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51st State title

The world you know no longer exists. There is no government. No army. No civilization. The United States has collapsed. And now, 30 years after the war started, new powers finally try to take control over the ruined country. Try to establish a new order. Try to control others. Create a new country, a new State: the 51st State.

51st State, the critically acclaimed, post-apocalyptic multi-player card game which debuted at the 2010 Spiel Festival in Essen, Germany.

Players take control of one of four factions vying for control of the post-war remains of a devastated United States. These factions struggle to build their stockpiles of supplies through conquest, trade, and expansion of their territory, until they achieve the stability to become the 51st State – and provide the foundation of a new society.

51st State introduces a new idea – every card in the game can be put into play in three different ways. You can invade a location to gain many resources once, or you can sign a contract with this location to gain one resource every turn, or you can attach the location to your State so you can use its skill. One card, three possibilities. Lots of decisions and choices that matter.

Designed by internationally renowned designer Ignacy Trzewiczek, and set in the Neuroshima universe, 51st State features breathtaking artwork and innovative gameplay. Players will have to strategically plan the growth of their faction – Will you use force to gain large, short term benefits? Will you negotiate to gain an ongoing income? Or will you incorporate new locations into your territory? Difficult decisions await the players on every turn.

User Reviews (6)

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Gamer - Level 8
Expert Recruiter
Count / Countess Beta 1.0 Tester
42 of 44 gamers found this helpful
“Post-apocalyptic fun!”

One of our my acquisitions is 51st State, a card game from Toy Vault based in the Neuroshima world (like Neuroshima Hex). There has been quite a bit of buzz about this one, often with it being compared to Race for the Galaxy. In fact, many claim it will effectively replace Race for the Galaxy in your collection. I want to share how we’re feeling about the game after a handful of sessions under our belts. For those of you not familiar with the Neuroshima world, it is a post-apocalypic North America with various factions vying for power. It was originally based on the Polish roleplaying game Neuroshima. The designer of 51st State, Ignacy Trzewiczek, is also one of the designers of both the Neuroshima roleplaying game and Neuroshima Hex. For those of you familiar with Fallout, what I’ve seen and read about it seems a lot like the world depicted in that series of videogames. It’s an interesting setting, and the art of the cards does a great job of conveying the post-apocalyptic theme.

The rules of the game are not too complex, though I must indicate that the rulebook isn’t that great. It meanders a bit, and some things are not referred to throughout but not explained until the very end. That being said, a couple reads and look at some online resources helped us get started. It starts with players selecting cards from several set out at the beginning of the turn. After card selction, players earn an income and then take turn executing actions. Actions can be playing a location (more on this later), using a production location with a worker, playing a leader, rebuilding a location or a couple other minor actions. Play continues until all players have passed. For the most part, gameplay is multiplayer solitaire, much like Race for the Galaxy, or even Dominion.

Most of the cards you’ll see are locations, and locations are very interesting in this game. Each location may be played in one of three ways, each with a color associated with it. The most basic function is white, and that is putting the card in your play area as a location; doing this can derive one of several benefits, such as giving an income of a resource, or being able to produce victory points or having a trait that stays in effect. Some are production locations that you, or sometimes an opponent, may play a worker on to get its benefit. Another option is to make a deal, which is the blue action. This will give you a modest income of its resource (or sometimes a card or victory points) each turn. The final action, denoted as red, is to conquer the location. This will yield a one-time windfall of resources, cards or victory points. This is a definite strength of the game. Each time you look at a card, you have to decide how you want to play it. It’s a very interesting tactical consideration, and very thematic to the world.

Each player takes on the role of one of the world’s factions. There are four: Mutants, New York, Appalachian Federation and the Merchant’s Guild. Each faction is trying top establish dominance by controlling areas. They each play a little different. The differences are not huge, but somewhat thematic. This is reflected in how they spend resources to accomplish the three basic actions for dealing with a location, and income they receive in the resources present in the game: scrap, building materials, weapons and fuel. As can be expected, each has an advantage towards one of the basic location actions.

