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Circus Train 2nd Edition

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Tom Decker
1 or more
Play Time:
120+ minutes

Gold Banner product

Named one of the Top 100 Solitaire Board Games of 2015 by Box of Delights!

Named one of the Best 3 Games with Set Collection by The Player's Aid!

Circus Train Second Edition, by designer Tom Decker, is a one- to five-player game in which you are the owner and operator of a small circus train in prohibition-era America. In this game, you and your opponents are vying to employ the best talent while putting on the most magnificent show each month. While touring the country by train, you will have the opportunity to perform while adding talent to your show through hiring the performers stranded in cities by defunct circuses. Just remember to keep an eye on your wages, because your talent definitely will.

Through clever card hand management, you control the movement of your train around the American northeast, making strategic business decisions about talent, performances, and payroll in this fast-paced strategy game. Each turn represents one week of real time, and after six months, the circus season closes for the year and the game ends with one player declared as having The Greatest Show on Earth.

Inspired by Sara Gruen's novel, Water for Elephants, Circus Train Second Edition includes thematic elements such as improving your show's reputation by picking up alcohol for your talent and staff (legally, in Canada), the high costs of supplying big cats and elephants, and the ability to "red light" (firing by throwing off the train) disgruntled talent or talent that has simply become too expensive to maintain. These elements are blended into the game's mechanics, keeping it all simple while adding layers of depth and strategy.

What's In The Box?:

• One 20-page, full-color Rulebook
• One 22" x 17" cardstock game map (two 11" x 17" sheets)
• 100 cards
• 254 thick, two-sided, multi-shaped game pieces
• One six-sided die
• One 22" x 17" mounted, jigsaw-cut game map (two 11" x 17" sheets)
• One bright red, 9" x 11 7/8" Deluxe cardboard VPG game box
• One beautiful box cover sleeve
• One "Wipes-A-Lot" napkin
• One charcoal desiccant packet


Game Design: Tom Decker
Development: Josh Neiman
Additional Development/Support: Chris Taylor
Art: Vinh Ha
Graphic Design: Barry Pike III
Playtesting: Paul Aceto, Ian & Natalie Barrett, James Campanella, Douglas Catchpole, Hayden Decker, Vince DeNardo, David Ells, Mike Galandiuk, Joshua Gottesman, Nathan Hansen, Joe Heaney, Timothy Hing, Matt King, Roger Mason, Russell Martin, Joe Miranda, Neil Morgan, Stephanie Newland, Carl Paradis, Steve Pozun, Joe Saul-Sehy, Blaise & Taria Sciurba, Ken Stojevich
Proofreading: Simon King, Ian Wakeham

Special thanks to Gregory Blanchett for helping me tirelessly with HexDraw, and Stephen Oliver for his inspirational counters and awesome map!


Circus Train 2nd Edition by Tim (The Player's Aid)
Overall, I am extremely happy with Circus Train. ... The mechanisms really bring out the theme and you can tell that there was a ton of thought that went into the design of the game. Everything from the components to the scoring make so much sense. ... The mechanisms are simple enough to understand yet provide lots of decision making and strategy. ... It will be staying in my collection for the foreseeable future!
Top 100 Solitaire Games of 2015 by Ricky Royal (Box of Delights)
The artwork is wonderful, and it’ll have you humming a circus tune as you navigate your train from town to town picking up new acts and finding the best place to put on a show. ... Highlights are the way the game seeds the board, keeping the game ticking along at a nice pace.
Getting to know Circus Train by Jocelyn Robitaille (BoardGameGeek)
If you’re drawn to the circus theme, if you’re a fan of pick-up and delivery games and are looking for a set of slightly different choices to toy around with, or if you’re excited by the DIY-vibe of Circus Train, then it’s well worth looking into this game that clashes – in a refreshing way – with how games are marketed today.
Circus Train 2nd Edition by Fortress: Ameritrash
One possible critique is that the feeling of weight and depth is partly illusory. ... But the scoring mechanic, which feeds in drips and drabs from a variety of sources, does its best to level things out and, one or two screwy games aside, mostly succeeds. However that maddeningly slow infusion of precious points does also mean that the victor can become predictable...

But here’s the thing. I saw that situation arise a couple of times when playing Circus Train and both times everyone round the table remarked on it, and both times precisely no-one cared. Everyone was too busy humming big-top music, settling their most pressing vendettas and grudges from earlier in the game, and just trying their hardest to put on the greatest show on earth. No-one cared how it ended because they were just too busy having a grand old time.

In many respects, it’s harder to praise a game more than that. ... With solo rules that’ll really teach you how badly the game punishes economic mismanagement, and an advanced variant that adds a little more strategy and a lot more flavour, it's streets ahead of many more professionally produced games, and a definite keeper.
Why the Hell Shouldn't I Run Away with the Circus? by Roger's Reviews (BoardGameGeek)
Circus Train is a truly brilliant game that will likely not get as much exposure as it should because of it being a VPG product. I'm delighted that this game is part of their catalog of games because I love what they do, but I also can't help but feel that if this game were made by one of the big publishing houses that we'd be hearing talk about when this game would be breaking into the top 100. Yes, it's that good. 
Circus Train 2nd Edition by Boardgames in Blighty
I really did like this game. It just had a great feel about it. I like economic VIP race games but this is a little more subtle. The trick is to stay just ahead in best performance to get the VIPs but not to neglect other routes to gaining VIPs, from performers or on the game board.

I like the little thematic touches; you start the game in Canada, for example, because historically the circuses would stock up on alcohol before coming into the USA. Most of the information you need is on the board but not in your face; it blends into the artwork and adds to the whole feel of the game. The game is tight and well balanced, requiring you to play strategically but having to respond tactically as the board changes around you. The game is set in the Depression and sometimes you feel it; you just can’t get the performers, [and] if you do, you don’t have the money to pay them so they run off, and if you play with the event cards then it just gets worse. Very enjoyable. (8.5/10)
Circus Train 2nd Edition by Mitch Freedman (The Boardgaming Way)
The wonder of Circus Train is that there are so many paths to win, and so many ways to do things – good and bad – that every ride down the tracks is a different adventure, and every game gives a different reason to argue whether luck is a big factor or not.

It's not a typical war game by any means, but it's a fine break from the routine, and well worth playing a lot more than once or twice. (5/5)
You Must Not Allow a Clown Gap by Tom Chick (Quarter to Three)
Circus Train has it where it counts. In the designer’s notes, Tom Decker references a gladiator boardgame as his inspiration, but I’ve never played anything quite like Circus Train. Certainly not in terms of the theming. But also not in terms of a game about players configuring their playing piece to adapt to a sometimes brutally random and increasingly frenzied demand on a tactically significant map. 

With plenty of fantastic theming to complement the design smarts, this is a boardgame I heartily recommend. (4/5)