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I've played Machi Koro a number of times, most often with in a group of 3 players, sometimes 4. So far the prevailing strategy usually ends up being to roll only one die and to:

  1. Buy as many Convenience Stores as you can.
  2. Occasionally buy some Cafes and Bakeries, but primarily:
  3. Save up for a Shopping Mall.
  4. Construct the Radio Tower, then the Amusement Park, and then the Train Station.

So basically the Shopping Mall makes Convenience Stores powerful. Even though Convenience Stores activate only on your turn, you have a 1/6 chance of hitting them, and there's a sizable payoff if you do. Meanwhile buy other 1-6 cards so that even if the Convenience Stores don't hit, you can have a 100% chance of hitting something on your own turn. (You might not get income if other players have sufficient Cafes, but that's significantly mitigated once you get the Radio Tower.)

My group has tried this where 1 of 3 players sticks with only one die and where 2 of 3 players stick with only one die. So far the players who stick with one die usually end up with more money. Going for two-dice cards requires a greater investment, and since it's harder to get coverage for all possible dice rolls, provides more opportunities to not hit anything on your turn. It seems hard to justify rolling two dice and giving up nearly guaranteed income. And if most of the players aren't rolling 2 dice, then buying Mines and Family Restaurants is a lot less attractive. If nobody has any interest in buying cards >6, then the game seems broken.

Are these experiences atypical? If not, are there any good house rules to combat this?


Update #1: From the comment discussion in one of the answers, it also occurred to me that if I started rolling two dice, other players could just buy Family Restaurants. Assuming that they also have Cafes, if I roll 2 dice instead of 1, I now have a 1/4 chance of paying other people instead of 1/6. The threat of Family Restaurants thus seems like another disincentive to ever bother with 2 dice. Is my analysis incorrect? (If I take expected values into account, Family Restaurants get even more weight, although I'm notably not calculating the expected values for a Cheese or Furniture Factory strategy.)

I suppose I should try to write some Machi Koro bots and run a few thousand simulations...


Update #2: I've had a few ideas about how to address this (which I've posted as separate answers to this question), but I don't actually play Machi Koro enough with the same set of people to have been able to play-test them.

  • I think focusing on the 7-8 value buildings and their dependents could be a viable strategy to encourage others to develop the upper half of the board. But I never played against someone who kept playing with 1 dice for the entire duration of the game so it's hard for me to tell if this would be effective. – freekvd Sep 5 '15 at 16:00
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    Maybe the solution is to play with 4 players more often (or to decrease the number of cards in the supply with 3 players). Having 2 or more Convenience Stores (especially with Shopping Mall) has a high expected value, but if everyone (or almost everyone) has only 1, then it's less viable. – jamesdlin Sep 5 '15 at 20:07

10 Answers 10

5

1) If all but you gets cards that provide $ from 1 or 2 valued rolls, then it kind of does devolve into that. Early on, get a few of those cards, but then shoot for 2 dice, and some cards that trigger on the 4 - 10 range. You'll be able to leech off of the single-die players, but can still do your own thing.

2) play with the variant where not all cards are available at all times.

3) The expansions add even more cards to the mix that allow #2 to be even more feasible

  • Welcome, and thanks for the answer! I would add that buying cafés can further stimulate people to get off their 1d6. – freekvd Sep 14 '15 at 6:31
  • @freekvd See my other comment and the update to my original post. I think cafes + family restaurants discourage 2d6 rolls. – jamesdlin Nov 16 '15 at 19:50
5

The probleme you mention in your question is that all the player use a fast strategy to win the game :

  1. Buy as many Convenience Stores as you can.
  2. Occasionally buy some Cafes and Bakeries, but primarily:
  3. Save up for a Shopping Mall.
  4. Construct the Radio Tower, then the Amusement Park, and then the Train Station.

One solution I found is to apply the rule introduced in the first expansion set : "The Harbor"

This rule is really simple, to sum it up :

Instead of playing with all the establishments available on the board at the beginning of the game, limit the number of establishments available by :

  1. At the beginning of the game shuffle all the establishments in one stack face down.
  2. Draw cards, put them on the board (face up) until you have 10 diferents stacks. (same cards are grouped)

Now players have a limited choice of establishments to buy, they can only buy establishments available on the 10 stacks.

