masters, however. But, as with other games where resources are allocated by random rolls, you can mitigate this a little with a bit of maths and strategy.
And by maths, I mean probabilities. Nothing a gamer can’t handle (although there is a helpful guide on the reverse side of the reference cards)! For example, you could lower the risk of your numbers not coming up by choosing a wide spread of numbered buildings. Alternatively, you might want to pick establishments which are most likely to come up again and again. Yes, number 7, I am talking to you!
But, victory in Machi Koro 2 is not just a case of choosing a variety of establishment types that pay out on your turn. As some of your buildings will pay out on an opponent’s turn (and only their turn!), it also makes sense to keep an eye on their cityscapes.
For example, if the other Mayors only have low numbered buildings, the double roll is going to be a rare beast in their hand. Which makes your buildings numbered 10, 11, and 12 less profitable than they could be. You’ll be relying solely on your own rolls to trigger the pay outs they provide, although those rewards may be greater. On the flip side, when you’re rolling doubles alone, your competition isn’t going to get a big pay out on your turn – decisions decisions!
Personally, I really like it when I get something on someone else’s turn (even more than my own). As such, I tend to make a beeline for red restaurants and blue primary industries for this very greedy reason!
I am also one merry Mayor when I can collect a set of establishment types that work well together. Not only that, but knowing I can build more of the same ones (leading to double or triple pay outs each time their numbers come up) is sweeeeeet!
And that is another nice feature in Machi Koro 2; the number of different establishment types and combo actions possible on players’ turns (not to mention the variety of pay-outs) is bigger. Plus, together with the new ability to pick your own starting establishments, these tweaks help to keep games feel more varied and fresher.
Not only that, but those coveted Landmarks make for some very helpful boosting actions indeed. But beware; they won’t always just positively affect the player (“builder”) who owns them. Factor in specific Landmarks which also reward players throughout the game via ongoing powers, and there is suddenly quite a bit to consider before you buy buy buy!
I should also mention that, unlike the original Machi Koro, #2 enables you to buy any of the Landmarks you like so long as you can afford them. No longer are you each limited to picking from identical sets, which again helps to stop gameplay from becoming stale.
The Landmarks also have variable costs*. This means that your third and final one will be more expensive than your first, and this makes it that little bit harder to snatch victory. This can mean that our final few turns often end up focusing on saving income for our 3rd respective Landmarks, rather than strategically buying more buildings. But that style of play also emphasises that need for speed in terms of the race to the finish.
(*save the Loan Office which has a set price and ongoing cost reduction power as a catch-up mechanism for the most trailing player)
For example, choosing between rolling one or two dice. Having Landmarks that sometimes reward all players. Deciding whether to spread your activated numbers or focus on more probable hitters. Thinking about which establishment types to link together for the best combo coin reaping results; these are all tactical decisions that require some think. And having purple major establishment cards that can directly mess with your opponents’ own cities give players greater pause for thought in terms of what to buy (and when) in this game.
Sometimes, a particular strategy will pay off. In others, it won’t. So, even though the game play is similar in terms of turn action options, the outcome is unlikely to be identical. And, whilst games where the result is heavily influenced by dice rolls aren’t always popular, having to counter the randomness of those results each turn is the hook here.
No Mean Streets Here!
And, just like its sweet, colourful styling, Machi Koro 2 has a nice, friendly vibe. A game never feels overly mean, and even if you are losing hard, it doesn’t last that long. For example, if you have to give money to another player, but you can’t afford it, you just pay what you can. There is no ongoing penalty. Likewise, if you can’t afford to build anything on your turn, you receive 1 free coin from the bank. And this bonus buck just might let you continue to improve your city that turn (if there are any 1 coin cards in the pool) as well as give you a chance to gain (or perhaps lose!) more income on the next one.
Like its predecessor, the rules for Machi Koro 2 are super easy to learn, and you’ll be playing it confidentially in minutes. Only having played base Machi Koro, I think there is enough differences in the game play to make it a more interesting, dynamic game, albeit within a similar framework.
I know there have been expansions to the original Machi Koro (the Harbour and Millionaire’s Row) which may together align more with this re-interpretation. But I haven’t played either of them. I am hopeful, however, that the tweaks to the way your cities begin and continue to develop in Machi Koro 2 are not re-covering previously trodden ground.
City Life Lessons!
As parents of a 6 year old game addict, Machi Koro 2 is a wonderful introduction to more expansive engine building games. Our Mini-meeple is getting to grips with it, and enjoys rinsing us of our hard rolled cash! Likewise, however, when looking for a quick EB to play between bigger game bites or when time is tight, we bigger gamers enjoy it simply for what it is.
Not only that, but it can be enjoyed by groups that have members of differing abilities (as well as accessibility needs – the symbols in fact making it a colour independent game). Primarily because there is a layer of strategy within the game play; tactics that not only help to keep it engaging for experienced players, but also help mitigate the randomness of the dice rolls.
The double sided reference card is also a big help to player who perhaps lack confidence when choosing buildings as it shows the likelihood of each card type being triggered by single and double dice rolls – this is a really well thought out aspect of the quality of the production.
Oh, and it goes without saying that, as with all combo-enabled games, it feels soooo good when a group of establishments work together to trigger a big, juicy Landmark sized pay out!
Overall, we think Machi Koro 2 is a fast, friendly, little engine builder with lovely quality cards. It isn’t a major brain burn, but it has a neat split dice trick, and has opportunities to reward passive players, both of which we like.
There are, in fact, some similarities to AEG’s Space Base. And, as big fans of Space Base, I think we were secretly hoping for a similar big game, albeit smaller box feel with Machi Koro 2 (although, having said that, the box isn’t that small given the contents!) Whilst we don’t find it evoking quite the same feelings as Space Base, we are still enjoying Machi Koro 2 for the super colourful, friendly, quick and accessible experience it offers.
[please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review, but any opinions expressed are my own]
[Please also note that I am not paid by any retail outlets to promote their products]