TableTopTakes: Machi Koro Bright Lights Big City

I talked a tiny bit about this game in my AcadeCon review, but I wanted to mention it again and do a proper review on it.

Machi Koro is what is called a “tableau building” game. In this type of game, you are building up a group of cards/tiles/etc in front of you, almost as your own personal game board. With this board you gain resources to purchase more cards, until you either score enough points, or, like in Machi Koro, build the right combination of special buildings for your city.

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Machi Koro is a game that is more focused around the mechanics than any sort of theme. It really could be almost anything, but the theme of the game is that you’re building up a city. And when dice are rolled, you get money. For example, if you have a bakery (which is one of the starting cards) and you roll a 2 or a 3 on your turn, you get a coin from the bakery. You could look at it as taxes, or, if you want to think of it in a more fun way, that you’re playing as a business mogul (I guess) and your businesses are making money. The coins can then be used to buy more cards which, if you roll the right number on your turn, get you more coins. You’re looking to build special buildings that cost various amounts, and the first person to build all of their special buildings wins the game. It would be possible to just keep your base buildings and build up your money and buy stuff that way, but that wouldn’t be any fun, and you’d probably lose horribly. So you’re looking to make the most profitable town you can so you can eventually get something special like an amusement park or a city mall or a harbor into your city; cards like these give you special abilities, such as being able to roll two dice and taking the combined total so that you can get the rewards from some of your better cards that might need an 8 or 9 to be rolled.

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This game is a lot like Splendor in many ways. Splendor has a tableau building mechanic as well, and that’s how you build up your system to get better cards that are worth more points. I think I like this game better, because it is more thematic (though it’s not very thematic). Also, with the rolling of dice, it allows you to have luck go your way sometimes. Maybe you don’t diversify your numbers, so you really need to have a five rolled, but when you do roll it, it’s amazing. Splendor is a little bit too static for me, and I think Machi Koro, while using a similar gaming style, makes it feel like more of a game where you’re waiting to see what you’ve rolled. It’s a bit of excitement that can be missing at times in Splendor.

Overall, I like the concept of this game, I like the mechanics of this game, and I like the weight of this game. After having playing RPGs all weekend at AcadeCon, this one was a nice digestif to wrap up with. Only one person I played it with knew the game, and they got it up and running fast for the rest of us. Turns go quickly, and you can collect coins sometimes on other peoples turns, so everyone was involved throughout. I think it would be a good game to wrap up a board game night with, or even to start off a board game night before going to something heavier. This is an aperitif or digestif of a game, which is something that is hard to come by.

Overall Grade: B+

Gamer Grade: C+

Casual Grade: A

Have you played Machi Koro Bright Lights Big City or the original Machi Koro? If so, what did you think of it? Is it better than Splendor?

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