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The Countdown to Panic

pic3895016-2Meeple 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.

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Game Components
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).

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Artworks
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.

Game Play
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).

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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.

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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.

Replay Value
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.

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My Thoughts
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.

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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Board Games, Reviews

 

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What Your Dream House Looks Like?

pic3176771_mdDream Home Review
Dream Home is a game published by Portal Games and designed by a Polish designer (I think he’s new to game design and this is his first game), Klemens Kalicki and illustrated by Bartlomiej Kordowski. Right from the start of its inception, this game has already gained a spotlight with the cute, bright-colored and beautiful art, thanks to the artist. It’s like a children’s game which I must admit that it is partly if not whole, a children’s game. It can be played with 2-4 players from 20-30 minutes (you can play this under than the time mentioned, trust me, or you are that worse). The game was published last year in 2016 which I just managed to get early in 2017.

The Theme and Artworks
In Dream Home, players are trying to build their dream home by choosing cards from the available options and place it on their boards. The cards are rooms in the home and can be placed in various spots depends on players’ taste and also basic physics. A good home should have its necessary rooms such as bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, the rest are complementary.
For the artworks, I must give a salute for Bartlomiej Kordowski. His works are superb and really succesfully give the game a very appealing soul to convey the purpose of the game. It really clicks and you know it does.

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The Components
The game is basically a card game, with a central board and some tiles. It has medium square box and of course cute and beautiful art cover. Inside there’s a plastic insert to hold all the components, and it works well, but the cards and tokens are easily scrambled when transported in many positions, so you need a small foam to cover this issue. The cards are small sized, maybe mini Euro size, placed well in the tray even when sleeved. There also a special first player marker, an over-sized orange house-shaped wooden token. There are 4 player boards and a central board, thick and good enough.

The Game Play
In the game, players get their own board as a foundation of their home. The board consists of a drawn image of a home with spaces to place cards. These spaces are drawn with 3 stories, 5 columns except there’s only 2 columns in the bottom story. So in total there are 12 rounds in the game. After 12 rounds the game ends and players sum up their scores. There are mainly two type of cards in the game, room cards and resource cards. During the game, each round players will take a room card and a resource card or the first player marker.

The fun thing about it (or not) is that players will have to choose the cards they need to get for their home from the available ones that drawn on the central display. The problem is there’s the turn order, yaaay… yeah, the one who pick the first cake always get the best and bigger ones. So each round the cards are drawn and displayed on the board, which there are 5 columns and 2 rows but the the first column only draw 1 room card, where the top row is placed the first marker token, you remember the orange house-shaped token? The first row is for resource cards, while the second row is for room cards. Room cards are obviously placed in the player board to occupy the spaces, while resource cards are more, how to say it? Complicated. The resource cards have different types such as experts, roofs, tools and decorations. These types work differently to help players make their dream homes.

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Now let’s take a look into the player board, players have a player board to hold all the room cards they already chose during each round. This player board represent a home with 3 stories (a basement, a level 1 and two stories). The basement only consists of 2 columns, which can accommodate 2 rooms (basement rooms only). Each room must be placed in legal / valid ways, it must have a foundation (a room below it, whether in any type or empty room, not an empty space). So in the first story, at first player can only build three rooms since the 2 right most spaces need basement rooms to be the foundations. Where the second story rooms need foundations from the rooms placed in the first story. Each type or room gives players a certain amount of points that will be scored at the end of the game. Some rooms can be expanded (more than 1 card which expand the room) to get better points. While a fully expanded room cannot be expanded again, so placing the same type of room next to fully expanded / finished room is not valid, hence that room card must be placed in another place or else the room card must be placed face down to show an empty room. Empty rooms will not be scored at the end of the game.

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Resource cards give players flexibility or better points. For example specialist / expert cards, can help you to manipulate one or more elements in the game, whether they can give you better options or additional points. Tool cards work similar like Specialists but the only different is that they have one-time effect, play-and-discard kind of cards. There are also Decors on the resource cards, this kind of resource give you additional points that can be placed on a specific type of room (not always), when placed, the room is considered finished even though it still can be expanded later. So placing a room expansion later is not a valid move and it must be placed face down as an empty room next to it. The fourth type is roof, where players need to collect at least four roof cards during the game to score at the end of the game. There are four colors in the game, brown, purple, red and orange and some roofs have windows on them that gives an additional point to the roof scoring.
At the end of the game, players tally up their points from the room cards, 3 pts from at least 4 roof cards (if they have at least 4 cards of the same color, they gain additional 5 points) and 1 point per window, Specialists that give them points and also additional points for the home functionality, 3 points if they have at least 1 Bathroom in each story and another 3 points if they have at least a kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom in their home.

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The Replay Value
Honestly, this game lacks replay value. The game is simple, easy to understand, straight-forward and have a decent light decision making that is interesting for casual players or children. But the replay value just on vacation in this game, it never came back and you will have to live with it. So after several plays, the game is beginning to feel samey over and over again (okay honestly, after 2-3 plays). There are no card variations, different setups or random encounters in each play. So there will always be the same cards in one play to another the only difference is just when the cards will come out. So with this as a crucial factor, the game does get fixed after one play and the rest are just obvious choices.

My Thoughts About The Game
I think that game is a sweetheart. Love it, the presentation is so amazingly cute and beautiful. The theme is simple and really targeting children and girls. It’s like when you’re a child and you play houses. You can introduce this game to totally new players and children, it’s very straightforward and simple you can explain the rules in 5 minutes. Players pick a column and take the cards on that column, place the room card on their board and move on. Yes, move on to the next round and do the same thing repeatedly 12 times. Though at first there seems to be a definitive decision making I must admit that it doesn’t really have decision making since most of them are obvious choices. I can picture myself playing this game several times in a row, since it’s very simple and takes about 10 minutes per play, but playing this for 5 times in a row, I could yawn and sleep accidentally. But aside from that, I think this game attracts children to learn good how to make decisions, because of the visual presentation and nature of the game. This one is totally a filler, overpriced one I suppose. After one play I realized that there are two important things in the game, which are the first player and the basement room cards, And others can be sort out later and easily. Getting first pick of the available cards are surely powerful, to be able to sort out the good cards and combinations, and it sucks to be the last player since what you get is basically trash (or not). In my plays I found out that the first player usually got hold by the same person most of the time. And the basement room cards are so damn important that even 9 points living room cards look like shit (pardon my language). But it’s true, the power of basement card is so damn great, because without these two cards on your basement, practically your movement ends halfway of the game. So the first thing to do is get that basement room cards while you can and if you cannot, take the first player marker for next choices. That simple.

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Aside from the game play, I think it has nice production quality, good small cards, simple wording on the card effect, thick player board and nice insert. If you have kids (early educational age) this might be a nice choice, or maybe girls, they love beautiful things like this.

 
 

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