The screams of excited guests. The impatient shuffling of feet stood in a winding queue. The longing glances towards the burger stand, and the children tugging on your arm to visit the gift shop. Ahh, the life of a theme park designer! Meeple Land puts you in the shoes of an amusement park owner. Can you build the biggest and best rides? Can you afford them? Can you fit them into your open plot? Will the paths all line up? The last thing you want is a guest trapped in an endless loop and no way of making it back to the exit…
Meeple Land, designed by Cyrille Allard and Frédéric Guérard, looks as cute as fluffy candyfloss. Tomek Larek’s illustrations bring back fuzzy feels of computer game classics Theme Park and Roller Coaster Tycoon. But Meeple Land is very much a tabletop game. It’s not as detailed as the aforementioned construction and management sims. But it does present a puzzler challenge in its own right.
So unfold your park map, get your bearings, and scan the horizon for the nearest roller coaster. It’s time to learn how to play Meeple Land…
How Do You Win?
Meeple Land is a tile-placement game, by Blue Orange Games. The game takes place over four rounds, with a formulaic structure to them. (Meaning: once you’ve finished the first round, you’ll have an excellent idea of how the rest of the game flows.) Meeple Land, with a suggested age of 10 years old and up, and coming in around 60 minutes, is a cosy family game. It fits into the gateway or gateway-plus category.
The aim is to build as many different attractions into your park as possible. The more you build, the more ‘Reputation Points’ (RP) you’ll earn! The more services you build, the more money you could earn, too. You’ll also earn RP at the end of the game for having lots of guests in your park. Likewise, you’ll lose RP for having guests stranded outside the park gates, still queueing to get in. Before we jump into the rules and how rounds work, though, let’s set up the game…
Let’s Set Up The Game!
Start by placing the Parking Lot board in the centre of the table. Place the circular Round Marker disc on the 1, to signal it’s the first round. Shuffle the deck of Bus cards, and draw as many cards as there are players, plus one. (So draw four Bus cards if playing a three-player game.) Place the Buses face-up in the parking bays on the Parking Lot. Leave the remaining deck nearby.
Place the corresponding quota of coloured Visitor Meeples (yellow/blue/green/pink) onto your drawn Bus cards. Leave the remaining Visitors nearby. Place the extra Plot Extensions (the 3x3 grids) so they too are in arm’s reach of all players. Place the coins here, alongside the extra Entrance Tiles. (It’s easy to forget about the Extra Entrances since they’re the same size as the small Service Tiles. Make sure they don’t get mixed in with those regular tiles!)
There are three different types of Attraction/Service tiles: big (2x2), medium (2x1), and small (1x). Separate them into their sizes, and then give them a shuffle. Draw three big tiles, five medium, and five small. Have them sitting face-up, with their remaining stacks sitting face-down.
Give each player their own Plot board and a Park Entrance archway. The Entrance stands by the Plot where there’s a starter path. Then give each player their own score sheet (and a pen, although they’re not provided with the game). Give the first player – who last visited a theme park, perhaps? – the First Player Marker. This player starts with zero extra coins, but the second player get $1, the third player gets $2, and fourth gets $3. Now you’re ready to start playing Meeple Land!
What Can I Do On My Turn?
At the start of each round, every player earns income (a ‘grant’), stated on the Parking Lot board. At the start of the first round, that’s $15. Players earn $10 each at the start of round two, then $5 in round three, and $0 for the fourth and final round. The first player, therefore, starts with $15 (0+15), and the second player starts with $16 (1+15); third starts with $17 (2+15), and so on.
On your turn, you must take one of three actions. These are buying an Attraction/Service tile, advertising your park, or passing.
Option One: Buy A New Attraction Or Service
Buying a tile means buying one of the 13 face-up tiles that you displayed during set-up. More often than not, this is the action you’ll take the most. Each tile has a cost, stated in the bottom-right corner. These range in price, with some of the bigger tiles costing up to $8. If you’re buying a tile, you pay the cost from your coins back to the supply. Take the tile you want, then replenish it from the corresponding stack. There should always be the same number of face-up tiles available in the market. (3x big tiles, 5x medium, and 5x small.)
