Who doesn’t want to run away with the Circus?

I can trace my obsession with releases from Essen directly back to this game.  Had my first importing been a disaster, I doubt I would have continued trying to get my hands on these releases before they hit state side.  This is a review that’s been a long time coming, and I wanted to ensure that it hit before the 2nd printing Kickstarter games shipped out and it started showing up at your FLGS.   If you’re unfamiliar with Artipia games, hopefully this will encourage you to look into their releases as they have a really strong catalog, great looking games and a few that will be released soon.   (I can’t be the only one super excited about Archon).

 

Overview:

You’re a traveling circus owner in the 1900′s, moving across europe, setting up shoes and working your hardest to impress the crowd.  When you set up your camp, you’ll need to focus on building your circus by hiring new performers and fulfilling their needs to prepare them to give an all start performance.  You’ll hire local personnel and invest in your circus in order to become the most successful circus owner.  After only 3 shows, the person with the most points will be the winner.

 

Game Setup:

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I want to start out by mentioning that this the first edition of the game, so some components may have slightly changed within the next printing, as well as there were numerous kickstarter rewards that have been added to the game.  (I was able to just order the kickstarter bonuses, instead of re-buying the entire game.  Thanks Artipia.)

You’ll place the board in the center of the table and place the two brown markers on the main board, one on the preparation track and one on the first show spots.

 

Shuffle the personnel, performer and the investment decks and place them next to the play area.  You’ll place the performer cover card on top of the performer deck, this blocks you from seeing the performer card on the top of the deck.  Each time you would deal a performer from the deck, you’ll actual deal it from the bottom of the deck.

You’ll then take the performer deck and deal cards out equal to the number of players plus one face up below the personnel cards.

When new performers are dealt, if three of them are the same type, you’ll discard the last one revealed and deal a new one.

Each player will receive a player board in the color of their choice.

The score and ticket cubes of their chosen color, and you’ll place one cube on the 0 of the scoring track and the other on the starting ticket in the tickets area.  (I’ll explain this more later)

They’ll take 3 action markers of their own color.

One random region tile which they’ll place on their player board.

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Each player is dealt two performers from the bottom of the performer deck.  These are kept secret from the other players.  All players will then choose one of their performers that they want to keep and at the same time they will pass the other performer to their player on their left.  After that the performers are revealed and placed below their player board.

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(examples of performers…some may be from the expansion available on BGG)

Each player then chooses two resources and places them in their storage area on their player board.  It can be any two resources that you want.

Each player receives 15 dollars, then they must subtract the hiring cost of the two performers that they have in their circus.

The player who most recently visited a circus becomes the first player, or choose randomly.

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Game Play Overview:

During the game, players will give 3 shows.  Each show players will have 5-7 turns of prep to get their circus ready for their performance.

Preparation turns consist of two phases.  (Though I’ll list the rest of the phases of the game here, only two are part of the preparation phase)

Action Phase:

During the Action hase players use their three actions to acquire resources, invest, sell tickets, hire personnel and performers for their circus.

The actions that are available to take with your action marker:

Rehearsal: This will allow the player to take a white cube.  This space on the board may only be taken once each turn and by only one player.

Equipment: This will allow the player to take a yellow cube.  This space can only be performed once each turn and only by one player.

Promotion: This will allow the player to take a green cube.  This action can only be performed once each turn and only by one player.

Costume: This will allow the player to take a blue cube.  This action can only be performed once each turn and only by one player.

Supplies: This will allow the player to take a red cube.  This action can only be performed once each turn and only by one player.

Sell tickets: If you place your marker here, you’ll receive coins.  They’ll move their ticket cube one slow ahead in the ticket area and get the corresponding amount.  Once the last ticket slot is reached, the player can not perform this action until the next show.  After each show, all ticket cubes return to the starting position.  This action can only be performed twice each turn by each player.

Invest: Player pays 1 coin and takes the top card from the investment deck.  Each player has a hand limit of 2 cards which can be increased by 1 for each magician in that players circus.  This action can only be performed twice each turn by each player.

Hire Performer: The player may hire 1 performer for their hiring cost (minus any discount tokens they may have).  The performer is then placed in that players circus below their player board.  This action can only be performed once each turn by each player.

Hire Personnel: The player may hire 1 personnel member for their hiring cost (minus any discount tokens they may have).  The hired personnel is then place in that players circus on the left of the player board.  This action can only be performed once each turn by each player.

Pass: A player may choose not to perform any number of actions, they receive 1 dollar for each action they do not perform.

So now that all players have placed their action markers what happens? There’s action resolution.  Once all players have chosen their actions, each player removed their action marker and performs the chosen action in the following order.

