New York 1901 is a drafting area control game by designer Chenier La Salle and Blue Orange Games. The game runs about 45 minutes and plays with 2-4 players. In New York 1901 the goal is to earn the most points by erecting skyscrapers in downtown New York City in… you guessed it, 1901. A mix of tile-laying and card drafting make up the mechanics of the game, while bonus criteria drive the players to focus on certain regions of the board. Cards indicating color and size are laid out in a row and on their turn a player will draft one of those cards. The player then plays one of their four workers to a space on the board matching the chosen card. Finally, the player may build a building on any spaces on the board that they own, including the space that they just obtained. Each player has the same set of bronze, silver, and gold buildings, and there are four “legendary” skyscrapers which are available to all players. Most of the buildings take up more spaces than any given card will provide, so it is important to obtain adjacent spaces to allow you to build bigger and bigger buildings. A player is further restricted by building class. Bronze buildings are the only ones allowed to be built at the beginning of the game. Once a player reaches a certain point threshold they may build silver buildings, and another threshold unlocks the ability to build gold buildings. The player may demolish buildings to build a better one, but may only upgrade from bronze or silver to silver or gold respectively. If a player has only four un-built skyscrapers left or the open market (cards) need to be re-filled but the deck has run out, the end of the game is triggered. In addition to the points earned throughout the game by building, the players then determine the bonus points. At the beginning of the game three street cards and one bonus challenge card are chosen at random. The player who has the most buildings on each of the chosen streets receives a bonus, and in the case of a tie, no points are awarded. Points are also awarded for the bonus challenge which could be anything from who has buildings in the most districts to who has the most gold at the end of the game. The winner is the player with the most points.
I had the opportunity to play New York 1901 in the Blue Highway Games Board Game Challenge last month and I was very happy that I did. I find that the game ticks off many of my check boxes when it comes to what I like in a game. I like drafting, and I like tile-laying, and I like area control, and New York 1901 is all of these things! The board is colorful and the graphic style of the game is pleasing. Mechanically the game has quite a few rules, but once these are grasped, the game plays fairly easily, and it isn’t all that difficult to grasp the rules. There is a somewhat Tetris-y vibe to the game since the building tiles are all in odd shapes a-la Tetris, and with all of the color flying around you get that feeling of trying to squeeze these buildings into whichever available space you can utilize efficiently. When you couple that with the decision making involved with attempting to meet the various challenges, determining which spaces to take, which spaces to hold in the hopes that nobody else takes the adjacent spaces, all in an effort to get that one bigger building on the board, well then you have a very well-rounded game in my opinion. I had been wanting to play New York 1901 since GenCon last year where it had generated a lot of buzz, but for some reason, I just didn’t make it over to those demo tables. Once the tournament was over they announced that opened copies of the game which they had used for the tournament would be sold at a discount, I jumped at the opportunity to snag a copy. Now I just hope that my family likes the game as much as I do.