Machi Koro 2 Review - Box Feature

Machi Koro 2 Review (2022): Leaner, Faster, Better

Play Time: 45 Min / Players: 2-5 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ we think 7+ / Publisher: Pandasaurus Games / Designer: Masao Suganuma

Machi Koro 2 Ratings and Summary

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Kids Rating
Teen Rating
Parent Rating

Summary

Kids rating from our daughters (7 &10).
Teen rating from our son (14).

Machi Koro 2 retains the fun factor and high player interaction of the first edition but makes several important improvements. The changes provide better replay value and more strategic choice. This is the better version of the two games but it isn’t different enough to justify owning if you have the first edition and Harbor expansion.

4.8

Pros

  • Easy to learn
  • Theme is likely to have broad appeal
  • High amount of player interaction and a lot of fun
  • Far more variation from game to game compared to previous edition leading to a lot more replay value
  • Pre game build phase allows each player more options to personalise their strategy
  • Game is more streamlined and quicker than the previous edition.

Cons

  • Remembering the effect of all the landmarks on the table that have an impact on the game can be challenging.

What You Will Find in Our Machi Koro 2 Review


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We recently reviewed the simple dice and card game Machi Koro from designer Masao Suganuma and publisher Pandasaurus games. It was an instant hit in our family due to the high amount of player interaction and neat city building theme. Our main gripe was that it lacked variety from game to game and on occasion turns could feel wasted due to the luck of the dice. Machi Koro 2 retains all of the things we loved from the original but takes it to the next level. You will find a more streamlined, faster paced game with a lot more variety here. Once we explain how it all works you will understand why.

How to Play Machi Koro 2

You have developed quite a reputation as mayor of Machi Koro, so much so that the residents want you back for another term. You will find that the townsfolk are just as demanding as ever. They want you to create a city they can be proud of. They have a lot more confidence in you now, so they’re going to give you a little more leeway to do things your way. You are going to be starting from scratch this time, a complete clean slate! Good luck, they are expecting results quickly so don’t disappoint.

Objective

If you have played Machi Koro much of the gameplay will be familiar but there are some very important changes. For starters to win you are now required to build three landmarks instead of four. The catch is, this time they are all unique. Some will provide benefits for everyone and some will provide benefits just for you. If you are feeling ambitious you can also win by purchasing the Launchpad landmark, it’s very pricey though so you will need deep pockets.

Set Up 

I am going to spend a little time talking about the set up because this is where a lot of improvements have been made that in my view make the game a lot better than its predecessor.

For starters the cards now belong to three different decks, establishments 1-6, establishments 7-12 and landmarks. The three decks are shuffled individually, and 5 unique cards are drawn from each deck to place face up to the right of each deck. Any duplicates are placed on top of existing face up cards. This means you will have 3 rows of 5 unique face up cards, each corresponding to one of the decks.

Machi Koro 2 Review - Game in Play
There are now three different decks that randomise starting cards in the market. This adds much needed variety to the game.

In Machi Koro 1 all the market cards were available at the beginning making each game feel a bit stale after a few plays. The randomised market set up in Machi Koro 2 is a big improvement and adds a lot more variety to the gameplay.

The other difference in Machi Koro 2 is that players don’t start with the same establishments. Players now get 5 coins to spend in a three round purchase phase before the start of the game to determine starting cards.

Players will take turns using their starting coins to purchase an establishment and add it to their starting tableau. They can purchase a maximum of 3 starting establishments. My kids really enjoy this phase of the game and they get a lot of satisfaction from creating a starting line up they think will give them the edge.

Turns

The turns in Machi Koro 2 are much the same as Machi Koro. Roll the dice, earn coins from establishments that are activated, purchase an establishment or landmark and move on to the next player. In this game though you can choose to roll one or two dice right from the start, no need to purchase a Landmark to do it.

Machi Koro 2 Review - Establishments 1-6
Establishment cards from the 1-6 deck. Note the ‘combo’ sign on the top left of the Flower Shop. This lets you know this card requires other card types to generate a pay-out. The more cards you have with a matching symbol the greater the reward.

Once a card is purchased from the market and added to your tableau, you will replace it from the relevant deck. As I mentioned, any duplicate cards are placed on top of the existing face up card. You keep drawing until a unique card is drawn to fill the empty space. The establishment types are the same as Machi Koro:

  • Blue: Primary Industry Establishments – Earn income from the bank on anyone’s turn. These are the cards our kids seem to target
  • Green: Secondary Industry Establishments – Earn income from the bank on your turn only
  • Red: Restaurants Establishments – Earn coins from other players who rolled the dice. These cards can be a bit rough for younger or more sensitive kids when they must pay out
  • Purple: Major Establishments – Earn income from all other players but during your turn only.

Another subtle but important difference is that if you get a dud roll and don’t have any money to spend, the bank will give you one coin. Finally, a bank that wants your business when you’re broke. There is almost always something you can get for one coin. My youngest daughter used to get very put out if she couldn’t buy anything on a turn, this now solves that issue.

