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Review: Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row

5

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In Machi Koro you built a small city and became a successful Mayor. In the Harbor expansion, you added more landmarks and industries to make your city bigger and more prosperous. Now, in the Millionaire’s Row expansion, it’s time to swank up the neighborhood. Parks, vineyards, wineries, French restaurants, member’s only clubs, and exhibition halls are just some of the upgrades your city will be getting. Oh, and loan offices are also included because primo real estate ain’t cheap.

How It Plays

Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row is an expansion to Machi Koro and you will need the base game to play. All of the rules of the base game remain in effect, although Millionaire’s Row also uses the same market setup rules that were introduced with the Harbor expansion. You can play with Millionaire’s Row if you don’t own the Harbor, although having both will give you the fuller experience, as I’ll discuss in the review section below.

(Note that while Millionaire’s Row says that it is for 2 – 4 players on the box, this is only true if playing without the Harbor expansion. The Harbor adds components for a fifth player and if you combine that with Millionaire’s Row, you can play with five players. If you play with Millionaire’s Row on its own, you will only be able to play with four players.)

One of the new Establishments in the game is the Renovation Company and this is the most significant addition in Millionaire’s Row. This card requires you to choose one Establishment type to close for renovation. (Landmarks cannot be renovated.) When an Establishment is closed for renovation, all copies of all players’ Establishments of that type will be closed (including those belonging to the person who played the card, if applicable). The player who played the card receives one coin from each player for each of their buildings that are closed for renovation. This payout happens only once, on the players’ original turn.

Millionaire's Row Major Establishments
Some of the new purple Establishments.

When a building type is closed for renovation, a renovation token is placed on all copies of that Establishment to differentiate which buildings are closed and which are open. Buildings under renovation stay closed until the the next time that a roll would normally activate that Establishment. At that point the renovation token is removed, but no coins are paid out. The Establishment is now eligible to be activated and remains so unless and until someone closes it again. Card color rules still apply, so renovation tokens can only be removed from green and purple Establishments on your own roll, while tokens on red and blue Establishments can be removed on other players’ rolls. 

Beyond this new mechanic, Millionaire’s row only adds several new Establishments which have new effects and income potential. There are no new Landmarks in this expansion.

Millionaire’s Row or Skid Row?

If you’ve already played with the Harbor expansion, the Renovation mechanic will be the star of this show for you because you’ve already seen the upgraded Marketplace rules which are also included in Millionaire’s Row. (If you wonder what the heck I’m talking about, you can read a full discussion of the Marketplace rules in my review of the Harbor.) 

The Renovation Company card does a good job of slowing down runaway leaders, something that was a problem both in the base game and in the Harbor. When you have the ability to close someone else’s buildings and stop them from earning income, even if only for a turn or two, it can really help you catch back up. Of course, before you play the Renovation Company, you have to make sure that it won’t hurt you because if you have buildings of the type you want to close, yours will close, too. That’s the catch with this card.

Millionaire's Row Establishments
The new green Establishments

There’s really not much else to Millionaire’s Row, except for some more Establishments. Many of those Establishments are very interesting, although whether you like what they bring to the game will be a matter of personal preference. While I’ll pretty much always love more buildings, the ones that I found most interesting were the following:

  • Winery: This one pays out six coins when it’s activated on your turn, but then you must immediately close it for renovation. This is for thematic reasons because wine takes time to make. You can’t just be churning out quality wine on every turn, you know.
  • Tech Startup: At the end of your turn, you can place one coin on top of this card as an “investment.” When the card activates, you get an amount equal to your investment from all players on your turn. This one can be a nice way to make a lot of money or, as is the case with real startups, throw a lot of money into something that never pays off.
  • Moving Company: This card allows you to give a minor establishment to another player and receive four coins from the bank. It’s an excellent way to dump a card that’s not paying off.
  • Park: This card forces you to redistribute all players’ coins equally among all players. It’s harsh, but it’s a great way to slow down a huge money maker and prop up people who aren’t making much income. It’s one of those cards that you’ll either curse or love, depending on your situation. 
  • Loan Office: When you construct the Loan Office you get five coins from the bank but when it’s subsequently activated, you must pay two coins to the bank. Just like a regular loan, you don’t get something for nothing.
Millionaire's Row Tokens
Renovation tokens

Some of the new cards can be quite powerful, possibly too powerful. A player who can put together the right combos can get an engine going that can be difficult, if not impossible to beat. And these big combos can make for a very swingy and random game. Machi Koro is always going to be random, seeing as how it’s a dice game, but if the right cards come out at the right time, the momentum can shift quickly with these more powerful cards in play. Millionaire’s Row also ups the meanness of the game. Many of the cards have you stealing money from other players. This was found in the Harbor, as well, but it increases in Millionaire’s Row. If you have sensitive players in your group, stick to the base game.  

