Ticket to Ride is a fantastic gateway game to draw people into our hobby. It’s my go to suggestion for anyone asking, “Hey I think my *insert relative or friend here* likes games. What would be a good game to start them on?” One of the reasons that it’s my go to suggestion is not just because of its simplicity, it’s also because of its strategic depth that can keep seasoned gamers engaged as well. The game is also educational and can draw people in who love the fun, colorful artwork. For these reasons Ticket to Ride is one of those rare gems on the level of Catan and maybe a Stone Age or King of Tokyo that can engage experienced gamers and wow new prospects at the table. Now you may be asking yourself, “Paul, why on earth did you title a post World’s Fair 1893 and ramble on about Ticket to Ride?” Well friend let me tell you why I think the two are linked.
For a long time after playing Ticket to Ride I struggled to find a game that could unseat it as my “gateway” suggestion…and I tried. As much as I love Ticket to Ride the theme of building train routes doesn’t make me jump up off the seat and yell “Tell me more!”. I have looked and looked for a game that I could suggest that would perform better with varied groups of people and while I found some great contenders none of the others that I found can knock Ticket to Ride as my go to starter suggestion. That was until recently when I played World’s Fair 1893. I think this one may rival Ticket to Ride as my go to gateway from this day forward.
Now let me tell you right off the bat, this game will not just be pigeon holed in my collection as my “gateway game”. I play it regularly and absolutely love it. The game is fantastic. If you don’t want to read the rest of the review that’s the meat of the message here. If you want to stick around so I can make my case then please read on because I want to unpack why I think this game is so great.
On a high level World’s Fair 1893 is a simple area control game that has players trying to propose and approve new exhibits for the World’s Fair. If you have the most control in one of the general areas of interest (Transportation, Electricity, Fine Arts, Agriculture, and Manufacturing) at the end of each round you can have those exhibits approved for end game points. Certain influential people from that era such as Bertha Palmer or George Westinghouse will increase your influence with the fair and help you gain more control. You will also receive midway tickets from time to time that will provide you with money throughout the game. Whoever has the most money and points from approving exhibits at the end of the game wins.
Now for the unpacking! World’s Fair ticks a lot of boxes for me with theme, presentation, and approachability. I finally had the chance to pick up a copy at my friendly local game store Madness Games and Comics, and was beyond impressed. From the get go I found the game fun to play. I also found the game incredibly intuitive to grasp. The mechanics are solid and extremely easy to teach. You will place a cube in one of the areas of influence, you will play any influential figures to increase your influence further, you will collect the cards from the area that you placed, you will deal new cards. This pattern is the meat of the entire game. Some of the cards that you collect will be midway tickets that will move the round tracker; a ferris wheel car that moves around as you play (how cool right?!). Once the ferris wheel makes a full circle, the round is over and scoring begins, you do this for three rounds.
That’s the whole game. That pattern of play is all players are required to learn. As players learn the game and become more experienced however they will begin to see the intricacies of the player interaction and strategy. There is so much depth here. At the end of the game players will earn a higher bonus if they can approve sets of different attractions (one each from the five influence areas listed earlier). So for instance at the end of the game if you can approve one attraction each from the Transportation, Agriculture, Electricity, Fine Arts and Manufacturing areas you will receive 15 points. Individually those exhibits are only worth 1 point each. Now if you can get three of the five or four of the five you will receive a higher bonus as well but you will receive the highest score from complete sets. Knowing this about the the game will help you read your opponents and what they are needing, and create an incredible game of cat and mouse. You are trying to complete the most exhibits to further your goals but also prevent your opponents from completing theirs and this balance can be incredibly tense. The gameplay here is fantastic.
The other aspect of this game that I love is the theming and historical information. As I played the game I found myself looking at the different exhibit cards and influential people and being drawn in by the tidbits of information on them. I learned so much about the fair and the type of technology that was on display and being utilized. Games can be very educational and informative but most of the time they are about mechanics and may focus on a fantasy theme. This game will teach you something about history that is fascinating and fun to discuss. You will learn about the influential people that helped to shape the country and the fair. You will only get a couple of sentences about each person and exhibit but I now know about some of the people that were pioneers in our country’s industrial and technological development. The theme of this game is brilliant and shines through the play experience.
Overall World’s Fair 1893 is a brilliant experience for new and experienced gamers alike. If I’m suggesting a game for new enthusiasts, I may still give Ticket to Ride as one of the top 3 but this one will be included as well. If you’re an experienced gamer (who else googles tabletop game blog right?) then you should absolutely pick this game up. World’s Fair 1893 is in that rare air of easy, quick, fun games that provide great strategic depth. The game will cost you $39.99 at your friendly local game store and about $25.99 at Miniature Market and CoolStuffInc. At these prices the value you will get for this game is fantastic and I would absolutely recommend buying the game and keeping it in your collection for a long time. I rated this game as an 8 on board game geek and that rating may climb. I’ve included a how to play video below if you want to see how the game plays and looks on the table. Thanks so much and until next time I’ll see you at the table.