When one of the 10 stacks is empty :

  1. Draw a card from the stack created in 1.
  2. Put it on the board as a new stack, or group-it if it's already on the board. If you grouped the card repeat the process until you recreate the missing stack.

I found the game very interesting but very unbalance in its 'vanilla' version due to these 'fast strategies', the new rule introduced by the Harbor tends to improve the balance, even if you don't have the expansion. By the way the Harbor expansion introduces/adds new establishments that make the game way more balanced.

  • Isn’t this alternative rule (with 10 stacks) part of the base game? I think it’s described on the last page of the rules. – unor Sep 25 '15 at 14:36
  • In my french version of the game, this rule is not part of the rule book, it was introduced by the first expansion. – Marc_Alx Sep 25 '15 at 22:41
  • Interesting, thanks. In the German version, it’s part of the base game rules (page 8, "Komme, was wolle"). – unor Sep 25 '15 at 23:28
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    So I tried this variant, and while it changed how people prioritized which cards to buy, it still ended up not encouraging rolling both dice. People in my group ended up just buying the 1-6 cards when they entered the supply, and the 7-12 cards piled up unbought. – jamesdlin Nov 16 '15 at 19:46
  • I understand what you mean, you could try to remove some of the cheapest cards of the original set. Alternatively what I could suggest you is buying the Harbor expansion as it includes card that balanced the game. Take a look a the setlist displayed in this article : geekdad.com/2015/04/machi-koro-harbor. The red cards and the harbor related card (boats) are really interesting and not necessarily cheap. Moreover as there's less "cheap" card included by this set you have way less opportunity to buy cheap cards. – Marc_Alx Nov 17 '15 at 11:55
2

An older thread, so I hope somebody is still reading! I've wondered exactly the same thing. Again, we haven't played it a huge amount, and in fact only once using the harbour expansion (using the 5-5-2 variant that seems popular). Whilst the expansion made the game better, rolling two dice seems counter-productive. You just can't cover the range of rolls needed to make it worthwhile. Especially when people start getting to re-roll from the radio tower.

I love the idea of the game, it's right up my street, but it's surely flawed big time.

My thoughts on a solution:

  1. Radio tower can only be used on two dice, and on either or both dice.
  2. Tweak the harbour to allow more use with two dice rolls. That way you won't need to cover all rolls.
  3. Purple cards only work on rolls of two dice.

All of these, done without care, would overpower some cards, but the right combination would probably be about right, I hope.

2

In 2 -3 player games I found it best to remove a couple of each of the lower value cards making them run out quicker and thus having to buy 7-12 value cards sooner.

1

A short disclaimer: I really am not an experienced gamer and have only just begun my collection of modern table top games. Also, while I do own this game, I have only played it a handful of times. Nevertheless I do enjoy Machi Koro. I do not own the expansions (yet). I have only played with one other player.

I've wondered this exact same thing! The first time playing I went for the second die early. This was really wasteful. I suspect most other players feel similarly and want to focus on getting money as fast as possible.

The most recent time I played both me and my opponent really focused on rolling a single die, but there came a moment in the game where I had enough money to take advantage of a second die in such away that I would reap the benefits while my opponent wouldn't. Even with her use of restaurants, my other properties were paying me better far more often. And as the paid better, I kept buying them. This put me way ahead.

Again, still a novice, but I am going to watch for this opportunity going forward.

1

To counter-act this exact issue... my game group decided to limit cards. we now have it to where there is only the number of cards equal to the number of players. (we often play somewhere between 3-6 players). so one person might load up on several of the same types of cards, but there is a very limited number of each. This ended up adding a lot more strategy (we feel) to the overall game, since you know there is such a limited supply of types of buildings, you are much more cautious as to what you buy, because those builds may all be gone by the time it comes back to your turn. It makes setup and cleanup take a bit longer. but I just sleeved the cards color coordinated for the number of players.

Hope this might work as a solution for you.

0

Here's an idea I've considered (but haven't yet play-tested):

When invoking the Train Station power, instead of actually rolling two dice, roll one die and have the option to add 6 to your roll.

  • This would mean that using the Train Station would not make your ability to gain income any worse.
  • This should encourage buying roll 7-12 cards since it gives players more options.

