Theme Park was one of my favourite PC games when I was growing up. I loved building roller coasters and making grumpy customers happy again by building toilets and shops. The whole thing appealed to me. As a child that suffered from travel-sickness, I knew that real theme parks weren’t for me! Perhaps the digital interpretation gave me a vicarious enjoyment I secretly yearned.
So when I heard about Tenpenny Parks, the theme was an instant hit. I was one of the first to order it and was super excited! But no one else seemed to be… Where was the hype for this new game that looked spectacular? Had I bought a dud I wondered? Well, if you wanna find out, carry on reading!
Before your first play there is a big top to construct. This is undoubtedly fiddly, but at least once it is built, it stays built! Thereafter it is a case of turning the box upside down and letting the contents fall out! Unfold the board and place cards in the relevant places and ensure that the big top is in the correct starting orientation.
Make a stash of money, pile up rides by colour and stack up board expansions and concessions in the relevant number depending on player count. Give each player a board and decide whether to use the same side or the asymmetric side. Deal three end of game secret objectives to every player and get them to pick two to attempt. Also give them their player pieces in the colour of their choosing. Add their marker’s to the Thrill, Awe and Joy tracks and place the round marker on the first spot and you are ready to go. It’ll take a few minutes to set up and tear down each time, but nothing horrendous.
Tenpenny Parks is a worker placement game. You will be placing four workers per round, over five rounds. These workers will either be placed to buy an attraction, a concession, or additional land. Alternatively they can be used to get some dollars from the bank or fell some trees to make room on your board.
Visiting People, conveniently abbreviated to VP are the victory points in the game. The player with the most at the end of the game will be crowned victor.
Victory points are gained by building attractions and achieving the end goal bonuses. In addition, every round you will have the opportunity to advertise rides that you have built, this step should not be overlooked as this is a key way of notching up the VP! Building attractions or moving far enough up the enjoyment tracks will also grant VP.
Placing tiles on your board works differently to most polyomino puzzles in that they cannot touch each other. You will also need to avoid trees and maximise bonuses on your board.
Moving up the Thrill, Awe and Joy tracks is also important. You will move up these by building concessions and attractions. The player furthest up the track will get the option of a bonus for the next round, namely an extra worker, first player token, or $3 depending on the track. Claiming a bonus comes at a price, as you move your marker back a space on the track. Alternatively players can take one VP as a bonus instead, without penalty.
There is a solo mode included with Tenpenny Parks, but I haven’t tried it yet. I am keen to give it a whirl though and when I do, I will update this section to reflect it.
What it’s like
Tenpenny Parks is a super tight board game. Lots of options that are limited by other player’s choices and the relatively constrictive gameplay. There are so many things you would like to do, but so few workers to do them with. Some may find this restrictive gameplay too much, especially at three or four players.
However, I love how tight the game play is. Worrying what your opponents might snaffle is an exciting lottery that keeps you invested when your opponents are carrying out their moves too. This can easily be the difference of meeting an end-game objective or not.
In the immortal words of Mick Hucknall: ‘Money’s too tight to mention’. Cash is a limited resource in the game and the only way of securing more is missing out on new rides and other enticing options. You’ll always want to squirrel as much as possible away to advertise your rides too.
The tile placement is also really interesting and counter-intuitive in a good way. The shapes are so big that the boards quickly fill up. Careful planning can easily get trashed when someone beats you to the ride you want too.
The tracks are a great addition. Not only for the end game VP, but also for the valuable end of round bonuses. You want to progress down them and ideally be in the lead to reap those advantages. Being first player is a double-edge sword of a reward. The benefit of rotating the carousel is not to be underestimated, but choosing last, especially when you are working out which tracks to move down for the next end of round bonus can be really beneficial too.
All of this creates a thoroughly enjoyable quandary. What to focus on, what to spend and when. It all really makes the cogs whir. I don’t know another game where four moves with limited choice can burn the brain so much!
In terms of age rating I think 14+ suggests this is a heavier board game than it actually is. My 11 year old played competitively and there is nothing too complex to get to grips with. I reckon some would say it is 10+, but for many 12+ is probably more accurate.
