New York 1901
Time: ~30 minutes
Times Played: 5
New York 1901 looks and feels like a classic board game with the modern twist. Everything is clean and easy to decipher (a la Ticket to Ride) and the colors are charming and enjoyable. It reminds me of playing a Sorry! or Parcheesi from when I was younger and I appreciate that. This is the definition of a gateway game and can be used to introduce people to the modern aspect of the hobby without scaring them too much with too many pieces or rules.
I really enjoy these gateway-esque games as they’re typically easy to learn, to set-up and quick to play. We can typically churn out a best of three mini-tournament each time we play. I’ve heard and seen this game discussed as being a replacement for Ticket to Ride.
The game itself features elements that we like: tile laying, area control, direct/indirect player interaction, variable end game scoring, and a spatial play style.
New York 1901 has players building…wait for it…New York in 1901.
The artwork is phenomenal and helps to draw in potential players due to the vibrant colors. The miniatures are another nice piece of art that can capture players and help turn a game about building from a flat two-dimensional painting into a three-dimensional sculpture.
While there are a fair amount of choices the game offers players, there are only two possible actions per turn. Players can expand their land holdings and/or build or they can demolish an existing building and rebuild.
If a player has a worker available, they can Expand by grabbing a face-up Territory card from the Open Market. Whichever Territory they claim, they’ll place their available worker on that space on the main game board. Once claimed, that Territory is now yours and can not be impacted by other players.
Building is an option after gathering Territory and is accomplished by taking an available Skyscraper and placing it on Territory that you own.
Demolishing allows you to replace an already active Skyscraper with a new one that is in theory worth more points. To Demolish, a player must place an upgraded Skyscraper over the original (Gold>Silver>Bronze). Once demolished, that Skyscraper is removed from the game and cannot be rebuilt.
New York 1901 has a progression system in place as you play the game. When the game begins, only “Bronze” buildings can be placed. Once you start scoring victory points, you’ll unlock the ability to build “Silver” buildings and eventually “Gold” ones as well. The progression system is an interesting inclusion as it sets short-term goals for players and lets players know how they are doing in the grand scheme of things. In many games, players will ask what a good score is so they can measure how they are doing/have done. With this system, players can see that they’re ahead or behind and as the stakes change, they are now aware that they have work to do. Contrast that to say Ticket to Ride, where being twenty points behind doesn’t mean much if anything in the grand scheme of things.
This is a quick game with light strategy and tactics. The game takes about thirty minutes and I would add five minutes per additional player. At two-players, the board has some areas blocked off but the mechanics stay the same.
Like most games, 1901 shows its value in its second and third playthrough as opposed to its first as players will gain a grasp on the slight nuances of strategy and the competitiveness of the late game phases. Like other light games with public objectives (Sagrada, Kingdom Builder), those objectives will dictate the opening moves and ongoing strategy of players.
The player interaction is higher in 1901 than most gateway style games I’ve played (Catan, TTR) due to the board being tighter. I would say in the gateway realm, only Carcassonne has more player interaction (when players play that way) and that’s due to the direct nature of it.
I preferred playing the game at two-players just due to the quickness of the rounds but there was nothing wrong with playing at three- or four-players. While the board opens up more spaces with more players, that tightness remains and I really appreciated that as opposed to say TTR, where at two-players you have the entire board at your disposal and there’s a possibility of never running into the other player.
I try to play most games that I review at least ten times. If it’s any less than that, it’s usually because I have a handle on the game and feel I can give an accurate opinion on the game based on its merits as opposed to that “honeymoon” phase where all games are new and amazing.
For New York 1901, I could only play it five times. I just did not look forward to getting this to the table. I didn’t find the decision making to be interesting and compared to TTR, there wasn’t enough variety to keep me engaged.
This game is simple and a great way to introduce or play games with people that don’t play a lot of games. I don’t think it has the depth to keep people that have played games for a few years interested unless they have some nostalgia for the game. The depth that is offered however will not create a divide between new and old players, which is nice.
The luck of the open market hinders the game as well. Your turns are too dependent on the draw of the open market and if what you want appears on another players turn, there’s a possibility that they’ll grab everything you want which ruins any planning that you tried to accomplish. The action cards do let players try to mitigate the randomness but it was far to situational for me in such a light game.
New York 1901 has one saving mechanic (for me) and that’s the bonus cards that are introduced each game. They can create vastly different play-styles due to the objectives and that helps change the strategies and decision-making game to game. The bonuses themselves are not overly powerful and the game can be won without changing course to utilize these cards but they offer a nice departure from the status quo and help the game feel different with each playthrough.
The game feels a little longer than it needs to be as well. While my group has players that may suffer from some analysis paralysis, New York 1901 is too light of a game for us to fall prey to that issue. If the game could cut ten minutes from each playthrough, I think it would be a much better game as it fills that ‘filler’ role.
If you’re new to board games or enjoy lighter introductory games, New York 1901 might be worth a look. The components are quality and justify the price point and the game play, while not for me, is solid enough to engage players for the thirty to forty-five minute play time. If you’ve been playing medium to heavier games for a few years though, I would pass on this as it just won’t provide any new experience that you’re missing out on.