Drum Roll Preview
During my school days, I wasn’t that much into mathematics or economics and every other things related to numbers. So to speak, I sucks with numbers. That’s why I was into geography, history and other fun fact things including the creative world of art and design. So what it got something to do with this game? Drum Roll in a new game which was recently released in Essen 2011 by Konstatinos Kokkinis & Dimitris Drakopoulos. They’re Greeks, kinda new in the business and Drum Roll was their first game published. So what’s so special about Drum Roll? Well, there wasn’t (at that time) except the artworks are completely stunning, with circus theme that full of contrast colors. Actually, the game presentation was quite impressive with it’s visual and theme. Not many games in circus theme and this one looked special. By quick looking at it, i admit that it’s one of my blind buy in my collections. Pre-ordered a copy through the publisher, Artipia Games a month before Essen with some of my friends. So what did i know about the game? Well i knew enough to ordered a copy, from the visual alone, in addition with the unique theme and a glimpse of the core game mechanic (action point allowance or worker placement). So, half-blinded i ordered a copy with it’s bonus pre-order and promo cards from Essen. By the look of it, I bought it for only the sake of the artworks. After playing the game several times, I was manage to make the review. So, here it is…my usual review of the game.
1. The Theme
This is an attractive and unique theme. Not many games did used this theme, which made this game kinda rare jewel, mostly for some who like the theme. Player’s are circus managers that try to uplift their circus prestige by manage 3 shows during one game with their performers. They can hire performers, provide them with resources like equipments, wardrobes and such. Or they can sell tickets to gain income, hire personnel and invest. Though it’s a Euro game the theme doesn’t feel like blandly pasted on but rather seemed deep enough to connect and implicate with the game play itself, so the game experience really create the same ambiance of the theme itself, which is circus.
2. The Artworks
So, Antonis Papantoniou really done a great and remarkable job on the artworks, splendid work from him. The first time i looked at the box cover really amazed me. The first thing i had in mind was “What is this game? I must have it!”. So no wonder why the real excuse of my blind buy resolved by only just the artworks itself. The artworks are amazing, with such full contrast striking colors and exotic imaginative illustrations which really expressed the potential of the circus theme that we had known in our childhood. If you can’t remember what circus like in those old days, well, at least you can still remember the hazing blurry colors of blue and red tents and ornaments. The classic decorative borders really add the scenic and atmosphere of the theme. In overall, I really like the illustrations and the color tones of the artworks. So in short, this is the kind of games that need to be in your shelves just for showin’ off. Be sure to put it in the front row for an eye catcher.
3. The Game Components
Okay, by the looks of the artworks, you, me and others would likely expect something marvelous inside the box. But, when the box opened, there seemed a bit yawn of disappointment. Not that it has bad quality components, but the inside really packed with dull and messy. No insert tray or even card board separator and it’s just left out with quite a big hole and everything inside it. The board was surprisingly small (which i couldn’t be sure was it good or bad) with only 2 folds, great quality of cards, little disappointment with the player mats, which only made by thin paperback though in good quality. These mats should be in thick card board, which more durable and less worried if spilled by some liquid, knocked or bent in the edges. The wooden components are golden, in a perfect condition. The chits are also good and quite top notch, they gave more extra first player tokens (there are 3 first player tokens available). The rulebook was great, I think it’s the most heavy components in the box. You sure got a nice of bargain with that thick of rulebook, the downside was, you don’t need all the pages since there’s 4 languages in 1 book.
4. The Game Play
Okay, each player as a circus manager, have their responsibility to get their circus to achieve prestige (this is the other name for the victory points). During the game, players will have 3 shows (which means 3 times scoring) and each show has 5 to 7 preparation turn before the show is on. During the preparation turn, each player will spent their actions to gain resources cubes, sell tickets, buy investment cards, hire performers and personnel members which available on the main board. Each performer cards need to be provided by it’s resources cubes (at least 1 most left cube) to be able to perform during the shows and gain that performance benefit, and need to be provided with all cubes if they want to flip the performers and gain the prestige points. During the show, player’s performers must perform or otherwise must be fired. Performers that perform will gain benefits, except those with outstanding performance will likely be chosen to gain the benefit or to be flipped for the prestige points. After each show, players must pay the salaries of their performers and personnel, if somehow they can’t, they lose 1 prestige point for each coin they cannot pay (a bit harsh and mean? Well yes, then you better watch your spending in this game).
