New York 1901
- Designer: Chenier La Salle
- Publisher: Blue Orange
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 30-60 mins
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Blue Orange
New York 1901 is the new big-box release from Blue Orange, a relatively new company that has previously focused on bringing over the best of the French language games to the market. New York 1901 is a bit of a change for the company as it is a natively produced game. It is the designer’s maiden effort, and should be in full release at GenCon 2015.
In the game, players start the game as budding real estate moguls with only a single parcel and building to their name. Over the course of the game, the players will acquire land and build bigger and bigger buildings – culminating in the tallest skyscrapers in the city.
The game board shows an outline of the city – split up into a number of city blocks (bounded by streets) and separated into five different neighborhoods (designated by the color of the spaces). There are a few bonus cards that are drawn at random and set next to the deck. They will be used in endgame scoring. There are also 4 Legendary skyscrapers that are placed in a general supply next to the board – all players have access to these buildings, but they will each be able to build at most one of them.
Players each get a full set of 18 building chits – they are separated into bronze, silver and gold buildings – as well as three action cards, each of these gives a special one-time-use action for the player. Each player also gets 4 plastic worker pawns that will eventually be placed on the board.
On a turn, each player has the option of either: A) taking a lot card from the supply and optionally building a building OR B) demolishing an already built building and building a more modern building in the newly freed space.
If the player chooses the first option, he will take one of the four cards from the open market and add its to his stack of acquired cards on the table. He then takes one of his available workers and places it on a corresponding spot on the board (same color and size as what is pictured on the board). Note that if you do not have a free Worker, you cannot choose this option.
Once you have placed your worker, you then have the option of erecting one of your building tiles. You are eventually free to choose from amongst your entire supply of tiles; though you have to cross certain thresholds on the scoring track in order to place your silver and gold buildings. The Legendary skyscrapers are considered to be Gold in color, so you cannot build them until you are able to build a Gold building. When you start the game, you are limited to only playing the bronze buildings.
You simply find spaces on the board which are claimed by your workers, and place a building which will fit in those spaces and place it. The workers which used to be on those lots are returned to the supply. The buildings do not need to take up all of the spaces of the chosen lots – but all the spaces occupied by the building must be under the control of the player prior to building. All buildings must be in contact with either a street or a park. Once built, the building can only be removed by the demolition action. You score a number of points equal to the number printed on the building itself. Finally, draw a new card from the deck and place it face up in the supply so the next player has a choice of 4 cards on his turn.
In the second option, you demolish at least one of your buildings from the board (and it is placed back in the box). You then build a new skyscraper that is more advanced than all of the removed pieces (silver is better than bronze, and gold is better than silver). Note that this means you will never be able to demolish a gold building as you can never overbuild it.
Each player was given a set of three Action cards at the beginning of the game. Each of them can be used once to augment their turn. They can be played on any turn. The Market Shift card allows you to discard all the current face up cards and deal a new set of 4 cards to the supply. The discarded cards are shuffled back into the deck. The Construction Boom card allows you to build a second building on your turn. The Land Grab card allows you to choose two land plots from the face up supply on your turn.
Once you have chosen and executed your one action, turn moves clockwise around the board. The game continues until one of two endgame criteria are met:
1) a player has only 4 unbuilt skyscrapers remaining
2) there are only 3 face up cards left in the entire supply deck
Then, all players EXCEPT the one who triggered the end of the game get one more turn.
There is a bit of final scoring. First, remember the bonus cards that I mentioned in the setup? The first type of those cards has one of the streets on the board on it. The player who has the most skyscrapers on the named street scores 5VP. Each of the 3 streets cards is scored in this manner. Then the final bonus card is scored – this one has a specific scoring rule on it (such as scoring 5/10/15 points for having 4/5/6 of your bronze buildings on the board at game end). Finally, each unused Action card is worth 1 point. The player with the most points wins!
My thoughts on the game
New York 1901 is a very good debut effort from La Salle. The game aims to be a “gateway” style game – the Blue Orange folks are selling it up as a game similar to Ticket to Ride. When I call something a gateway game, that is a game that is easy/elegant enough to teach to gaming newbies yet complex enough to hold the attentions of veteran gamers. After my first few games, I think that the game will certainly be worthy of consideration for such a moniker.
The game itself is fairly easy to learn. On any given turn, the player only has two main action options – neither of which is overly complex. It’s certainly easy enough for a beginner to choose building parcels, and given the size and shape of the different buildings, probably easy enough to at least get buildings built to the board.
That being said, there is a fair amount of strategy, both subtle and overt, in figuring out where and when to build buildings, as well as when and where to demolish and rebuild. For me, the big issue in the timing is the limitation of only having 4 workers to place on the board. With such a limited number, I’d rather not “waste” a placement by putting it in a location that I don’t intend to build or in a location that I can’t really grow from. As you only have one chance to wipe the building card supply, you need other ways to temporize when it’s your turn, and having the capacity to spend a turn demolishing/rebuilding rather than picking up a card that you don’t want is nice to have.
And speaking of those special action cards – if you remember, each is worth one VP at the end of the game if unused, but to be honest, I think the value of each is well more than 1 VP if used at the “right” time in the game. Knowing how and when to use them is something that will often make the difference in the game.
The pace of the game is quick on the clock – again, with only one action taken per turn, and only 2 options to consider, each individual turn does not take long. However, as far as strategy goes, the pace is much slower. As you are limited to only one action per turn, it’s hard to really sneak up on anyone with your strategy. Really, the only way to speed up the pace of the game is to use your special action cards to either draw 2 cards or build 2 buildings in a turn. However, you can only do each action once a game, so you have to make them count!
The bonus cards offer some ability for long term planning, though the overall payout is fairly small in the grand scheme of the overall scoring, and I usually just focus on my overall building plan, and if I happen to score a 5VP bonus for one of the streets cards, then it’s just a nice surprise at the end of the game.
The artwork is very clean, and it’s of the quality that I’d expect from Vincent Dutrait (who also did Augustus, Broom Service, Lewis&Clark). The cardboard chits are nice and thick and have held up well to play thus far.
Will this become a new gateway game? At this point, the jury is still out on that – but I will say that it has not ruled itself out of that conversation. The game is definitely easy enough for non-gamers to pick up, but for me, the question will be whether or not this is a game that I would be willing to play 20, 30 or more times. For me, the decision may hinge on whether or not there is enough replayability after multiple games – other than some slight differences in the streets that are scored, the first four games that I have played have felt the same. We’ll have to see how I feel about it come the end of the summer after more plays.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Eric M
- Not for me…
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