Publisher: Matagot/Surfin’ Meepe
Designer: Cédric Millet
Duration: 45 mins.
Come one, come all! The circus is coming to town, and you have gathered your acrobats together to help put on a show! You have a couple of rehearsals to get ready for the final performance of the night, and you better get it right because you’re not the only group practicing. You’ll have limited time to get it all working for you. And you better put on a good show, because the more applause you get, the better you will do!
Meeple Circus is a competitive dexterity game (like Animal upon Animal), but it also has a real-time element (similar to Now Boarding). The goal of the game is to draft some pieces and then place them in positions to score points… some are harder than others but the reward is often great! Guest stars will show up to give you a helping hand as you practice as well! Will you lead your acrobats to glory, or will your act be a complete flop?
What’s in the box?
Inside the box there is one score track (aka the clap-o-meter), 3 scoring tiles, a small ruler board to measure height, 32 public demand cards, 5 score tokens (1 in each player colour), 5 circus rings (1 per player), 32 acrobats , 10 guest star maples, 9 barrel tokens, 7 beam tokens, 6 balloon tokens, 6 horses, 4 elephants, 2 speed tokens, a 1st player token, 18 component tiles and 38 circus act tiles (6 for the 1st act, 10 for the 2nd and 22 for the 3rd).
Matagot always has high production values, and Meeple Circus is no exception. Lots of great wooden components, vibrant artwork and bright colours are all part of the experience. What really stands out here are the guest stars, some of which are unique meeples that I haven’t seen in any game before. The only thing I don’t like is how you have to apply stickers to the meeples but it’s common in a lot of games. The cardboard is nice and thick for a lot of tiles, but the circus rings and circus act tiles are of a much thinner cardboard. It’s not as nice as the thick cardboard, but they work fine and still of good quality. Overall, the components are solid as per usual, and the colours and art are just amazing.
So how do you play?
To begin the game, each player chooses a colour and takes the match circus ring and score token, as well as a blue and yellow acrobat. Set the game board on the table and place the score marker next to it. Separate the public demand cards by colour and shuffle them, and place them next to the game board in their slots and reveal the top of each pile. Shuffle the component tiles and draw 6 of them next to the board. Sort the circus act tiles based on their act, and draw 1 per player plus one extra. Set aside the speed bonus tokens and the ruler, and set all the other components aside. The last player to have see a circus gets the first player token and the show begins!
In each act, before you perform you will take one component tile and one act tile. Starting with the first player, on your turn you will take a component tile or an act tile, and then the next player will do the same, and then each player will take another turn taking the other tile you didn’t take (so each turn you will take one of each). After, you will take the components depicted on the tiles and now we are going to do what we came here for: put on a show!
Make sure your components are outside the circus ring, and don’t touch them: you are not allowed to set them up before the show starts. Matagot has actually provided music and a timer for the game available 2 ways: you can visit their website (https://www.matagot.com/meeplecircus/) and play the music from there, or download an app they created just for the game. When everyone is ready, the starting player will hit play on the music, and the players will start assembling their act. There are a couple of rules:
- All components must be inside the circus ring.
- Aside from beams and barrels, components cannot be placed on their side
- Components on the ground must carry at least one other component
If components do not follow the rules, they will not be scored during evaluation. When you finish your act, you must spread your arms and say “Tadaaa!” (it’s the rules). The first and second player to finish before the music is done collects the 2 and the 1 speed token respectively. If the music ends, the player(s) who did not finish must stop immediately.
So how do we score points? You will score points bases on 3 things in the first round:
- Score points for each of the public objective you have achieved. Grey meeples on the objectives always mean any colour meeples of that shape, including normal guest stars.
- Score points for your acrobats: blue acrobats on the ground score 1 point, yellow acrobats not touching the ground score 1 point, and red acrobats will be judged by their height: take the ruler, and whatever the highest zone the maples touch, thats the points you receive.
- Score points for your speed bonus tokens (if applicable). The player who finished 1st gets 2 points, and the player who finished 2nd gets one point .
After you score points, the players keep a their components, and the player lowest on the scoring track becomes the 1st player. They then choose one of the public objective cards and discard it, revealing the next card. Then we draw 6 new component tiles and 2nd act cards based on the number of players +1.
The 2nd round plays similarly to the 1st, with a few differences. When you draft the circus act tiles, you get the guest star depicted on the tile (but not the other components) and at the end of the round, you also get the points on the 2nd circus act tile if you place it how it’s stated on the tile
The 3rd act is a little different in that you use the 3rd act tiles, and all players will give their final performance one at a time, and special music will be used for some of the act tiles. No speed tokens will be used, and guest star scoring will be doubled. You will also score the points for your 3rd act challenge if you achieve it and they’re a little different because they will require you to act or say certain things. Add up your points, and the player with the most points wins!
The game comes with a mini expansion called Technical & Fun, which adds some extra 3rd act tiles which get more technical or more silly. It adds some variety, and keeps the game fresh.
Is it any good?
Dexterity games can be a hit or miss, as some people just aren’t good at them or there is no strategy involved at all. Some can also be over way too fast, and feel like a filler more than an actual game. Luckily, Meeple Circus finds a nice balance between a extremely simple game and some strategy, but wraps it up in a pretty and quite fun package.
The strongest part of this game is the presentation. That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t good to play, but everything just comes together so well. The colours, the art, the theme… everything is well done and it just makes the gameplay come alive, compared to some abstract game. Also, the website/app is really well done. I’m not usually a fan of apps in games, but this one just enhances the gameplay so much that it makes it come alive.
The gameplay is also strong, the drafting to pick your tiles to get components is a great mechanic, and having to choose from the 2 sides and only one of each works great. The rules are extremely simple and there’s a guide every round to remind you how you score and what you add in. The public objectives are really great, and since theres always 4 out and they use different components, they help keep the game a little more balanced.
I also like how in the first 2 acts, everyone builds at the same time because it keeps the game flowing… but I the 3rd act is where the game really shines. The 3rd act tiles are a lot of fun, and you might as well just add in the expansion because it just adds variety and some really great tiles, and they’re a lot of fun to perform, especially in a bigger group. This game is a lot more fun with more people, but it also works really great with just 2 as well.
There aren’t much bad things to say. I really don’t like when you have to sticker games, especially for people without steady hands. One mistake and it can run it, and it just isn’t a fun part of unboxing. There is one issue: if you don’t have access to the app or website… it really hurts the game. It shines so much with the app, that without it it just feels kind of flat. The game works, but just loses some of its fun and some of the 3rd act cards just don’t work at all. So use the app/website, and you will have a great time.
Meeple Circus puts on a great show. It’s a fun game with a great presentation, and a solid app only makes it better. It plays quick and easy, and everyone has a great time from kids to new gamers. So grab the game, download the app and see who can make their meeples put on a better show!
- Gorgeous art and components that really makes the game stand out
- Public objectives are nice and helps keep the gameplay balanced
- Very simple rules and gameplay, perfect for families
- It really is a lot of fun, especially in the 3rd act
- The app/website is great, and really adds a nice dynamic to the game
- Placing stickers on components just isn’t fun
- If you don’t have the app or an internet connection… the game just isn’t as much fun without the timer and music