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Subject: A Quick History of the 20th Century rss

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James Cheevers
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Liverpool
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I was surprised not to see a review of this yet and now I have a couple of plays under my belt I feel confident enough to give it a once over.

Overview

20th Century is about the development of player regions over 100 years. You will manage an economy, scientific research and the effects of waste on the environment. How well you do at each of these things will translate into victory points and the person with the most at the end of the game will be the winner.

Components

As with all CGE games the production is top notch. The board is compact but doesn't need to be any bigger as it contains everything needed to move play along. Cards are small but seem quite durable. They are the same size as 1st ed Ticket to Ride & Macao, for those people who want a comparison.

The land tiles, tech tiles and production boards are all on thick card. Beware though when punching as the cutting process wasn't 100% seamless, at least in my copy.

The art across the board, tiles & cards, while not striking is good and functional & the iconography is clear.

The player pieces are basic wooden markers and a pawn in 5 colours. However this could really do with more markers as players can tend to run out near the end. We've started using the garbage markers for our production boards.

The garbage markers themselves are dark plastic cubes and are functional.

The rulebook is well laid out with examples and has only left a couple of minor questions

Gameplay

At the start of the game each player takes 1 colour of markers, a production board, a starting land tile (with 2 citizen markers placed and a garbage token) and 10 values in both coins and science cards. A starting player is randomly determined. Also 2 scoring cards are randomly drawn for bonus scoring at the end of era's II & IV and 5 catastrophe cards are drawn to form a small deck.

The land & tech tiles are split into 3 sets. I/II, III/IV & V.

The game itself take place over five and a half eras (Era's I - V, and a shorter era VI). Each of the first five era's will follow the same structure as follows.

1. Set Up

The board is set up for the round. Land tiles & tech tiles are drawn from the appropriate stack and placed according to the number of players. A new catastrophe card is drawn for the round.

2. Land Auction

The start player chooses a tile to put up for auction. There is a minimum bid which increases during the course of the game. It is a standard open auction format although in addition to raise bid & pass a player has an option to drop out of the land auctions completely and purchase a tech tile for the current cost.

When a player wins a land tile it is placed to the side of their play area along with a citizen marker and a garbage cube. The tech tile price marker is moved down by one and that player can now start a new land auction. The auction area is not refreshed.

If a player wins multiple land tiles during a turn, each tile will gain an extra garbage token for each one. (2nd receives 2, 3rd receives 3 etc).

The last player to drop out and buy a tech tile becomes the starting player for the next phase.

If, in this phase, a player doesn't buy any land tiles for any reason they receive a consolation payment of 2 more than the current minimum bid (4,5 or 6).

A little note on the tiles. Land tiles contain 1, 2 or 3 cities on each one but you will only gain one citizen to place on this tile.

There are two types of tech tile to help you. The first which sit at the side of your tableau offer benefits like moving a citizen or removing a hard to reach piece of garbage. We also have institutions, which have to be placed like a normal type but add bonuses if you have the right type of city adjacent to it. A lot of the technologies can also affect the environment in a positive or negative way.

3. Catastrophes

In the middle of the board are 5 bidding columns numbered from 0 - 25. Each column matches a column on the face up catastrophe card. In this phase players will bid in order to 'win' a catastrophe. The catastrophe cards contain 5 things that will affect the players in a negative way. From left to right the effects get smaller down to nothing. 1 or 2 of these columns are not used with 3-4 players

This auction is quite like the 'Amun-Re' auction. Each player in order can bid on any catastrophe using their science cards. They will move their markers along the tracks on the board. If it is a players turn to bid but he has the highest bid already in a column then he must pass.

As soon as all players have a separate bid in each column then the auction is over, the players pay their bid in science cards and apply the effects of what they have 'won'. The player taking the effects of the worst disaster becomes the starting player for the next era.

4. Upkeep

At this point players will place any collected garbage cubes onto their newly acquired land tiles. If a player didn't buy any new land tiles then they can place the new cubes anywhere.

Everyone can then place the new tiles in their region. Tiles can be placed in any orientation and do NOT have to match sides but this will help in the next phase if you can.

The citizen marker that came with the tile is placed in one of the tiles cities.

Players may then use the abilities of any tech tiles that they have available.

Finally, production markers are updated with the new additions/moves.

5. Production/Recycling

Players take money & science cards according to their production boards. They also add any victory points generated this turn.

Then every manned recycling plant the player has may remove one garbage cube from the same tile or an adjacent tile provided there is an unbroken rail link leading to the recycling plant.

6. Bonus scoring

At the end of Era's II & IV there is a bonus scoring round that is performed now.

This is all done five times then followed by a short era that has no auctions. Just a chance to use technologies, produce VP's and recycle garbage one last time.

At the very end there is a final scoring round, at which point the player with the highest score is the winner.

Thoughts

My favourite games involve auctions and some sort of logistical planning. Power Grid is my favourite.

20th Century offers two different auctions, each with their own tensions. Each tile offered will have a slightly different value to each player depending on how they have expanded their region. The tech tiles offer subtle benefits that can make an early exit from the land auctions an appealing proposition.

Also, there is a two pronged logistical puzzle. The first being the Carcassonne style tile laying issues that form the basis for the second puzzle, which is discarding of the garbage cubes. Where to place your scant number of citizens soon becomes an issue, as how the cities are split mean that you will likely not be able to grow you region equally in all areas.

The cities gradually grow in power as we move through the era's. Which tempt you to buy more tiles in the land auctions but this brings a problem with increasing garbage. If you have a good recycling network then this is a good idea. If not, then you need to weigh up what you can get rid off before the steep end of game penalties are applied.

Player interaction is limited to the auctions, so I can see an accusation of multi-player solitaire levelled at the end. And if you're a player who enjoys sticking the knife into other players then you may want to give this a miss. Personally? I love the tension in the auctions, especially when the double-recycle plant make an appearance. But that is what I enjoy in my games.

The theme is pretty well applied. I like the fact that the more you build along with more people will generate more waste for you to dispose of.

I am currently rating this a '9' as I have really enjoyed my initial plays of the game. I'll add an update to this review when I have more plays under my belt.
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Doug Adams
Australia
Oakleigh
Victoria
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Nice to read, thanks. I was really curious about this, as I love Shipyard.

It's listed as 3-5 players - any thoughts on how "two playerable" this would be?
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James Cheevers
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dougadamsau wrote:
Nice to read, thanks. I was really curious about this, as I love Shipyard.

It's listed as 3-5 players - any thoughts on how "two playerable" this would be?

It could be done.

Deal 4 land cards, 3 technolgies. Ignore the middle column of the catastrophe card.

Just remember that it's an auction game and I think the auctions in this game wouldn't work too well with two players.

Let me know if you try it.
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