(2016 – Foxtrot Games, Renegade Game Studios)
The Chicago World’s Fair opened its gates on May 1, 1893 and housed 26 million visitors over the next 6 months. Held in part to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World, the fair was an historical event that helped pull the city of Chicago back together after the Great Chicago Fire that destroyed a majority of the city 20 years before, including over 17,000 buildings. Over 200 new buildings were constructed for the fair, stretched out amongst 600 acres, consisting of various performances, exhibits, entertainment, and welcoming the debut of many technological innovations at the time, including the massive 264 foot tall Ferris Wheel. Along with the United States, over 50 countries were represented at the fair, merging together to create a truly grand display of world culture, not seen to this point.
Designer J. Alex Kevern (Gold West) uses this landmark event as the backdrop for his newest release, World’s Fair 1893. In the game, players are organizers of the fair, sending their supporters out to gather the most impressive exhibits to showcase across five areas of the fair; agriculture, electricity, fine arts, manufacturing, and transportation. Each of these areas contain a number of ticket cards, figure cards, and exhibit cards. When a player sends a supporter to an area, he’ll collect all cards present there. Ticket cards are turned in for coins (and also advance the progress of the round), figure cards are played for special abilities, and exhibit cards can be converted to approved exhibits during the scoring phase, earning the player medals and approval tokens if the player has more supporters at the proposed exhibit’s area than anyone else. New cards are then drawn and added amongst the areas, and the next player performs his turn. At the end of three rounds, players will total their collected coins, scored medals, and points earned from their sets of approved exhibits. The player with the most points is the winner.
– Ferris Wheel board
– Area tiles
– Ferris Wheel marker
– Exhibit cards and Exhibit Approval tokens
– Figure cards
– Ticket cards
– Supporter tokens (a set for each player color)
– Leader medal tokens
– Round marker
– Coin tokens
– Start bonus cards
– Scoring Phase Summary cards
The main game board consists of a few different sections that will need to be assembled at the beginning of the game. The Ferris Wheel board is made up of two pieces, each double-sided. The smaller piece fits onto the top of the Ferris Wheel, and the sides needed for play are based on the number of players in the game. When placing the two pieces together, the Ferris Wheel will include a number of car spaces that revolve around the Ferris Wheel. A two-player game will consist of 9 spaces, a three-player game, 11 spaces, and a four-player game, 13 spaces. The Ferris Wheel marker is placed on the bottom car space of the Ferris Wheel. As players collect Ticket cards, this marker will rotate from car to car around the attraction until it reaches this space again, thus triggering a scoring phase. The bottom of this board references the three rounds in the game. Each round section contains two spaces, one for the turn phase of the round and the other for the scoring phase. At the beginning of the game, the Round marker is placed on the action phase space (leftmost space) of the 1st Round section.
The game comes with five Area tiles. Each tile references one of the sections of the fair; agriculture, electricity, fine arts, manufacturing, and transportation. At the beginning of the game, these tiles are randomly placed around the Ferris Wheel board, and this will make up the entire main game board that players will use. During the game, players will be able to send their supporters to these sections of the fair, in hopes of mingling with prominent figures and setting up impressive exhibits. At the beginning of the game, all of the Exhibit cards, Figure cards, and Ticket cards are shuffled together to create one single draw pile. Then two cards are drawn for each of the five Area tiles and placed beside them.
Each player receives a set of Supporter tokens matching their chosen player color, along with a Start Bonus card depending on which number they are going to be in turn order. For instance, the 1st player will take the #1 card, 2nd player the #2 card, etc. Each player will place one Supporter token on each of the five Area tiles on the game board. Each Start Bonus card shows which Area tiles the player will place additional Supporter tokens on. As such, the players going further in turn order will start the game with their supporters in better positions than the start player.
Finally, all remaining components including the Exhibit Approval tokens, Leader medal tokens, Coin tokens, and Scoring Phase Summary cards are placed near the game board. Players will only use the summary cards that match the game’s player count. After setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
During the game, player’s will take turns moving clockwise, with each player turn consisting of four steps; placing a supporter, playing a figure card (if able), collecting cards, and adding new cards to the board. When the Ferris Wheel marker has completed a full trip around the Ferris Wheel, play stops and a scoring phase is resolved. This continues for three Rounds until the game ends. Let’s first take a look at the various steps of player’s turn, then we’ll look at what happens during the scoring phase:
I. Place a Supporter
The first thing a player will do on his turn is place one of his Supporter tokens on one of the five Area tiles. For instance, Player A (blue) decides to place his supporter on the Transportation area tile. He currently has 2 other supporters here, now giving him a total of 3. During the scoring phase, players who have the most supporters in a particular area will receive Leader medal tokens (worth Victory Points at the end of the game) and will be able to approve a certain number of proposed exhibits that match the area, as shown on the Scoring Phase Summary card. Approving exhibits will reward Exhibit Approval tokens. Collecting sets of these will gain players bonus Victory Points at the end of the game, based on how many they’ve collected for each of the five areas of the fair.
