The big day will be here before you know it! That's right, it's almost time for the launch of the great World's Fair here in Chicago. The Ferris wheel spins lazily in the background as you hurry to ready your exhibitions for the general public. From the 82 foot tall Tower of Light in Edison's exhibition, to Denmark's detailed reproduction of Hans Christian Andersen's office, you've got a lot of work ahead of you. Can you keep people interested, shuffle your supporters around the Fair, and, most importantly, raise your reputation above that of the other Fair organizers before the gates open? That's the central question behind World's Fair 1893, recently reprinted by Renegade Game Studios.
In World's Fair 1893, two to four players take on the role of organizers of the famed Chicago World's Fair, attempting to gain the most influence before the fair opens to the public. Through the use of supporters, players will collect potential projects and, though it feels a bit murky (more on that below), effectively attempt to get their proposed projects launched and approved at the end of each round.
To do so, players place one of their colored cubes (which represent their supporters) on one of the five sections of the modular game board. When a cube's placed on the board, that player collects all of the cards that have accumulated on that section, and then more cards are placed on the board. There are different types of cards, including Exhibit cards (which correspond to the five different sections of the board), Midway attraction ticket cards (which offer immediate points and advance the round), and influential figure cards (which cause the player to adjust their next turn). The goal of the game is to score points by collecting sets of cards that are essentially "cashed in" when you have the most cubes on the card's corresponding color.
Though that brief rules description may sound a bit confusing or convoluted, the gameplay itself flows absolutely naturally. Within a few turns, you'll be snagging cards you desperately need while your opponents suddenly out-cube a section you're gunning for, making the stack of cards in your hand useless. And the very next turn, you may do the same. It's fast and easy to pick up, and plays in about thirty to forty-five minutes. And while the mechanics are tightly wound, the theme doesn't fit quite as snug.
While I love the theme in World's Fair, and I love the little bits of history we get through the cards (each card gives some context to its respective subject), the theme is a little bit muddled here. I'm a World's Fair organizer, and I'm sending my supporters to different sections of the fair, in an effort to get various exhibitions approved, and that earns me renown. But why do I have supporters? Are they enough of a thematic link to match these cubes to my role as a Fair organizer? It's not a bad theme by any means, but it requires a bit of mental gymnastics to work your head around it. And I bet if the theme was a little more tightly locked into the mechanics of the game the rules would feel even more clear.
The review copy we received for World's Fair 1893 is a new, Amazon-exclusive reprint of the original game, which features new box art and five new "Influential Figures" including Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Irvine Garland Penn, Fannie Barrier Williams, and Susan B. Anthony. I'm really impressed with the reasoning for the inclusion of these new figures. As Renegade Game Studios explains in a recent blog post, "In 1893, it had been less than 30 years since the abolition of slavery in the United States. Despite the progress of the African Americans, they were not given the opportunity to share their own accomplishments at the World's Fair. These five new playable historical figures were instrumental in giving African Americans and other disenfranchised groups the chance to highlight their progress and achievements." It's nice to see the company use the opportunity of a reprint to tell a bit more of the story of America in 1893.
The Bottom Line
Quibbles about the logical sense of the theme aside, this is an absolutely wonderful little game that invites player interaction without being too mean spirited. It's bright, colorful, has a fun table presence, and would sit comfortably along other quick-to-play classics like Splendor, Settlers of Catan, and Ticket to Ride.
Get This Game If:
- You want an approachable set collection game
- You like the idea of messing with your opponents (but don't want to go so far you ruin the night)
- You want to learn more about the World's Fair of 1893
Avoid This Game If:
- You're looking for a longer, more in-depth strategy game
- You'd prefer a more modern setting
- You're not a fan of "cube pushers"
The copy of World's Fair 1893 used in this review was provided by Renegade Game Studios.