I have to say I’ve been enjoying this game. Rulebook woes aside, it’s a great game. There is certainly a bit of randomness with the limited card availability per turn, but the cards seem balanced enough that you won’t have a situation where you need to fish for cards to implement your chosen strategy. It has enough complexity to be interesting, without dictating a dominant strategy.The stated playing time is 40-90 minutes, and is accurate. It hits the “sweet spot” for games in regard to fun versus time spent. 51st State gets a solid recommendation from me. I encourage you to give it a try!

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Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
oddball Aeronauts fan
9 of 9 gamers found this helpful
“The master Set”

So a quick history lesson for you, everyone got their pens and notepads ready? 51st state was the precursor to Imperial Settlers which subsequently was the remake of this game. Thematically they are entirely different beasts Settlers abounds with cutesy Romans and cuddly Barbarians while 51st State wallows in its grim, dark post-apocalyptic future of the Neuroshima setting.
The original iteration of 51st State had a dedicated following spawned a couple of expansions New Era and Winter and despite being quite popular was hobbled by a steep learning curve and impenetrability from being entirely icon led, resulting in it not being as popular is it probably should have been.

Settlers re-implemented the core mechanisms but junked much of the heavy duty iconography going instead with very tiny text directly explaining what the cards did. And proved to be much much popular.

So now we have 51st State 2.0 which brings us full circle embracing all the good that Settlers introduced and then further refining that design offering a sleeker darker beast. Everyone got that? There’ll be questions later.

Much as I adore Settlers as its grown with expansions and factions, there has been some noticeable bloat and in particular with the Atlanteans some over-complication of what was initially quite a simple game. So this redux is a welcome return to the no-nonsense fun that first appealed.

So the first question is if you own Settlers or the original 51st State do you need this?
If you’ve been on the fence regarding picking up either than for the record this is a leaner version of both, Settlers is the more aggressive whereas 51st State’s charms lay in struggling to get an engine running with dwindling resources.
And while both games share core mechanisms there are quite a few noticeable differences between the two and how they play.

Now none of that really answers your question so, I would say if you own the originally 51st state, you’re looking at a more refined experience, it is essentially the same game radically re-implemented.

If you own Settlers, this feels a bit like the grunge metal cover version in State you take actions by using Contact tokens generated by converting the four primary resources found in the game. It’s sort of the equivalent of playing the piano with mittens on, it’s the same thing you know how to do, just a lot trickier to accomplish. Each of the four factions included unlike Settlers doesn’t come with their own decks. Instead, their player boards feature very subtle differences offering each its own delicate economy. Creating a very subtle asynchronous play.

And aside from the theme, this micro engine layered over the main engine is the biggest difference between the two. Thematically it’s on the nose as we should presume that resources in the apocalypse aren’t in abundance after all all the supermarkets have gone and Amazon won’t deliver anymore.

The biggest divergence created by this Contact token generation means that this is a far less aggressive game than Settlers, everything is so hard fought to come by that each and every transaction you make is weighted with far greater consequences for the rest of that turn.

It’s not to say Attacks won’t happen they can and will but in much smaller numbers, it doesn’t lessen their impact, in fact, they are probably far more damaging than those of its cuddly sibling.

The final difference is in the game end trigger. In Settlers, there were the predefined 5 rounds that you were building towards, invariably meaning the last was a free for all as everyone scrambled to generate points. In State, you’re racing to assemble that machine faster than your opponents to turn it on and start churning out the VP to hit the 25 point limit and end the game.

One design choice that’s a little clunky is the addition of the Contact cards. Two of these are available each round, and they either offer Blue or Red Contact tokens if you sacrifice two workers to take one. It’s more choice during your turn, but they feel a lot like a band-aid slapped on to fix balance issues, or bad card draws. They work fine and can be very useful, but it feels a bit ham-fisted I only really mention it as Portal’s games are nearly always very thematic story driven affairs, and this stands out like a sore thumb as a patch to something.

Components are all top drawer the cards are thick with a lovely glossy finish and the art although recycled is stunning in a grim and gritty way, the tokens and boards are substantial, and there’s a heap of cool looking wooden resources.

Included in the box are two smaller decks of the previously available Winter and New Era expansions one of which its advised is added to the core deck. Era seems more steered towards conflict and the related icon’s whereas Winter appears to nudge more towards collecting of resources, both add a tad more flavor to the base cards and more variety.