In my review of the Harbor, I noted that the new, variable Marketplace means that the game can take a while to get going because there may not be many cards available that players can afford to buy in the early turns. Now, with Millionaires Row, there is the possibility of the game completely locking up in the early rounds, or for the players who go last to end up with nothing to buy in the early rounds.

Millionaire’s Row (when played with the Harbor) seems to have thrown the card ratios off a bit, with high value cards now outnumbering low value cards. It is possible that the random marketplace draw can result in nothing being available that anyone can buy, or in only a few inexpensive cards being available, meaning that those who have the later turns may have nothing to buy and be left behind from the start. A few house rules can solve the problem, should you experience it. There’s a good discussion on BGG.com about the problem with people offering up various ideas for house rules. Which variant you prefer will be a matter of personal taste and how your group prefers to play. This isn’t something that will always happen, of course, or even happen all that often. You could get a great Marketplace setup that allows the game to roll right along, but the possibility of a lock up exists. 

Millionaire's Row Establishments 2
Some of the new blue and red Establishments.

Despite this problem, you really do need the Harbor to get the most out of Millionaire’s Row. Many of the cards in this expansion were clearly designed to combo with and mitigate cards from the Harbor. The Park’s income redistribution helps mitigate the huge income swings that the Tuna Boat from the Harbor can generate, for example. That said, Millionaire’s Row is functional on its own. You won’t have a broken game if you play without the Harbor. You just won’t have the full experience that you get from combining Harbor’s cards with those from Millionaire’s Row.   

If you are only going to buy one expansion for Machi Koro, I think you should get the Harbor instead of Millionaire’s Row. There is just too much in this expansion that needs the Harbor to fully appreciate. Plus, in the Harbor, you get the components for a fifth player and you still get the benefit of the upgraded Marketplace rules. The Harbor has everything needed to really “improve” Machi Koro. Millionaire’s Row just adds some more buildings to play with and the renovation mechanic which, while fun, isn’t as necessary to improve the game as what is found in the Harbor. 

I would recommend Millionaire’s Row only for those who really love the game, play it all the time, and need a way to keep it fresh. For all others, I’d say just get the Harbor and stop there. You’ll get everything you need to make Machi Koro into the great game it should have been from the beginning, plus you’ll avoid some of the meanness, potential lock-ups, and big swings of fortune that Millionaire’s Row magnifies.  

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Summary

Pros

Can play with or without the Harbor expansion.
The renovation mechanic can slow down runaway leaders, bringing a bit more balance to the game.
Introduces some powerful new cards and combos.
If you've never seen the Harbor, you'll appreciate the new Marketplace rules and the balance they bring to the game.
Adds more depth and choices to the game, especially when playing with both expansions.

Cons

Adds a bit more time to the game, if playing with both expansions.
While you can play without the Harbor, some of the cards in Harbor are really needed to get the most out of Millionaire's Row.
Some of the cards can be a bit mean.
As with the Harbor, some of the cards are "big" and can swing wildly in a player's favor.
The game can lock up in the early rounds if the Marketplace draw shows only expensive cards.

7.5 Good

I like games with tiles/modular boards that set up and play differently each time. I'm also one of "those people" who likes dice and revels in randomness.

Discussion5 Comments

  1. I want to add that you can do the marketplace rules in the base game, and there is a variant that anything over 7 gets set aside and once you have 10 unique establishments out, then you shuffle them back in. It helps speed up the beginning which can be quiet slow if there is a large number of high value cards out there.

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  3. Bought the deluxe edition for my partner after having previously played the base + Harbor Expansion with her cousin, and am just waiting for her birthday in a week to give it to her so we can start playing some games and trying out the Millionaire’s Row expansion.

    I have to say though, after reading this review, I can’t wait to try a Moving Company + Loan Office combo. Even if it takes you 3 loan payments before you can move the office – a loss of one coin to yourself overall – penalizing an opponent, especially one that doesn’t have any moving companies, should make it worth it.

    I doubt I’ll lean on it in too many games as the dice could prove brutal and the Loan Offices could just take all your money, but I’m looking forward to trying it in at least one. 🙂

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