World’s Fair: Review

Turn back the clocks. No, it’s not Fall yet. But Fairway takes Foxtrot Games and Renegade Games Studio’s World’s Fair 1893 for a ride. Don’t worry readers of The Devil in the White City, this is not a survival or player elimination game. Instead, gather your supporters, collect your Midway Tickets, approve attractions, and earn points in this well-tuned, area of control game. Check out whether Fairway has fun, or gets sick, riding the 80m high Ferris Wheel in this review of a recent Kickstarter delivery.

🎡 Initial Impressions ^

  • The art direction and art are gorgeous and are spot on for the theme.
  • The components are nice. The use of a Ferris Wheel tracker as the center of a game board pieces that fit is a great touch.
  • The game play is well-tuned, intuitive, and thoughtful. This fact alone made learning and teaching the game easy.
  • There are creative uses of area of control, card drafting and set collection in this game.

🎡 Game Play ^

World’s Fair 1893 is a 2-4 player, area control game that takes place over three rounds. Each round consists of a number of player turns and ends when the players advance the Ferris Wheel tracker around one complete loop. During a round, players attempt to gain control of one of the five major attractions: electricity, agriculture, arts, transportation and manufacturing.

To gain control, a player needs more supporters at that attraction at the end of the round than the others. Each player has a certain number of cubes representing one of those supporters. On a turn, the player assigns one of their supporters to one of the attractions.

After placing their supporter, the player also collects any cards that have accumulated at that attraction. These cards could be potential exhibits, special guests, and Midway tickets.  The potential exhibits match one of the attractions which players exchange for tokens when they control (or take second) the attraction. The special guests provide additional bonuses like moving or adding supporters. Each collected Midway Ticket moves the Ferris Wheel tracker one space and counts for points at the end of the round.

Once the cards are collected, new ones are dealt out around the board in a circular fashion starting where the supporter was placed.

Player continue taking turns placing supporters until the round ends. Then, players check each attraction to see who has the most (and second most) supporters at each attraction. The first and second place players score a few points and then can approve a certain number of the applicable type of exhibit cards which are converted to tokens. Sets of tokens score points at the end of the game and a larger variety scores more.

Once an attraction has been evaluated, players remove half their supporters (rounding up) from the attaction.  The next round (or end of game) starts when all the attractions have been evaluated.

🎡 On The Green ^

World’s Fair 1893 is an amazing game.

Art and Theme. Wow. The art is gorgeous and meshes perfectly with the theme. Each of the components from cards to boards are intricately detailed. The art style captures the feel of art and advertising of Chicago’s World’s Fair from the time and is used in everything from the scoring tokens to the boards.

The game makes interesting use of color.  By foregoing the standard vibrant/primary player color, the game manages to incorporate the same feel into the player bits. This choice is exemplary of the type of thought given to the game overall.

Intuitive Game Play. After the art, one of the first things you notice is that both the game play and the strategic choices are very intuitive. Each is driven by one very simple question: where do I put my supporter? The answer to that question drives a lot of potential outcomes and long term strategy: can I control this attraction? do I have the right exhibits to score if I do? do I place them just to collect the great cards? do I pick somewhere else because there aren’t great cards? do I take the one with all the midway tickets and make the round end sooner? and so on.

As a result, it’s an easy game to teach, but a hard game to master. It also means that even new players can be competitive with experienced players.

Creative use of game play mechanisms.  World’s Fair might become the standard bearer for any future area of control games. By combining the supporter-placement choice with card draws, new card deals, and set collection, World’s Fair springs welcome new life into the otherwise mundane “place a supporter on the board” mechanism. It is a lot of fun deciding to place supporters on places you might have otherwise forsaken in order to pick up great cards. It is equally fun to place supporters in a way to prevent your opponents from getting more cards.

I found the use of Midway ticket cards as a way to advance the round equally ingenious. When players draw Midway tickets after they place their supporter, they not only gain points at the end, but also bring the round (and the game) closer to its end. This results in some hilarious decision making when your preferred pick will bring the round to a close and you’re not winning the attractions you need.

The game manages all of this strategy with very little hidden information: drawn cards are face up, players’ attractions and exhibits are known, and supporter counts are known.

Multiple paths to victory.  The game encourages players to explore lots of paths to victory and points: collect tickets, capture attractions, place exhibits, and so on.  During our plays, people have tried a little bit of everything with about equal likelihood of success. That’s masterfully well done.

The game also avoids common pitfalls of area of control games like encouraging cutthroat play, runaway leader and winner-take-all. For example, while total control of attractions is valuable, World’s Fair still rewards players who tie for first or come in second.  Similarly, at the end of each round, half of players’ supporters are returned to them. Any runaway lead is thus wiped out as the leader brings back more supporters—it works out to be a nice rubber-banding mechanism that doesn’t feel unfair.

There’s some learning embedded.  I very much appreciate when games seize learning opportunities. While the history of the 1893 World’s Fair isn’t one of the core educational topics, the game itself does use the opportunity to impart to the players its history: the people, the places, and the things that represented the pinnacle of society at the time.

Perfect game length.  From set up to pack up, World’s Fair is the perfect length for my group and my family. You can easily complete a 3 player game in under 30 minutes, learning time included. Since the pace of the game is ultimately set by players (whether they draw the cards with the Midway tickets or not), game length is also determined by the players.

🎡 In the hole ^

The Inquisitive Meeple gave World’s Fair 1893 his Seal of Excellence for good reason. The game is beautiful, fun, strategic, easy-to-learn, and immersive. World’s Fair is my new go to game for new and long-time players alike.

World’s Fair 1893 is in the hole for an Eagle (that’s a first!). ^

This post was originally featured on The Inquisitive Meeple.

One thought on “World’s Fair: Review”

Your turn. Share your thoughts: