Two weeks ago I reviewed the core game of Machi Koro. In that review I said that one of the issues with the base game is the static market, and that the expansions changed this for the better. I have the Deluxe edition of the game which includes both the Harbor Expansion, which we will look at here today, but also Millionaire’s Row which introduces another feature but sticks with the new market that Harbor (it hurts to spell it like that btw) introduced. So, if you have never played Machi Koro before I suggest taking a look at the original post, because I will not go through basic gameplay here today. This will only be a look at the Harbor Expansion and how it changes the gameplay for the better. So let’s jump straight in shall we?
As this is mainly a card game, what’s new is a bunch of cards. First of all we have three new landmarks:
City Hall (free): This landmark is already built for you at the start! If you have no money at the beginning of the purchase/building phase you gain one coin. I like it. It means you are never completely broke. And yes, this is after anyone can steal money from you.
Harbor (2): This is obviously the important one for this expansion. We’ll see why later. On it’s own the Harbor lets you add 2 to your dice total if your roll is 10 or more.
Airport (30): Yup, we have an even more expensive landmark this time! If you do not save this til the end and make it your winning landmark, the airport gives you 10 coins if you choose not to build anything on your turn. Pretty cool!
There are also 10 new establishments, but we won’t look at all of them in detail. They’re similar to the ones from the base game and will be just as easy to understand when you start playing. But I thought we’d take a close look at the cards that are tied specifically to the harbour: the Sushi Bar, the Mackerel Boat, and the Tuna Boat.
The Sushi Bar activates if your opponent rolls a 1, and then forces them to give you 3 of their coins, but only if you have built the Harbor.
The Mackerel Boat activates when anyone rolls an 8 and gets you three coins, but only if you also have the Harbor.
The Tuna Boat activates when anyone rolls a 12, 13, or 14. Then that player rolls both dice and you get that many coins, if you have the Harbor of course. And of course, if you have the Harbor you can add 2 to your total dice value of 10 or more, meaning you can indeed activate this card if you so choose even on a 10.
Now, the most important change that this expansion brings is a new way to set up the market. The original game has a completely static market with each type of establishment in its own pile. The way Harbor sets this up instead (which does continue into Millionaire’s Row, which I haven’t played yet) is with ten different establishments at a time. What you do is that you shuffle all the establishments together into one deck. Then you deal out the top ten cards in order of activation value. If there’s a repeat of an establishment that goes in the same pile (just as in original Machi Koro) and you draw another card until there are ten unique establishments in the market. Then as soon as there’s an empty spot, another card is drawn, and so on. This creates a great variation of available establishments, as there are 24 different ones if you combine the base game with the Harbor expansion.
The expansion also makes it possible to add a fifth player, as they have included extra starter establishments and purple establishments, as well as a full set of landmarks (including the ones from the base game). I wouldn’t recommend adding a fifth player though as Machi Koro isn’t the kind of game that you want to take a really long time playing. And more people just means more time. But hey, maybe you like it enough to spend the extra time with it, then by all means add number five! I suppose it’s nice to at least have the option.
Thoughts and changes in strategy
People seem to have voiced concerns that sometimes the starting market is too hard, with high value cards not being functional early in the game. I can definitely see how that might be a problem, but it hasn’t happened to me yet. We’ve always had a good mix. It’s frustrating when you want to use one strategy and the right establishments won’t come up, but that is also why I like this version way better than the original. It forces you to do different things!
The reason I really prefer this expansion to just playing with the base game, is that you can use many different strategies to win. It depends on the market like I just said. In the base game cheese factories always seem to be the way to go, at least when I’ve played it. It’s probably because ranches are cheap and easy to get in the beginning. Whereas the similar, combo of furniture factory and forests/mines never seem to work out as well. In Harbor though, furniture factories have been good to me. But also some different boats. It is just more dynamic and therefor more fun.
With the Tuna Boat in combination with the Harbor you really have to think about what kind of cards your opponent is sitting on. It’s a card that is really fun to play with, since it’s kind of a push your luck card. If you get a 10-12 value you have a choice to activate the Tuna Boat or not (if you have the Harbor obviously, but you usually do when you’re at that point of the game) and roll the dice to see what you get. But in contrast you probably also have some safe options in your city, like an Apple Orchard or Fruit & Vegetable Market. Or maybe you want to go for double and activate both the Tuna Boat and your Food Warehouse. However, you have to remember that if you opponent also has the Tuna Boat and the Harbor, they’ll get the same amount of income when you roll the dice.
I like the new cards. It’s nice to have another 1 point card (the Sushi Bar) in addition to the Wheat Field. The Flower Orchard and Flower Shop feels a bit meh, the rest of the regular (and major) establishments are fun and good additions, and I love the two boats! The Mackerel Boat is cheap but gives you a decent number of coins (3) and is easy to get several of. I can bring in a final little bit of strategy speaking of the Mackerel Boat: if your opponents is stocking up on that, make sure you get some Hamburger Stands. Same activation value but you get some of their coins before they get their mackerel.
It does take slightly longer due to the added landmarks. Having to collect an additional 30 coins at once to build that Airport will obviously take some doing. Technically I suppose you could skip the Airport if you want to cut down on playtime. All games I’ve played have seen everyone’s airport left til the end, so it’s not like the ability it gives you is super important to the game. I’ve also found that playing with this expansion tends to make your city bigger than in the base game. So make sure to give each player plenty of table space!
Just as I mentioned in the article about the base game, the cards are only colour coded for convenience, not necessity. As such anyone who is colourblind would still be able to play this game easily, as the text on the cards is what matters. As for reading level, you do have to be able to read in the language of the game (whatever your edition might be) but it’s not complicated.
So to cap off this review I urge you to get the Harbor Expansion if you liked Machi Koro in the slightest. If you thought it was okay but didn’t like the static market, then here’s your solution. The expansion really lifts the game to something that feels really solid and fun.
- Title: Machi Koro: Harbor Expansion
- Designer: Masao Suganuma
- Publisher: Pandasaurus Games, IDW Games
- Players: 2-5
- Time: ~40 min
- Type: engine builder, cards, expansion (you need the base game to play)
- Size: large
- Release year: 2013