‘Was this a Kickstarter?’ has been asked a couple of times when introducing it to people. That’s in reference to the absolute meaty production values of this straight-to-retail offering from Thunderworks games. The cardboard is irresistibly chunky throughout and oozes Kickstarter add-on quality straight out the box. We use the VP tokens to tot up our scores at the end and run out or low regularly. A few 10 VP tokens would’ve been welcome in the mix of punchboard components to aid this.
The rotating big-top was a little fiddly to construct. The effort is worth it, this is a component that turns heads as much as it revolves on the board. Star of the show however, is the stupendous art that adorns the cards by Vincent Dutrait. These exude an awesome retro poster vibe that I absolutely adore. The box art lets it down a bit for me as it doen’t quite fit with the stunning art inside the box. Some will be frustrated about the lack of an insert, but that doesn’t bother me.
So all the components are excellent. But, there is a but. I found I had a lack of tree meeples included in the box. This isn’t an omission, this is just mathematically incorrect. If you use most of the additional land tiles you will run out of trees. This really annoyed me, so I reached out to the designer, in case I had misinterpreted a rule or something. They proposed that you re-use chopped down trees. However, as two of the end goal objectives require keeping track of felled trees that wasn’t satisfactory. I also reached out to Thunderworks for a comment who said in all the playtesting they never run out of trees. Well I did in my first three player game, which was only the third time I played it. The publishers did point out that the exact number of lacking trees were available to purchase from their website.
At only $3 it was the answer to my issue, but it begs the question, if they are only that much to sell, why are they not included in a game with an RRP of £59.99! This isn’t a cheap production and nor was the $10 in postage I had to pay to get the tree components to UK shores! The wooden trees are lovely, but to supplement these even with punchboard tree tokens for the additional tiles would’ve been acceptable. I really just do not understand it! Does it put me off recommending the game however, absolutely not!
I’d also like to give a special shout out to the player aids, as this is one of the best ones I have seen in a while for helping to dictate the flow of play.
What the kids thought
George (11): ): I really like the artwork, it’s really cool. I enjoy the game but I wish I had more money!
Harrison (14): I think it has my favourite art of any game. I like how the carousel works and the tile placement, both are clever and make it interesting. Overall, I really enjoy the game.
Final thoughts on Tenpenny Parks
There is a lot to like about Tenpenny Parks. I love how streamlined the gameplay is, it offers up the same worker placement anxiety as something like Viticulture. You will weigh up and prioritise which of the few spaces you want, knowing the likelihood is, what you don’t choose could and probably will be taken away from you. If that sounds like it won’t frustrate you, Tenpenny Parks is an easy game to recommend.
There is a slight question mark over the replayabilty of Tenpenny Parks, I could see it becoming a bit repetitive if it wasn’t mixed in with plays of other games, but as it doesn’t take too long, it will always be welcome at my table.
This is a quality board game with fantastic table presence. That comes with an MSRP which is more expensive than some, but overall, it feels worth it. I’m certainly getting my cost per play down quite rapidly as it is hitting the table regularly. I am loving it and urge you to roll up, roll up and try it for yourself!
Number of players: 1 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 10+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 14+
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 5 minutes
Designers: Nate Linhart
Publisher: Thunderworks Games
Tenpenny Parks is a brilliant board game! It is a beautiful production with gameplay that rivals its visuals. This board game is tight, carefully edited and restrictive in a tantalising way. I also really like how it mixes up tile placement.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Fantastic artwork
- Nice twist on tile placement
- Plenty to think about, but quick to play
- Great components
- Sometimes it is tricky to have enough control to meet end game objectives
- May become repetitive
- Not enough trees
Need more games?
If you already own Tenpenny Parks and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Meeple Land
- Little Town
Buy Tenpenny Parks
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For clarity: we don’t get paid for our reviews. I purchased this game with my own money and then spent even more money on trees. We have tried not to let this affect our review in any way, but the lack of trees has been mentioned in my review because that did affect my opinion. Anyway, whatever, I’m not sure anyone reads this anyway!
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