(Previously published on Game Informer and BoardgameGeek)
I’m a gamer, but I’m also a history buff.
One of my new games bought in December manages to scratch both of those itches, and it is oh so pleasant a feeling! I picked it up the last week of December and played it 6 times between then and the end of February.
Worlds Fair 1893 (designed by J. Alex Klaven and published by Foxtrot Games & Renegade Game Studios) is a 2016 game that combines elements of area control and set collection, in a masterfully simple and quick game that also has a bit of a worker placement feel to it as well.
It is a game for 2-4 players, and it scales really well to all player counts. It’s not one of those “it’s really for more players, but here’s some mechanism so that you can play it with 2” games.
It goes for 3 rounds, with a scoring phase happening at the end of each round.
The “board” is a giant ferris wheel, one of the main attractions of the fair (it cost a whole 50 cents to ride it! Which sounds more impressive when you realize it cost you 25 cents to get into the fair). Around the wheel you randomly place the five exhibit areas where you will be placing your “supporters”: Electricity, Fine Arts, Manufacturing, Agriculture, and Transportation.
Cards are situated in each area, two cards per area, that represent a few different things: proposed exhibits for one of the areas, Midway tickets that will get you points as well as move the “clock” forward in the round, or influential people who you can play next turn to do a variety of things with your supporters. For instance, George Westinghouse will let you put another worker in the yellow Electricity area after you’ve placed one.
Once set up, players take turns placing a supporter in one of the five areas. That player collects all the cards from that area. If Midway cards are included in what the player picked up, then the ferris wheel car moves one space for each one. Once you’ve placed a supporter, any influential person card collected last turn must be played or discarded. Finally, you replenish cards by drawing three of them, placing one first in the area that’s been emptied and then the next three areas, skipping any that are already at capacity.
When the ferris wheel car reaches the bottom of the wheel again, a scoring phase occurs at the end of the current player’s turn. First, whoever has the most Midway tickets gets 2 midway coins. Then, each player gets one coin for each ticket they have. Tickets are discarded.
Then, for each area, whoever has the most supporters in that area gets a 4-point ribbon (or 2-point ribbon in a 2-player game) and can approve up to three exhibits from that colour that they have in front of them. So if you control the red Fine Arts area and have collected three red exhibition cards throughout the round, you can approve all three of them. You get a Fine Arts token for each one and discard the approved exhibits. Depending on the number of players, the 2nd place player may get a couple of points and be able to approve one exhibit.
Finally, for each pair of your supporters (rounded down) in an area, you remove one of them and put them back in your bank for the next round.
This continues for three rounds.
At the end of the game, each player totals up the midway coins and ribbons they have, and then looks at their approved exhibit tokens. For each set of five different coloured tokens, the player gets 15 points. For a set of four, 10 points. Set of three, 6 points. Set of two gets you 3 points and one lone token gets you one point.
In other words, it pays to diversify.
Whoever has the most points wins!
What do I think?
I really love this game. It plays so smoothly, it’s easy to explain and even non-gamers should pick it up after the first round.
It scales really well no matter how many players you have. It works as a lunchtime game at the office since it can easily be played in an hour.
What really makes Worlds Fair 1893 attractive, though, is the dual nature of the game mechanisms involved. You want to control at least one or two areas of the board so that you can get your projects approved, but what happens if all the red cards show up in the yellow area? You have to put a supporter down in the yellow area to get the cards, but you need supporters in the red area to actually get control in order to approve the projects.
It’s a nice tug of war.
It’s not a brain-bender, though, which is also nice. “Serious” gamers (those who think anything simpler than Terra Mystica doesn’t qualify as a “real” game) will not like this game at all.
But if you’re in the mood for a quick, tactical game with some nice decisions but ones that won’t really give you a headache, this game is definitely for you.
The component quality is fairly good, though I am noticing that the cardboard wheel is warping just a little bit and a couple of the cards already have a bit of a scuff on them, and I’m not an abuser of cards when I shuffle them (hence why they are now sleeved after two plays). However, the artwork is really well done, the colours are vibrant, and it gives you different colours than usual as playing pieces (yellow, purple, white and light blue).
In addition to all of that, each card represents something at the actual fair, either an actual exhibit, and actual midway attraction, or an actual person. While the worlds fair theme is sort of pasted on (it’s there and it works, but the game could be done in another setting really easily), it really comes out in the cards. Taking some time to read the cards and see what was really going on back then is a real treat to the history buff like me.
Worlds Fair 1893 gets a solid thumbs-up from me.