Reviewed by Herb Levy
WORLD’S FAIR 1893 (Renegade Games/Foxtrot, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 40 minutes; $40)
As the Industrial Revolution began to change life on this planet, science and its promise of wondrous things to come captured the imagination of the world. That excitement encouraged people around the globe to exhibit tomorrow’s wonders. These conclaves of future possibilities were known as World’s Fairs and one of the most spectacular occurred in Chicago as people looked ahead to the promise of the new 20th Century. This is the setting of World’s Fair 1893, designed by J. Alex Kevern, as everyone is caught up in the excitement of exhibitions.
The action of the game centers around the focal point of the 1893 event: the Ferris Wheel. At the bottom of the wheel, a Ferris Wheel car token is placed. Around the wheel, five areas of the fair – Manufacturing (gray), Agriculture (green), Electricity (yellow), Transportation (blue) and Fine Arts (red) – are randomly placed. Players have their own supply of supporters (cubes in their chosen color) and begin by placing 1 cube in each of the five areas. (Additional supporters will be placed in various areas depending on the randomly determined turn order) Now the cards of the game are shuffled and two dealt to each of the five areas.
Cards comes in three types: exhibits (color coded to one of the five areas), Midway tickets (which will move the Ferris Wheel car around to complete a circuit) and Influential Figures (real life personalities involved with the Fair which, in game terms, allow you to place and move your supporters).
Players follow the same basic procedure each turn. First, a cube is placed in ANY of the five areas of the fair. Then, ALL cards in that area are collected. (If a player has any Influential Figure cards, those cards are played BEFORE any cards are collected.) Then three cards are drawn, one placed in the area where the cards were collected and then another and then another in areas going clockwise. (Areas have limits – 3 or 4 – so an area at full capacity gets skipped.) For each Midway ticket collected, the Ferris Wheel car advances one space. When the car has made a complete circuit, scoring occurs.
The player who has collected the most tickets gets a bonus of 2 coins. Then, all tickets are “cashed in”, at the rate of 1 coin per ticket. Now we check for “area control”.
Cubes in each area are totaled. The player having the most cubes in an area gets a medal worth 4 points (or 2 with fewer players). Second place may earn a player a 2 point medal. But the focus is the reward first and second place give you: the ability to convert cards into approved exhibits.
Coming in first allows you to exchange THREE cards you have acquired (prospective fair exhibits) for THREE tokens of the same color. which indicate that your proposed exhibit has been approved. (Green cards, for example, can be converted into 3 green tokens.) Once all areas have been resolved (and the appropriate cards exchanged for tokens), cubes are removed from each area (one half rounded DOWN). Now the next round begins.
After three rounds of scoring, final scoring occurs. To all of the money gotten (from Midway tickets) and medals awarded, players complete sets of tokens. Each set of all five different colors is worth 15 victory points, four are worth 10, three worth 6, two at 3 and a single colored token a single point. The player with the highest combined total is victorious!
The graphics used in World’s Fair 1893 are first rate and the theme wonderfully conveyed by the use of the Ferris Wheel. The cards, especially, add to the ambiance with the incredible amount of factual information about the World’s Fair (information that has no game purpose but is fascinating all the same). Usually, when fewer players are in the game, cards are removed from the deck. For some reason, not here. Some cards are removed from play with 2 or 4 players but the full deck is used with 3. The game plays quickly, helped in no small measure by the clear colors and icons used to differentiate areas and helpful play aids so you know, at a glance, what the Influential Figures you have on hand can do.
Although light in its game play, there are some meaningful decisions to make regarding which array of cards to choose (speed up the Ferris Wheel car to accelerate scoring while you still have control in areas? Bolster your card holdings to convert more cards into tokens while you can?) which makes the game fun and competitive (but not “cut throat” competitive).
World’s Fair 1893 is, quite simply, an excellent gateway game, a quality introduction without fear or intimidation for players unfamiliar with the concepts of area control and set collection. As such, the game is a first rate choice for family play while still providing something worthwhile for the more serious gamers among us. – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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