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Board Game Review: Machi Koro Legacy

Machi Koro  was one of the first games my husband Chris and I played together. It was released in 2012 and when we started gaming together in 2013, it was still a popular game on reviewer blogs and videos as we sought guidance in what to play and what to buy. Once Machi Koro  was in our collection, I spent every game trying my best to outthink Chris and acquire the best combination of establishment types to ensure victory. As we were enticed by other new games coming out and were drawn deeper into heavy Euros, we left Machi Koro on the shelf more frequently, with an occasional wistful comment about how we should play again.

At GenCon earlier this year, Machi Koro Legacy  was the talk of the town. Designed by Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, and Masao Suganuma (Masao is the original designer of Machi Koro), it promised to breathe new life into Machi Koro through a campaign style series of ten games, revealing new aspects of gameplay in each session at the table. We love legacy games, so we were sold on the idea right away.

The artwork for Machi Koro Legacy  features two of the principal artists from Machi Koro , Noboru Hotta and Jason D. Kingsley, and the signature cutesy cartoonish illustrations from the original are dominant in this legacy edition as well.

In Machi Koro Legacy, players take on the role of mayors competing to build the most attractive town on the Island of Machi Koro. During each game, every mayor is vying for the title of Best Mayor and must also work with the other mayors to build a landmark on the island. Players are given a starting assortment of establishment cards to select from for their town, and on each turn the following steps are taken:

(1) The active player rolls a die or a pair of dice, depending on the phase in the campaign.

(2) All players activate the establishment cards in their towns that match the sum of the die/dice roll and are applicable. Activating an establishment card means gaining the benefit listed on the card (usually collecting income). 

(3) The active player takes one action. Actions to select from vary widely depending on the phase of the campaign but always include purchasing new establishments from the market to add to one’s town, building a landmark in one’s town (landmarks are special buildings that change one aspect of the rules for the owning player), or contributing toward the community landmark. 

Player Town Board and Landmarks

When one player has built all of their landmarks and contributed to the community landmark, they are declared the best mayor and win the game. As the legacy campaign progresses two main effects are felt. First, an overarching narrative slowly reveals itself. Second, as new legacy components are unboxed, the complexity of the game grows. The gameplay never grows in difficulty beyond a lightweight strategy game, but the new components present additional factors to consider when making decisions and also introduce more variability in the marketplace.

We decided to play through our review copy with our ten year old son, Max. We thought it would be a good fit because he’s quite adept at board games and loves Space Base, which features a similar mechanism (drafting cards+rolling dice to collect benefits based on the card numbers that match the dice rolls).  He also understands the concept of legacy games as Chris is playing through another legacy game, Zombie Kids, with him and our other children.

As we settled into our first game, I got a good look at the components. The coins are plastic, which I’ve never seen before. It’s a good middle ground between cost saving cardboard coin tokens and the more luxurious clay or metal coins some games includes. Besides the coins, the starting components include cardboard tokens for player flags and town boards, two standard d6 dice, a sticker sheet, 65 plastic coated cards, a legacy deck of plastic coated cards (which must be opened  and worked through in sequence when instructed), and six “mystery” boxes to be opened as instructed during the course of the campaign. All the components are sturdy enough to hold up to repeated play.

My son Max was enthusiastic about Machi Koro Legacy from the first turn and his enthusiasm continued to blossom as he won game after game. He quickly capitalized on the obvious strategies – buy up establishments that are statistically more likely to be activated during dice rolls, then push toward dice (vs die) rolls as soon as possible. This meant collecting a lot of establishments that activate when 7 or 8 are rolled.  My husband followed the same strategy but didn’t always remember to build his town landmarks in a timely fashion, so he only won a few games. Me, I was a tragic tale of bad strategy. I opted to corner the market on single die roll establishments during my first few games, which didn’t work out well at all. Even in future games when I shifted to a 2 dice strategy, I was unable to gain any ground as some of the legacy components unboxed that Max and Chris had quickly scooped up gave a strong advantage over the rest of the campaign. At times, I felt it was impossible for me to win and I felt frustrated that Machi Koro Legacy  doesn’t provide a good catch up mechanism or some way to balance out the power of the more powerful legacy components. Without giving away any spoilers, I want to offer this essential tip: when components are unboxed that you have to prioritize taking specific actions to earn, TAKE THOSE ACTIONS AND EARN THOSE COMPONENTS. Some of the components won’t prove to be game changers, but some will and if you let your opponents take all of them you will be at a serious disadvantage the rest of the campaign with no way to rebalance the game.

Max loved Machi Koro Legacy so much that we agreed to binge play. We ran through the entire campaign of 10 games in just one week. We didn’t face any serious analysis paralysis during gameplay, so each game took no more than 45 minutes. In the end, Max won six games, Chris won four, and I didn’t win any. The game offers a great amount of replayability - when the legacy campaign is over, players can continue to play the game using a modified set of rules and a subset of the components. Chris feels that the permanent game we are left with is a bit more interesting than the original Machi Koro  edition, so would be purchasers should consider Machi Koro Legacy  an investment in not only ten distinct game session experiences, but also a fun, kid-friendly, permanent, upgraded edition of the original game. I have to agree that Machi Koro Legacy  is one of the most kid-friendly legacy games in the board game marketplace. You absolutely want to add this to the Christmas present pile for your under 18 set, where the gift becomes not only the game, but the time you’ll spend playing it with them. And while hard core Euro gamers will likely skip over the game in pursuit of heavier strategy picks, gamers who enjoy lightweight strategy games will enjoy the easy-to-learn, quick-to-play experience that Machi Koro Legacy  offers. 

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Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Players: 2-4
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): 30-45 min
Game type: card drafting, dice rolling
Rating:

review-OUIOUI

Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
OUI OUI OUI: I LOVE THIS GAME. I MUST HAVE THIS GAME.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.

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