Before I begin, I was sent a copy of this game to create this review. I have received no money for this content. If you would like to check out my video review you can check it out below. If you would like to get your own copy follow this link.
I have a few gaps in my experience in gaming. A lot of it comes from my, relative, newness to the hobby causing me to have not played some standards: I just recently played Catan and Castles of Burgundy for the first time; however, there are a few designers out there that I simply have never dug into their huge catalogue of games. One of these is Martin Wallace. I have played Wildlands one time. That is it. I had never played any of his other games, despite the fact that he has more popular titles than I can safely shake a stick at. Whelp. Thanks to Kosmos this has finally changed. They were kind enough to send me a copy of Anno 1800. A game I knew very little about based on a game I knew little about designed by a designer I knew little about.
In Anno 1800 each player will control their own island. Their island is covered with various industries, and has lots of spaces where you can create new industries. These range from boxes, to coal, to pork, to beer, to record players and canons. However, unlike many euros, you cannot actually collect and hoard these resources. Rather each time you place a worker on them you must immediately use that resource to do one of two things. Either, you use them to create a new industry: pork and metal allows you to create canned food for example, or you use them to satisfy the desires of the important customers you are catering too. As you build more industries you will quickly discover that you cannot build all of them, both due to the insane number of resources to build, and because they are limited in how many there are. Luckily, at any time you can spend some trade tokens to use your opponents resources, and they get rewarded with gold from the supply for it.
Each player will have a hand of customers that represent both points, and the end game trigger. As you fulfill their requests at the top of the card you will remove them from your hand, and gain a reward of some sort. However, you have to be careful because some of the rewards will award you a new worker, but of course with each new worker you will have to draw a new card into your hand, thus extending the game. This is the core of the game, creating new industries that will allow you to play the cards out of your hand to both score points and push towards the end of the game.
There are other mechanics at work here as you will find yourself adding land to your island to build more industry, as well as exploring the new world to gain access to valuable resources that can only be found there. You will also regularly hire new workers, which as mentioned will give you new cards into your hand, but will allow you to play longer before you have to spend an entire turn pulling all of your workers back so you can begin the process again. The first player to empty their hand triggers the end game and earns 7 points. Then everyone will have a few more rounds then the game ends.
So what do I think?
This game is an engine/tableau building masterpiece. Each player has so many paths that they can go down, and there are so many ways to achieve those goals. Building out your island is simply immensely satisfying to do, and even though there are tons of resources, and even though you cannot build them all, the simple action of being allowed to spend some trade tokens to use other players industries means that you are almost never too far away from achieving any of the goals that you have. It is delightful. This trading action also keeps the game from becoming completely head down multiplayer solitaire, as you are constantly keeping an eye on what other players are creating and building, and what they might be trying to get.
Turns are also very simple. You get to take a single action, and each of the 5 actions are very easy to understand how they work.
As the game progresses it gets progressively more complicated to take your turns. The game definitely slows down the further along you get into the game. Depending on your play group this may, or may not lead to some serious AP as you approach the end game.
There is no theme to this game. It is dry, dry, dry. Additionally, the end game trigger is an odd one. Because you have to play cards to earn points, and you need workers to play cards, and getting new workers gets you new cards it is possible to get into an almost never ending game. Someone around the table has to deliberately push the end of the game for it to actually happen. This leads to a wide variance in game length. Finally, there are a TON of different resources in the game. I believe there are 50 of them. That’s right. 50. It can feel completely overwhelming when you play.
Bringing it all together
Anno 1800 is a tableau builder that has virtually not thematic integration to it. You are not playing the theme, you are playing the mechanics. It helps that the mechanics of the game are wonderful. The tableau building and card completion is simply a joy to undertake. The end game trigger is a little wonky, and it can lead to a wide variance in game length, and there are some many resources it can feel fiddly to set up and play. However, with all that being said, I really, really enjoy this game, and I think it is one that anyone who is not concerned with theme, and really wants to dig into a really satisfying euro will enjoy.
OOO sorry, I don’t have the bazillion word article industry…just the get to the point industry
* Wonderful tableau building mechanics
* Simple actions, that are backed by complex choices
* Non-existant theme
* A ton of resources which can feel overwhelming
* Odd endgame trigger that makes game length swing from quick to long
* Exceedingly satisfying to play if you are not looking for a thematic euro