“Anno 1800 – The Board Game” is a new release from Kosmos Games. This board game is based on the Anno 1800 video game, which is a very popular city-building / real-time strategy game.
To be honest with you, I am not fond of playing computer games like “Civilization” or “Anno” or “Age of Empires”. I am just reviewing the board game aspect here. But, I have played Anno 1800 – The Board Game with people who do love the PC game, and I can tell you they all really enjoyed this board game!
Anno 1800 is designed by Martin Wallace. It is for 2-4 Players, Ages 12 and up. The game takes 1-2 hours to play.
What is in the Box?
Anno 1800 is a standard, large, board-game box that is jam packed with components. The box is 2.8 x 11.6 x 11.6 inches. Inside you will find:
- 4 Game Aids – Paper
- 1 Large Gameboard – Cardboard
- 4 Home Islands – Cardboard
- 12 Old World Islands – Cardboard
- 8 New World Islands – Cardboard
- 120 Construction Tokens – Cardboard
- Starting Player Token – Cardboard
- Fireworks Token – Cardboard
- 130 Naval Tokens – Cardboard
- 38 Gold Tokens – Cardboard
- 102 Population cards – Typical Trading Card Stock
- 22 Expedition cards – Typical Trading Card Stock
- 125 Population cubes – Simple wooden cubes
The box does not have a game insert for storage. You get simple zip lock bags to hold all your components.
Anno 1800 is large and somewhat imposing. It is a scary looking beast of a game when it is set up on the table. Yet, it is relatively simple to play, and not as scary as it looks at first glance.
From the manufacturer: “Anno 1800 is a city-building strategy game set in the Industrial Revolution. It is designed by acclaimed author Martin Wallace (Brass, Age of Steam). You are racing against your opponents to produce, buy, or trade the limited number of construction titles and resources. It is a complex game with simple mechanisms. It is easy to teach and fun to play. End-game bonuses and hidden scoring keep gameplay exciting and unpredictable.”
How does Anno 1800 play?
Anno 1800 plays like a typical Euro game (European/German Game). Each player’s turn in a Euro game is usually easy. You take a worker from your lands and assign him/her a job to get or make resources, like “make bricks”. You then use these resources to improve your island bit by bit. Over the course of the game, you will transform your simple island into a resource-making juggernaut.
This is going to be a very simple overview of the Anno 1800. The game manual is 16-pages long, and very detailed. You can see it right here if you want.
Each player is given:
- 1 Home Island to develop
- 9 Worker Cubes
- 9 Worker Population cards
- 2 Trade Tokens
- 1 Exploration Token
The person with the most influence points wins the game. You basically earn influence points by making your workers happy. Your hand of Worker Population cards shows items your workers want to keep them happy. An early hand of cards might have a few cards likes this:
This hand shows: 1 worker wants bread; 2 workers want canned goods; 1 worker wants soap; 1 worker wants beer; and 3 workers want Schnapps. So your first goal might be: Find a way to make Schnapps.
So, now you look at the big board of tiles in the middle, and you find Schnapps. There is still a Schnapps tile available. You need to produce Potatoes and Coal to purchase and make Schnapps.
You put an Artisan (red) worker on coal, and a Farmer (green) worker on potatoes, and now you can make Schnapps. You take the tile and put it on an empty square on your island. On a future turn you can make Schnapps. Your turn is over.
This is the basic gist of Anno 1800. You assign worker to get things, and improve your island. On another turn you can use your workers to make canned goods.
The woman on the right wants Schnapps and canned goods. If we assign workers to those new factories, we can make those goods and complete her request. She will reward us with 3 Influence points, and two more workers. The only catch is that we must take a new Population card for every new worker we add to our island. The more workers you have, the more people you have to make happy!
If you can’t make a resource, but another player can, you can sail to their island and essentially buy the items you need from them You trade in sailing (trade) tokens, and they earn gold.
The game ends when one player has emptied their hand of all their Population cards.
