Game Buzz: Mensa Select Winners 2016, part II

Welcome back to a look at the final two winners of the 2016 Mensa Select award (the first three were discussed here).

image by BGG user Funagain Games
image by BGG user Funagain Games

New York 1901 is a 2-4 player game designed by Chénier La Salle that was published by Blue Orange Games.  It’s all about building the skyline of Lower Manhattan.  On a turn, a player may either acquire land and/or a building, OR they may demolish a building and construct a better one.  To acquire land, take a card from the Open Market and place a worker on an empty lot of land of the indicated size and color.  If you then want to build, you place a skyscraper on a spot occupied by your worker, then take your worker back.  This scores points.  These skyscrapers can later be demolished by anyone, and replaced by a better building (which scores you more points).  Legendary Skyscrapers cannot be destroyed, and are marked with a King token to indicate your ownership.

There are action cards that can be used once per game, and everyone gets one of each.  Construction Boom allows you to build a second skyscraper on your turn.  Market Shift clears the Open Market and replaces it with the Future Market.  Land Grab allows you to claim an additional lot of land from the Open Market.

The game ends when a player has only 4 unbuilt skyscrapers, or there are no more than three cards left in the Open Market and the Future Market is empty.  All players but the active player get another turn, and you do the final scoring.  The player with the highest score wins.

This game is getting comparisons to Ticket to Ride.  Not in terms of gameplay, but in that it seems to be a really good gateway style game.  It has simple turns where you can only do one thing, and seems to offer a wide range of strategic choices.  It looks very good, and definitely one I want to try out sometime.

image by BGG user randyhoyt
image by BGG user randyhoyt

World’s Fair 1893 is a 2-4 player game by J. Alex Kevern that was published by Foxtrot Games and Renegade Games Studios.  This one is set in Chicago, and is all about the World’s Fair that took place there in 1893 (in case you couldn’t get that from the title).  Actually, it’s all about the lead up to the fair, with players representing organizers who are trying to secure exhibits and gain favor with influential people.  The game is played over three rounds, each followed by a scoring phase.  In each round, players will take turns sending out supporters to various areas.  This will gain you cards that will be placed face up in front of you.  Some of the cards are exhibits, which are merely “proposed” until the scoring phase.  If you have a majority of supporters (or second most) in the corresponding area during the scoring phase, you’ll be able to “approve” a certain number of your exhibits.

The other type of card is the Midway card, and collecting those will advance the Ferris Wheel one space.  When the Ferris Wheel reaches the start space, the scoring phase is triggered.  The player with the most Midway cards during scoring gets two points.  After you take some cards, you’ll end your turn by adding three new cards to the display.

After the third round, scores are calculated, and the player with the most points is the winner.

This game looks really good to me.  I especially like the drafting cards present here – trying to decide which pile to go for is always an interesting process for me.  Plus, this game does some work in providing historical context for many of its mechanisms.  For example, the Ferris Wheel is an important part of this game because the very first Ferris Wheel premiered at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago (and apparently, each car could hold 60 people, which seems like a dangerous amount to me).  Out of the five games that were named by Mensa for this honor, I think this one piques my interest the most.  But I will say that I think all five games look like something I would like to try at some point.

So there you have it.  I’ll definitely be paying more attention to the Mensa Select awards in the future – it’s quite interesting to see what they picked.  Even if these aren’t all necessarily the ones a lot of gamers would pick as their Games of the Year, I think the point is more to bring attention to some unique games that are out there.  Thanks for reading!

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