I am perusing through my local games store when all of a sudden a name catches my eye. Look at that, what is that? A gas mask, and those colors are oddly familiar. A state.. Okay I know what that is, so this must be a government/civilization game. Wait, that gasmask is broken, and this is the 51st state. Something is wrong here, I don't recall things looking so bleak. I quickly flip to the back of the board game box and notice numbers starting at one and proceeding numerically higher. Whatever that is needs to go. I certainly hope that I don't need to use that to play the game.
After reading the box I gather that this game is set in Neuroshima Hex's universe. Ehh, I wasn't a fan of that game but this may be different. Let's check this out. I quickly scrambles to the cashier amidst crying children and cars moving at high speeds towards them. Smack! The box hits the counter causing a hippopotamus to have an aneurysm 2 miles away. (There is a zoo nearby if you are wondering.) Take this, it is my money and time! I want this box thingy with all of the beautiful chits inside. The cashier's smile is broad and I can see that this purchase is going to be an expensive one.
I finally get home and immediately pull out the box's innards and begin to fumble with each piece excitedly. The rulesbook is nearby, a guide on how to assemble cardboard pieces and cards together into fun.
My roommate Nathan sits near with all of his hopes and dreams for our afternoon resting on this purchase. Did I make a mistake? Will there be time for fun? Find out next ti-wait this isn't episodic. I scour through the rulebook and get a good idea of how all of these different icons work themselves out. It seems that there are easily understood icons on each of these cards. But, I need this index out to understand them for the first game because these symbols are not going to make much sense.
Let me outline our first attempt at the game.
He is a fool and chooses to side with the Appalachian people-folk. I on the other hand recognize that New York's card's artwork is superior thus they must be better designed. While my mighty band of New Yorkians make grave threats about the impending doom of the Appalachian people the game begins.
We are confused at first, idly pushing pieces across the table at each other and asking "Does that sound right?" or "Wait, let me see the book I don't know what that card icon means." and most often "What phase are we in?"
But, the fun level begins to rise. I realize that this first phase of the game is the Scouting Phase. We compete in a pseudo drafting mechanic to find the best locations for our faction. This equates to him grabbing a card, then me, which depends on the amount of players until we get two cards in our hand and draw one randomly off the top of the deck.
We now know where to loot and pillage... statues?
The Production Phase begins! We gather up our precious resources as dictated by our faction card. I sneer at how the Appalachian Federation is simply going to rebuild with it's workers and building materials while I will simply reclaim America. We will trade in any resources gained from deals with the lesser brutes surrounding us and stockpile our rewards from our conquests. But wait, how do we get that!? Simple, turn to page 234.
Page 234 AKA Action Phase:
Locations are where it is at. "What does that mean?" you cry. Well, kind sir, gentlewoman, or appendaged beast these location cards have certain distances away that you must reach by utilizing your three contact cards. You can't simply trot over and build a location or incorporate, you have to make a journey to get to these areas of ravaged Americana. I want to get to the wrecked tank and decorate it with New York flags but I need to use my resources to gather a party of traders or use my roads to incorporate it, right. So I turn in scrap metal to go a certain distance dictated by my faction's contact cards. These contact cards allow you to pursue a trading pact with a location, attack and pillage an area, or simply link it into your own factions set of factories/buildings. But wait there laddie, one of the cards you can grab in the scouting phase could be a special one time limited warranty card that gives you the ability to immediately play a card if it completes the distance requirement. That was confusing.
It will say couriers, and perhaps the number 3 next to it and have a color coding. That means if a card has a distance of 3, that special card will fulfill its emotional needs and allow that location to be played.
Let us do a quick rundown.
In effect you get three cards in your hand each turn unless something special happens (which it will). You gather up your resources from your incorporated cards, deals, and conquests you turn in. Next you will play locations as either deals, conquests, or incorporated lands via contact cards that you must fulfill using resources that you get from: sending out your workers, factories you have built, utilizing your opponent's locations, and the resources your faction starts with. You then declare how you are using the card and place it either as a deal/conquest (you can only have three of these) or as an incorporated area.