However calling this ‘The Complete Master Set’ is a bit of a misnomer. Anyone who pre-ordered received a chunk more content including two other faction boards and cooler components blatantly making the retail version, not ‘The Master Set’ it precludes to, and while the two expansion decks are included without them, this would have barely been a game*.
It’s not that your being shortchanged on content but when compared to say Millennium Blades and the wealth of options and variety that came in that box, or even the very similar named Summoner War’s Master sets that are bulging with goodies this feels a little light on content.

I suspect we have to chalk that one up to an incredibly poor choice of name combined with a well-intentioned but ultimately a resounding home goal on behalf of Portal. A mistake that hasn’t been repeated in subsequent pre-orders.

So summing up. If you don’t own either of these, then it probably comes down to which theme is more attractive to you and how aggressive your group is. Both are equally robust and enjoyable, but you don’t need to own the two. For me, I enjoy the more challenging engine building that the Contact tokens have added to the game, for want of a better phrase, this is ‘the thinking mans’ Imperial Settlers.

*And in the last couple of days much of that pre-order content has appeared on portals store, so if you are still feeling bitter about missing out, you can at least now get a majority of the bits you’re missing from your Master Set.

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I play orange
Miniature Painter
Veteran Grader
Intermediate Reviewer
28 of 34 gamers found this helpful
“Well designed Civ-light in post-apoc era”

Reading through the rules of 51st State leaves one with the following impression; “Ok, seems a little complex and convoluted but very interesting.”
The first game you play of 51st State you think, “***? They certainly could have written the rules better. Arrgh, this is confusing. But it seems so interesting.”

Then you get the hang of the game and you think, “Willickers! This is a well designed, thematic game and man did they actually do a good job of writing out these rules. They actually make sense and are clear.”

51st State for being a deck of cards and a bunch of chits is a pretty *ed thematic game, that is well designed and packs a LOT of game into well, a deck of cards and some chits.

Things like the “Pub” card, which lets you and other players draw new cards. I.e., drinking and listening in on the gossip of juicy scavenagle sites are what I talk about when I mean that the game packs a great amount of theme into the gameplay.

The game isn’t extremely interactive (the standalone expansion is though) and so feels similar to RftG in that its a race to a VP level by creating a mini post-apoc empire that functions smoothly and efficiently.
The game packs a decent amount of decision making and strategy. Again, I marvel at the amount your brain sweats in this game and the amount of strategy and planning from a deck of cards and now dice rolling. To me, this tells me that its pretty well designed game, because the layout of the cards and the organization of the gameplay is clean enough that you’re spending your time deciding how you want to accomplish what you want to do as opposed to processing all that is in front of you then making decisions. Its clean decision making and strategizing. I love it.

I really wish the game had a little more interaction, but this is solved in the expansion.

If you liked RftG or are looking for a civ-light style game, this one accomplishes that.

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16 of 27 gamers found this helpful
“Worth playing”

I bought this since I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings. This game will take a while to figure out, the rules aren’t completely clear at the beginning, but once you figure out the game, this turns out to be a deep, intricate game with a great theme around it. I found it really helps to think in terms of narrative – You’re using ‘mutants’ to travel via ‘sewage tunnels’ to take over the ‘gas station’ – the cards have a lot of different abilities and dos/don’ts – and of course like every neuroshima game they are crammed with icons. It takes quite a few plays to figure this game out but once the rules become clear the game is fully enjoyable.

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Gamer - Level 4
Novice Reviewer
15 of 27 gamers found this helpful
“Interesting but begging for an expansion”

I think the game is very interesting and fun, deeply satisfying, and is screaming to be expanded. Like Race for the Galaxy’s expansions that added a subtle component of direct interaction, I see a lot of room to bring in additional components and/or card types to make this type of gameplay a reality without turning 51st State into a war game, which it is clearly trying to avoid becoming. But right now, what you get is a well designed, strategic card game that plays well, offers a good dose of fun and provides opportunities for deep analysis and meaningful decision making.

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Gamer - Level 1
7 of 38 gamers found this helpful
“Similar to RftG”

Very similar with Race for the galaxy.
It shares the symbols problem, that are hard to understand on the first games.

The expansion will improve it… I assume.


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