Friday, March 31, 2023

Anno 1800 Can’t Seem To Navigate A Fresh Heading

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We’ve all played civ games before, full of tech trees and strategy and the complicated numbers going up and down while little dudes fight on the map. The genre has a natural crossover with board games, with a long history of games large and small trying to replicate the experience of the video game genre on the tabletop. The historical nature of these games means they rarely need to be licensed, but this week’s game is a little different. From Kosmos and legendary designer Martin Wallace (Brass: Birmingham, Tinner’s Trail) comes Anno 1800, an adaptation of Ubisoft RTS/city builder of the same name. It’s been a big presale hit for Kosmos thanks to the strength of the IP and the pedigree of the designer (you put Martin Wallace on a game, it’ll sell), but is it worth all the hype?

What’s In The Box?

Anno 1800 contents

From a quality standpoint, Anno is certainly up to Kosmos’s standards. Chunky cardboard and well made bits for use on the board itself, plus easy to read and understand cards. The main kicker here is that there’s just…a little bit of laziness here. It’s painfully obvious at first blush that almost all of the art is from the original game. Not just normal art but the characters are just renders from the game, CG and all. This isn’t obviously a deal breaker, but it’s disappointing considering the amount of interest in the game. It immediately marks it as something licensed rather than letting it be a game that can exist on its own.

How’s It Play?

Anno 1800 cards

The main conceit of the game, like the PC version, is that you are running an island somewhere in between the Old World and the New, meaning you’re in a primo spot to profit off of the bountiful resources and trade that come from the meeting of the two.

Yes, this is one of those games.

Colonialism aside, it’s a pretty straightforward city builder. You build up your population and then assign them to different tasks each round to gain resources that are then spent on the further development of your island and its workforce. Everything else exists in service of that, including being able to open special islands of the New and Old world to give bonuses as well as sending out expeditions. The main source of player interaction in the game is through trade, where you simply trade resource cubes with other players for gold. Normal stuff, really. It’s a long game depending on your player count, and it ends when someone runs out of population cards to play.

The Verdict?

Anno 1800 board art

Anno 1800 is a game that I’m sure appeals to somebody out there, but it’s not me. I love historical games and I love doing the civ thing, but this genre has just been done to death at this point. And I’m not necessarily sure it’ll be an easy sell to fans of more complex games since its so devoted to replicating the game looks wise without too many innovations or interesting mechanics to help it stick out. I think it is worth a shot for those fans, and definitely a must have for fans of the game series. There’s plenty of choices and ways to set the game up for maximum enjoyment, but you’ve really got to be invested for it to work.


You can grab Anno 1800 from Amazon.

Images and review copy provided by Thames and Kosmos

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  • Dan Arndt

    Fiction writer, board game fanatic, DM. Has an MFA and isn't quite sure what to do now. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Indianapolis.

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