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Subject: Brilliant Implementation Of A Historical Theme That I Wanted To Use rss

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Chris Leder
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Plainfield
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Let me start this review with a little about me. I’m absolutely captivated by the World’s Columbian Exposition (aka World’s Fair) that took place in my hometown of Chicago in 1893. It was a monumental undertaking and showcased some incredible ingenuity and inspiration. I have gone many times to Jackson Park and the Wooded Island to walk the former area where the Midway Plaisance and famed Ferris Wheel stood. It mesmerizes me.

I’m also a game designer, and for years, I’ve tinkered with a game based on this subject; one that would capture the various aspects of the fair and be fun at the same time. I actually have a pretty good playable prototype that I will now be burning in effigy as I play the fantastic game World’s Fair 1893 from Foxtrot Games, designed by J. Alex Kevern. It puts my design to shame, and does justice to this amazing event in history.

First, I have to say that the version I played was only a prototype, so it featured basic layouts and very little final art from the ultra-talented Beth Sobel and super-popular artist and coin enthusiast Adam McIver. I have seen from the images of final art that everything from the exhibits to the portraits has been given that Adam McIver love™ that people can’t get enough of. Nor should they. Seriously, together Beth and Adam have really evoked the period and it makes the game super attractive.



The game looks incredible on a table. You lay out the Ferris Wheel in the middle, surrounded by a modular layout of areas, from Manufacturing to Agriculture to Fine Arts, all in keeping with the major categories of the fair. You then populate the various areas with cards, which players will be essentially bidding to take into their hand. You start with a number of cubes representing influence over the fair, and when you place a cube in an area, you get to take all cards in that area. Afterward, three more cards are drawn to repopulate the area, but they are issued one at a time starting in the area that was just used, and going clockwise.



There are three types of cards that can be gained when you place a cube. First, there are exhibits. These are color-coded to match the different areas. Next are important people, who provide you with bonuses you will use on a subsequent turn, such as placing an extra cube or moving a cube to a different area. Finally, there are attraction tickets (Admit One) which will move the Ferris Wheel marker around. This is important to keep track of, because whenever the Ferris Wheel completes a full rotation, it’s time to score!

When scoring occurs, you check who has the most influence in each area and assign rewards based on that (depending on number of players, it varies). Then, those with the most influence get to approve exhibits, meaning that they can discard cards from their collection that match the area color and score points. Finally, the person who moved the Ferris Wheel the most gets a bonus and then you score points based on your attraction tickets.

After three scoring rounds, the game ends. It’s a remarkably elegant game that plays very smoothly, but offers incredible strategic choices. Let me elaborate:

In my game, the first round was heavy on the attraction tickets in all areas, meaning that the round moved pretty quickly and we had to be careful what to take. The second round, then, was really light on attraction tickets, so the Ferris Wheel barely moved and we were racing to build sets of colors to cover all possibilities. Once we hit the third round, it was a race to get our cubes in the right spots and end the game at the optimal moment. Really thrilling, and a lot of fun! The game also plays well with two players, offering a really satisfying experience and great tactical decision-making.

To sum it all up, World's Fair is simply amazing. The gameplay is accessible and smooth, the theme is implemented in a perfect way, the art is gorgeous, and the wealth of strategy is immense. Outside of my seething anger at having my World’s Columbian Exposition theme taken, I have to say that this is a truly unique and enjoyable game, and I am anxious to keep playing it to discover more paths to win.




P.S. Notice that (until now) I neglected to mention the whole other aspect of this theme, as detailed in the book Devil In The White City. It’s possible that there are going to be jokes around the table about serial killers and murder while playing, but I want to go on record as saying that I really respect that this game celebrates the positive history of the fair (even down to the great historical facts on the cards) and leaves out the dark side of the time. It’s not necessary, and would have been distracting. The game is perfect as-is!
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JR Honeycutt
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Great review, and having read DitWC, I was also quasi-hoping for an H. H. Holmes reference... glad to see this funding on day 1, and it really is going to be a great game.
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Michael B. Hansen
Denmark
Odense N
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"duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck" Ralph Wiggum .....
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The Devil In The White City proved to me that the Worlds Fair itself can be as thrilling as the whole serial killer angle. Highly recommended book. If the game is as exciting as the book i will be truly impressed.
Looking forward to the game in any case.

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Jeffrey Day
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I'd definitely go for a heavier game with this theme.
 
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Drew Scott
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Evanston
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I share your fascination with this historical time and place, and I join you in the hot, roiling fury of having this theme designed out from under you. Not like my dreams were ever going to come to fruition, or that the ideas I'd been noodling were were worth a Feld's toot, but there was always a chance in this universe I could make a Columbian Exposition game come to life.

Some time ago, on a thread at Stonemeier Games, I rattled off some unconventional themes I wanted to see game-ified -- this fair was one of them, and as soon as I typed it, I thought I MUST MAKE IT HAPPEN. This solution is a little easier, though, I have to admit.
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