Thursday, November 1, 2012

Boardgame Review: Carnival

I might have an addiction to boardgames. Little wooden pieces in little cardboard boxes.. they just call to me. So when something as adorable and whimsical as this sits on a shelf in a little game booth at a big convention, I just can't help myself.

Carnival is a beautiful game where you attempt to construct 4 of your 5 carnival rides before anyone else. To do this, you try to gather and play all four parts of at least four of your rides on your Midway, hoping that other players don't steal those parts for their own rides. Of course, your opponents don't know if they'll even be able to steal from you on their turn, as that decision depends on a dice roll. 

This is the mechanic that makes the game a bit more random, and fun, in my opinion. The two actions you can take on your turn are determined by a roll of the game's three dice. A player picks two of the dice's actions to play. They can potentially be able to steal from your Midway, steal from your hand, take the top card off the discard, or just draw a card. 

Though.. the other game changer in this gem of a duel is the Tickets. Each player starts with 3 ticket which can be used to change the value of the dice, or block any opponent's actions! Granted, the rarity of tickets might make a player hesitant to spend them blocking actions, but more can always be earned when a user completes one of their rides without the use of Wild Cards, which are powerful cards that can be discarded to draw cards, instead of rolling dice.

As you might be able to tell, Carnival has a different mechanic when it comes to what actions a player may chose to do on their turn. It makes even the most advanced gamer pause and really debate what's best to do on their turn. Roll the die or sacrifice a Wild in hopes of something better? It's a whiff of fresh air in a game world obsessed with deck building and resource allocation (Don't get me wrong, I love deck building and resource allocation games, but sometimes a girl needs something new!) It adds a chaotic chance to your action selection, with just a hint of an illusion of control to make you keep waiting to play again and again.

I've played several times now with just 2 players and I keep wanting to play it again and again. 3 player game worked just as well, excited to try out a four player match. We've had games run 20 minutes to 40, and there are ways to shorten the duration if desired. This is a great between-games game, for those game nights that run into the wee mornings.

In addition to the game's mechanics, the art is simple and gorgeous! The cards are durable and slick, the dice are wooden! The pieces and parts are all beautiful in their own right, but combine for a fun new take on a direct-competitive card game. The box alone makes me want to pick it up and play something, anything, with the contents inside. It really is an elegantly designed game.

Bottom Line? tl;dr?

Carnival is solid, little box, big hit game for 2-4 players that plays in about 30 minutes. Direct competitive strategy with a semi-random action selection mechanic makes this a refreshing change from your usual favorites. Good for kids 11+, adults sober to not. Must have for the game collectors stash.

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