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Subject: I remember it well rss

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John Bandettini
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In my reviews I concentrate on two aspects of the game. A look at what you actually get in the box. The components of the game, a look at both the quantity and quality.

Secondly, my experiences with the game including what I like about it and anything I don’t like about it.

This time I am looking at 20th Century a game for 3 to 5 players designed by Vladimir Suchy from the Czech Design Group. His previous design was Shipyard A game I like a lot but I know some people had an issue with the end game contracts.

It’s a game for three to five players. You use tiles to build your own country and a lot of the scoring opportunities revolve around building as green a country as you can.

This was a game quite high on my list going into Essen but it seemed to disappear there with very little buzz at all. Now thanks to my Secret Santa I have a copy and this is how it plays and what I think of it.

The box is a bookcase style one of similar size to Shipyard. The box itself is very evocative of the subject matter. It has what looks like a mid-century town on it with a steam train, some old cars and some bridges on the left of the box with some more modern looking buildings and a modern looking passenger train on the right of the box. I find it quite an attractive box and certainly fits in well with the theme.





Opening up the box you find quite a mixture of contents. The rule book is well written (with the exception of one incorrect example) and easy to follow. There are plenty of examples of play to help you through it. Although there is a summary of the turn sequence in the rules it’s not detailed enough to use so I find myself going through the rules constantly to get the actions in the right order. Player aid cards with sequence of play would have been very useful. (There is one available from the Geek)

Also inside the box you will find a lot of tiles. In fact looking at the tiles you may think you just picked up the latest expansion for Carcassone. It does have some resemblance to it but not that much. The tiles are split into two types, Land tiles and technology tiles.

There are four different types of land tiles. There are 5 identical tiles which are the players start tiles. The remainder of the 45 land tiles are split into three eras, some tiles are for turns I and II, some are for turns III and IV and some are for turn V. All the land tiles have some kind of train tracks on them and between one and three potential cities on them. Each city produces one or more of either coins, science points, victory points or has one or two recycling plants. As the game goes into later turns the tiles produce more of each commodity.





The above image is the starting tile. It has three potential cities on it, you start with a worker (round wooden disk) on two of those cities giving you starting resources of three coins and two science points. The third city is hard to see as it is behind the black cube, which represents some garbage. That city if activated has a recycling centre.

The technology tiles are split into three types. There are institutions, these represent either mines, laboratories or hospitals and can produce extra coins, science or victory points. To use them you need to connect them to a regular land tile and the first city they connect to must be active (have a worker in it) and be producing the matching resource.





In the above example, cities to the north and west will receive one bonus victory point each from the hospital. The city to the south won’t because it does not have a worker in it. The city to the east will not get an extra victory point because it does not produce victory points.

The other types of technology cards are single-use and multiple-use technologies. These are fairly dull brown cards with an image on them showing their use. The single-use cards have a white border on them, otherwise they look pretty similar.





In the above example there are two single-use cards on the left. The top one is a bridge. This can be used to join two pieces of track that otherwise do not join on a tile. You can if you get two bridges use them to join two pieces of track on adjacent tiles that otherwise would not be connected. The second tile is a park. This improves the environment. I’ll explain more on this soon. The top multiple-use tile is a train. You need this technology if you want to move any of your workers after you have placed them. One train can move a worker to any empty adjacent city. If you have more than one train you can chain moves together. The bottom tile allows you to improve the environment once per turn for three coins.

Before we look at the main board it will be easier to understand if we look at the player boards.





The top part of the player boards contain three tracks, these are used to track the players current income in coins, science and victory points. It’s updated after players add any new tiles to their country. They then receive coins and science cards equal to the value on the track and move their token around the victory point track equal to their current victory point value.

The main aim of the game is not just to build a large thriving country, it’s to build as ecologically sound country as you can. The bottom part of the player board helps you track this. You start with a token on the middle space. At this time your ecology is fairly neutral, it’s not good but it’s not particularly bad. The track is further split into three sections showing how many victory points you get at the end of the game (and possibly during the game) for every land tile with no garbage on it. Points are 2, 3 or 4 reflecting how well you have done with the ecology. Just above those points the track is further divided and shows various numbers. The numbers are a rising negative number going left from the starting position and rising positive numbers heading right. You get or lose victory points at the end of the game depending on where you finish on this track. You will notice (if the photo is clear enough) skulls heading to the left and flowers going to the right.

Some of the technology cards have either skulls or flowers on them. If you buy a technology card with a flower on, you move your marker one space to the right on this track, with a skull you move it left.

