Dale Yu – Essen First Impressions #1: Dice Games Part 1 – Galapagos, Machi Koro

We’ve decided that we’re going to hold off on writing our group reviews until around Thanksgiving – in order to give as many of our writers a chance to play the games at the fall conventions (Great Lakes Games, Sasquatch, BGG.con, EuroQuest, Basement Con, Lobster Trap, etc) and allow for as many comments as possible on the new games.

In the meantime, I thought I would write up some quick mini-capsule reviews of some of the new games that I’ve played. Most of the games have only been played once, so clearly my opinions are still forming on the games – but I know that many people are trying to figure out which games they want to buy/try first, and to that end, any opinions will be helpful.  These thoughts will eventually be edited/incorporated into the full review that will come in the next few months, but I will try to talk about the new games a little bit at a time until we’re ready for full reviews.  I will try to give a short description of the game(s) in each piece and some quick thoughts about them. The rules are not meant to be comprehensive – merely enough to give a flavor for how the game works.


  • Designer: Bjorn Heismann
  • Publisher: Amigo
  • Mechanics: real time dice rolling, set collection

Galapagos box

Gameplay: Board of different colored spaces has 6 turtles randomly drawn and placed on map.  Each player rolls 5 dice simultaneously, trying to arrange the colors correctly. Can re-roll as much as you want.  Fastest player goes first.  Players then move their pawn onto colored board spaces in the order of the dice. If you move your pawn onto a space with a turtle tlie, you collect it. At end of round, you draw turtles to bring the board total back up to 5.  Game goes until all turtles are collected. You score 8 points for each set of 6 differently colored turtles. Otherwise, turtles are worth one point each.

Thoughts:  It’s a decent family game, but not something I’d play regularly with my adult group. My boys like the game, though the game can degenerate into looking for only one or two colors on your initial roll, placing the dice as quick as possible and only taking those few steps – but ensuring that you get a turtle each turn. If you approach it as a light family game, it’s a quick 20-30 minute game.  With experienced gamers, I think the system can be “gamed” a bit, and it’s just not right for that group.  That being said, having spoken with my friends at Amigo, they are committed to making solid family games, and in that regard, they have succeeded.

Galapagos games

Machi Koro

  • Designer: Masao Suganuma
  • Publisher: Grounding / Japon Brand
  • Mechanics: dice rolling, deck/city building


Gameplay; Players start with the same two buildings. Each is triggered by a specific dice roll (sometimes on your own turn, sometimes on the roll of an opponent).  On your turn, you roll dice, and then see if one or more of your cards is activated; this happens when the exact roll (either 1d6 or 2d6 is found on the top of your card).  Most cards provide coins when activated. You can use coins to buy more cards – each with different numbers that activate them and with different payouts.  The goal is to be the first to build four city cards (all players have the same 4 to build to win the game).

Thoughts: I really like this game. There is a lot of nice risk management in trying to get your cards activated – especially in deciding between rolling one or two dice on your turn.  This can be important because your cards only activate when the exact roll is found on the card.  The actions on the cards are different enough that there are multiple paths to victory, though in the end, players that roll their own numbers more often will tend to do better… After 2 games, the selection of cards feels a bit limited, but there is already an expansion out which gives about a dozen more card types, and this will hopefully widen the choices.  But, even without those extra cards, I’m still looking forward to playing this one more.  About 20-30 minutes per game – up to 4 players.

Component pic courtesy of Tak-san

Component pic courtesy of Tak-san

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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7 Responses to Dale Yu – Essen First Impressions #1: Dice Games Part 1 – Galapagos, Machi Koro

  1. AED says:

    What I want to know is how you actually acquired Machi Koro. When I got to Japon Brand about 15 min. after opening it was all sold out! That was because this dude with “Dale Yu” on his shirt was taking forever to pose for photos at the Steampark/Cranio booth while I waited behind him impatiently! :p

  2. Dale Yu says:

    It’s all about the pre-order! Each year, I try to read the rules in advance and pick two or three games that I think I’ll like… I know a few other gamers who actually ordered 15+ games from the Japanese guys this year! (All different titles… not 15 copies of Machi Koro)

  3. Garry R says:

    Enjoyed my play of Machi Koro at GLG…hoping it makes it over here without too much alteration:) It’s a fun little filler – perfect for a quick game while you’re waiting for others to show up or to close out a nite of gaming.

  4. huzonfirst says:

    Kinda mystified about the buzz surrounding Machi Koro. There’s a lot of paths you can choose to take, but all of them require that the dice work out in your favor. At least, that’s how I managed to win my one game. I guess I can see the appeal, but if Augustus is Gamer Bingo, this is Gamer LCR.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Larry, no more or less that a certain game called “Settlers of Catan”… which by the way is consistently rated in the Top 10 all time of games in our hobby and perhaps the greatest seller of all time in said hobby.

      Dice have to work out in your favor… but everyone has the same cards to choose from. So you still have to have a good plan of what to do when your numbers come up.


      • huzonfirst says:

        But Settlers has positional play, multiple resources, and trading, among other things. The math in Machi Koro is sound, but as a result, the price for each card is proportional to its earning potential. So it just comes down to who gets lucky with the dice, regardless of what your buying strategy is. There’s a bit of a decision about when to switch from a 1-die strategy to a 2-die strategy and there’s a bit of a decision of whether to save your money on a turn and risk being robbed. But it feels like the game is 95% luck, MUCH more so than in Settlers.

        Look, I can’t say the game isn’t fun, because lots of people seem to be enjoying it and that makes it fun by definition. But it’s hard for me to see where the game here is, other than people rolling dice, cheering when they work out for them, and moaning when they don’t. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the sort of thing I’ll ever seek out.

  5. Gary Jackson says:

    Hi Dale
    Really enjoying your coverage and mini-reviews – thanks! Quick question re Galapagos, you played allowing re-rolling dice – that doesn’t seem to be in the rules as written? I can see how it would help when you don’t roll any colour that you are next to, so could be a variant to try.

    The designer has posted a couple of ‘pro’ variants on the geek – buried in the comments section, but look interesting.


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