The World’s Fair reminds me of huge spectacle and incredible innovation. Iconic landmarks and advances in technology have sprung forth at the Fair through the years, from the Eiffel Tower to the Space Needle. But the 1893 World’s Fair stands out above the rest in a big way: it just became a board game. Just ignore all of these other ones.
World’s Fair 1893 from designer J. Alex Kevern and Foxtrot Games invites 2-4 players to become organizers for the fair tasked with assembling exhibits from the industries of Manufacturing, Agriculture, Fine Arts, Transportation, and Electricity. Each organizer wants to be diverse in their investments and become rich and famous before the end of the Fair.
The first thing that tickles me about World’s Fair is the unusual shape of the board. Five finely illustrated sectors orbit an image of the first Ferris Wheel, one of the biggest attractions of the Fair. Did you know this Ferris Wheel could hold 2,190 people? So of course it’s the centerpiece of this game and the scoring timer fits as a car revolving around the wheel throughout the rounds. It’s a neat touch in a game in a game full of neat touches from the blurbs on the exhibit cards to the medal shaped tokens that you win by controlling sections of the board. Neat.
Being the powerful figure on the World’s Fair circuit that you are, you have a loyal group of employees that are going to be scouting out sections of the fair grounds for spot to erect exhibits for your company. On your turn, you will send one supporter to one of the five sections around the board to try and have a majority there when the scoring rounds come. With a majority you will win medals and can get exhibits that you have collected approved for a spot in the fair.
When you send a supporter to an area, you also get to pick up all of the cards placed there. They could be potential exhibits for the fair, tickets for the Midway attractions, or historical figures that will help you place more supporters on the board next turn. It becomes a tough decision where to place your supporter because the place you want to control may not have any cards that help you out. Turns go quickly, but most of the time it is not an easy turn to take. World’s Fair 1893 has a wonderful tension between turns, hoping that the cards you have been eyeing will make it back to you on your turn.
For each Midway ticket a player takes, the Ferris Wheel advances one space towards a scoring space, acting like a timer for when players get points. If you are sitting in a comfortable controlling position, you want that wheel spinning as fast as possible before your power goes away. But once the Ferris Wheel stops, players will get points for how many Midway tickets they hold, with bonus points going to the player with the most. It’s like getting that giant stuffed bulldog by turning in a fistful of tickets earned playing Skeeball.
The game ends once the Ferris wheel has rotated three times and sections are scored for a third time. This is where a player’s diversity of approved exhibits will score, with more points awarded for large sets of tokens and very points awarded for concentrated exhibits. A set of each of the five types of exhibits (Fine Arts, Manufacturing, etc.) is worth fifteen points, so it’s smart to spread your influence around the fairgrounds.
Every player then totals up their points earned from Midway coins, leader medals, and approved exhibits and the person with the highest point total is crowned King of the World* and gets to take home the Ferris Wheel. I love games that reveal the winner at the end, and World’s Fair 1893 always ends with a cheer.
Even with a theme 122 years old, World’s Fair 1893 feels so fresh, from the detailed art style to the smooth gameplay. You’ll want to take a ride with this game because it’s easy to teach, has tough decisions to make every turn, and is exciting from start to finish. Here’s your ticket, enjoy the fair! Don’t worry, there’s no Devil in the White City here.
World’s Fair 1893 will be on Kickstarter from Sept. 29 for about a month. Check it out here: worldsfairgame.com