Meeple Circus Review
Right after Flip Ships, I acquired Meeple Circus and its a blast. Meeple Circus just like it’s title is a circus game in the world of meeples. Yes you heard it right, the meeples are doing circus and you need all your best with your hands and the skill of not-knocking-out things. The game was released on 2017 by Matagot, designed by Cedric Millet (French guy). What this game is about? Well, players will compete with each other to successfully perform their circus act within 3 rounds. In each round, players will take circus components and acrobats. There are different components throughout the game each with it’s special scoring condition. And also the performance also have special set of scoring cards that players need to fulfill in order to score them.
But first, let see the game components.
It has standard square box which I think it’s a bit oversized consider the game components inside. Well it has plastic insert tray to hold the components but honestly it’s not very good and usable. You still need baggies for wooden components if you don’t want all them scattered inside the box. There are stickers for the wooden meeples to add more thematic appeal, and the cards are in nice quality. My biggest disappointment is in the tiles. Surely they could use standard thickness with the tiles, but instead they used thick paper for it and called it tiles (ridiculous).
As thing like circus and entertaining performance goes, the nuance of the illustrations are full with bright and contrast colors, mostly red and yellow (or golden colors), filled with overcrowded decoration elements like stars and colorful banners. But one thing that really stand out from the crowd of illustrations are the characters, personified wooden (alive) components like the acrobats and animals. It’s not just cartoony but their shapes are also resemble the wooden components. I found it lovely and cute. Thumbs up from me on this aspect.
Okay, lets get down to business. Circus life is no joke, except the clown. So in this game you need to carefully be the fastest player to get everything done and score the best you can. Of course what you need is a pair of fully-functioned hands, speed and necessary components to complete the job. You see, without one of those things, you might lose your job, literally speaking. Each round, players will take turns to get components from the available display. The components can be found by getting act tiles and component tiles. The components can be acrobats and animals (wooden meeples) and also (wooden) objects like barrels, beams and balloons. Players need to take exactly one act tile and one component tile. Once they do that, they can start to perform (the first and second rounds are considered as rehearsal rounds, where the third would be the great performance, but in general all three rounds are the same in game flow).
When all players are ready, they set aside their components beside the circus ring board and one player start the music. It will determine as timer for players to complete the acrobatic challenge that they have to do with the components they have. They stop once the music ends and a scoring takes place. Now before scoring, I would like to mention that beside the scoring board, there are 4 cards face up to determine how players can score points (these are the challenge that they can do, called Public Demands).
Aside from the Public Demand cards, players also scores from several aspects. In order to be scored, components need to be inside the circus ring of a player, and they need to be place on their sides except beams and barrels, and every component on the ground must support at least one other components. Each blue acrobat will generate 1 point as long as its on the ground, while yellow acrobat gains 1 point if it doesn’t touch the ground. Red acrobat is different, they generate points based on how high they are. There’s a long tile that serves as ruler to measure height. The first two players who finishes their performances also get bonuses, 2 and 1 point respectively. So getting it done as soon as possible is a good thing. Public demand cards allow players to score in different ways based on the requirements listed on the cards. These cards involve players to specifically arrange the stacking of specific components in order to be scored.
Once the score of a round takes place, the player with least points will be the first player of next round. The second round is the same as the first with one notable difference, the act tiles (green border) for second round provide players with special one-of-a-kind guests with condition to score it and how many points. Once the game enters the third (final) round, players will perform the great performance one by one from the first player. This is done because some act tiles from round three required them to perform specific action that need to be supervised by other players. The blue act tiles work different from the rest of the act tiles, they introduce new element to the game where players have to meet certain condition (they do not get components from these tiles) and most of these conditions are hilariously funny and hard to complete.
Honestly there are not many, aside that the blue tiles have enough variation so that it won’t be always available in each play. You can play the game several times and find different tiles in play. But aside from that, the game is doomed to forever be the same, its what you can expect for this kind of game, though there’s no harm in that. It’s definitely fun for every age and you can always play the game once in a while to have a blast.
Oh I love it. I did mention in Flip Ships review that I like / have a knack for dexterity games. So this one fit the bill and to be honest, more than Flip Ships because of one essential reason, this game is competitive unlike Flip Ships. Do you guys agree that competitive is always better than cooperative? In terms of the word ‘fun’ it must be better. I definitely recommend this game to anyone who don’t mind hand coordination, dexterity skill along with time limited challenges. The theme really works well and how it plays out, it is super fun. Definitely not a serious game, so if you overly competitive this might be a let down, because you will ask yourself or anyone that the blue act tiles seemingly unbalance. Yes based on my personal assessment, some blue tiles are more difficult than the others, but maybe that’s because I perceive myself incapable to do those things which might be different with other’s capabilities. Another thing is that the first player of the next round will get to remove one Public Demand cards out of four, I think this is done out of necessity of runaway leader situation or perhaps last position helper. The removing of one Public Demand card would led to balancing the over powered players with necessary components to score that card. Of course it’s possible that the first player remove that card to let new card in, hoping it would aligned better with his components. But I wonder if removing one card is enough, why not two? I guess you can always house-ruled it with a variant, remove all the Public Demand cards, so each round will have different cards, this might change the round scoring a bit since all players affected by this random change.
I did question Matagot with the act tiles quality, it’s awfully uncommon and really make the game looks cheap. At least they made the act tiles the same as component tiles, or even use cards instead. The box is oversized, not that the insert really works. But overall, this game is totally my favorite dexterity at this moment.