J. Alex Kevern's boardgame based on the Chicago WORLD'S FAIR of 1893 is published by RENEGADE Games (and Foxtrot Games)
It costs around $35.00 US new (probably about the same in £sterling) and plays with 4 players of 10 years of age upwards, lasting 40 minutes plus rules reading and game setup time.
It is a pleasant looking game with definite appeal to the eye and features artwork by (a) Jason D. Kingsley, (b) Adam P. McIver and (c) Beth Sobel according to boardgamegeek.com; the rulebook formy copy from Renegade Games separates these three as (a) Rulebook Layout, (b) Graphic Design and (c) Artwork. Whoever did what, the pieces are very good, durable, nice and strong, and the artwork is colourful and representative. A good point for new players is that the rulebook is very easy to follow, just one read through and you are ready to play.
The centre attraction of the 1893 World's Fair was the massive Ferris Wheel and it is on this that the game revolves around (pun intended) and indeed there is a definite feeling of riding round on the Giant Ferris Wheel in the manner the game plays, with cards circulating in a representation of the Great Wheel. Also, keeping the game in this perspective, the game is played in Rounds, and it is the overprint of cars on the Ferris Wheels that determine the length of each Round. A separate top section is flipped to the side required depending on the number of players, lengthening or shortening the number of cars on the ride. I was very impressed with this game-time-measuring system although for a little more realism I would have preferred to see the Ferris Wheel designed so that the actual cars on it were the car spaces instead of having the overprint on the illustration which masks the cars of the Wheel itself.
Around the wheel to complete the playing board as a hexagon five specifically shaped pieces are added to represent some of the other attractions and exhibits; these are; Manufacturing (Grey), Transportation (Blue), Fine Arts (Red), Agriculture (Green) and Electricity (Yellow). These mini boards are randomly placed during setup and we have found that there is no optium placing, the game plays the same each time. In fact a few of the people I played with were concerned that there was a "going-through-the-motions" feel about playing but that because games lasted no more than 40 minutes and were pleasant, if not exciting, but as it didn't prevent anyone from playing WORLD'S FAIR 1893 more than once this was considered acceptable.
Each player takes on the role of one of the Fair's organisers and as such has has 22 supporters (wooden cubes in their chosen colour) who they send (place) out around the Fair to gain influence and favour so that the player's reputation grows and as you would expect, the player with the most favour at the end of the game is the winner.
I have to assume that the game has been well play-tested and not just by the designer and his friends, but in almost every 4-player game we have played the person going first has come last, they have never won or come close. Whether this has anything to do with the semi-staggered start or whether it has just been coincidence is hard to say, but no-one wants to be Start Player any more unless they are on a mission to prove there is no jinx. During the setup each player begins by placing supporters on the exhibits according to the text on their Start Card. The First Player puts one supporter on the Manufacturing Exhibit; then in clockwise order the other players place TWO supporters, Transportation & Agriculture, Transportation & Fine Arts and Electricity & Agriculture and then two cards are dealt to each of the five exhibits from the fully shuffled deck of cards: exhibit cards, influential people cards and midway ticket cards; then you begin to play.
The majority of the Influential People cards are each associated with one of the five Exhibits, though there are a number that have abilties/effects instead. There are two cards each of George Pullman (Transportation), Cyrus McCormick Jr (Agriculture), Charles H Schwab (Manfacturing), George Westinghouse (Electricity) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens (Fine Arts). There are 4 cards each for George Davis (add another Supporter next to where you placed) and Bertha Palmer (move any supporter on the board) and five cards for Daniel Burnham (add another supporter in the exhibit you placed in).
The First Player places one of their supporters in the exhibit of their choice; this is always the first action of a player's turn. In the first turn only, the second action is skipped because it is playing out the Influential People cards and performing their specific action, and you will not have any at this stage in the first turn. Now you take all of the cards from the exhibit where you placed your supporter and put them face up in front of you. Finally, starting with the now empty exhibit, you place three new cards, one in the exhibit with the empty space and the next two in consecutive exhibits, making sure you do not exceed the limit - two exhibits may only have 3 cards and the other three exhibits can have 4 cards, on disply. This is one of the reasons we are not keen on the staggered start, the first player can select from all 5 exhibits and will take two cards as the cards are randomly dealt at the setup this isn't really a true advantage.
The second player has the choice of taking a single card (the one just placed at the exhibit chosen by the first player), two cards from the 4th and 5th exhibits or 3 cards from the 2nd and 3rd exhibits, so already the second player has an advantage over the first player. Assuming that 3 cards are taken, the third player may well have the choice of 1 card, 4 cards or 2 cards and so on. After the setup players each place just one supporter onto an exhibit of choice but may also place additional supporters if they have the influential people card/s that allow such an action. Influential People cards must be used the turn after they are collected, there is no holding onto them for later. The Round continues until the Ferris Wheel car has travelled around the Wheel and back to its starting position (it always stops on this position even if their is extra movement available). The Wheel moves every time a player takes a Midway Ticket, one space per ticket taken. There are 28 Midway Tickets in the deck and only 13 cars on the Ferris Wheel with 4 players, so it can move very quickly.
At the end of a Round there is a scoring, number of Midway Tickets (coins won), most supporters in each area (medals won) then you may exchange a certain number of cards that you have collected for Exhibit Approval Tokens (counters in the same colour as the exhibits). There are clear instructions on the Player Aid cards as to who receives what reward and under which conditions. After three Rounds there is the final scoring and this is where you need to have been clever and collected as many counters in different colours as possible. Five counters all different are worth 15 points whereas 4 different give 10 points, 3 different give 6 points 2 different give 3 points and single counters are worth 1 point each. Your medals and coins also count at face value as points.
This is a comfortable game and is really that simple, especially as there are no other options or interaction for players each turn, which is why the "going-through-the-motions" comments were made. But as I also said, the game plays so smoothly and fast that there is no real possibility of players getting bogged down or otherwise distracted and as such it is a game that we all agreed we would like to play again after a short break and without the pressure of assessing it for review. As a game I would rate it as a semi-complex family game, not as easy as some nor as hard as many, and recommend it as such. Core board games players will probably find it rather easy as that other than where to place their initial supporter each turn there are very few other decisions to be made - remember Influential People have to be played (holding a set number of these, with no doubles, might make an interesting difference - I will have to suggest this to my groups). Placing supporters usually depends on one of two choices, trying to have overall control of an Exhibit or requiring the card/s available at an Exhibit.
On today's market $35.00 seems a fair price for WORLD'S FAIR 1893. You should be able to find it at your Local Games Store although reports recently in have suggested that it is selling very quickly.