Roll up! Roll up! For a review of the dexterity board game Meeple Circus! This was my game of the month in September 2021 and I’m still enjoying it! So I thought it was about time I penned my review.
I’m not clowning around here, this is going to be an in tents review. I’m not even sorry for the bad puns, after all, what are you going to do? Sack me? It didn’t end well when the cannonball acrobat got fired! He sued for Funfair Dismissal. So with that introduction finished let’s get on with the show… I mean review…
Allocate each player an oval circus ring and a scoring marker of the matching colour. Also give them a yellow and a blue acrobat.
Position the scoreboard in the middle of the board. Above this, have one of each colour objective cards. Place the ‘Rehearsal’ indicator below the scoreboard. Deal out six square tiles to the right of this. Then place shaped cards marked with round one to the left, these should be equal to the number of players plus one.
Place all components nearby. Also place the 2 and 1 point tokens, within easy reach for all players. Scan the QR code to load the Meeple Circus soundtrack and you are ready to start playing.
Meeple Circus plays over three rounds and the player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner. Each round players will draft one square and one shaped card taking the additional components that are displayed on the card. Therefore, every round more components are available for your circus spectacle.
Points are awarded for having blue meeples on the floor, yellow meeples off the floor and the height of a red meeple if you have one. Players will also earn points for completing the shared objectives by recreating exactly the requirement on the cards. Finally in the first two rounds the first and second player to finish get extra points. You denote finishing by saying “Ta da!” and taking the relevant token.
Every round has a time limit which is handily the length of all the music on the Meeple Circus soundtrack.
The first round is like a warm up. The second round is the dress rehearsal where a special act comes into play. This could be anything from a ringmaster to a seal but will be selected from choosing one of the shaped cards. These offer additional scoring opportunities.
The final round is the main performance. The shaped cards in this round challenge players to carry out a task. Instead of everyone playing at the same time, every player will have the spotlight put on them. Players will still be using the same scoring opportunities too, but these will be coupled by making the sounds of the animals as you play them, or honking your nose every time you place an acrobat, or something equally silly.
What it’s like
The first two rounds are a nice warm up and a good way of setting yourself up for each round. Choosing components wisely is key. To that end, the drafting can feel unfair at the start of the game. However, the player in last place can discard a common objective at the start of each round. The player in last place also drafts first in the next round, so there is a catch up mechanic to address this slightly.
The rounds are fast and a little frantic. Especially if your tower unexpectedly tumbles to the ground. We don’t have a word akin to schadenfreude in the English language, but you’ll either experience this or sorrow when another player’s creation is flattened accidently. There will be moments where you are scared to breath it is poised so finely.
The ‘all play’ first two rounds means that there is little downtime when playing.
I can imagine people could be put off by the thought of the challenges in the final round. So I never mention them when luring people into playing the game! The final challenge ramps up the silly for the finale in a good but not humiliating way. There is a variety of them too and so even the more timid at the table won’t feel awkward. There really are challenges for everyone.
Children can absolutely be included and my boys have been competitive in this game for a few years. We are a little more lenient with moments of disaster and will often extend the time a little for them in that instance. They are often thwarted by their own excitement!
Meeple Circus is really cool. The components are nice quality and colourful. It all has a good look on the table. By necessity acts strive for height, and while they can be astonishing, they are generally a bit spindly. That said the marvel of this is still often very impressive.
The rulebook is fine, it was a bit tricky to learn in a busy board game café but I don’t think that was the rulebooks fault!. Mind you, there isn’t a lot to this one! I also like the variety of music on the timer so it doesn’t become too much on repeat. This audible timer is also so much better than a visual one, like an egg timer as you can focus on yours or other people’s creation instead of the stopwatch.
There are some stickers to put on some of the meeples, this was a little stressful as they weren’t perfectly aligned.
While the insert is good and practical there is a little bit of unnecessary air inside the box. My only other real gripe is the scoreboard which because it snakes upwards often addles my brain into subtracting points instead of adding them on. I’m not sure why it feels so counterintuitive but it does.
If you’re left wanting more, there are a couple of expansions available, one of them I own which comes with some more cards, components and a minor rule tweak. It also comes withadditional stickers that bling up some more of the components too. I’m thinking I might add the other expansion before it gets too scarce.
What the kids thought
Max (8): I like all the artwork and how you have to stack things up. Some of the challenges are hard to do too. The different animals and meeples are cool. Overall it’s a brilliant game.
George (12): I like the different meeples and the music is fun. Like Max, I like the different challenges. It’s a funny game!
Harrison (15): I think it’s really good for certain occasions. I like watching everyone in the last round as it can be quite funny, especially if it goes wrong!
Final thoughts on Meeple Circus
Meeple Circus is one of my favourite dexterity games. Stacking games like Tokyo Highway or Rhino Hero can be quite punishing when things come crashing down, often ending the game. In this game though, as long as you have a little bit of time you can generally construct something and make some sort of show rise from the ashes.
I think many people could be put off by this game. Whether it be theme or the fact it is dexterous. It was certainly a tough sell to my wife, who vetoed the purchase of it originally, swiftly changing her mind after our first play at Draughts board game café in Waterloo. If you give it a try, I think your evening will be filled with smiles, and possibly a little swearing too! I should add that my wife now loves it as well!
Number of players: 2 to 5
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 7+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 8+
Playing Time: 40minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 2 minutes
Designers: Cédric Millet
As Meeple Circus plays up to five it is a perfect family game for us. Equally I am happy to play it with gaming and non-gaming friends, tipsy or sober. For those reasons alone it is fantastic to have it sitting on the Kallax. Add to that it is a whole heap of dexterous fun and it is a winner!
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Silly stacking fun
- Expansions available
- Fun for family and friends
- Plays up to five
- Increasingly hard to find
- Final round challenges may put some off
- The air in the box
- Watching your creations occasionally crumble
Need more games?
If you already own Meeple Circus and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Men at Work
- Tiny Acrobats
- Rhino Hero
- Tokyo Highway
For clarity: we don’t get paid for our reviews. I also paid my own money for this game and liked it so much I bought the expansion. I have tried not to let this affect our review in any way.