Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City review
For all its faults, there remains an irresistible charm and delight to Machi Koro, the Japanese hit that sees players rolling dice to construct a cutesy cartoon city ahead of their neighbours.
This latest edition, subtitled Bright Lights, Big City, combines the original 2012 base game with elements of its Harbour and Millionaire's Row expansions, plus some slightly tweaked rules and components, to offer a 'greatest hits' collection best-suited for complete newcomers rather than existing fans looking for a completely fresh addition to the series.
The bright daytime artwork of the original has been overhauled with the ebbing purple skies and glowing yellow lights of a nighttime setting, with the cartoon buildings and environments remaining as delightful as ever.
In contrast, the core mechanics are largely untouched: players roll one to three dice to activate a number of building cards, earning coins to construct new establishments and ultimately six landmarks – complete all six first and you win.
The card powers are varied and fun to employ, adding extra dice rolls, providing the opportunity to steal coins from rival players and, most commonly, generating income during either your own or other players' turns depending on the dice roll.
While the game is primarily luck-driven, the issue of balance remains a weakness; existing cards such as the tuna boat and the new moon tower landmark introduce a disparity and snowballing effect that can often be frustrating to contend with.
Still, the dice-rolling, citybuilding engine otherwise serves up light, good-natured fun if you're not taking the whole thing too seriously. The clear objectives, accessible gameplay and wonderful visuals make Bright Lights, Big City an ideal gateway title for younger players or those looking to understand common tabletop concepts at a shallow level.
It's also worth mentioning that it appears that this edition seems to be missing many of the cards found in the deluxe edition of the game and only introduces one building not already found in the previous expansions (plus some very minor rules changes), so unless you're a first-time player or someone with just the base set to hand, this compilation – lovely as it is – may not be worth the money.
Balancing issues remain a problem and existing owners are unlikely to get their money's worth in terms of brand new content, but Bright Lights, Big City otherwise captures the lighthearted fun and accessible core of its predecessor in a neatly complete package.
Publisher: IDW Games
Time: 30 minutes