Machi Koro: More Than the Sum of its Dice
Back in 2012, a new game in a charming compact box found its way to game store shelves in Japan. Little did the designer know that it would take the board gaming world by storm. Machi Koro was quickly signed with foreign publishers to create new versions in various languages. Pandasaurus Games released their first version, originally co-published with IDW Games, just a couple years later.
What was so special about this game? There was something about the combination of easy-to-learn rules (roll dice, activate cards with the same number) and frenetic gameplay (gain money even on other players’ turns, race to build the best city) that really clicked with players. The cheery illustrations certainly helped draw people in too! But players were also faced with interesting decisions that had them coming back to the table again and again.
In 2015, Machi Koro had found success across the globe. That year, it received prizes and nominations for “game of the year” in several different countries, including the renowned Spiel des Jahres and As d’Or awards. The Machi Koro craze was everywhere.
And for us at Pandasaurus, that craze wasn’t nearly over. After five great years of the original game, we gave the whole product a makeover, including new features that fans had requested or that we thought the game deserved. First and foremost, this new version received all new graphic design on the cards and rulebook, making the learning and playing experience that much better. The components also received upgrades. The two dice got bigger and chunkier, making die rolls more satisfying and easier for all players to see. The cardboard coins also turned into plastic coins. As making and spending coins is one of the main themes of the game, we wanted them to be the stars of the show! The box also got an improvement, with swanky gold foil added to the logo, making sure it stood out on shelves.
That same year, we also released Machi Koro Legacy for fans who had been enjoying the original Machi Koro, but wanted more content. This game leads players on a 10-game campaign with new elements added before each game. Stickers, cards, surprises - but no destroyed components - make for an accessible and family-friendly Legacy experience. Ultimately, after players finish all 10 games, they’re left with a completely replayable game full of the memories they made together during the campaign.
After so many iterations and upgrades, what else could Machi Koro have in store for players? Designer Masao Suganuma took the gameplay to new heights with a completely new standalone game in Machi Koro 2. We also kept the same upgrades that its predecessor received — clear graphic design, chunky dice, and plastic coins. However, gameplay has also been tweaked with some significant changes that make it feel and play differently than the original.
The primary change happens during setup. Now cards are separated into three different decks: Buildings numbered 1-6, Buildings numbered 7-12, and Landmark cards. Players will deal out a row of cards from each deck until there are five unique cards shown in each row, with duplicates revealed stacked on top of each other. This creates a varied market of cards each and every game, causing players to try new strategies depending on the cards available. Before beginning the game, players will use their starting money to buy cards from the market, further letting them explore play styles unique to them!
Landmarks also work differently, notably in that there are 20 different cards to choose from! Instead of each player receiving the same three Landmarks and racing to build them, players will be able to choose specific Landmarks with different effects that align with their strategies. However, this means that Landmarks can be built in any order, so each card has three different costs shown on them. Landmarks will increase in cost depending on whether it’s the first, second, or final Landmark that a player has built.
It’s so nice to look back on the life of Machi Koro, which is still thriving and reaching new players across the world. All the upgrades, expansions, and new versions would not be possible without continued support from players. We consistently hear stories about how Machi Koro brought people into the hobby, and we hope it continues to do so for many more years to come!