World’s Fair 1893 board game review

World's Fair 1893 board game
Let’s travel back in time to the World’s Fair 1893!

One of my favorite memories as a teenager was when our family went to Canada for Expo 86. It was a World’s Fair held in Vancouver, British Columbia, and I thought it was so cool.

The theme of Expo 86 was “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion – World in Touch” and it was a spectacle.

Perhaps it was because of my experience going to a World’s Fair that I was drawn to the board game World’s Fair 1893 when it was published a few years ago.

I first played the game at SaltCon a while back and enjoyed playing it. Then earlier this year, Renegade Game Studios announced a new version of the game. They sent us a copy and we’re excited to tell you all about it.

World's Fair 1893 board game
We’ve got some exhibits to build!

In the board game, players are organizers helping prepare the fair by sending out supporters to gain favor with influential people and secure grand exhibits. The objective is to earn the best reputation by the end of the game.

The central feature in the game is the grand Ferris wheel – which was first introduced at the World’s Fair 1893 in Chicago, Illinois. The top piece of the Ferris wheel is interchangeable depending on the number of players.

World's Fair 1893 board game
The top section of the Ferris Wheel is double-sided depending on the number of players.

Then the 5 area tiles are randomly placed around the Ferris wheel and the Ferris wheel car is placed on the starting space near the bottom of the board. The main exhibit cards, midway ticket cards, and influential figure cards are all shuffled together in one deck and then 2 cards are drawn and placed face up next to each area around the board.

Each player places one of their 22 supporters (colored wooden cubes) on each area and gets a start bonus card depending on their position in turn order.

World's Fair 1893 board game
We’re ready to play!

On a player’s turn, they go through 4 steps.

  1. Place a supporter: The player chooses one of the 5 areas and places one of their supporter cubes on it.
  2. Play influential figures: If the player has any Influential Figure cards in hand that they collected last turn, they must play them now. They can’t be saved for future turns.
  3. Collect cards: The player takes all the cards next to the area where they placed their supporter. They’re placed face up in front of the player for all to see. For each midway ticket card taken, move the Ferris wheel card 1 space.
  4. Add 3 new Cards: First add 1 card from the deck next to the area where the player placed their supporter. Then add 1 card next to the next available areas in clockwise direction. Each area has a capacity of either 3 of 4 cards indicated on the area tile. If one area is full, that area is skipped for placing cards.

When the Ferris wheel car lands on the start space, it immediately stops and the round ends at the end of that player’s turn.

World's Fair 1893 board game
The benefits in the scoring phase also depend on the number of players.

At the end of each of the 3 rounds, a scoring phase occurs:

  • Midway Tickets: The player with the most midway tickets gets 2 points in midway coins. Then all players discard their midway tickets and get 1 midway coin for each ticket.
  • Score Areas: Each area around the board is scored individually according to the reference card based on the number of players. Leading players will earn points as well as the chance to “approve” some of their exhibits of that area’s matching color. When approved, the card is discarded and the player gets a matching approval token. Sets of tokens are worth points at the end of the game.

After all areas have been scored, players retrieve some of their supporters. For every pair of supporters in an area, players must take back 1.

World's Fair 1893 board game
Players get points and benefits for having the majority in areas.

After scoring for rounds 1 and 2, play proceeds with the next player. At the end of round 3, players total up their points from midway coins, leader medals, and approved exhibits.

Midway coins and leader medals are worth their face value. Approved exhibits are scored in sets based on variety. A full set of 5 unique types is worth 15 points. A set of 4 is worth 10 points. A set of 3 is worth 6 points. A set of 2 is worth 3 points. And an individual approved exhibit is worth 1 point.

The player with the most points wins the game!

World's Fair 1893 board game
Approved exhibits are scored based on sets (variety of colors). This player gets 23 points from approved exhibits.

Can the whole family enjoy playing World’s Fair 1893?

Just like a real World’s Fair, the board game World’s Fair 1893 is awesome for families.

The recommended age on the box is 10+ and that’s a good assessment. Since there are a number of different factors to balance, players will need to think strategically to do well.

