Our step-by-step guide to the rules of how to play New York 1901 board game. This is a great title that has you staking out land and building up your real estate empire in the skyscraper boom in New York during the turn of the century. This is an area control and engine building game that has many familiar strategy mechanics, as well as, some great new ones. Learning how to play New York 1901 does take a little effort, but after a few turns, you will be real estate speculating like a boss.

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The year is 1901 and the recent fascination with tall buildings does not appear to be a passing fad. Real estate deals in Lower Manhattan suggest that more of these “skyscrapers” will soon be added to the New York City skyline. Technological advances are making it possible for new generations of skyscrapers to reach breathtaking heights. The builders of these steel giants are reaching higher and higher in the sky, hoping to satisfy their hunger for glory and prestige.

Your uncle has left you a small property in Lower Manhattan. This is your last chance to start your real estate career and to build, build and build some more. You’ll be joining the ranks of the other great developers trying to establish the world’s greatest metropolis: New York City!

New York 1901 is a skyscraper building game based in New York City at the turn of the 20th Century. Your objective, as you will see throughout this how to play New York 1901 rules guide, is to develop the preeminent real estate empire in NYC by acquiring land and building skyscrapers to score points. On your turn, before you build, you will be given the option to either expand your estate by acquiring new territory or to demolish your standing buildings to replace them with better ones.


Time Needed: Approximately 30 – 60 minutes.

This is a step by step guide for how to play New York 1901 the popular real estate prospecting board game about drafting land and building the best skyscrapers. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.

1. SETUP | Place The Game Board
To kick off how to play New York 1901 setup, unfold the game board and place it in the center of the table.

2. SETUP | Hand Out Character Cards At Random
There are five character cards that are a harder cardboard. Shuffle these up and randomly give one to each player. Put any unused back in the box. The symbol on the corner shows your starting property that matches a space on the board.

3. SETUP | Choose Player Color & Grab Materials
Everyone chooses a color and grabs their corresponding pieces. This includes the building score tracker, 4x workers, 3x action cards with your color back, trophy token and 18 skyscraper tokens. You will want to organize the building tokens into three groups based on the color shown in the number circle (bronze, silver, gold) for ease of use. This color has nothing to do with the color on the character card.

4. SETUP | Put Marker on Scoretrack
Each player takes their color skyscraper token and places it on the “0” space on the score track that runs along the outside of the game board and is used to keep score.

5. SETUP | Starting Lot Cards & Communal Deck
The player card also shows a symbol showcasing your opening lot card. These are the smaller cards with the gold backs. Each player goes through and grabs their starting card. Then shuffle the remaining lot cards and put the in a face-down pile for everyone to take from.

6. SETUP | Players Place Starting Property
Each player has a two-square property with no bronze, silver or gold number on it which is that player’s starting property. Each player places that tile on the space that corresponds to the symbol in the top corner of their player card. There is only one of each on the board.

7. SETUP | Flip Over Character Cards
Now that players have found their starting spot and taken their opening lot card, they can now flip over their character cards. You are done with the opening side and do not need it for the rest of the game. This new side summarizes the actions you can take on your turn. Place your opening lot card on this, they will all go here from this point on.

8. SETUP | Form Open Market With Communal Lot Cards
At the top of the board you need to form the “open market” which is done by flipping over the top 4 lot cards from the face down deck into a line where they are all visible an accessible. This is where people are going to get new lot cards from.

9. SETUP | Put Out Legendary Buildings
The four building tiles that have no color are the legendary building tiles. Place these near the board for easy access. Any player can use these but they can only use one. It is first come, first served.

10. SETUP | Place “Streets of New York” Bonus Cards
Shuffle the five “streets of New York” cards. Flip three up and place them next to the board as the objectives for this game. These are different each time to make each game a little different.

11. SETUP | Place “Bonus Challenge” Card
Shuffle the “Bonus challenge” cards in the same way but only flip up one of these to place next to the board.

12. SETUP | Choose Starting Player
The first player is the youngest but feel free to use your randomizer of choice. Players take a full turn and then it moves around the circle clockwise. This is the final setup step in how to play New York 1901 rules before getting into gameplay.

13. GAMEPLAY | Acquire Land and/or Build Structure Options
During your turn you can do one of five things – (1) Aquire a plot of land and build nothing, (2) Build a structure on land you control and acquire no land, (3) acquire a plot of land and build a structure on land you control, (4) demolish an existing property or properties and build an upgraded one in its place or (5) none of the above and you take back a worker on board and put its lot card from your stack on the bottom of the lot deck.