Some of the technology cards allow you to spend coins or science to get a flower and move right. You may also gain skulls from a catastrophe.

Now let’s look at the main board and see how you get land and technology tiles.





Around the outside of the board is a victory point track. Players earn victory points every turn for manned cities on their tiles that produce victory points. There is also bonus victory point scoring after turns II, IV and VI.

At it’s heart 20th Century is an auction game, in fact it’s a double auction game. You win the land tiles in an auction and gain technology tiles dependant on the land auction.

The land tiles are placed on the spaces on the left side of the board. The number of tiles depending on the number of players. There is a space above the tiles for the players tokens. For the first turn, the first player is chosen at random. After that it is the player who ‘won’ the catastrophe auction.

In the middle of the board are spaces for up to six technology tiles, again depending on number of players.

The first player chooses which tile they want to auction first. They move the tile to the tile space at the bottom middle of the board, underneath the technology tiles. The opening bid depends on the turn. It’s 2 for turn I and II, 3 for turns III and IV and 4 for turn V. On their turn a player can do one of three things, they can raise the bid, pass or drop out.

If they raise the bid they stay in the auction and may either win it or get to make another choice. When you win a land tile you pay the bid price in coins and get the tile, a worker to place on it and a garbage token. You can win more than one tile in a turn but each additional tile you win comes with more garbage tokens, 2 on the 2nd, 3 on the 3rd etc.

If you pass you are out of this auction but you can bid on the next one.

If you chose to drop out, you are finished with the auction for this round and you get an option to purchase a technology card. There is a track underneath the technology cards which tracks the current price in science points of a technology card. The price moves one to the right (gets cheaper) every time a land tile is sold. The last person to drop out and get a technology tile starts the next phase which is the catastrophe phase.

If any players drop out of the auction without buying a land tile, they get compensation in coins equal to the current starting bid for a land tile.

To the right of where the technology tiles go is the catastrophe track. At the bottom of the track is room for the catastrophe cards. Before the game you select five cards from the available 9.





The nine cards are split into three sets of three, split into the different eras like the tiles, 3 cards for turns I and II, three cards for turn III and IV and three for turn V. the cards have five columns on them corresponding to the tracks on the board. Each column has either nothing in it, a skull or a dustbin or a combination of skulls and bins. Players place their player piece on a value above one of the columns. If someone places a piece on a higher value above yours in the same column you have to move it. This continues until there is only one piece in each column. You then have to pay science points equal to the space your piece is on. You are not allowed to put your piece on a value you can not pay. Each player then receives the values on the card under the column their piece is in.

For any skulls you receive move your ecology marker on your player board. For each dustbin, you take another garbage token which you can place on any of your land tiles.

The final track on the right side of the board is the turn track. There are no special events on turns I, III and V. On turn II and IV there are bonus scoring rounds, there are three different cards for each turn. You randomly select one for each turn at the beginning of the game.





They do things such as give you bonus points equal to your current coins and science levels, give you points for tiles with no garbage, double vp’s earned that round etc.

The bonus points for the last turn are fixed and are illustrated on the board. All players compare coins left and receive points for most to last equal to 8, 5, 3, 1, 0. You then do the same with Science points. Players receive points for each tile without any garbage on it, you get 2,3 or 4 per tile depending on where on the ecology track you are. There is no penalty for having one garbage on a tile, but for every garbage over 1 on a tile you get -5 points. Finally you get the points shown on the ecology track where your token is.

As an extra for the board you get a small strip that overlays the technology card price for the later turns. It is double sided with one side for turns III and IV and one for turn V. This shows the increased minimum bid for a land tile, 3 for turn III and IV and 4 for turn V, and a different more expensive track for technology cards.






We have looked at some of the cards while looking at the board. The other cards that you get are the coins and science cards. They look like this.





They both come in three denominations 5, 2 and 1. The backs of the cards are all identical as all values are hidden.

You also gat a bag of wooden pieces. Most of these are small round disks that are used for your workers and they also double up as markers on the player boards. They come in five colours, Blue, Red, Green, Yellow and Purple. They continue the Czech Design Group’s habit of making game pieces that like to roll off the table. You also gat a slightly larger disk which is used on the VP track around the board. Each player gets an individual player pawn of their colour which moves around the board depending on the phase.





You also get some brown stick type pieces that are used to represent any bridges the players build. Finally a couple of neutral pieces that are used as turn marker and to track current price of technology tiles.

The final thing you get is a bag of black plastic cubes. These are the garbage markers. You get these when you buy land tiles. And also you may ‘win’ some in the catastrophe auction.