The landmarks work a little differently in Machi Koro 2. They now form part of a deck and each one is unique. Some will grant benefits to all players and some only to the player that purchases them. They have three different costs on them and increase in cost for every landmark you already own.

Machi Koro 2 Review - Landmarks
Each landmark is unique, the orange landmarks offer benefits to all players. The green landmarks offer benefits to the purchasing player. The Launchpad can win you the game as long as you can afford the hefty price.

The Launchpad landmark can win you the game instantly but it’s very expensive. Our first experience of the Launchpad took us by surprise. My oldest daughter managed to stay under the radar for most of a game, accumulating coins without anyone noticing. We all thought she was well behind, until she got the last few coins she needed and purchased the launchpad with a smug look on her face. She then casually announced, ‘I think I win right?’.

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Gameplay Experience  

We think Machi Koro 2 is a big improvement on the first game. We enjoyed Machi Koro a lot, but from game to game it would become a little similar. People would settle on their favourite cards and strategies and it would become a little repetitive. Machi Koro 2 has all of the great stuff we love about Machi Koro but adds some much needed variety to each game.

The improvements in Machi Koro 2 are apparent before the game even begins. The pre-game buy-up to personalise starting establishments allows you to differentiate your strategy before you start. I love the fact that I can experiment with different combinations each game to personalise my income generating engine. Part of the fun is admiring your choices and bragging about how good your starting setup is.

Machi Koro 2 Review - Establishments 7-12
The establishments on offer from the 7-12 deck. Only five unique cards are available from each deck throughout the game. The market refreshes as cards are purchased with new unique cards adding more variety to each game.

The variable market is also a big improvement on the static market of the prior game. This means you have to adapt to the state of the market as the game progresses. You can’t simply fall back on cards you are comfortable with each game. It also keeps people more engaged as the market refreshes with each card purchased. My daughters keep an eagle eye out for any mines that pop out and my son snaps up any red cards he can. It makes each game feel a little fresher, although it does add a little more luck.

The other thing that adds some variety to the game is the Landmarks. I love the fact that each one is unique now and that there are different types. They force you to be more considered when you purchase them. “If I buy the Temple everyone will benefit from doubles. I could go for the Soda Bottling plant, I have more restaurants than anyone else so I should get more benefit out of them. Should I wait for a green Landmark to come out that only benefits me?”

The unique Landmarks add an additional dimension that didn’t exist in the original game and another layer of strategy. My kids are all very careful when they select Landmarks to get the most benefit they can, while trying to minimise the benefit for everyone else.

Machi Koro 2 Review - Landmarks Green and Orange Selection
More of the Landmark cards on offer. There are a wide variety of Landmark cards available, picking the right one for your situation adds another layer of strategy.

There are also more unique establishment cards on offer in this edition, there are 20 instead of 15. This provides more opportunities to differentiate your strategy and adjust as needed to the market. There are familiar cards here but also some new ones like the vineyard which combos with other cards providing a further boost to your engine. My wife seems to gravitate to the vineyard card when it’s available and cops a lot of grief from our kids as they know it pays out well for her most games. The image of a nice relaxing wine at the end of the day probably has nothing to do with her choice. 

All of this adds up to more variety, greater strategic options and a lot more replay value. There is very little down side here and in our view, this has taken Machi Koro to the next level. It also makes the game more streamlined and quicker to play, you can easily play within 30 minutes. It’s great when you want to squeeze in a game before bed time.

I can understand some people might find the game too quick and feel like they are short changed. This is mainly because you are not going to be buying as many establishments each game as you were in the first edition. If you are after a game with more time to develop your strategy then you may be better off with the original and the Harbor expansion (which resolves some of the first edition issues). I personally think the quicker play time is great, especially when it packs this much fun factor.

Components

Machi Koro 2 Review - Coins, Dice and Player Aids
The components in Machi Koro 2 get a nice upgrade with plastic coins.

The components are a step up from the original in Machi Koro 2. The coins are now nice chunky plastic instead of card, they look a lot nicer and feel nicer to handle too.

The cards still have the same quirky, bright and colourful artwork as the original. I like the fact that they have added a helpful ‘combo’ prompt on the cards that synergise with other cards. Sure, you can read the text but this makes it easier for newbies and younger kids to figure out what cards work well together.

On the downside, the Landmarks that apply to every player can become a little challenging to keep track of once a number of players have them. I find sometimes I forget about card effects because the card is sitting in front of someone else instead of me. Aside from that, be aware that the player aids are in very, very small print, they can be a little challenging to read.

All of this will come in a box far too large for what it needs to be, I would expect they are planning expansions. Some may find this an irritating disregard for their shelf space.

Theme

As we said in our Machi Koro review, the theme is a nice pick and likely to have broad appeal. I think the fact you get to choose your starting establishments is likely to get people a little more invested in their city than the previous edition.

Final Thoughts

Machi Koro 2 takes the great core game from Machi Koro and solves many of the issues we raised in our prior review. It is a far better game as a result and likely to have a lot more replay value than the original. This is one game we all agree on, we just love it.

