Reviewed by: Dave
Players: 2-4 (base), 2-5 (Harbor expansion)
30 minutes (base) 45 (Harbor expansion)
Machi Koro is a card-based city building game, where players race to build the core components of their cities by purchasing a variety of businesses to fund their efforts and occasionally siphoning money off of opponents through the canny use of irresistable cafes. The Harbor expansion increases the number of core cards that must be built from four to six, adding business types, and altering the rules so that not every type of business is available at all times.
The most important thing to know about Machi Koro is that while strategy is present, much of one's ability to succeed depends on the luck of the dice. A person can know that upgrading the cheapest core card in order to roll two dice instead of one, and purchasing businesses that require sixes, sevens, or eights to trigger is mathematically sound strategy, and yet continually roll threes on one die so that her money is all taken by opponents who stacked up a bunch of cafes. The dice decide how much money you earn, and only by earning enough money to buy stronger businesses can you build up a city capable of winning.
That being said, for a mathematically-inclined person, the game offers a solid opportunity to work the numbers to one's advantage and test ideas of what riskier purchases and strategies might be worth it. It's also easy to learn and good for more casual gamers who are fine with games that only let them maximize their chances of winning, knowing that winning all the time is nearly impossible even for a math/gaming genius.
Machi Koro is, at its core, a light, fun game good for people who don't take their games too seriously. The Harbor expansion adds enough twists to create a more strategic experience while allowing even a first timer very reasonable chances to win. Thus, the game with the expansion is somewhat stronger, but either one is worth at least a couple of plays with fun friends.
8/10 (w/ expansion)