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Machi Koro: A Family Game Review

Machi Koro Box
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I was raised on boardgames. Piles of them. I couldn’t wait to start playing boardgames with my own kids. They are currently 8 and 9 years of age, which is a really fantastic age to start exploring more interesting family games that us parents can enjoy too. My 8-year-old is a bit of a reluctant gamer, but Machi Koro ranks high on his list of favorites. Let’s take a closer look at why we think this family game is so special!

What’s it all about?

In Machi Koro, you are the mayor of your own city. The goal? Be the first to build all four major landmarks. This game is designed for 2-4 players, but we prefer at least 3. The 30 minute estimated playtime on the box is fairly accurate.

What’s in the box:

  • 24 Starting Cards
  • 84 Supply Cards
  • 2 Chunky Dice
  • 78 plastic Coins
  • Box includes a nice plastic insert to keep your components organized

Ease of Teach:

The instructions are short and sweet. You can read the whole booklet in roughly 5 minutes and you’ll have a clear understanding for how to play. The super easy teach for Machi Koro is what makes it shine as family game. No nit-picky rules to confuse kids (or adults).

How it works:

Each turn has three phases:

  1. Roll the Die
  2. Collect or Pay Money
  3. Build (This step is optional)

Rolling the die (phase 1) will activate corresponding cards in your city. Depending on which cards are active, you either collect or pay money to other players (phase 2).

The building phase (phase 3) is your opportunity to improve your city. You can purchase a card from the supply or build one of the 4 major improvements in your city. Take some time to look at the cards and symbols in the supply. Some of the establishments have synergies that can be quite profitable for your city. 

There are 4 different types of cards that you can add to your city. Each type is a specific color. Blue cards are our favorite because they activate on anyone’s turn. For example, that wheat field you start with will activate on a die roll of 1. If someone rolls a 1, everyone gets to collect a coin from the bank. Green and Purple cards activate only on your turn.  Red cards activate on your opponent’s turn. 

Tip: Every time someone activates a blue card, shout “Machi Koro!” This has become a family tradition here and it somehow makes gameplay more exciting. I was compelled to look it up – If you’re wondering, Machi Koro means “Dice Town.”

Heads up:

The purple cards in the game incorporate a minor take-that mechanism that can lead to hurt feelings. Hear me out before you run! We considered taking the cards out of the game to avoid the conflict between our kids, but I’m glad we left them in. It turns out that our kids prefer to win rather than simply pick on each other, which leads to them attacking mom or dad instead.  This is good strategy. I’m happy to see them using it. Those purple cards are actually my sons favorite to collect. Every turn he yell’s “come on 6” as he rolls the die! 

Things that make this game unusual:

Debts. You can bet that at some point during the game you’ll owe money to another player. If you don’t have moneyto pay, the debt is simply ignored. No auctioning off the farm. No borrowing money from the bank. You simply get a pass, and the other player gets nothing. What if you owe money to two people, but you can only pay one? You pay the person closest to you in reverse turn order first. The other player gets nothing. Yes, this may seem annoying at first, but I’ve found that it keeps things refreshingly simple. It is what it is. Don’t waste your time buying red cards if you’re sitting to the left of a person who’s broke!


Machi Koro is a laid-back family game that keeps us coming back for more. I love that it provides an opportunity for my kids to develop real strategy in their gameplay. The development of better strategy means we can work towards playing more challenging games.  It’s a simple game to teach so It’s also a great option to introduce to new players.  

**I purchased the Machi Koro playmat shown in these pictures separately. It’s not necessary to play the game, but I bought it because it makes setup a little neater. I also like playmats for the aesthetic appeal they add. Anyone else out there prefer to upgrade their tabletop games in order to create a more immersive experience?

Looking for more information? Click here to read the full directions. Also, Rodney over at Watch It Played has a great overview of the directions!

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