This time on Geek Syndicate Table Games we take a look at a new game that is making noises everywhere for its simple, yet addictive game design.  So, is the game as good as people say, or is it just hype? It’s time to play and review Machi Koro. Also at the end of the post you can find a video review summary.


Welcome to the city of Machi Koro, the Japanese card game that is sweeping the world!

Armed only with your trusty die and a dream, you must grow the sleepy town of Machi Koro into the largest city in the region. You will need to collect income from developments, build public works, and steal from your neighbours coffers. (Just make sure they aren’t doing the same to you!)

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Machi Koro will be built in about half an hour!


There are really four types of  games we review here on Geek Syndicate Table Games: board, dice, social, and card games. Machi Koro falls straight into the last category. It seems to belonging to the deck building family, which is a type of game that starts off with every player getting a basic set of cards and then throughout the game you gain more until you have enough to help you win the game. However Machi Koro also seems to bring something else to the table. So let’s find out how you play the game.

What you get in the box

What you get in the box

The aim of the game is to build your city before the other players. Each player is given 4 double-sided cards that represent the big four buildings or establishments that they need to build in order to win the game. These are the Radio Tower, Train Station, Shopping Mall and Amusement Park. They start off on the grey side which means that have not been built yet. Later on you will turn them over and use the ‘special ability.’ Also in your starting hand you get two of the smaller establishments – the Wheat Field and the Bakery – and 3 coins to get you going.

Then in the middle of table you will lay out the rest of the cards in the game. There are 15 types of cards to choose from; all with type of establishment and with a cool picture of that building or place. On the bottom of each card there is a number representing its cost, ranging from 1 to 8 coins. Also on the cards you have a large number at the top. This is an activation number and some cards have 2 consecutive numbers like 2-3. Lastly on each card there will be some text which tells you about the special ability of that card.

On your turn you will roll one die and see what the number is. You have in your starting deck two active cards and the 4 non-active major establishment cards. You check the active ones and see if the number on the die matches the number on the top of your active cards. If it is, you can use the special ability on that card.

The main deck

The main deck

The ability’s on the cards will be one of three options. You get money on your turn only, you get money when anyone rolls that number, or you steal money from the person who rolled the dice.

Once you have used the ability you can then spend your money to buy any one of the cards in the main layout bit. (Only one card per turn.) If you did not activate any of your cards you can still buy a card with whatever money you have, or just do nothing and save your cash to purchase a higher value card next time. Alternatively you could activate (turn over) one of your four major establishment cards.

As the game progresses you’ll find yourself buying more cards to give you a better chance of activating when rolling a die. The cards in the middle have activation numbers ranging from 1 to 12 because at some point you will pay to activate one of your major establishment cards, and that will permit you to roll two dice if you choose. There are a few extra wrinkles to pick up which add spice and strategy, but those are the basic steps of play.

Once the first person has turned over all four major establishment cards the games ends or, if you prefer, you can play on to see who comes in next.


Player starting cards

Player starting cards

I have played Machi Koro about ten times now with 2, 3 and 4 players, and each time is completely different. That is because there are so many strategies you can use here. Buy just 1 to 6 activation cards and only use one dice; buy all numbers that activate when others roll them; or buy lots of cards of the same building to multiply your earnings. Choose your strategy wisely and be the first to build your town.

The art on the cards for this game is just beautiful; a cross between a children’s programme and artistic genius. Each type of card is represented by a simple yet effective picture. This brings me to the actual cards themselves. These are lovely quality cards with a shine and laminate type finish to them. The box the games comes in is quite small but fits the cards and dice and money easily. It has lots of room left for what looks like more cards through expansion sets, of which I know one will be released early next year. The coins you use come in small 1’s larger 5’s and the big 10’s, all of which are standard quality but tough enough for all ages.

Talking of ages, I have played this with 8 year olds upwards, and all have grasped the game in about 2 minutes, which makes for quick game play. It also means that if you have a mixed age-range you have no idea what the younger players will do, which can really freak you out when they start to steal all your money! The rules are printed in an excellently laid out 4 page booklet that takes about 10 minutes to read, and covers all you need to get going straight away.

Machi Koro can last from 30 minutes to about 90 at it’s very longest, with four experienced players and the different strategy’s to play; which means that the replayability of this game is pretty limitless in my opinion.

For me Machi Koro is going to be coming out a lot, and I will get the expansion and see how that changes it. But for now this is purely and simply an instant win, and I am recommending everyone I know to grab a copy.

For more board game reviews on Geek Syndicate go HERE.

GS Rating: 5/5

Source: Machi Koro
GS Blogger: Montoya

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