So, should you buy it if you have the original? I just don’t think there is enough difference here to justify owning both games, especially if you own the Harbor expansion which also adds some great variety to the core game.

If you don’t own the original though, Machi Koro 2 is the superior game and the one to pick in our view.  

Is Machi Koro 2 easy to learn? Yes, very easy to learn.

What will Machi Koro 2 teach my kids? This game provides a great opportunity to teach your kids about probability. The central aspect of the game hinges around properties being triggered by certain dice rolls and each has a different probability of occurring. 

What age is appropriate for Machi Koro 2?  We think 7+ is fine for Machi Koro 2 given how easy it is to learn. You could probably go a little younger too, our 7-year-old has no trouble with this game.

Does Machi Koro 2 have good replay value?  I am pleased to say, absolutely it does. This is all due to the improvements made to the gameplay compared to the original.

We hope you enjoyed our Machi Koro 2 review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page. You can also check out the Machi Koro 2 BGG page for more info.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

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Other Games to Consider

Here are some other games to consider if you like economic games with engine building:

  • Splendor (Review): To win Splendor you must be the first merchant to gain 15 points. Points can be gained by acquiring development cards or securing visits from nobles who are suitably impressed by your exploits. The more cards you acquire the more your gem discounts will grow improving your engine and allowing you to purchase better development cards. Lots of fun and very easy to learn. This is a great game.
  • Century Spice Road (Review): This is another great game with a simple rule set. The Engine Building here involves expanding your starting deck of merchant cards which are used to convert, upgrade or generate four different types of spice. The spice is then used to purchase points cards which are needed to secure victory.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between Machi Koro and Machi Koro 2?

There are a number of key differences between Machi Koro and Machi Koro 2:

  • In Machi Koro 2 there is a variable market made up of three different decks of cards (establishments 1-6, establishments 7-12 and landmarks). Five unique cards from each deck are placed face up to form the market. In Machi Koro the market is made up of the same 15 establishments each game
  • Machi Koro 2 has a pre-game phase where players are given 5 coins to purchase up to three establishments in turn order. Machi Koro provides the same two starting establishments to each player
  • In Machi Koro 2 every Landmark is unique and only three are required for victory unless you purchase the Launchpad which grants instant victory. In Machi Koro everyone must complete the same four landmarks, the first to complete all four wins
  • In Machi Koro 2 if you have no money after your income phase then you are granted a free coin from the bank. This is not in the rules for Machi Koro
  • In Machi Koro 2 the coins are plastic instead of cardboard in Machi Koro
  • In Machi Koro 2 there are 20 unique establishments instead of 15 in Machi Koro.

What player count is best for Machi Koro 2?

We think Machi Koro 2 works well at all player counts but the game does change with more players, for example the red cards tend to have more opportunity to work at higher player counts. There is a lot of player interaction even when it isn’t your turn so we think it’s best at high player counts of 4 or 5.

Is Machi Koro 2 an expansion?

No, Machi Koro 2 is a stand-alone game with some improvements over the original Machi Koro game. You don’t need the first game to play this edition.

What does Machi Koro mean in Japanese?

Machi Koro means dice town in Japanese.

Can I use my Machi Koro expansions with Machi Koro 2?

In short, no according to the rules. The game is different enough that things like landmarks from previous games won’t really work with this rule set. We actually think it doesn’t really need previous expansion content due to the improved variety already in the box.

What order do the cards activate in?

The cards activate in the following order:

  • Restaurants (red)
  • Primary & Secondary Industries (blue & green)
  • Major Establishments (purple)
  • Landmarks (orange)

Strategy Tips

If you are having a little trouble getting your head around the strategy, here are some tips that might help:

  • Use Card Combos: Be aware that some cards combo well with others, they will even have a helpful ‘combo’ icon on the top left. Targeting cards that combo well together will make them even more lucrative when they activate. Each card has a symbol on the top left, wheat, teacup etc. This is the symbol you must match with your combo card to trigger and amplify the effect
  • Avoid Stashing Cash: There are plenty of opportunities to steal coins from other players either through establishments or landmarks. Be aware other players can steal cash from you too. Generally, you are better off spending your cash rather than saving it to avoid paying other players. The exception is if you are trying for the Launchpad landmark for the instant win
  • Adjust to Player Count: Some cards become more valuable at a higher player count and some less valuable. At higher player counts there will be more opportunity for red cards to trigger than green ones for example. This means that red cards are generally more valuable at higher player counts and green ones less valuable. Blue cards trigger all the time and are just as useful regardless of player count
  • Carefully Select Landmarks: Because some landmarks provide benefits to all players consider them carefully before purchasing. Sometimes even a card that provides benefit to everyone may be more beneficial to you. For example, as I mentioned earlier the Soda Bottling Plant provides a bonus for each restaurant establishment, if you have more of these than everyone else you are going to get more benefit. The green landmarks are a safer option as only you get the benefit.
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