II. Play a Figure Card
As we’ll see during the last step of a player’s turn, players will collect cards from the area they sent their supporter to, and some of these may consist of Figure cards. During this step of the turn, the player must play any Figure cards he owns or discard them. He can not save them for later use. Each Figure card displays a prominent individual during the late 1800’s, and contains a special action the player can perform when playing the card. For instance, after Player A has placed his supporter, he plays the George Davis figure card (seen above), which allows him to play an extra supporter on an area tile adjacent to the one he placed his on during step 1. Thus, Player A chooses to place another supporter on the adjacent Manufacturing area tile.
In a thematic sense, as the player’s supporters head out and meet these influential people, they’ll gain good will amongst them, persuading them to bring their experiments, scientific discoveries, and performances to display at the fair, thus gaining the player special actions. Let’s take a look at a few of these Figure cards and what they can provide:
Daniel Burnham – Playing this card allows the player to place an additional supporter token onto the area tile that the played their original supporter in step 1.
Bertha Palmer – This figure card allows the player to move any one supporter token (whether it is one of their own, or an opponent’s) and move it to a different area tile.
Cyrus McCormick, Jr – When the player uses Cyrus, he’ll place a supporter token onto the agricultural area tile. There’s a different figure card for each of the five area tiles.
III. Collect Cards
Once a player has either played or discarded his Figure cards (if he had any at all), he will collect all cards present at the Area tile in which he placed his supporter during step 1, placing them face-up in front of himself. If you’ll remember, there are three types of cards in the deck. Exhibit cards, Figure cards, and Ticket cards. Each Ticket card represents a different attraction that was present at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. For every Ticket card received, the player will advance the Ferris Wheel marker one space on the board. If the marker has reached the bottom space of the Ferris Wheel track, a scoring phase will trigger at the end of the current player’s turn. Players will redeem their tickets during this scoring phase to earn coins.
For instance, since Player A placed his initial supporter on the Transportation area tile, he’ll be required to take all 3 cards present here, placing them in front of him. One of these cards is a Ticket card, which means he’ll need to advance the Ferris Wheel marker one space. The marker has not yet reached the bottom space of the Ferris Wheel, therefore a scoring phase will not trigger at the end of Player A’s turn.
IV. Add New Cards
After the player has collected the cards from his current Area tile, new cards are drawn and added to the board. You’ll notice that there are a number of notches at the edge of each Area tile. This designates the maximum number of cards that can be present at this Area tile at any given time.
For instance, both the Fine Arts (red) and Electricity (yellow) tiles can only hold 3 cards, while the remaining three tiles can hold 4 cards.
When it’s time to add new cards to the board, the current player will draw and place one card at his current Area tile (the tile he placed his supporter in step 1, and collected cards from), then moving clockwise around the board, will place a card at the next two Area tiles. If an area is already at its maximum limit, it’s skipped over and the card is placed at the next area. A total of 3 cards are always placed on the board during this step of the turn.
For instance, it is currently the last step of Player A’s turn. After collecting both cards from his current area tile (Transportation), and advancing the Ferris Wheel marker, he’ll need to draw a card and place it at the Transportation area tile.
Moving clockwise, the next two adjacent tiles are the Manufacturing tile and the Agriculture tile. Neither of these tiles have met their maximum of cards, therefore the player draws cards one at a time from the draw deck and places the first card at the Transportation tile (Figure card), the next one at the Manufacturing tile (a Ticket), and the final one at the Agriculture tile (Exhibit card). Since a scoring phase did not trigger during step 3 of the turn, the player to the left (Player B) begins the 4 steps of his turn.
If a scoring phase has been triggered, players will score coins, medals, and exhibit approval tokens based on how well they’ve done in three different categories; collected tickets, area supporter majority, and approved exhibits. First, the Round marker is moved to the scoring phase space of the current Round (rightmost space). Next, players will redeem each of their collected Ticket cards, receiving 1 coin for each card. The player that’s redeemed the most Ticket cards during this scoring phase also receives an additional 2 coins. Redeemed Ticket cards are placed back in the discard pile.
Exhibit cards that players collect throughout the game are considered proposed exhibits. Each Exhibit card represents a different experiment, invention, performance, piece of art, etc. that was displayed during the 1893 World’s Fair, and will show which Area its tied to. Each card also contains a bit of actual history about the exhibit, which is pretty neat and helps tie the theme together. Players are hoping to have these proposed exhibits approved, and this occurs during a scoring phase. Each Area tile is scored individually, and players will look to see who has a majority of supporters at the given tiles. The player with the most supporters is given a medal according to the Scoring Phase summary card.