14. GAMEPLAY | Acquiring Land
During your turn, you may take one of the four plot cards from the open market. These will have a shape and a color. By taking a particular card, you may use one of your workers and claim the corresponding space on the board. Put your worker there to mark it. Put that plot card on the stack on your player card where all your plot cards go. If you do not have an available worker, you cannot do this step

15. GAMEPLAY | Build Structure
Once you are in control of a piece of land (or multiple pieces of land together), you can build any one of your available structures on that space (or spaces). The restrictions are the size/shape making sure it fits in the available land, and quality tier. Your structures have broze, silver or gold numbers on them. To start all you can build is bronze until you reach a certain number on the score track, then the same thing for silver. You can place one structure per turn and when you do, remove any workers and score points equal to the number on your tile.

16. GAMEPLAY | Demolish & Upgrade
At any time, instead of making a brand new structure, you may demolish a building (or buildings if together) and put a higher quality building in it’s place. Bronze and silver can be upgraded, but never gold. If you do this, remove all buildings the new building would cross from the board. Then put the new one in its intended spot. Score points equal to what the new building says, you do not lose points for removing old buildings. If this frees up some new space, that is fine to use, but you need enough workers to complete this action. You always need to have a worker on a space that is yours that has no building tiles on any part of it. Demolished structures get removed from the game.

17. GAMEPLAY | Build Legendary Buildings
The four legendary buildings can be built by a player as soon as they are able to build gold buildings. Each player can only build one and they can choose from whatever is available. Besides that, these follow the same rules as any other building. Place your colored trophy token on it to signify it is yours.

18. GAMEPLAY | Replace Any Used Lots Cards
At the end of your turn, flip up new cards from the lot deck to replace any that were used during the turn.

19. GAMEPLAY | Playing Action Cards
At any point in the game, each player can play any of the 3 action cards they received at the beginning, but each can only be used once. These do things like let you build, claim or replenish more and are explained in the “action card abilities” section below.

20. GAME END | No Lot Cards Or Structures
The game end is triggered in one of two ways – (1) When you go to replenish a lot card and there are none left or (2) When a player has less than four or fewer total structures remaining to play. When this happens, every other player gets one additional turn.

21. SCORING | Streets Cards
Take the 3 street cards that were dealt at the beginning for this game. The player with the most structures on street shown in each card gets the points shown on that card, 5 points each. Add this total to your overall total on the scoretrack.

22. SCORING | Bonus Challenge
The one bonus challenge card that was flipped up for the game is going to have very detailed and specific instructions. These are all detailed on the materials. Whoever gets points based on these rules, score those points on the score track now.

23. WINNING | Unused Action Cards
Score yourself 1 point on the score track for each action card that you did not use.

24. WINNING | High Score Wins
After all the totals are scored, the player with the highest total wins. In the case of a tie, whoever built the highest legendary building (elevation is on the tile) wins. As you can see, learning how to play New York 1901 is a little tricky to pick up but all the parameters help you easily keep things in line.



Construction Boom – Lets the player build a second structure on their turn. This second Building cannot include a demolition.

Market Shift – Must be played at the start of a players turn. You draw four new lot cards for the futures market, then shuffle the old one’s back into the deck.

Land Grab – Lets the player grab an additional piece of land to the market. The card also shows you that you cannot acquire land with 3 pieces on the turn you use this.


To play a more expert variant there are a few changes to make. You do not start with a building so remove those. Besides that, it just takes higher scoring totals to make it to the next level (bronze to silver for example which requires 10 instead of 6 now).


  • 1x Game Board
  • 5x Character Cards
  • 5x Streets of New York Cards
  • 5x Bonus Challenge Cards
  • 65x Territory Cards
  • 4x Skyscraper Score Tokens
  • 16x Worker Tokens (4x per color)
  • 4x King Tokens
  • 12x Action Cards
  • 76x Skyscraper Tokens (19x player and 4x legendary)


We hope you can now say you know how to play New York 1901. This one does have many nuances that make it difficult to pick up at first, but once you get it things become second nature. There are several different layers to this one, needed to both stake out the best land but then also build up the best empire. It is nice that it is all wrapped up in this turn of the century New York theme centered around the skyscraper boom. At a good medium intensity, this has a lot going on in a good way that satisfies a broad audience. Now that you have read these how to play New York 1901 rules, get out there and go check it out!