Game: Meeple Circus
Designer: Cédric Millet
Playtime: 30-40 Minutes
Play Type: Dexterity
Welcome to the Big Top! Your new job is to captivate the audience with increasingly difficult acts. As the music begins your task will be to create the most spectacular demonstration with animals, acrobats, and a variety of accessories. Once the music ends, wait for the applause and hope to be the best ring in the tent.
Meeple Circus is played in three different rounds. Each round will begin with each player drafting a set of two different tiles with a variety of components that the player will add to their collection.
Once all players have their components for the round, a player will open the free app and prepare to play music for the round. After all players are ready, that player will say “go” and press the start button for the music. While the music is playing, players will be trying to build the best act using their components. Once the music stops, all players must stop working and move into the scoring phase. The music lasts for a couple of minutes, so it is entirely possible to finish early. The first two players to complete their act gain a speed bonus.
During the scoring phase, players will gain points based on four different things. The first thing a player could score points for is gaining the speed bonus during the building phase. Whoever finishes first will gain two points, and the second player will gain one point. Then each player can score their acrobats. There are three different colored acrobats that each have a different requirement for scoring. Players will then look to see if they have met any of the four public objectives, which will cycle out each round. Finally, in rounds two and three players will check to see if they met their individual scoring requirements and add any points as needed.
The second round plays very similarly to the first round. The only difference is during this round, one of the tiles that will be drafted is a “star” act. These acts provide an additional scoring benefit if a requirement is made.
The third round has the same structure as the other two rounds, with the exception that the building phase is done one player at a time. During this round the players will draft a performance tile that will have the players doing a special task to score extra points during the last round. Some of these tasks are simple, such as giving each of the components backstories as you place them, but others are more difficult such as using only one hand to build or jumping up and clapping each time you hear the symbols crash in the music.
After points are calculated in the third round, whoever has the most points wins.
Meeple Circus’ components are part of what makes this simple filler game really shine. The game includes a variety of wooden meeples to act as performers, brightly colored tokens and cards, and scoring card. The components really set Meeple Circus aside from other stacking games on the market. It is one of the most thematic games I have on my shelf, with the addition of the app and the circus music. The table presence in this game is especially strong, and it appeals to both families and adults.
- Vibrant and fun theme
- Family friendly
- Special Task can make third round impossible with non-sturdy table
- Could be frustrating for young children
Meeple Circus is an immersive and fun filler game. It has become a family favorite to play when we just have a few minutes to play. I love that is easy enough to be considered a gateway game, but it also has enough variety to keep the attention of seasoned gamers. The strong theme helps bring this game beyond just another stacking game into something very special, and also creates a feeling that it is a family friendly game. After all, who doesn’t love the circus? While older children will definitely enjoy Meeple Circus, I could see this being a very frustrating game for a young child who has not developed their fine motor skills yet. If I were to play with a younger child, I would probably expand the time they have to stack.
Despite having such a simple premise, Meeple Circus still manages to challenge me even after fifteen play throughs. Each game brings out a new challenge with the objective cards. One thing I have noticed though is that in the last round, where you are playing can have a huge impact on the difficulty. We have played this at two different places. The first place we have played was at my mother’s house on a table that is older, and less sturdy. If you even so much as bump the table with your elbow everyone’s creation is going down. This being said, in the third round jumping up and clapping is a fool’s errand. You will knock everything over 100% of the time, so it makes it unlikely that I would even try to do so. However, at my house, my table is built like a tank. No movement transfers, so jumping up and clapping is just disorienting and is something that while difficult, is not game breaking. This may be a little nitpicking, but it can really make an unfair advantage during the final round.
Despite that quirk, I absolutely love Meeple Circus. I suggest it for anyone who is looking for a quick and fun filler game. It is a great way to implement some laughs and a challenge before hopping into a longer main event game.