THE NEXT RIDE GOES BACKWARDS
HOW TO SET UP AN AMUSEMENT PARK
When I learned that the topic of Michael Schacht’s new game would be the very famous amusement park „Coney Island“ I pulled all strings that I could to be assigned to the review as I seem to be predestined for this review as I am a declared fan of amusement parks.
The beautiful design of the components absolutely creates a bit amusement park flair - albeit only when you have very sharp eyesight because the detailed drawings are unfortunately only tiny ones on rather small tiles - and thus piles on the pressure to get the first game going.
Showmen enter the stage
They do so literally. Because in Coney Island the aim of the game is not to have fun on the many rides and attraction, on the contrary, because at the start of the game we are confronted with a virgin board of the park and only in the course of the game showmen are appearing on the board, who later in the game must give way to bigger attractions like Roller Coaster, Scooter, Wild Water Slides or Swing boats. When all is said and done we face a pure setting-up game.
Players are embodying several families of Fairground Exhibitors, which at the start of the game are dwelling in their caravans on a personal deposit board before you can use them in the action phase representing balloon vendors or fakirs. But at the very start there is a bit of income, because in order to construct an attractive amusement park you need quite a lot of money. A bit of money is given out at the start of the round; the actual amount can be gleaned from the spots on caravans which are currently free. The more showmen you have out in the Fairground, the higher your income will be.
But aim of the game is not to be the richest player but to make the biggest noise, to cause a stir, because this earns you Attraction Points, which will earn us victory at the end of the game. In the income phase players therefore not only receive money, but also a certain amount of Attraction Points as well as the equally important Building Material Cubes, without which you can’t do much, because besides money the construction of attractions, of course, needs some building materials.
All good things come in threes
At the heart of each round in the game is the action phase, in which you can resolve up to three Main Actions (we will come back later to the up to five possible Minor Actions). Courtesy of the publisher these actions - together with nearly everything else that has any relevance to the game - is printed on the showmen boards and harmonically integrated into the overall impression. You can see that someone has taken pains over this.
If you have the money for it you take a Building Site tile from the stack and place it on the park board. Only on those building lots attractions can be set up later. Expansive tiles already yield a bonus when placing them, which might be Attraction Points, randomly drawn Building Materials (they come in red or white) or the permission to resolve one action twice in this round.
Action number two finally gets our Showman tiles into play, of course only when you hand in the respective Building Materials, and, at least, the third action can get you lots of Attraction Points, because this action introduces the Grand Attractions, which can cover up to four Building Sites. Setting Grand Attractions up, accordingly, can cost up to five Building Materials. If you take into account that it is not allowed to hoard money or Building Materials and that you can never own more than five of them, this is a horrendous cost!
But, as a reward, they yield quite a lot of Attractions Points. But you may only set up those Grand Attractions in a location where there Showmen tiles are already placed - all showmen involved earn a share of the Attraction Points for their owners, too. Then those tiles covered by the Grand Attraction go back to their caravan on the player board - resulting in the disadvantage of lower income in the next round.
As if all this would not offer enough possibilities to acquire Building Materials and the coveted victory … sorry: Attraction Points, you can accrue favors from some illustrious personages, of course only when discreetly offering two bundles of money - it might be a Promoter, a Patron or a Migrant Worker, and yes, you can even acquire the favor of the Police. And those favors are well needed, because as the Building Materials are drawn randomly in the income phase and because someone like me always has the bad luck to draw the wrong kind of materials for the building I planned out of the bag, it is nice to alleviate the results of such misfortune with the help of those Minor Actions, which let you swap Building Materials, acquire additional Building Materials for money or for discarding Attraction Points or let you do an action twice. And do not underestimate the Journalist, who hands out newspaper tiles, which each generates up to three additional Attraction Points at the end of the game.
But those favors are only at our disposal for the time we own the corresponding character tiles. And this time can be cut short quickly, because when another player puts two bundles of money on the table, each of the characters, symbolizing those Minor Actions mentioned earlier in this review, unceremoniously goes directly to the opponent’s display.
All this is harmoniously put together and as soon as you have a clear overview over the different possibilities you can juggle the action options wonderfully (to stay with the showman vocabulary). The absolute and failsafe winning strategy does not exist, simply because the color of Building Materials you draw usually is absolutely random-governed and because you always are in each other’s way on the par board and because the actions of your fellow players are quite unpredictable. At some point or other in the game it might even be necessary to cooperate, because the construction of some of the Grand Attractions demands the presence of several of the Showman families. To plan and build in solitary splendor is therefore ruled out from the start.
Where is all the flair?
When then - after considerably more than an hour - one of the Showmen has accumulated at least 60 Attraction Points or when the stack of newspaper tiles has been emptied or when all Building Site tiles have been placed or when only one kind of Grand Attraction projects is left - yes, there are four different conditions for ending the game, and only one of those four needs to be implemented, so keep your eyes peeled for all of them - an ambiguous feeling remains.
The mechanics work, as we are used to in games by Michael Schacht, harmoniously together, are perfectly balanced and work very well. But all in all the game gives off a somewhat brainy feeling. Too tiny are the tiles, to abstract the optimization task as that the Fairground flair I hoped for at the start could materialize. I could as well have been constructing a city or a garden in India. In the end, the topic is totally interchangeable. And that is a pity, because what Schacht produced with Coney Island has its allure all the same.
As a declared fan of Amusement Parks for me the resume is that in future I will try to get some information before I am overwhelmed by the topic and enter into the game with too high expectations. Maybe I will simply get into the car and go to a real Amusement Park, which would have the big advantage of not having first to set it up laboriously.
Designer: Michael Schacht
Art: Dennis Lohausen
Price: ca. 30 Euro
Publisher: Argentum Verlag 2011
Genre: Tactical setting-up game
Users: For families
Rules: de en fr nl
In-game text: no
Nicely composed mix of mechanisms
Rather abstract, with little real flair
White Goblin Games, Netherlands
My rating: 4
A perfect construct from mechanisms, a typical Schacht game in which the colorful topic, despite the painstaking details, comes across as forced.
Chance (pink): 1
Tactic (turquoise): 3
Strategy (blue): 2
Creativity (dark blue): 0
Knowledge (yellow): 0
Memory (orange): 0
Communication (red): 1
Interaction (brown): 2
Dexterity (green): 0
Action (dark green): 0