World's Fair 1893 board game
The central Ferris Wheel and randomly set exhibit areas are great to play on.

For starters, it’s an area-control game where players get points and benefits by having majorities in the different areas when scoring occurs at the end of each round. But there are also many other factors to consider as well.

The cards laid out in front of the different areas are also important to pay attention to. You may want to place your supporter in a certain area for majority, but if the cards next to that area won’t benefit you much, you may need to rethink your plan.

Since all players keep their cards face up in front of them, it’s easy to see where you stand. Having the most Midway tickets will grant great points, but having Influential People will also grant special abilities on your next turn – like moving supporters or adding more.

World's Fair 1893 board game
Each area can have a set maximum number of cards by it (indicated by the diamonds on the area).

Speaking of which, the Influential People cards are a great boost to the game. If you’re stuck just placing 1 supporter each turn, you’ll have a hard time getting majorities. So getting extra placements from Influential People is a must to doing well.

Then there’s the factor of making sure you have the right colored cards when you do get a majority in an area so you can approve the exhibits and get exhibit tokens. And this is where big points are scored at the end of the game. At least it will be a good points boost if you’re getting sets of unique exhibits. Which means targeting just one area to get a majority in won’t benefit you in the long run.

World's Fair 1893 board game
The game is full of interesting choices.

Another element to pay attention to is the requirement to take back half of your supporters after scoring each round. But if you have an odd number of supporters in an area, you’ll benefit from an extra staying there. For example, if you have 4 in an area, you’ll have to take 2 back and leave 2. And if you have 3 in an area, you’ll only have to take 1 back and still leave 2 in the area for the next round. So in either case, you’ll be starting the next round with 2 in that area. But in the first case, you’ve sacrificed more. And if you can have 5 in that area, you’ll start the next round with 3 already there.

And let’s also not forget that the luck of the card draw and where the cards get placed around the board each turn will also impact the options you’ll face.

Throw all these factors together and you’ve got a very balanced game to play with the family.

We also love the artwork and historical information on each card. Every exhibit, midway ticket, and influential people card provides information about that invention, element, or person.

World's Fair 1893 board game
Every card provides information about what’s depicted.

The 2021 Version

There’s a great section in the rule book of the 2021 version denoting the historical situation at the World’s Fair 1893.

The Fair introduced the Ferris Wheel (the “Chicago Wheel”), Scott Joplin, the world’s first public “moving walkway,” phosphorescent lamps (they came before the fluorescent lamps), Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit gum, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, shredded Wheat, and the hamburger. But other contributions and contributors were notably absent.

In 1893, it had been less than 30 years since the abolition of slavery in the United States. Despite the progress of the African Americans, they were not given the opportunity to share their own accomplishments at the World’s Fair.

World's Fair 1893 board game
The influential people cards bring the history to life.

The only black nation in attendance at the World’s Fair was Haiti. And Frederick Douglas was at the fair as the U.S. Minister to Haiti. He worked with newspaper editors in writing a publication to address Black concerns at being excluded from the fair. It exposed the unequal treatment of Blacks in America while celebrating their accomplishments.

As such, this new version of World’s Fair 1893 now includes a new group of diverse playable historical figures. These seven new playable historical figures were instrumental in giving African Americans and other disenfranchised groups the chance to highlight their progress and achievements.

  • Ida B. Wells
  • Frederick Douglas
  • Irvine Garland Penn
  • Fannie Barrier Williams
  • Frederick Law Olmstead
  • Henry Ives Cobb
  • Susan B. Anthony

We love the approach Renegade Game Studios took to bring historical accuracy to World’s Fair 1893.

How does World’s Fair 1893 score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

World’s Fair 1893 is a solid family board game that scores well on our “let’s play again” game meter. The random set up of exhibit areas and continual flow of cards in front of the areas provide interesting choices throughout the game.

And the 3 rounds go by quickly enough that it’s easy to play a couple of games back to back.

We also really like the historical theme of the game and look forward to playing again and again.

If you’re looking to get a copy of World’s Fair 1893, we’d recommend getting the 2021 version now that it’s available.

We’d like to thank Renegade Game Studios for a review copy of World’s Fair 1893

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