Ride the tide of financial fortune with traveling circus performers in this abstract game for up to four players from designer Reiner Knizia.
|Spectaculum||RnR Games||Board Game|
In The Box
There’s a well-defined circus theme built around the game that makes it more inviting for younger players, even though there’s plenty of deep strategy. The cards are illustrated with kooky characters like the dizzy dancing bear and the fearful flea tamer, each in sets of four colors, with the cowmel emerging as the hands-down favorite around our table. Character cards appear multiple times during the game across colors, but you’ll learn that smart sponsorship takes more than character into consideration.
The fold-out game board is a beauty, compact but illustrated with a series of landing spots for each of the four traveling circuses and scoring ladders for each color. Cardboard markers are randomly scattered across the board to represent events in villages during the game that affect the financial outlook for performers, and round wooden markers show the travel path for each of the four circus groups. The set includes a cloth bag that doubles as storage for small pieces and for drawing those wooden travel markers.
How It Plays
Translating the circus theme to the game as it’s played can take a minute to explain, but the best way to learn is to simply jump in. Circus performers are represented by cards that are sorted by color, shuffled, and placed next to the home base for their respective circus. Each circus starts with the same value, represented by a wooden marker on the scoring ladder. A key concept is that players don’t own any one of the four colors, but can sponsor individual performers by paying current value to draft cards from the draw pile for that circus.
Spectaculum isn’t a pure strategy game in the way that each circus moves around the region, as gamers randomly draw travel markers on each turn. Paths have to be connected, but markers can be placed strategically on village tiles that improve the value of one circus color or penalize players who have sponsored performers of that color. The winning player is the one with the most money when the board fills up, based on the standing value for performers of each color, and any accumulated money. It’s a hugely successful economic game that ends up being very accessible for all but the youngest players while containing enough depth to satisfy just about any gaming group.
The modest math skills required and the colorful theme will make this a staple game around the family table. The challenge of balancing sponsorship across the four colors creates the addictive strategy elements in the game.
Spectaculum is one of those ‘buy low, sell high’ games. You need to try and make the best out of each move since you don’t know which color you’ll draw.