The limitation of the actions, are quite different in this game. For instance, the resource cubes slots (white, blue, red, green and yellow) are limited only for 1 action token. But the other action slots are quite flexible and not limited for only one token. The Sell Tickets and Investment Cards for instance, could be placed by any players, even there are other player’s action token in that slot. These actions are limited up to two action tokens for each player. So you can spend 2 actions in these actions, unlike the resource cubes, which can only has 1 action token per slot. In the other hand, Hire Performer and Personnel can only be placed with 1 action token per each color. So each player can only have 1 action token placed to hire performer and personnel in one turn. After all actions are resolved in the main board, each player could distribute (normally) up to 2 resource cubes from his pool into the performers they have. The order of the distribution is free, but please bear in mind that in order for performers to perform, they must have at least the most left cube (poor performance with 1 star). If a performer has cubes in their 2 or/and 3 star but none in their 1 star at the start of the show, that performer is unable to perform and must be fired (the player minus 1 prestige and still must pay the salary of that performer). In the end of the game, after adding the end game bonuses, the player with the most prestige points, win the game. In case of tie, well, count the coins.
5. The Replay Value
Based on my several plays, the game is quite balance, though it really depends on the luck of the draw. The cards make the game quite random, since performer and personnel card are drawn random but still manageable with opened options. The investment also random, worse maybe, since you pay 1 coin for a card in a blind luck of the draw. The region tiles are also random, but it’s still in acceptable level, for players can manage their subsequent shows by looking at the other player tiles. This randomness, even pretty much a downside of the game, adds more replay value to the game itself. Your games won’t ever be the same each time.
Basically there are 5 categories of performers but until now, the game designers published another category (which is Plate Spinner) and most likely opened to several other categories in the future. There also a mini expansion called the Ring Master just recently published which quite probably add some replay values to the game.
My Thought of The Game
It’s one of my favorites and I really like the artworks. The artworks must be the most important things in this one. A masterpiece to behold in your collections and front row of your shelves. My friends taught me the game, but to my surprise, i played the game 3 times with the incorrect rules. So after reading the rules and search for clarifications in the forum, there it is, know i know and play it with the correct ones. A great game, quite good and really force you to calculate. Yeah, I’m not that good with numbers, which likely end up with the thought of “What? There isn’t any circus in my economy classes?!”, but i do not hate this one. By the look of the game, in fact, there is more economic feels rather than the circus and there’s mot much of a worker placement (at least standard worker placement) since players compete only in the resource slots and the order of hiring a performer and personnel.
So, why economy? Yeah, because mostly during the game, you will end up counting the salaries that you need to pay after each show in your free time (or not). This gripping and creeping death feeling about the salaries really store the goosebumps and enjoyment of the game, Looks like that in order to win, each player must do their best to have more performers, and gain more prestige, but the consequences are clear, they face the same big and heinous problem, which is the salaries. Statements like “How can I pay all these?” or “I need more cash” or “OMG, I hope this investment give me extra coins” or “Damn, I can’t sell tickets anymore!” are often likely to be heard during the game. I believe this game is a delicate, tricky and complex, but when you get the hang of it, you’ll know what to do and get most of the suitable strategy. The odd thing is the end game bonuses. For some reason the end game bonuses are kinda bit weird, since each player can easily outtake the bonuses, which bring most of the players the same addition of prestige points. It’s quite easy to get and doesn’t really a game situation changing.
Money is important in this game, and you don’t get much of an income. The only obvious income is from the Selling Tickets action which are limited to 8 actions, after that you can only have coins from the investment cards (which really a gamble) and pass your actions for 1 coin (seriously, this is so desperate). You can gain coins or extra discounts from performers benefit (gain trailers / coins / free salary), but to this point then you cannot flip them to gain points and more to that, you need to pay their full salaries after this show and next show. There aren’t too many direct conflict in this game, though the interactions are somewhat interactive.
Some images are courtesy of BGG users.