World’s Fair 1893

Published in 2016
Publishers: Renegade Games, Foxtrot Games
No. of Players: 2 – 4
Playtime: 30 – 45 minutes
Ages: 10+

Before I start doing my review, I feel like I have to offer an explanation as to why I haven’t been writing in the last month.

As I noticed that I’m getting a few more readers each day, I was determined to write one article each and every week. Unfortunately, there was one thing that would take up most of my time in terms of my writing ability: report cards. Working at my school,  I would have to do report cards in three specific months: December, March, and June, hence why I normally don’t write anything during those times because my energy is usually focused on writing comments for my students. Now that I’m enjoying my Summer vacation, I figure that I would be able to write more, so I’m back on track and writing reviews again about games. This includes World’s Fair 1893, which I bought because I watched a review on “The Dice Tower” Channel on Youtube and thought maybe I should try this game out.

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World’s Fair 1893 is an area-control set-collecting card game created by J. Alex Kevern and is produced by Renegade Games and Foxtrot Games. This game is based on, and I know this sounds obvious, the World’s Fair of 1893 which was held in Chicago. It was an expo showcasing some of the greatest achievements in science, culture, and entertainment. You act as an organizer of the fair and try to send supporters out to various areas in the hopes of gaining favour of influential figures and securing exhibits that will be put on display. This game plays out in three rounds, with players collecting cards and placing supporters in the areas and the organizer who has earned the most points wins the game.

Setup is pretty straight forward. You will first create the central board by taking the two-sided Ferris Wheel board and additional wedge and putting them together in a certain way that is dependent on the number of players. Then you take the five different area tiles, shuffle them up, and place them around the central board. Place the Ferris Wheel token at the bottom of the Ferris Wheel and place the round marker on the round track.  Put the various tokens somewhere off to the side. Next, after taking out some of the cards from the deck, which is again dependent on the number of players, shuffle up the cards, and place two cards face up by each area. Finally, give each player their supporter cubes and determine the turn order by shuffling up the player cards and dealing them to each player. Each player will get a bonus based on the card they drew and will put one supporter on each area as well as the bonus indicated on the card. You are then ready to play.

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In World’s Fair, each player is trying to get points in two ways, either by collecting midway tickets, or by building their exhibits, which require players to have the majority ownership in any of the five areas of the fair: Fine Arts, Transportation, Electricity, Agriculture, and Manufacturing. Players do this by placing supporters in one of these areas and collecting the cards found in that area. There are three types of cards:

  • Midway tickets: These cards give you one point for every card you have. In addition, if you have the most of these cards at the end of the round, you are given a two point bonus. These cards also determine how long the game will last since they move the Ferris Wheel token one space for every midway ticket attained. The round is over when this token completes one full circle, and reaches the bottom again.
  • Influential figures: These cards are special abilities that must be played on the next turn. They allow you to put additional supporters on areas or even move supporters from one area to another.
  • Main exhibits: These are the majority of the cards found in the deck. When you take the card and put it in your tableau, these cards are considered to be “proposed”. The only way that these cards a built and “approved” is when you have the majority ownership on an area. These cards are then exchanged for exhibit tokens.  In order to maximize the number of points you get, you need to have a variety of exhibit tokens. For example, five fine arts tokens will only give you five points because it’s five different sets, but one set of five unique tokens will give you fifteen points.

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Once a supporter is played onto an area, and the cards are collected and placed into a player’s tableau, the areas are restocked. One card is placed by the area where the supporter was played. Then moving clockwise, one card is added to the next two available areas (some areas can hold a maximum of three cards, while others can hold four. If the area is full, you skip over it and go to the next available area.)

This keeps going until the Ferris Wheel marker reaches the start space at the bottom triggering the scoring phase. In this phase, players will now cash in their midway tickets for points, with the player with the most tickets getting two points. Each area is then checked for majority ownership. The first place player, and second place player in a 3 or 4 player game in that area will get two to four points. Then, depending on whether they are first or second, these players will also get to trade in a number of exhibit cards for tokens. Finally, players will recall half of their supporters by taking them off the board and putting them in their own personal area. The round marker is moved and play continues once again. This keeps going until the third scoring phase is complete and each player totals up their points earned from the midway, exhibit medals, and approved exhibits. The player who has the most points wins.

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I want to first comment on the thematic components of the game. I love the cards in terms of both its artwork and text. It amuses me that back in 1893, these exhibits and attractions entertained the public at that time, like a diving show, or an ostrich farm, or fresh popcorn, or an electric kitchen, or the Remington Typewriter. Obviously, things have evolved a lot since 1893, and to see these elements was quite entertaining while playing this game. I also like the design of the Ferris Wheel and the area tiles. They also give the feel of the late 19th Century. I did also like the midway coins and award medals, but I felt that it was unnecessary to distinguish between these two items as they are worth the same at the end of the game.

That being said, World’s Fair is not the strongest game thematically. While playing World’s Fair, your focus is more on the card abilities and the set collecting and less on the actual theme. Although it is to represent the creation of the 1893 World’s Fair, you honestly don’t feel that. There’s no attachment to how placing a cube means increasing support. You don’t feel like you’re working with an influential figure when you simply just play a card. The lack of theme is especially noticeable when exchanging the exhibit cards for tokens. The card had the cool text and pictures of the exhibits and it is traded in for a token that has little meaning except for cashing in points at the end of the game. I wish the cards were kept and you put the token on top of the card so you can say that at the end of the game I have these exhibits and contributed this to the fair, but I would assume that there wouldn’t be enough cards if this was done.  This is one of those games that if you were to exchange the theme with any other, you could still play the game and not notice the new theme at all.

What World’s Fair lacks in theme, is made up for in its mechanics. World’s Fair has some really cool elements that make this game highly strategic and have a high replayability.  The placement of  support tokens and cards create a very fluid game, causing players to really think about their decisions on each turn. Do you try to gain more support in an area but potentially get only one or two cards? Do you take four cards from an area that someone else has an overwhelming majority? And even card selection becomes important too. Do you want the area that has a bunch of influential figures that will help on the next turn, or do you want to get the area that has lot of exhibit cards? You can even consider getting the area that has a lot of midway tickets in the hopes of ending the game earlier.  These decisions also affect your opponent’s choices as well. Since the card seeding is based on what area was chosen, certain areas may become even more loaded with cards, so you may be setting up for your opponent for a big take on their turn. There is constant change and deep thinking for a game that is only 45 minutes long.

World’s Fair is a quick, highly strategic game that although has a weak theme, has strong mechanics. The game itself makes you question and ponder what would be the most efficient move that benefits yourself, but at the same token reduce chances of your opponent gaining more. It is the thought process that makes World’s Fair highly entertaining and engaging and it is worth purchasing  if you are wanting a game that is simple but pushes you mentally. World’s fair is definitely a game worth putting into your collection.

Pros:

  • Quick game that is simple to teach.
  • High replayability due to card and tile rearrangement.
  • Strong game mechanically. Makes you constantly change and adapt strategies.
  • Cool artwork that represents the era.

Cons:

  • Theme is weak. You can essentially ignore it.
  • Not sure why there was a difference between midway tokens and exhibit awards because they represent the same thing.
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