One other action which I thought should be apart from the rest is redevelopment. With building materials you can literally upgrade location cards into others. Without having the cards around it is hard to explain, but the cards will have two symbols and if one of those symbols match another card it can be built over. This is interesting because you are giving up an ability for another or replacing an obsolete building with one that will provide a new surface without needing to meet the distance to incorporate it. That makes sense when it comes to victory points. Which I will go over later.
That in a nutshell is how the actions work.
Following actions we have the last and the simplest of phases.
You pick up all of those counters that didn't give you victory points and you push them off to the side. That is right, you don't keep anything unless you have a special card.
Each card can generate 3x the amount produced by a single action. That means that if a card enlightens you as to its ability to generate one victory point for each scrap discarded that means the card can generate 3 points. If it generates 2 victory points per scrap discarded it can have a total of 6 victory points. Each card incorporated gives you a victory point as does having a leader. When you replace a building via reconstruction the points transfer to your home base with an extra vp that represents the card that was incorporated. Your leaders also generate vp through certain actions and can have a max of 5 vp on them. When you tally up all of your vp at the end of the turn and it is equal to or greater than 30 points game over.
On to the next bit, wait this all confusing? It will be for a little while. But that lovely anatomy sheet the designer put in the box will give you an excellent rundown that is easy to read through. A+ on rulebook! I gave the gist of the game and I know other reviews have a much better and organized rule setup but this isn't a how to play but my opinion on a game.
This game is dripping in theme if you can use your imagination. I mean that because my friends and I will literally act out why happens. New York conquers the statue and declares this statue to be the greatest among the lands. It even challenges the dirty mutants to send their people here. Oh, what is that.. you can't? Hmm, New York's people rejoice in the glory of the statue.
"The mutants conquer the marketplace, spilling blood of the innocents, and demanding that trade be opened or more destruction is en route."
All of the design elements of this game make theme present. Instead of having an arbitrary give two wood to build a building, distances are used to simulate your civilizationg searching and looking for better surroundings. The mutants have low trading hence they must conquer around them and trade with the locals. It makes sense thematically unlike Thunderstone where I am buying some random gear and and shoving my group of heroes into the dungeon with whatever supplies I can equip them with. You take that dagger and yes, I know you are an archer but I have some rations and I think the warhammer is more of your bag. Even sending your workers out for resources like guns or building materials is effectively simulating your factions ability to procure supplies.
I have few complaints about 51st state due to the simple mechanics that make sense thematically and provide a game experience that is unique. I like how I can teach this game and most often people who are not gamers tend to want to play again. Mostly, because they didn't get the first game mind you, but they enjoy it.
I didn't like the victory counters being reversible or the score marker being on the back of the box however. Those were huge turn offs for me and i think it could have been easily avoided.
In the end, this game fills my need to build a civilization and plays rather quickly, I can get a game in at around 1 hour to 1.5.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. This is my first review.
“It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet.” ― Naomi Klein
“Climate change has never received the crisis treatment from our leaders, despite the fact that it carries the risk of destroying lives on a vastly greater scale than collapsed banks or collapsed buildings.” ― Naomi Klein
Thanks for the review. Be sure to check The New Era, which is stand alone sequel to 51st State. It brings more player interaction.
Cristian van Loenen
Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.
Thanks for the review. Be sure to check The New Era
, which is stand alone sequel to 51st State. It brings more player interaction.
And not to forget, solves, the scoretrack issue (however we don't use it at all), and gets rid of the tiny chits (bigger chits and wood). However, the biggest issue, the double valued victory marker issue is not solved. I would buy an enhancement pack for that if that was available.
I still don't understand why they chose to make double sided victory points.
Beware of Rocks
I still don't understand why they chose to make double sided victory points.
I'm assuming cost (more values on fewer tokens)