What do I think of the game?

Well I don’t think it’s likely to crack my top ten, but I think it’s still a pretty good game. It’s not that complex and can be taught quite quickly. It’s not that long either, the games I have played have lasted between an hour and an hour and a half.

I like auction games and here you get two different auctions. The catastrophe one is one auction you don’t actually want to win.

Even with just three plays under my belt I can already see a number of ways to approach the game. Early on you can try to generate lots of money and just try to build as large a country as possible. You can go for science and try to avoid the penalties of the catastrophe. You could concentrate on getting the technology cards that give you flowers. You can try to maximise victory points in your countries. You can just do so many things, you just can’t do all of them in the same game.

One thing you do ignore at your peril is garbage. Fail to get your garbage under control and you can pick up a lot of negative points at the end of the game. There are two main ways to remove garbage. On the tiles are recycling plants. For each active recycling plant you can remove one garbage from either the tile it’s on or a connected tile that is adjacent to it. There are also some technology tiles that allow you to remove garbage.

The land tiles can be connected to each other anyway you like. You don’t have to match up the rail lines, however it is usually to your benefit if you do. You can only use any train technology cards to move workers along rail lines, if your rail line does not connect to the city you want, you can’t move a worker there. (Unless you can build a bridge). You also need connected rail line to use institutions.

If you buy any institution make sure you can put it in a position where they can maximise their production, and don’t forget the cities have to have workers in them.

The game lasts six turns but turn six is only produce, use technology and collect revenue. There are some very powerful technology available on turn five, don’t forget that you get to use it twice.

Do take notice of the bonus scoring cards for turn II and IV. They can produce a lot of extra points, make sure you get your share.

Timing when to drop out is an art and one you need to master. As you only get one garbage on your first land tile, you usually want to get at least one land tile each turn, but don’t be scared to drop out straight away if there is a technology card you really need. It’s also worth remembering that whoever wins the land tile auction, starts the next one. So you can win an auction, the price of the technology card goes down and you can then drop out immediately and buy a Technology card at a reduced price.

Keep in mind if you ignore science you will end up ‘winning’ a lot of catastrophe’s.

All the components are of good quality if a little green. The game suffers in the UK anyway from being overpriced. The cards are ‘settlers’ size. My copy is actually a German one, but the game is totally language independent apart from the rule book. Which is available on the Geek.

So a pretty good if not great game. Plays well, easy to learn and does not outstay it’s welcome. You could do far worse than get a copy of this game.

And finally a photo of me playing it.



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Daniel
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Not my type of game - after reading it - but still a very nice review, John!
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Jeremy Salinas
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Great review as always John !! Big fan of your reviews. +1 thumbsup

Jeremy D. Salinas
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Max Maloney
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Thanks for doing this one. I've been curious about the game but hadn't heard anything about how it played. I suppose I could've downloaded the manual, but now I don't need to.
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Maja Stanislawska
Finland
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Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. Pratchett
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Thanks for the review John. I really enjoy your well-illustrated writings.
I would probably not buy 20th Century myself at the moment but definitely would like to play it.
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Jimbo Sutherland
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HAMPTON
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Drakkenstrike wrote:
Great review as always John !! Big fan of your reviews. +1 thumbsup

Ditto.

Although having played the game, I have no wish to play it again let alone own it - I found it dragged (one play, four player).

But agree, you could do a lost worse than own this game (just not one for me).
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Rich P
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I'd heard some very negative things about this game, so I was surprised to find it's not bad. It's not amazing either, but good enough for a few plays. The only part I disliked was the last round, when everything can be converted into an equivalent VP value. The game could really slow down at that point as everyone works out what each tile is worth to them.
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Russ Hewson
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Interesting you say that Jim, for me the best thing about this was how it didn't outstay it's welcome in any way, didn't drag at all imo.
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Captain Nemo
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Jazzuu wrote:
Drakkenstrike wrote:
Great review as always John !! Big fan of your reviews. +1 thumbsup

Ditto.

Although having played the game, I have no wish to play it again let alone own it - I found it dragged (one play, four player).

But agree, you could do a lost worse than own this game (just not one for me).


Agreed. Clever design but for me it gave no atmosphere and no excitement.
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Mik Svellov
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Have played it twice now.
I find it a great game - on par with classics like Power Grid.
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The Cheng Meister
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Great Dane wrote:
Have played it twice now.
I find it a great game - on par with classics like Power Grid.


I would much rather play this than powergrid!
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