There’s more to the game …
There is obviously more to Anno 1800 than this, but that is the overall gist of the game. Workers’ needs eventually get more exotic as the game goes on. You might need to sail to a new continent to find sugar cane to make Rum. You might need to might need to make a sewing machine to make Fur Coats. You might need ton invest in Engineers and Investors to make these goods.
Here is basic list of things you will do in the game, during your turn:
- Produce Goods – Put down workers to make goods
- Trade for Goods – Exchange Trade Tokens for goods
- End a work shift – Pay money to return a worker from a job so you can use them again
- Expand – Produce Goods in order to expand production on your island (like in the example above where we make a Schnapps Factory)
- Play Population cards – Satisfy the needs of a worker card, and earn their rewards (as shown above)
- Swap Population cards – Don’t like your Population cards? Use a turn to trade in up to 3 cards.
- Increase the workforce – Produce resources to make up to 3 more workers
- Upgrade your workforce – Essentially make a farmer a worker. Or upgrade an Artisan to an Engineer.
- Open up the Old World – Make your island bigger!
- Open up the New World – Sail to another island to find exotic resources
- Take Expedition Cards – Basically end game bonus goals
- Celebrate a Festival – Return all workers home, and fill up all your Trade Tokens and Explore Tokens
And there are 20 objective cards that can change each game’s flavor. Five cards are flipped up each game to give players more goals to make more points.
Likes, Dislikes and Final Thoughts for Anno 1800
This game is deceptively easy to play. Turns go pretty fast – once everyone knows how to play. And the game is very fun to play.
There are a lot of decisions for you to make, and many paths to victory. Do you want to produce most of your own items? Do you want to make ships and trade for items? Do you want to explore new lands for exotic items? Do you want to trade in your cards? Do you want to train your workers? Do you want to recall all your workers back home by throwing a festival.
There are a ton of components in the game. By my count, there are over 500 cubes, cards and tokens here. And the components are overall pretty good. The art symbols on the cards are pretty easy to understand.
Games are usually close. This is not a game where one person usually runs away from other players. Points are hidden until the very end of the game, and our scores have always been pretty close.
The Rulebook is 16 pages long, in full color, and explains the game very well. It is a bit of a dry read though. Have a look.
Setup takes a long time. This is one of those games with a tedious setup. You have to put the 120 construction tokens in their exact spots on the board. You have to get all the resource cubes in the right place. You have to shuffle and put all the various Population cards and Expedition cards in the right piles. And then you have to give everyone their starting hands and cubes.
I said the game is easy to play … once everyone knows how to play. But the game can be very overwhelming to teach to new players. There are so many layers to learn at first that it may turn off new players. At first glace, the board is a giant grid of tokens that make no sense to to new players.
This game feels ripe for a nice box insert. This might be my personal nitpick, but I love inserts that make setup faster.
The player aids are just simple paper that are easily damaged.
The gameplay time can be totally random. The box says 1-2 hours. Your first game will probably take about 3 hours. The game ends when one player finally plays all their Population cards. This can literally take anywhere from 1-2 hours. All players should know this from the beginning. Add in another 20 minutes to set the game up, and another 10 minutes to tear the game down. You essentially need to dedicate your entire game night to Anno 1800.
Final Thoughts for Anno 1800
Once I learned how to play this game, I loved it. My gaming group loved it. Our first game took over 3 hours, because none of us had played it before. Our second game took about 90 minutes. Our 3rd game took about 105 minutes.
And this is a game we want to keep coming back to. You feel like you can do better with each and every game play. You learn to streamline your moves, and you can try different ways to play.
I didn’t touch on this too much in the overall review, but the 5 new Objective cards that come out each game are great. They change each game just enough to make your choices a bit different.
Anno 1800 has an epic feel to it, but it might not be the right game for some players. Not everyone wants to play a 2-hour board game. The board grid of tokens is dry to look at. And teaching the game to a new player is not all that easy. But now that I have learned Anno 1800, I will be up for another game session at any time. 😉