For instance, in a two-player game, only the majority controller receives a medal token (worth 2 points). In a 3 or 4-player game, the majority controller receives a medal token worth 4 points, and the 2nd place player receives one worth 2 points. Medals issued in case of a tie are listed as well.
The Scoring Phase summary card also lists the number of exhibits the player can approve, based on where he finished in majority for the tile. For instance, if Player A had more supporters in the Transportation area of the fair than any other player, he’d receives the gold medal token worth 4 points, and could approve up to 3 of his proposed transportation exhibits.
Let’s say that Player A just happened to have 3 proposed transportation exhibit cards in his play area. He would then discard these cards and receive 3 Exhibit Approval tokens (1 for each card) with the matching Transportation icon. Players will score points at the end of the game based on the various sets of approvals they’ve accumulated.
After all five Area tiles have been scored, players will need to recall some of their supporters. Checking each tile one by one, for every pair of supporters a player has on that tile, he’ll need to recall one of them. For instance, if Player B (purple) had 3 supporter tokens on the Fine Arts tile, he’d need to bring 1 of them back to his play area. If had 4 here, he’d bring back 2 instead.
After players have recalled supporters, the Round marker advances to the next Round space, and a new Round begins. After the 3rd and final scoring phase, the game ends and players will total their final points.
Players will total the points from their accumulated coins and medal tokens. Then players will receive points depending on the sets they’ve been able to create from their Exhibit Approvals according to the following:
– A set of 4 unique approval tokens is worth 10 points.
– A set of 3 unique approval tokens is worth 6 points.
– A set of 2 unique approval tokens is worth 3 points.
– An approval token by itself is worth 1 point.
Players can make as many different sets as they wish, but an individual approval token can only be a part of one individual set. Note that any proposed Exhibit cards left in the player’s area at the end of the game are worth 0 points. Only approved exhibits are scored. After all coins, medals, and approvals have been scored, the player with the most points wins the game.
World’s Fair 1893 is a great example of how accessible Euro-style games can be with the right approach to streamlining mechanics and presenting intuitive gameplay. By designing a game built around the core concept of placing tokens and collecting cards, World’s Fair can be taught to the most basic non-gamers, characterizing the true definition of a gateway game. However, even though the concepts are straightforward, success in the game derives from a fair amount of strategy and pre-planning. Players are required to balance which area tiles they’ll attempt to gain majority control of, over which areas they want to collect cards from. Both can award a player a fair amount of victory points, so the result is figuring out the more advantageous outcome.
While there’s not a great deal of direct player interaction in the game, pushing for majority control of a particular area can be quite tense, especially since only the controller gets his exhibit cards from that area approved. The only way to score Victory Points in the game other than redeeming tickets, is to control (or be 2nd in controlling) majority of areas during the scoring phase. Since there are five areas, it’s also essential to keep from focusing too heavy on a specific area, as only approving one type of exhibit cards each scoring phase isn’t in your best long-term interest. Attention also needs to be paid to how many supporters the player is setting in the various areas. Setting an odd number there will result in one less supporter recalled from that area at the end of a scoring phase. That could be to the player’s advantage or disadvantage, depending on what he’s planning on doing the following turn.
While the theme is a simple one, it’s also quite realized. There’s a lot of history within the game, which I welcome. The game board and advancement of a round revolves around the Ferris Wheel, the highlight of the 1893 fair. Each Ticket card represents one of the many unique attractions you would have experienced, had you been a visitor. The organizers, inventors, and exhibitionists are referenced on the Figure cards, each with a summary of their importance. And finally, the Exhibit cards themselves, each with a description of where they could have been found at the fair, who presented them, and what they included. I learned quite a bit of history during my first playthrough, and found myself reading all the little descriptions on the cards as they came out on the board. For those of you familiar with the cards included in Academy Games’ 1775: Rebellion or Freedom: the Underground Railroad, you’ll get a familiar historical experience with this game.
J. Alex Kevern’s design of World’s Fair 1893 was selected as one of the 2016 Mensa Select winners, which awards five games annually based on their originality and game design. And I have to admit, its well deserving in that regard. It’s not often that a Euro-style game contains a simple, clean ruleset that can be played in less than an hour, yet is still able to incorporate all of the aspects that made it a Euro to begin with. Blend the fascinating history of the Chicago World’s Fair into the theme, and you have an overall, well-executed game.
If you’re near the Wilmington, NC area, feel free to check this game out and more at our community’s FLGS, Cape Fear Games.