Every tile has a pathway(s) on them. They’re a bit like Carcassonne roads – they run edge-to-edge across the tile. The first tile you buy has to sit on your Plot so one of the paths leads out of the Exit. You may rotate the tile any way you want. The ride itself might sit upside-down, in accordance with your orientation. The tile must, however, sit on your Plot in its entirety; no parts of the tile may overhang off the edge of your Plot.
All Roads Lead To Home
After that, future tiles placed onto your Plot have to sit so at least one path connects to an earlier-placed tile. In theory, a Visitor could walk all the way from this Attraction/Service back to the Entrance/Exit. You cannot have ‘floating’ tiles on your Plot. It’s not enough that a tile sits next to a previously placed tile. It’s all about the path on it; if no paths link up, then that’s an illegal placement.
It is legal, however, to place a tile so one path links up, but another doesn’t. (Where, say, one out of two paths gets cut off by another tile, so long as at least one path connects.) Creating a dead-end like this is okay. The problem is that it costs you -2 points for every dead-end you create like this, so try not to do it too much! (These, and all scoring, gets counted up at the end of the game.) Creating dead-ends by having a path touch the Plot board edge doesn’t cost you -2 points. Neither do you get penalised if dead-ends don’t get cut off by another tile.
Or You Could Buy…
Once you’ve placed a tile, you cannot move it, nor rotate it. Be careful that you don’t get into a muddle and block yourself in! If this does occur, you can get out of trouble by buying a Plot Extension (the 3x3 grid) for $6. You can place this next to your main Plot, but not against your Park Entrance. The other option is you can buy a second Park Entrance for £3. This would sit on a side of your Plot.
Players can buy – at most – one Plot Extension and one extra Entrance during the game. Buying a Plot Extension or another Entrance counts as buying a tile action. You cannot buy, say, a Plot Extension as well as a regular Attraction/Service tile in the same turn.
Option Two: Advertise Your Park; Lure In The Meeples
Instead of taking the buy a tile action, you can advertise your park instead. By now you might have noticed the reverse of the small tiles. There are two Visitor Meeples on them (colours can and will vary), alongside a cost. This is an advertisement.
The two meeples stated on the tile on the top of the small stack come to your park straight away. Pay the cost stated ($2-3) and take the corresponding Visitor Meeples from the supply. They wait outside your Park Entrance. Then place that advertisement to the bottom of the small tile stack.
Of course, this particular advertisement won’t stick around for long. Why? Because it is the next small tile-in-waiting, ready to replenish the market if someone buys one. So if you want to get those specific Visitor Meeples into your park, you need to act fast. Why do you want certain colour Visitor Meeples? I’ll explain that very soon! But first, there’s a third action you could take on your turn…
Option Three: (Bus) Pass
The third and final option you can take is you can pass. This means you have to draft one of the Bus cards sitting on the Parking Lot board. Pick one, and claim all the Visitor Meeples on it. They all line up outside your park, by the Entrance. Once you’ve passed, you cannot re-enter the round for buying tiles, or advertising. You might opt to pass once you’ve run out of money. Or, you might pass early because there’s a super-tempting Bus with all the right Visitors for your park…
If you don’t pass through, turns continue clockwise, players taking one action per turn. All players will eventually pass, and then you move onto the End Of Round phase. This is where the Visitors enter your park!
First You Get The Money, Then You Get The Power
Advertising or not, you’re guaranteed to welcome at least a Bus-load of Visitor Meeples to your theme park. Once everyone’s passed, players place their Visitor Meeples into their park. You do this in a simultaneous manner. (You discard your drafted Bus cards at this point.) All medium and big tiles (plus Fountains) are Attractions. They have Visitor Meeples on them, along the left-hand side. If you can place a matching colour Visitor Meeple onto these spaces, that Visitor earns you $1. Fountains are wild – meaning you can place any colour Visitor on a them.
