Having grown up a town over from the famed Edison-Ford Winter Estates, all I ever heard about was Thomas Edison and his inventions. There were countless field trips to the estate and as kids, I don’t think any of us realized how much of a jerk the guy really was. I’m assuming the tour guides glossed over all of his rather questionable business methods. It wasn’t until later in life that I even learned about Nikola Tesla and this seems to be the case for a lot of people. In school Nikola Tesla was always kind of overlooked, and I mostly just knew him as that guy with the electric coil. So clearly, I was no expert on the currents war of the late 1800’s.
As an adult in the geek community, I’ve noticed Nikola Tesla popping up in all sorts of ways. He has an occasional cameo in the Canadian show, Murdoch Mysteries (which is a totally awesome show) and he even appears as a character in the video game, The Order: 1886. So, being one of the featured inventors in a board game wasn’t all that surprising. Like many others, the idea of Tesla duking it out with Edison via board game, was something I was totally psyched about.
As a fan of stock market-ish games (I’m terrible at them, but love to play them), I thought this would be a really great addition to our game library. I also loved that this game had a lot of actual history involved. The game uses inventors of the day as the main playable personas ,and the luminaries you can hire have big names like J.P. Morgan and George Westinghouse. During that period of time, propaganda was one of the main weapons that these inventors used to gain control of public opinion. Tesla vs. Edison includes propaganda cards that boast things like hanging out with H.G. Wells, or on the negative spectrum, creating the electric chair.
The Campaign- March 2015
The campaign began in March of 2015 and was an instant success. The goal was to reach $20,000 USD, but the theme of the game and all of its beautiful components managed to rake in over $200,000 in pledges! With all of the extra money, Artana was able to reach almost every stretch goal. This really helped bolster the quality of the game and was a great treat for all of us backers.
Originally the game was set to accommodate only four players, so the first goal of adding on a 5th playable inventor was easily reached, and it was honestly smart planning by Artana. The next two goals allowed the backers to vote for a fantasy luminary to be added to the game. This was a great way to connect with backers and to make us feel like we helped with the game design. Other goals upgraded the cards to a linen finish, upgraded the money to a super thick card stock, and upgraded the cardboard company markers to beautifully painted cubes. There were a few social media stretch goals that were not reached, so we missed out on getting to vote on expansion ideas to go along with the base game. However, the base game is great on its own, both in visual appeal and playthrough.
One of the things that seemed to be lacking was the available selection of female luminaries and inventors. Though it was true that the time period was dominated by male industry giants, there were several very successful female inventors/ business women. Artana had already done some planning for this and had the social media stretch goals been reached, the option of a future 6th player expansion, featuring Madam C.J. Walker, could have been voted on by backers. There also would have been the addition of quite a few female luminaries, such as Ada Lovelace (who actually ended up making it into the base game).
The campaign wrapped up on April 2, 2015 and they had estimated that backers would have their games by September. Artana did a fantastic job living up to this promise and I received the game on time.
The quality of the components were as promised and I was very happy with the final product I received. The cards were nice and durable and the paper money, with its upgraded cardstock, was just fantastic. I also really liked that they included bags, a feature that would make any gamer sigh with relief. They included enough bags so that each inventor could have all of their setup materials together, which made setting up a breeze. There were also baggies for each set of player cubes, and those could easily fit into the inventor setup bags. The board has a smooth finish, which I really liked. The box is nice and sturdy, and the rule book has a great layout and flow, making it easy to read and understand.
That Time I Demoed The Game
Around the time of the campaign finishing, I began volunteering several times a week for the Dice Tower Gaming Convention (this year’s convention is sold out, but it is definitely one you should try to attend at least once). The convention features 5 days full of gaming and this year will be at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, FL. As a volunteer, I work on counting the conventions massive game library, special projects (like making extra-large games), and helping out at HQ and registration during the con. I also run their annual Tichu tournament.
The convention has open gaming for all attendees, but you can also find designer panels, game company booths, and open demos for new or upcoming games. After the campaign ended and my work as a volunteer began, I got the idea that it would be really cool to demo Tesla vs. Edison at the convention. Artana was already attending Origins (which usually occurs right before DTC), so they had a few early copies of the game on hand. After approval from the DTC director, I reached out to Artana and they were just so amazing. They not only donated a copy of Tesla vs. Edison, but also a copy of their game The New Science (which I still need to buy a copy of). I didn’t demo The New Science at the convention, but I did get to introduce it to my local gaming group, which was super fun.
Demoing at the convention was a really fun experience. If you ever have the opportunity to do a demo (as either a teacher or player), you definitely should. I got to meet some super awesome people and to improve my teaching skills. The game also seemed to be really well received and everyone had a blast! I only wish I got to do it every day of the con. Unofficially, we taught the game a few more times to some of our friends. 😉
Tesla vs. Edison is at an intermediate level, as far as the learning curve goes, and it does involve quite a bit of strategy. Do I look to build as many energy projects as possible? Do I aim to control patents and technology? Or do I take control of the stocks of my competitors?
During the game each player represents an investor backing one of the major inventors that took part in the War of Currents. In order to make your fortune in the energy game, players must upgrade their technology in AC or DC systems, as well as upgrading their tech on the light bulb track. These advances in technology allow players the power to claim electric projects all across the United States. These projects also take money in addition to your tech levels, so making money from stocks, or other players using technology that you’ve patented, is an important mechanic to the game. However, propaganda may show up, affecting public opinion of your chosen technology. Using your inventor and any luminaries you gain can help you get back in the game and make the most of your turn. Each inventor also boasts a special power, as well as stats in: Invention, manufacturing, financing and propaganda.
I am a big fan of this game. It is well thought out and it really gives you that sense of the rivalry between the inventors during the War of Currents. The stock market mechanic is central to the game and is definitely something that should not be overlooked by any player. Losing control of your stocks definitely gives your opponents a lot of power over the future of your company. Like I said earlier, I love this type of game, but I am oh so terrible at them. I can’t seem to learn my own lessons when it comes to the stock market component to this game. *Le sigh*
I also love that the availability of projects on the board is divided by the amount of players. It really tightens the game up and it definitely helps to tailor the game to fit any number. The propaganda cards work as a great catch-up mechanic to give you just a little boost to move fame or public opinion in your favor. I do feel like this game definitely requires players to have a little knowledge of stock market mechanics to really make it work for them, and there is definitely a level of aggressive play that really helps keep you in the lead with this game. Passive players, like myself, may find it difficult to get ahead if they aren’t willing to be just a little cut throat when it comes to buying and selling competitor stocks.
I agree with Rhado, that the game would benefit from some player aides, but I don’t think they are entirely necessary, especially if you are playing with people who have played before. However, it would definitely be a great learning tool to help players new to both this particular game and games like it.
Overall, this is a game I would suggest that anyone play at least once, and if they really like it, they should definitely grab a copy for their library. You can pick up the game for $60 from their website (which is currently out of stock), or if you have Prime you can grab it from them on Amazon for $48.77 (15 copies left through Amazon). If you want to keep up with all of the amazing projects that Artana is working on, you can follow them on Twitter or on Facebook.
Thanks for reading and check back next week for another TBT Review 🙂