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Machi Koro vs Machi Koro 2

Machi Koro 2 Box Art
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I have some complex feelings regarding the whole Machi Koro vs Machi Koro 2 debate. If you have one, do you need the other? Is the new one better than the old one? Is Machi Koro 2 a good family game?

I previously talked about our love of Machi Koro, so it was a no-brainer to pre-order Machi Koro 2. Unfortunately, this game has been a bit of flop for us. Let me tell you why, and why it might work better for you!

Let’s look at the differences between Machi Koro vs Machi Koro 2

The card marketplace

One of the biggest differences between the two versions is the layout of the card marketplace. In the original, cards are stacked in piles of identical buildings. Players can purchase any of the cards and add them into their city tableau (assuming they have the money). 

Machi Koro Marketplace

In Machi Koro 2, the cards are distributed in a tiered layout. This is very similar to Splendor if you’re familiar with that game. The first tier consists of cards numbered 1-6. The second tier consists of cards numbered 7-12. The third tier consists of the landmarks. Only four from each tier are turned face up, and those are the ones that can be purchased.

Machi Koro 2 Marketplace.

Why I like the marketplace better in Machi Koro 2

When we play Machi Koro, it’s not unusual for everyone to go after cheap blue cards. The new marketplace in Machi Koro 2 forces players to be more diverse in the cards they are selecting. 

Note: Machi Koro 2 introduces several new building cards including a sushi bar, hamburger stand, and a winery. It’s a nice to have some new buildings to pick from!

Starting Setup

In Machi Koro, each player beings with 1 wheat field, 1 bakery, and 4 landmarks. Everybody starts with the same cards.

Players beginning a game of Machi Koro 2 receive 5 coins. No cards. The first three rounds of the game are spent drafting cards from the marketplace. 

Why I like the starting setup better

I love getting to pick the cards I want to start with. It keeps things interesting. Every game has the potential to be a little different. 

The dice

If you’ve played Machi Koro a lot, you may have discovered the flaw of the single die. You don’t gain access to the second die until you have built the train station landmark. Even then, some players may choose to focus on single-die rolls. If you’re playing with 3 players who use this strategy, and you’re the only one rolling both dice, you’re probably going to lose.

In Machi Koro 2, players begin the game with access to both dice. There’s no guarantee that people will use them, but there’s no excuse not to either. 

Better Card Design

A new improvement in the design of Machi Koro 2 is the inclusion of a “combo” stamp on select cards. Some cards are multiplied if you have their complimentary cards in your city. The combo stamp makes you aware of which cards this applies to so you don’t miss out on opportunities.

Aggression Factor

There are 3 ways to earn money in both versions of Machi Koro. 

  1. Blue and green cards allow you to earn money from the bank
  2. Red cards force your opponents to pay you money based on the dice they roll
  3. Purple cards allow you to pick a player to take money from based on dice you roll

*Landmarks can also earn money in similar ways

For whatever reason, the aggressive cards in Machi Koro 2 have been amplified. The Café in the original game only required your opponents to pay you 1 coin, whereas in this version your opponents will have to hand over 2 coins. There are also more cards with negative interactions included in the new edition.  

Comparing the red building cards. Top row is Machi Koro 2. Bottom row is Machi Koro.

Why I hate the aggression in Machi Koro 2

We primarily play this game with our kids. Games for us are an opportunity for fun. This game, however, brought lots of frustration. Example: My son had 2 cafés in his city (a red card activated by a 3). My daughter rolled a 3 multiple times in a row, each time having to pay my son 4 coins. She had no coins for her turn and couldn’t add any buildings to her own city. She was left so far behind it was impossible to recover. 

I’m not sure if this was a case of bad luck or a balancing issue within the game (or both). As a family, none of us enjoy having to pick on each other. I mentioned in our Machi Koro review that we found the negative interactions to be tolerable. Nothing felt personal or left your game tanked, but this version seems to change that dynamic to one that’s less family friendly. So, for now, we will stick with the original Machi Koro.

Who might be a better audience for Machi Koro 2?

Back to the complex feelings I have about this game. A lot has been done to improve the overall gameplay of Machi Koro 2. I would much rather play Machi Koro 2 than the original If I was playing with adult friends. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a lighter engine building game. It’s simple to teach which makes it easy to introduce to newer gamers. Play time is fast, so you don’t need to set aside your whole day. You just need to find people that don’t mind the negative player interactions I’ve described above!

A recommendation!

If you’re interested in Machi Koro 2, but have concerns about hurt feelings, check out a game called Happy City from Gamewright. It’s very similar in theme and mechanics, but it’s 100% friendly! Bonus: It’s also half the price.

Happy City from Gamewright

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