Problems:

  • No one would voluntarily add 6 to their roll to activate Family Restaurants, so that card would need to be changed. I'm not sure what to do about this.
  • No one would voluntarily add 6 to their roll to activate the roll-12 card. Maybe the roll-6 and roll-12 cards should be swapped?
  • The Amusement Park (extra turn if rolling doubles) would need to be tweaked. Since there's a 1/6 chance of rolling doubles with two dice, it should be equivalent to make the Amusement Park grant an extra turn if rolling, say, 6. (Or for more variance, when invoking the Amusement Park power, roll a second die and get an extra turn if that roll matches the first roll.)

A variant of the above:

When invoking the Train Station power, instead of rolling two dice, roll one die. After you see its value, you have the option to roll a second die to add to it.

  • Unlike the add-6 proposal above, this could hurt your ability to gain income since it's more of a gamble.
  • If someone rolls a 6 with the first die, there is likely little incentive for them to roll a second.
  • Convenience Store only triggers on your turn, so your 3rd bullet point doesn't make sense. This also vastly changes the probabilities of rolling 8-12, which significantly unbalances the game. – bwarner Apr 26 '17 at 13:21
  • @bwarner Oops, yes, I somehow had conflated Convenience Stores with Cafes (I haven't played in a while). Yeah, this obviously would affect the roll distribution, but since I think nobody ever buys roll 7-12 cards anyway, I think the game is already unbalanced. – jamesdlin Apr 26 '17 at 19:50
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I haven't tried this yet either, but another idea I've had is that once someone builds the Train Station, everyone must thereafter roll two dice.

One potential problem is that players who are unprepared for rolls >6 will be significantly worse off, but maybe players will just prepare for it in advance.

Alternatively, make it a house rule that landmarks must be built in order, and once someone builds the Train Station, that player must thereafter always roll two dice.

  • That does increase the degree to which falling behind early means you have no chance of winning the game. – Acccumulation Jun 21 '18 at 22:45
0

Perhaps it's simplest to approach this like an economist: if there isn't a sufficient natural incentive to roll two dice, create an artificial one: just pay people to roll two dice. For example, if a player rolls two dice, after resolving establishment effects, they automatically earn 2 coins, guaranteed.

One nice thing is that this would be tunable (I don't know offhand if +2 coins is too much or too little).

-1

If your suggestion is that your game group may have stumbled upon an optimal play, my general feeling is that Amusement Park is far overpriced for its value, granting another turn every 1 in 6 times (which, remember, only works if you already have train station and is quite a gamble given the small sample of rolls you get any given game). I would usually target the purple cards with the coins you might otherwise use for Amusement Park and double up the dice, making it harder for 1-4 rolls to trigger and more likely (relatively anyway) to see some of these fantastic offensive purple cards start to herd opponents coins or their cards in (while getting the occasional nice 7-9). I haven't played enough to see this broken situation you described possibly because I, and others, end up actively pursuing the 2 dice realm especially when others don't.

  • I don't quite understand what you're suggesting. The people in my group already don't target Amusement Park. (The reason we usually construct it before the Train Station is because it's more expensive, and once someone has only the Train Station left, it's very hard to stop them from winning. None of us care about the Amusement Park's ability though.) – jamesdlin Sep 5 '15 at 19:44
  • Also, rolling 2 dice actually slightly decreases the probability of triggering the purple (roll 6) cards (5/36 vs. 1/6). – jamesdlin Sep 5 '15 at 19:54
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    I see what you mean. I hadn't realized those comprised all the landmarks because I usually play with Harbor as well. Yes, what I meant was the 6 occurs more often relatively to the numbers 1-4 which presumably your opponents would be hoping for. So while you would not get probabilistic benefit until you added more 7-9 cards, you could stave off some of the benefits your opponents would receive from leeching your rolls. – Joey Sep 5 '15 at 20:44
  • I'm not convinced that rolling two dice staves off leeches. Suppose Player A has a Cafe, and Player B decides to start rolling two dice. Player A then can buy a Family Restaurant. Now Player B could roll 1 die (1/6 chance of paying Player A) or roll 2 dice (1/4 chance of paying Player A). – jamesdlin Sep 6 '15 at 9:39
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    Difference is that you get a lot more from a properly developed cheese factory, than from any 1-6 number. I've more than occasionally gotten 18-24 gold in one roll. – freekvd Sep 6 '15 at 13:08

protected by Pat Ludwig Apr 26 '17 at 12:36

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