3 Ring Circus from Devir games distributed by Kosmos Games, is a game in which you are a travelling circus company who is moving around north west US. Putting on performances to a range of different sized towns.
You'll have two choices on your turn, either engage an artist (add a card to your display) or put on a performance. When adding cards to your display, you'll have a mixture of performers (money cards) and specialised performers (referred to as tickets). However, as you build your circus troupe, you get a discount based on other cards already within that ring of your circus. E.g. want to add a 10 and already played a 6, you'll need to pay 4. Now, I want to add a 5, it's free! As you build your 3 rings, and slid cards over symbols or place a card in the right most available space you'll get one time bonus. Teaching this mechanism is a bit of a chore, as it feels weird to explain "oh you already hired this expensive acrobat so now everyone else will work for free in that ring" and I definitely struggled!
What about performances?
You'll be picking from small, medium or large cities. Small cities just give you money. Whilst medium cities are all about the pedastals you have in your circus, with a bonus if you have a particular type of performer, this is in addition to collecting money from your player board. Large cities are where the big points are, you'll need a set of 3 performers in a certain order for maximum points. Whilst if you just have the one main performer required you'll only score 6 points and the first person to put on a performance in a large city will score extra.
Don't forget area scoring too! As the Barnum Caravan (effectively game tracker) moves around the board, and reaches large cities you'll complete an area majority scoring for that region of the board, with whoever has the most tents in that region being victorious. Although we definitely forgot multiple times to move the Barnum Caravan!
There's a fair bit of game here crammed into 60-90 minutes and needless to say I was a bit hyped for this. Loving Castell, having another circus themed game was massively appealing! But and there's a big but, the theme particularly the performance requirements could literally be anything, it becomes a numbers and colours rather than perfomers. And its that numbers game that detracts so much from this. I'm actually came away disappointed. I do however, like that certain cities want to see certain performers, it makes sense, but falls apart quickly as you assemble your troupe into orders based on these numerical requirements.
However, the production is stunning and the tents are amazing production value and probably my favourite piece of board game stuff this year. But they don't feel able to mask over the number machine that this really is. Although, there are bits here I love, thematically as you build a larger circus troupe your travelling circus can travel less as your perfomers cover over icons on your board. I also enjoyed the area scoring, as the Barnum Caravan moves around, and adds a sense of urgency to the game, but it definitely felt like the later rounds were over so quickly. There's also the sense that when you visit a smaller city, if a nearby smaller city has already seen a circus they won't come and visit yours. Makes sense. And the rulebook refers to cities and towns interchangeabley, I've referred to them as cities throughout, but they may actually be towns!
As you know I rate games on a:
- Buy or play
- Wait for sale or play if you like game XYZ
For me this is a wait for sale, I feel like this isn't a terrible game by any stretch and I completely understand that historically the game is accurate but there are various comments across Boardgamegeek regarding the theme. But fundamentally I feel like this theme could be chopped and replaced with say food orders and I'd feel very similar, mechanically there's a solid engine here. But thematically it just falls down into a game of math and numbers. The tableau building reminded me somewhat of Wingspan (in the sense of the board) but also Luna Capital. I've seen comparisons to Revive and I don't see that. For me, I think I was hoping for another Castell, or another circus themed game to go into my collection. 3 Ring Circus isn't that, its an enjoyable game, but it's just missing something to hook me and I think that's excitement!
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy, however, thoughts remain my own and I was not paid for this content.