Cube actions, Sell tickets, Invest, Hire Performer, Hire Personnel.

Once all actions have been resolved, each personnel member that was not hired receives a discount token, which will make them cheaper the next round.  (Which also creates very sad performers).

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Distribution Phase:

This is the phase where players can equip their performers with resources for the show.

All players will simultaneously move 2 of their resources from the cube storage area on to their performers.  Once a cube is moved to their performer, it can not be moved and reamins there for the rest of the game.  Unless the performer gets fired or are flipped for their victory points.  When this happens all resources are returned back to the supply.

Turn End Phase: 

You’ll replenish the number of available personnel and performer cards.

Move the turn marker one step ahead on the preparation track.  Move the starting player tile to the next player on the left.

Start a new turn.

Voting Phase:

After you’ve played 5 rounds, the players vote if they want to start their show or delay it in order to have a 6th or 7th preparation round.  Players will take one action marker into their hand and secretly choose to keep it in their hand or not.  Choosing to keep it in their hand means that the player wants to delay the show for another preparation round.   If the Majority votes for a delay, there’s another preparation round played.  If there is a 7th preparation round all players who voted for a delay on the show will lose one victory point!

Show Phase:

In player order, or couples in 4 player games, players will give a show and receive benefits.  Each player can choose the order their performers will appear in the show, and get the benefits in the order they need them.

Each performer gives a show based on the cubes the player has moved onto the cards.  This will result in different times of performances.

Poor Performance: The player receives the benefit shown below the poor performance cube area.

Good Performance: The player receives the benefit shown below the good performance cube area.

Outstanding Performance: The player here has 2 options.  The first is to do the same as above and receive the benefits shown below the outstanding performance cube space.  The second option is to (once per game per performer) is to flip the performer and immediately score the victory points the performer is offering.

No performance: If you choose to not play any cubes onto a performer during the distribution phase, the performer is fired! The card is removed from your circus and the player must pay the performers hiring cost as compensation and lose a victory point.  (now you know why there are sad clowns).

Salary Phase:

After each show, the player must pay out salaries.  They must pay each member in their circus based on the cost displayed on each card.  For every coin a player can’t pay, they lose a victory point, and yes you can go below 0 victory points!

Show End Phase: 

After all shows have been performed and salaries are paid, all performer cards and personell member cards in the hiring area are discarded and new cards are dealt for both.  The prep track will go back to the first position and the show marker will move to the next show.  Each player will pass their region tile to the player on their left.  Each player will return their ticket cube to the first spot.  And you re-begin a new preparation round.

 

Game End:

After the end of the 3rd show, the game ends.  There are end-game victory points awarded.

 

Thoughts:

Drum Roll is one of the few games that our game group played multiple times in the same night.  When it first arrived and I dove into the rule book, I knew it was worth everything that I had just paid, and trust me, getting it as early as I did, I paid a lot.

Drum Roll has an immersive theme, with strong illustrations that help bring you into the setting of the game.  Sure there are those that will say it’s just another cube pusher, but if you’re playing and thinking about what those cubes represent, which performers need what to prep for the show, etc it’s a much more enjoyable game.  If you’re one of those players that breaks every game down to simple math and resource collecting, a theme like Drum Roll will be completely lost on you.

As you play, you’re trying to think ahead, which resources do you need the most to have your performers give an outstanding performance? Is it more important to grab that resource before your rival? Do you need to try to get that new performer more than the resource? It offers may different decisions that you will have to make to really maximize your turns and performances.

The fact that each region you perform in will give you a different bonus for the performers that you have, you need to start thinking in advance for the next performance as well.  Do you take a performer that someone else may need for the performance at the end of this preparation phase or do you take it to prepare for the next show?

It falls into the Medium weight gaming, at least in my opinion.  It’s got just a bit to much to consider it a light game.  Though by no means is it difficult to learn or teach.  I know after reading the game play overview, you may feel as theres a lot to learn, but the rounds go fast and because it’s a language independent game, it’s very easy to pick up on the symbols.

If you’re a euro gamer who loves theme to your game, I think Drum Roll is a perfect decision for you.  It has excellent components, great card quality and excellent art.  This was the first in a line of great games to be released by Artipia games.  If you missed the kickstarter campaign for the second printing, get a hold of your local game store and have them pre-order this for you.

Now for the fun part… for an undisclosed amount of time. Anyone who likes and comments on this review will be eligible to win a copy of the Drum Roll RingMaster expansion from the BGG shop.  I ordered an extra copy and it’s been sitting waiting for this review to happen.  I will take all names, throw them in a hat and like a rabbit pull one out and send the expansion to you! (sadly I have to limit this to United States participants only)

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