- Designer: Masao Suganuma
- Players: 2-4
- Time: 30 Min
I had a Great Uncle who owned a cheese factory when I was a boy, and he had developed a particular brand of mozzarella that was quite renowned. I would lay in bed at night thinking to myself what an awesome job that would be. A master cheese maker… walking the floors of his factory… sampling the creamy, golden wheels of success. For years I thought I would never breathe the pungent air of the noble trade, and then along came little Machi Koro.
Machi Koro is as simple an empire building game as you’ll find, and like much of Japanese culture it refines the experience down to its most elegant state until only the necessary components remain. Here’s how it works. Each player is placed in charge of a growing town, the populations of which are ambitious and would love for nothing more than to be the first to put their little hamlet on the map. The winner of the game is the first to complete four distinct landmarks ranging from theme parks to radio towers. Each player starts with a wheat field and bakery, because let’s face it, all major cities are founded on mass-produced, cream-filled pastries. Each holding is represented by a card with a particular number value, and at the beginning of a player’s turn they will roll a die to see if they can activate one of their locations. Roll a number that corresponds to your holding and you activate its ability. The catch is that you may also activate other players’ holdings as well. Like the well-known Settlers of Catan (now known only as Catan), your die rolls mean just as much to you as they do to your opponents. While most cards will generate you income, there are some that have players reaching across the table to dip their hands into the pockets of their competition.
The cards are numbered 1 to 12, which means a second die will be rolled by players with higher-valued cards. The crunch in the game comes from determining just how you will grow your empire. Maybe you’ll invest in natural resources like forests and mines to optimize your economy. Or maybe you’ll go for broke and gamble on restaurant chains and television stations. The choice is yours, and all are viable paths to success. The bottom line is that Machi Koro is accessible and offers a great deal of replayability. In fact, it was just nominated for Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahres) in Germany for these very reasons. The current expansion (Harbor) adds a little more flavor: introducing things like tuna boats, flower shops, sushi bars and more. So if you decide to give little Machi Koro a try, remember the dreams of a little boy and build a cheese factory for me.
Pros: Simple, Great Cabin Game, Accessible, Expandable
Cons: May be too Luck-Driven for Some