Some Attractions have a ‘special space’ on them, highlighted in a light-yellow banner. You earn an extra $1 for placing a Visitor here, providing you meet the prerequisite. Some special spaces have Service symbols on them (such as a hamburger, parcel or toilet). You can only place a matching-colour Visitor on this space if you’ve built the corresponding Service. It has to be on a tile orthogonal to that Attraction.
For example, a Ferris Wheel might have three Visitor spaces on it – two regular blues, and one yellow on a special space (showing the hamburger). Built a burger restaurant next-door to the Ferris Wheel, connected by a path? And got a yellow Visitor to place on it? That earns you $2, rather than $1. If you’ve also got two blue Visitors, you can place them on the Ferris Wheel regardless – those blue guests aren’t fussy! They’d earn you $1 each. So in total, you could earn a maximum of $4 off that Ferris Wheel. You can then invest those coins into buying more tiles in the next round…
A Convoy Of New Buses Turns Up…
Once everyone’s earned their end-of-round cash for their placed Visitors, then it’s the end of the round. Move the Round Marker down one notch, and give each player their start of round ‘grant’ income. There’s a chance First Player changes hands; it moves to the player with the least amount of money. In a tie, it goes to the poorest player closest to the previous First Player, clockwise. Then you draw X+1 Bus cards again for the next round, populating them with their matching Visitors. The new First Player then takes their action, and the game continues…
At the end of the first round, you’ll try to populate your theme park as much as possible. You might not be able to house all your Visitors – that’s okay. They stand outside the Entrance and wait, patient, for the end of the next round. Hopefully, by then you’ll have bought a tile that they want to visit!
You have to draft a Bus each round, so you gain a constant flow of new Visitors. In later rounds, you can move Visitors around your park. That is, providing they’re moving to a location that matches their colour. Moving them to a more lucrative special space? You have to have built the neighbouring requirement, of course. Towards the end of the game, in rare cases, you might run out of certain colour Visitors. In such a circumstance, take as many meeples as you can from the supply, but you forgo the rest.
So, Who’s Won? Time To Add Up The Scores
Meeple Land lasts for four rounds. Money is redundant at the end of the game, but you’re still aiming to load your park full of guests. It might be that when you draft your final Bus, you have some Visitors remaining outside the Entrance…
Now it’s time to add up your score. You earn points according to how many unique Attractions you have in your park. Services – hamburger restaurants, gift shops and toilets – do not count towards this tally. Rides and Fountains do, and there’s 12 in total to aim for. Some are rarer than others, so if you see one of them, consider snapping it up while you can! (Their quantities are all listed on the back of the rulebook.)
There’s a list of the Attractions on your individual scoresheet. It might help you to tick them off as you buy them throughout the game. That way you can keep an eye out for any Attractions you’re missing. You need to have bought at least seven different Attractions to start scoring:
- 7x Attractions scores you 2 Reputation Points
- 8x = 6RP
- 9x = 10RP
- 10x = 15RP
- 11x = 20RP
- 12x = 25RP
You also score points for every Visitor Meeple inside your park. Green and blue Visitors score you 1RP each. Yellow and pink Visitors score you 2RP each. Yellow and pink guests are less common; there’s fewer of them in the supply and they’re not as frequent on the Bus cards. This makes the drafting of them vital!
You also lose points for any Visitors stuck outside your park, that you couldn’t place on an Attraction. The scoring’s the same, but in minus points: -1RP per green/blue Visitor and -2RP per yellow/pink. Last of all, remember, you lose -2RP per dead-end path you created in your park.
Add up your score, and the player with the most Reputation Points wins Meeple Land! If there’s a tie for scores, then it’s broken by the player who scores the fewest minus points. Still a tie? Wow, this is so close! The second tie-break condition is the player with the most Visitors inside their theme park. Who will be the Meeple’s champion?