The circus is in town! Step right up and enjoy (drum roll please)…
Get it? Well, I thought it was funny.
Drum Roll is a game designed by Dimitris Drakopoulos and Konstantinos Kokknis, and will be released by Artipia Games at the Essen Spiel this coming October. It’s a game about running a successful circus playable by 2-4 players aged 12 and up, and takes around 90 minutes to play. I’ve been following the development of this one for a long time, mainly because I like the theme more than really knowing anything about how it plays. The basic objective is that you want to score the most points with your circus after three shows.
The game comes with one main board and four player boards. You get 91 cards: 15 personnel, 45 performer, 30 investment, and a performer cover. You get tokens: 40 1-coin, 12 5-coin, 30 discount, one round, and one show. You get tiles: 15 trailers, 5 regions, and one start player. You also get some wooden bits: 125 resource cubes (25 in each of five colors), 8 score and ticket cubes (2 in each player color), and 12 action marker discs (3 in each player color).
At the start of the game, personnel cards are dealt out face up (equal to the number of players), and performer cards are dealt out face up below them (equal to the number of players plus one, with no more than 2 of the same type of performer in the row). Players begin the game with a player board, three action markers, zero points, and a random region tile which will give you a goal for a points bonus. Each player gets dealt two performer cards, of which they will choose one and pass the other to the left. Your performers are then revealed, and you receive money – 15 coins minus the cost of your two performers. Each player chooses two resources.
There are three shows over the course of the game. Before each show, you’ll have around 5-7 turns of preparation turns. Each prep turn has an action phase and a distribution phase. In the action phase, players take turns placing their action markers on the board.
- Cube Actions: There are five cube actions, and each one gets you a different resource cube – rehearsal (white), equipment (yellow), promotion (green), costume (blue), and supplies (red). Only one player can do each of these one time per turn. In addition, only four of these actions can be taken during a turn with four players (three with three players, two with two players).
- Sell Tickets: You’ll get to advance your marker on the ticket track and collect coins based on where it lands (2-5). Once you’ve reached the last space, you can’t take this action again until the next show when the ticket track resets to zero. This action can only be performed twice per turn by all players.
- Invest: Pay 1 coin to take the top card from the investment deck. You have a hand limit of two cards, but it can be increased. This action can only be performed twice per player. These give you bonuses you can play at any time.
- Hire Performer: Pay the hiring cost to take one of the face up performer cards. You can only do this once per turn. Performers give you benefits based on the level of performance you can achieve (resource cubes affect this).
- Hire Personnel: Pay the hiring cost to take one of the face up personnel cards. You can only do this once per turn. Personnel assist you in various ways.
- Pass: Don’t do any of the actions, and take 1 coin for each action you did not perform.
Once all players have finished placing actions, resolve them. Perform all cube actions simultaneously, followed by Sell Tickets. When resolving the Invest action, the first player who took the action goes first. Hire Performer and Hire Personnel have the same priority. You can choose to not take your action, but if you didn’t pass, you don’t get the money. At the end of the phase, any personnel or performers that did not get hired receive a discount token, which effectively makes them one cheaper to hire.
In the distribution phase, each player simultaneously moves up to two resource cubes to their performers, where it will remain for the rest of the game (or until a performer is fired or flipped for points). You can place the cubes in any order, but all resources required by lower levels of performance must be present to gain higher levels of performance. At the end of a turn, performer and personnel cards are replenished, the turn marker advances, and the first player token passes to the left. After the fifth turn, players vote on whether or not they want to start the show or not. To vote against a show, put a marker in your hand. To vote for a show, leave it out. (This seems backwards to me, and may cause some confusion in the voting process.) Majority rules, and ties are broken by the start player. If the vote passes, a show begins. If it fails, do another turn and have another vote. If you vote for a delay in the sixth turn, you lose a point. If you make it to the seventh turn, the show will start after, so you don’t vote.
For a show, players receive benefits in player order. If they have a cube on the poor performance space (one star), they get that benefit – in the example to the right, that would be a red or a blue cube. For a good performance (two stars, cubes on the first two spaces), this performer would get you a single cube of any color. For an outstanding performance (three star, cubes on all spaces), you would get a cube of any color and a yellow cube. If you don’t have the right combination of cubes, you have no performance and the performer is immediately fired (discarded). Pay the hiring cost as compensation and lose a point.
After your show, you must pay the salary of your performers and personnel (shown in the upper right corner). For every coin you can’t pay, lose a point. After all players have gone, the show is over and you discard all remaining performer and personnel cards, replacing them with fresh cards from the decks. You also pass your region tile to the left, so you’ll be visiting a different place each turn.
The game ends after the third show. The player with the most performers receives 5 bonus points. A player with all five performer types (magicians, acrobats, jugglers, tamers, and bizarre performers) gets 3 bonus points. If all of your performers do three-star performances in the final show, you get five points. And if you have eight or more performers in your troupe, you get five points. The player with the most points wins.
This game is a combination of a lot of different mechanics – there’s worker placement, there’s set collection, there’s resource management, there’s voting, there’s even a tiny bit of card drafting. All of it is combined into a very fun looking game with a great theme and some pretty spectacular art. I think I would want to get this just so I could have a circus game on my shelf. It’s definitely an eye-catcher. It also looks pretty entertaining. As with all games with cards, I’d have to really get a chance to study what they do before knowing how it will all work together, but they seem to have found a unique way to deal out benefits with the three-tiered performance system. It’s definitely more of a Euro-style game, but there’s a pretty good theme here that appeals to me. I look forward to trying it out, and I’m already pretty sure that this is one I’d like to own myself someday. Despite a couple of issues I have initially (the seemingly backwards voting process, and I’m not a big fan of the board layout), it really looks like a solid game. Thanks for reading!