A to Z Gaming: Meeple Circus

Meeple Circus

We put on a one-ring circus with acrobats, elephants, horses, and guest stars in Meeple Circus, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Meeple Circus
Players: 2-5
Time: 45 Minutes
Designers: Cédric Millet
Artists: Angelina Costamagna, Mathieu Leyssenne, Sabrina Tobal
Publisher: Matagot

Meeple Circus is a dexterity game where players are creating spectacles to satisfy the audience in just two minutes. The game is played in three rounds with each round consisting of a drafting, a performance, and a scoring phase. The player who has thrilled the audience most by the end of the third round wins.

The game is set up with the score board in the center of the play area, the wooden pieces (meeples, boards, ballons, stands, animals and special guests) placed nearby, the round summary cards placed in a stack in their place on the score track, the different audience demand decks shuffled and placed in their spaces, and the “1” and “2” clap tokens placed within reach of all players. Each player takes a circus ring, scoring cube of their color, and 2 blue and 1 yellow acrobat.

Each round starts with a drafting phase (called “Preparation” in the rules). This is set up by placing 6 random component tiles next to their space on the scoring track. In addition a number of circus act tiles are dealt out from the ones for the current round, depending on player count (number of players plus one). In the first round, these circus acts are simply more components, in the second round, they are special guests, and in the third, they are special actions that players must perform as they build their act. In turn order, players choose either a component tile or an circus act tile; on the second time around the table, players take one of whichever type they didn’t take the first time.

Next, players make their circus performances (or “Presentation” in the rules). During this phase, players set up their circus components. They are trying to please the audience requests that are shown on the cards and to raise up their red acrobats as high as possible. This phase is timed by using music from a phone app. During the first and second rounds, the presentations are done simultaneously, and the first player to finish takes the 2-clap token while the second player takes the 1-clap token. During the third round, players do their performances one at a time, in turn order.

Finally, the round ends with scoring. Players get points (“claps”) for the public demand cards, finishing first or second, and the placement of their acrobats — blue acrobats get a point each if they are on the ground and holding something, the yellows must be off the ground, and the reds must off the ground and not be carrying anything. The reds score depending on how high they are. In the second and third rounds, players also get points for fulfilling their guest star’s requirements. And, finally, in the last round for successfully pulling off their third act requirement.

Player with the most points wins.

I picked up Meeple Circus after hearing some buzz about it on some of the game podcasts I listen to. It sounded like a fun, silly dexterity game, and it has not disappointed.

I really like how the game builds over the three rounds. In the first round, you only have a few components, and you wonder how you’re going to get a red acrobat to score more than a point or two. By the end, you’re not sure how best to get all of your components stacked so they don’t fall, but also while scoring big on the red acrobats and completing as many audience demands as possible. And the pressure of the final performance, while everyone is watching just adds to the already-high tension of making your stack.

How is it as a 2-player game? Meeple Circus plays well with two players. It’s maybe a little more fun with more, because it adds to the pressure of that final round, but the drafting and game-play works well with two.

How about the art and component quality? The various wooden pieces make this game. They fit together just well enough that you think you can make a master-performance while having just enough curved edges to make you wrong. The circus rings are a little flimsy, but the other cards and drafting tiles are decent quality.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes, I love this as a fun, silly game with my friends.

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