The gangplank rises slightly off the pier caused by the gentle motion of the ship. I pause for only a few seconds before taking that first step to a new life. An image of that well worn gangplank stays with me still. It makes me realize I’m just one of many that have stepped into a new life filled with hope. It’s then that I notice the noise of thousands of people and a tall gray behemoth being revealed by the slowly receding mist. This new land, this New York, is known for these giants. They are skyscrapers.
New York 1901 is a 2-4 player game where the object is to score the most points by building skyscrapers. Each player has a skyscraper scoring marker, 4 workers, 18 skyscraper tiles- 6 each for the three generations (bronze, silver, and gold), 1 starting property, character card, 3 action cards, and 1 King Token. Near the game board will be the deck of lot cards- 4 lot cards will be face up the rest will be the draw deck. Each player puts their starting property tile on the correct place on the game board. They will also take a lot card from the deck that matches their starting property. Players will put the lot card on their character card. The remainder of game set up depends on if you want to add a small bit of complexity or not. Other parts of the game set up are the 4 Legendary Skyscraper tiles, 3 of the 5 Streets of New York bonus cards, and 1 of the 5 Bonus Challenge cards. In practice game set up is easier than it appears when described. When I play I usually leave out the Bonus Challenge cards when there are new players. Your game group can adjust the game to fit what you think is the best set up.
After clearing customs I’m riding in a wagon sitting on my baggage like a King of the Hill. Hooves clopping along the cobblestone streets contribute to the noise of the city. With so many people here the noise level is almost overwhelming. My ears pick out parts of the noise and notice the many different languages. Picking out other parts of the noise I notice the hammering of iron workers. Combined with the many languages it’s like New York has many Towers of Babel.
Rules in New York 1901 say the start player is the youngest player. You of course can determine the start player using a method of your choice. On your turn you take one of two options. Option 1 is acquire land and/or build. Option 2 is demolish and rebuild. Pages 3 and 4 of the rule book give details about each option. Something worth noting are the skyscraper generation rules. At the start of the game you can build the bronze level skyscrapers. Once you reach 6 points you can build silver level skyscrapers. At 18 points you can start building gold level skyscrapers. Once you have enough points for gold level skyscrapers you also have the option to build a Legendary Skyscraper tile. There are 4 Legendary Skyscraper tiles and each player can build only one. Also note gold level skyscrapers can never be demolished.
Sitting with my back to the city 15 floors up I’ve become one of those iron workers of what is officially called the Fuller building but we locals call it the Flatiron. This reminds me of something I read recently by a Scottish journalist named William Archer. He wrote, “Americans have practically added a new dimension to space. When they find themselves a little crowded, they simply tilt a street on end and call it a skyscraper.” He also called skyscrapers, “aerial suburbs” and “mansions in the sky.” What a contrast to where I was a few short years ago with the gently rolling pastures of the farm in the old country.
The end game in New York 1901 is triggered when one of the following things occurs: when a player has only 4 unbuilt skyscraper tiles left or there are only 3 face up cards left in the Open Market and the Future Market is empty. The Open Market are the 4 cards face up next to the deck of face down cards. Those face down cards are referred to as the Future Market cards. When the end game is triggered all players except the active player get one last turn. There are some points to be awarded for the Final Tally. Players score 5 points for each Streets of New York Bonus Card where they have the most skyscrapers standing. If there is a tie then no points are awarded. If you used the Bonus Challenge Cards score those points at this time. Finally add 1 point for each of your unused Action Cards. There are two tie breakers.
For a great how to play video for New York 1901 check this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49W1sEg72-s
For a very good example of live play try this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tiPyEn6G1Y
As the memories fade I return to what triggered them. In the Chrysler Building 71 floors up I’m in the public viewing gallery looking out and up at the worker sitting on the edge of a beam of what will become the Empire State Building. My focus goes to the close up window reflection of the gentleman wearing a tailored suit. I turn and walk back to the office of my own architecture firm. This new land, this New York, has indeed been a land of opportunity.
The Session- 3 Players
Character cards were randomly assigned. Then each player choose their color. The youngest player is the start player.
Player 1 was Daisy Madison and chose green
Player 2 was Belle Beauregard and chose blue
Player 3 was David Schneider and chose yellow
We did not use the Bonus Challenge cards. We did use the Legendary Skyscraper tiles, and 3 of the 5 Streets of New York Bonus cards.
The Streets of New York cards we drew were Nassau/Broad, Pine/Thames, and Broadway.
This game went 19 turns before doing the Final Tally. For the first two turns all players had 2 square lot cards in the Open Market. All three players acquired and built skyscrapers facing 2 of the bonus streets. Player 3 on turn 3 was the first to acquire/build on a 3 square property. As you might expect the score was tight for the first 3 turns. All players were within 1 point of each other. On turn 6 player 1 was the first to play an action card. They played their Market Shift card in order to get something other than all 2 square lot cards. It didn’t work as all 4 Open Market cards remained 2 square cards. Turn 6 also saw player 2 be the first to do the demolish/rebuild option. After turn 6 player 2 had the lead at 16 points with players 1 and 3 tied at 14 points. On turn 7 player 3 was first to pass 16 points and could now build all 3 generations. When turn 9 was done all 3 players were able to build with all 3 generations. The score at the conclusion of turn 9 was Player 3 with 29 points, player 2 with 22 points, and player 1 with 17 points. In turn 11 player 2 built for 8 points. By the end of turn 12 player 3 and player 2 were only one point apart with 36 and 35 points respectively. Player 1 had 26 points. On turn 13 player 2 used their Market Shift card. Player 3 did the demolish and rebuild option to build a 5 point gold tile.
On turn 14 player 1 made their move to catch up. They became the first player to build a Legendary Skyscraper tile and it was the big 13 point Woolworth building. This put player 1 in 2nd place. No one built on turn 15 and only one player built on turn 16. It was player 1 and they built their 8 point gold skyscraper. That put player 1 in the lead for the moment. Player 3 built a 6 point silver skyscraper to retake the lead. It was on this turn that player 2 started to fall behind. On turn 17 player 1 built again this time a 5 point gold skyscraper. Player 2 built a 5 point silver skyscraper. Player 3 did not build. At the end of turn 17 the score was player 1 with 52 points, player 3 with 47 points, and player 2 with 37 points. By this time player 3 had made a mistake in trying to get a Legendary Skyscraper built and they were now scrambling to position themselves to build one. The only points earned in turn 18 were by player 3 when they used the demolish/rebuild option to score a Legendary Skyscraper tile for 9 points. On turn 19 player 2 realized they would not be able to build a Legendary Skyscraper and triggered the end game by using the demolish/rebuild option to score 5 points. Player 3 took a long time trying to figure out a way to score maximum points and hope to hang on for a win. Player 3 built a 5 point gold skyscraper. If player 3 had looked at the Streets of New York bonus cards and who was in the the lead they would have realized they were not going to win. The Final Tally was:
Player 1 with 71 points
Player 3 with 63 points
Player 1 with 49 points.
What was crucial to player 1’s win was building the largest Legendary Skyscraper and then earning 2 of the 3 Streets of New York bonus cards. Player 3 did not earn any bonus points from the streets cards. Also player 3’s Legendary Skyscraper build was 4 points less than the player 1 build. What probably cost player 3 the game was not noticing that they had built a gold tile where they had hoped to build the 13 or 12 point Legendary Skyscraper. Had they not made that mistake they could have also made it so there was a tie for one of the Streets of New York Bonus cards that player 1 earned. New York 1901 seems to be a game where a small mistake or two could be the difference.