Step right up! We have a great show for you fine folks this evening. We have high flying acrobats, balancing elephants and grown adults honking their noses to a backing soundtrack! One of the hits of Essen 2017, Meeple Circus has been available for a few months in the UK, so let’s draw back the curtain and take a closer look.
Meeple Circus - The Game
Designed by Cédric Millet, published by Matagot, Meeple Circus sees 2-5 players compete to stage the greatest spectacle across three rounds. The first two rounds are considered as ‘Rehearsals’, with play taking place simultaneously, culminating in a final ‘Performance Round’.
Each round is split into two phases, the first being selecting component tiles/cards and taking the objects from the supply. Players will take either one of the six available component tiles, or one of the 'Circus Act' tiles (number of players+1). They will then have to pick one of the other tiles from the set they did not select from first time round the table. Once all tiles are selected - and components collected - play moves into the second half of the round, that of the Rehearsal/Performance.
This is where the fun (read: stress) really ramps up. Players will need to build tower(s) of differing shapes and sizes in order to gain applause (victory points). It is recommended that this is done in conjunction with the free companion app that adds music and a timer to proceedings.
The first two players to complete their Rehearsal builds will need to shout “TADA” and claim any of the remaining speed bonus applause tiles. Once all players have finished, applause is tallied up. Different coloured acrobat meeples score depending on where they are in a player's performance. Blue acrobats score one point each for being on the ground, yellow acrobats score one point each for being in the air (being carried) and red acrobats score applause dependant on how high they are from the ground – this is confirmed using a handy Measuring Ruler.
Bonus applause will also be handed out should players manage to match any of the four bonus cards on display (these can score multiple times over).
Once all applause has been handed out to players, the player currently in last place becomes the first player, and has a choice as to whether they wish to discard one of the bonus cards. Play then moves into the next round. Scoring tends to be relatively close early on, but all that can change in the blink of an eye!
The only major difference in the second round to the first is that the Circus Act tiles are replaced with those from the green stack, which will depict a bonus character meeple. These are double-sided, and the tile will denote how these will score that round.
At the beginning of the final Round (round three / Performance), the green Circus Act tiles are replaced with those from the blue stack. These generally alter the way in which the player that chooses them will have to act and/or build their circus. I won’t ruin the surprise by detailing these tiles, but let’s just say they may make you act out of character… Green Circus Act tiles from the second round of play will also score double for that player, so they best make full use of them.
The player with the most applause at the end of round three is the winner.
Thoughts on Meeple Circus
Despite being terrible at this game, I can’t help but come away from each play with a smile. I regularly witness fellow players pull out some incredible balancing skills that would make a physicist ask serious questions about life and the universe.
The rehearsal rounds can be tense, with players having to decide whether they want to rush for those all important few speed bonus points or use up the time allocated. I do find that the game shines in the final Performance Round. I’ve had people watching from afar and shouting their support and guffawing when it all goes terribly wrong.
In games that seem to thrive on their silliness, the greatest enjoyment will be derived by those that really get into the theme and lose themselves in the moment. For me personally, the ‘optional’ Performance tiles are a mandatory inclusion whenever I bring this to the table.
There is plenty of space in the box for possible expansions. These would be well received, mainly to switch up the components and increase replay-ability. This isn’t a game you would necessarily play each and every week, but a great choice when you don’t want to engross yourself in something overly serious and time consuming.
Matagot have a real winner on their hands. I would highly recommend this for anybody looking for a dexterity game to add to their collection.