Let’s meet the contenders:
Machi Koro: Machi Koro is a city building game where you are working on building up enough infrastructure that you can then build the bigger attractions for your city, like a harbor, shopping mall, and other things. The first person to build up all of these attractions wins the game.
Splendor: In Splendor, you take on the roll of a jewel merchant in a race to fifteen victory points. You collect gems to buy cards that give you permanent gems until you can start to buy cards without spending gems.
Century Road: Golem Edition: You’re a miner who is going out and buying and trading gems to be able to power up the golems, which give you victory points. You do so by buying cards, upgrading gems, and getting new gems.
What’s in Common?
The reason all three of these can face off is because they are all about building up your engine. Century Road: Golem Edition is the outlier in that you don’t have a tableau of cards out in front of you, but it falls into the similar engine building category and hand building category. You are building up your card base whether it’s buildings, gems, or mining/upgrade cards, so that you can, while using the fewest expendable resources, get as many victory points as possible on your turn.
Thematically they are different, but that’s generally going to be the case. You could even argue that Century Road: Golem Edition and Splendor have a bit of overlap, but mechanically, what makes them different from each other. In Machi Koro, there’s more interaction on other peoples turns with the buildings that you can buy. Even on someone else’s turn, you can be generating income. This make Machi Koro feel a bit more interactive. Along with that, Machi Koro has a die roll that determines what sort of money you get each turn, based on the buildings you have, so while there is strategy in building up your engine that gives you the money, there’s also some luck involved with the game. This is a nice balancing factor for the game. Splendor on the other hand is much more straight forward, the only “take that” sort of aspect to the game is that you can reserve a card to take it away from someone else. There’s some strategy as to what gems you take early game as well, and the extra points from the nobles who can become your patron is unique to this game as compared to the other two. Century Road: Golem Edition is definitely the most unique of all these games. Whereas in the first two you have a tableau of cards in front of you that assist you every turn in either getting money or buying more gems, you are building up your hand of cards and playing them down. The reason that it can fall into this category of games is because you are still building up your engine, and there isn’t the randomness of the draw that you get from a game like Dominion. Century Road: Golem Edition, when you buy cards and pick up the cards you’ve already played, you can have access to all of your cards to play, which is similar to both Machi Koro and Splendor.
What Stands out in Each Game?
Machi Koro has a mechanism with the die roll to determine what money you get that I really like. It means that there isn’t that much downtime for players during the game, because at the start of each person’s turn, they roll the dice, and it’s possible that you’ll collect money. It’s also interesting, because you can diversify with the cards that you have so you get less money more often, or there’s a strategy of going for a lot of cards of a single type to get a lot of money less often.
Splendor is probably the most straight forward of these games and the easiest to teach. Also going for it are beautiful components. The cards have a great finish to them and feel nice. While the artwork is a bit generic Euro game artwork, they are nicely done. Along with that the expendable resources are heavy duty poker chips and they are very nice.
Century Road: Golem Edition has the component piece as well. The gems in the game are great and the coins that aren’t used all that often in the game are still metal. The oversized cards allow for very nice artwork and have a nice feel to them. Along with this, the hand management and hand building aspect to the game are pretty unique for games that I’ve played. I know that it isn’t a unique concept totally, but for what I’ve played, it is pretty unique.
What’s a Weakness in Each Game?
With Machi Koro, I’d say that one weakness is that where you sit matters some. Not because you might miss out on something, but restaurants are on strategy to getting money in the game. But because of how the money is paid out, it’s possible that you could buy up some restaurants and because someone is sitting to your left who has the same ones, you won’t end up seeing much money and they could see a lot.
Splendor on the other hand doesn’t have a seating issue because the interaction is non-existent. That’s not the issue with the game though, the game itself is a little bit too generic. The theme of being a gem trader could be replaced with almost anything and it would make just as much sense. It’s a little bit like the Dominion of deck builders where the game is fun, but thematically there’s nothing that ties it together. This also means that there isn’t a ton of diversity in strategy for the game either.
Century Road: Golem Edition’s weakness is probably that it’s the heaviest of these games. Whereas the other two are very simple and light to teach, Century Road has a bit more going on with the game. You need to think a whole lot more about the engine that you are creating in this game as compared to the others since it is in your hand, and you might want to use a certain card in your hand every turn, but that isn’t possible so there’s more planning out your engine since there isn’t that availability.
And the Winner is:
Century Road: Golem Edition
This game has the components like Splendor while having a more interesting game play than either of the other two. While it is a bit more complex, it is far from being a heavy game and the complexity helps create diversity in strategy. The gems and metal coins and the artwork on the card, everything in that aspect is on point with the game as well. And while there is possibly the least ability to have a “take that” sort of strategy in Century Road: Golem Edition, that’s abated in making the game interesting just by the hand building aspect that has a good puzzle like feel.
Now, just as a word of disclaimer, I have all three in my collection and I don’t think that any will be moving out. Machi Koro and Splendor have a nice value of being very easy to teach to people and still enjoyable to play. I could see eventually getting rid of Splendor and completely replacing it with Machi Koro, but right now all are enjoyable.
Which is your favorite of these three games?
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