The aroma of popcorn, the trumpeting call of elephants in the distance. Nothing can quite compare to the youthful excitement that accompanies the circus.
I have long been enamored with the circus. It feels larger than life. It leaves me in awe! Those feelings coupled with my love for board games led to one obvious result: a game about the circus. Introducing 3 Ring Circus.
In 3 Ring Circus you get to build your very own circus. Your objective is to earn the title of “Greatest Show On Earth.” But with competing circuses, the only way to gain that title is to gather top notch entertainers and performers to gain popularity and fame.
I won’t bore you with the details of HOW to play, but rather I will hopefully peak your interest in WHY to play (if you haven’t already).
WHY to play 3 Ring Circus
The very first idea that I knew I wanted in this game was something that has become The Mime. My favorite aspect of ANY game is feeling clever. If a game gives me opportunities to feel clever, I know I’m having fun. So, I created the idea of a character, or a card, that allows you to copy the points of another player with the interesting caveat that you may even be able to score MORE points than they did. But if your deductive skills aren’t quite on point you may have essentially just wasted a turn and lost the chance to earn more points.
This feeling in the game is epitomized with The Mime, but is felt throughout as you try to analyze and outmaneauver each other. Each player has the same deck of character cards in hand (e.g. clown, animal trainer, acrobat). Each player also has the same performers (acts) to select from and add to their own circus. At the end of the game you can never say “I just didn’t see the card I needed.” You saw all the cards. You had the exact same options and opportunities as your neighbors. This really levels the playing field so each player has an equal chance, giving you the opportunity to feel what I mentioned I love so much: that glorious sense of feeling clever.
Behind the Scenes – Designing
Designing a game is difficult! It is soul crushing at times (maybe a bit dramatic, but there are a lot of ups and downs). Some days I feel like I’ve created the next Ticket to Ride…others I feel like I’ve wasted hours and hours of time. Very briefly let me share with you the history of 3 Ring Circus.
I spent a lot of cold winter mornings in the warm shower thinking of what I loved about games I played, and how to recreate those feelings. As mentioned, I knew I wanted a game that made you feel clever. I wrote down random ideas in a notebook. Finally I had created a semi coherent idea of what the game could look like. That included characters – a ringmaster, a mime, a clown…each with their own unique ability. It included different acts you could collect – elephants, acrobats, clown routines. Things really came to life when I converted these ideas to colored notecards.
I sat down and played the game a handful of times with my alter ego, who I call Steve. The first few attempts were pretty brief as I struggled to know how to even start the game. When do you draw cards? What exactly do you do on your turn? Usually there is a helpful little cheat sheet saying “on your turn do this.” But I was the creator…and I hadn’t made a cheat sheet, so I was lost. After a few attempts I found something that worked and had a few really good first playtests. The most difficult thing was trying to outmanauever my opponent Steve cause he and I thought EXACTLY the same (as a reminder, Steve is my alter ego). With the help of my best playtester (my amazing wife Amanda) I finally got some competition that let me actually try to use my deductive reasoning. And guess what? It was fun! I felt clever! I like it! I think you will too!
I would love for you to follow along in the journey of 3 Ring Circus. So far I’ve tested it with family, some great playtesters at ProtoCon in Salt Lake, and entered it into a few competitions and received great feedback from judges. There are definitely some big changes to be made, but I think there is something really solid with 3 Ring Circus! There are a handful of other projects in the works as well: a Hot Air Balloon Game, a game about snowboarding Yeti’s, a party game called Con Artist that gives you the opportunity to display your hidden connect-the-dot skills.
If you’d like to follow along, throw your name and email into the boxes below and I’ll send you regular updates on these games still in the works as well as my thoughts and reviews about already published board and cards games.