Build Faster!

Here at my house, my wife and I alongside our roommates have always been fans of Machi Koro.  A simple dice and card game with infinite replayability and more strategy than what is shown at face level will always find games played on a Saturday night.  It’s also a game I never expected to get a sequel, save some expansions like the Harbor Expansion and Millionaire’s Row.  But with a new spin on its rules and a fresh coat of paint, Machi Koro 2 is here to establish itself as another potential banger for Pandasaurus Games.

For the uninitiated: Machi Koro is a roll n’ build game for up to 5 players where you’re trying to build the best (and most profitable) city with a bevy of landmarks to grace your dream town.  Four types of cards can raise your coin: Green and Purple cards grant coins and specific circumstances on your roll, Blue cards for any roll, and Red cards steal on someone else’s roll.  Landmarks are priced differently and provide buffs like extra rolls on doubles and specific genre of cards acquiring extra coins.  Buy all the landmarks and claim your stake at being the best town!

With Koro 2 the glory of Best Town is still up for battle, but the starting and winning conditions are a little different.  Winning doesn’t need every landmark this time, just three. Which landmarks are available is determined by a random 5 card pool (with many more than that to pull) much like how properties are available to purchase after each turn.  Landmarks (save a select few) have three different prices that steadily increase, as each completed landmark in your town makes the next one more expensive.  Want the coolest town?  It’s gonna cost you.

But the changes to the start of each game are the biggest leap from its predecessor.  Instead of starting with a wheat field, a bakery, and a few coins to humbly start your journey: Machi Koro 2 injects some pre-game strategy.  Each player gets 5 coins (made not of cardstock but of plastic, which is a nice physical change and will live together with our copy of original Machi Koro) and 5 cards from each deck, one deck needing a 1-6 die roll and another a 7-12 die roll to proc said cards. There’s a 3-round pick ‘em draft to see how you want to craft your town from the start.  One card can be purchased each round for each player and any card in the pool is available for purchase but blowing your 5 coins in the early rounds will make you skip your turn if you can’t afford anything in the pool.  This is my personal favorite sequel change because there are so many shenanigans that can happen before a die is even rolled.  You can pick cards to piece together a big wombo combo depending on one number, or stack your town evenly to gather a slow trickle of funds, or just be a straight asshole by grabbing every red card available and make your friends pay for your town.

Prices have also been updated on most cards to make building your town a little quicker, and the rewards for hitting your number are more plentiful than before.  A couple games through and you’ll notice that Koro 2 is a much faster experience than the original.  After an initial run to recognize rules and changes, none of our games ran over 30-45 minutes.  For the pack that doesn’t want to slug out a 60-120 minute match in Machi Koro with expansions, Koro 2 provides a tightly knit package to get a quick round in.  While I appreciate that niche, I may be in the small boat that misses some of the mid-game strategy that the first Machi Koro provided.

When I say Machi Koro 2 is fast, it is fast.  The landmarks push the envelope even more so that there is almost no third act, just when you start playing and when 1-2 people grab a landmark.  Some landmarks have a power that in the first game would’ve been player specific when acquired, but now landmarks like the Airport, which grants 5 coins when a player doesn’t purchase a building on their turn, is now available to all players when one player purchases it.  Since there is only one specific Airport landmark and someone may get it, Machi Koro 2 allows players to keep up with only so many landmarks available to purchase and doesn’t slingshot one player miles ahead of the others with a good pull.  But this rule slingshots every player into supersonic speeds, going on the basis that “Well, if everyone is overpowered, then no one is overpowered,” and well, it creates chaos.  Fun chaos!  But chaos.

For someone who likes to see what the pool brings up and really build a mammoth city with a lot of coin action from all directions in the first game, Machi Koro 2 just doesn’t play with that in mind.  There are only 20 different properties to purchase, with a lot of cards from Millionaire’s Row and the Harbor Expansion becoming landmarks to fight over. Abilities like rolling two dice are available from the start, which for Harbor Expansion fans was the real mid-game starter when tuna and mackerel boats started to fire off. Most games of Koro 2 saw myself and others getting on average 7-10 properties before the game was over.  You would easily find yourself with double that in original games.  Like I said, these games go fast.

But to say I’m disappointed or let down by the difference in game speed is just not true.  Machi Koro 2 utilizes its tried and true game mechanics and mashes it to 5th gear with a genius pre-planning phase and more of what Machi Koro fans know and love.  The speed in which the games get out of hand may irk some people and take them by surprise, but it carves itself a nice spot in the under 45min game category and is the perfect supplement for a quick city build with your friends.

Just don’t touch that Launch Pad.  It’s mine.

Review copy provided by Pandasaurus Games.