Artistes, animals, attractions


Dreadful Circus


Come nearer, ladies and gentlemen! Be amazed! Only in our ring you can experience the wonders of this world. Enter the magic realm of Circus Monteclaire. Only with us you can compete with the powerful Katya or hold you breath when Jia Li, the wire-walk wonder from Nanjing, dances in dazzling heights above your heads. Enter and leave those other clowns behind!


In Dreadful Circus players enter the wonderful world of clowns and artistes. But they are, however, in Tom Burton’s way - beautiful and terrible at the same time. Each ringmaster leads one of eight macabre circuses, which move across the world and present their own attractions. At the same time, you try to outsmart the other ringmasters and grab the best exposition pieces from under their noses.


The game starts by each player drawing eight cards. Those cards can be attractions - that are cards that are placed in the ring later and score points - or performances - which are action cards. Cards could also be drafted so that you can assemble your personal deck. Those cards, however, will only land in your ring by a marginal chance, because you place only one card into your ring from from your hand and another one at the end of the game.


The remaining cards are offered to the other ringmasters in turn for an auction. Here, a very nice mechanism comes into play. To make sure that nobody knows what others have bid you place your bid in a box and place the box next to the card you want to acquire. The auctioneer selects one of the boxes, checks the offer and decides to accept or reject it. When the offer is rejected the bidding player gets all money back and another box is checked. It can happen that none of the offers is selected and that the card is discarded. When an offer is accepted, card and offer change hands.


Attractions acquired in this way are placed into your own ring. Those cards or often cards that give you points at the end of the game, where few one - like “Eingelegten Dinge” – give you advantages during the auction rounds. Performances are always enacted immediately and represent another option to interact with your fellow players. “Giftige Francesca”, for instance, enables you to steal a card from another ring.


Offers can, besides money, also include contracts for one of five locations. At the end of the game, those also yield points, which means that even players with a very small ring have chances to win, because each car scores between 2 and 13 points, with an average of rather three to four points, while each contract also gives two to four points and each coin one to five points, too.


For illustrations and presentation, Dreadful Circus uses a rather macabre surreal black-color technique which suits the topic very well. Components are cardboard only, the „caravans“ that you assemble before the first game are very beautifully made and functional. An important quality feature is also met as the box is exactly the necessary size to store all components.


Dreadful Circus scores with an excellent auction system which also needs, besides a certain amount of bluffing, also a marvelous talent for negotiations. If makes for some frustration if you reject the first offer which turns out to have been the best and is only followed by junk offers. Do you swallow your pride and take the weaker offer to score at least a few points, or do you recect all and lose the opportunity to score some scant points.


The second unusual feature of Dreadful Circus is that you can only play with four to eight players, which is astonishingly daring for a game of that complexity, because four players are often the available maximum in rounds of experts. On the other hand, it is nice to find a game that can accommodate a large group.


A small negative feature could be that in a game of seven and eight players you only auction three cards. All in all, however, Dreadful Circus can be wholeheartedly recommended, also for large game-affine rounds of friends.


Players: 4-8

Age: 14+

Time: 30-45

Designer: Bruno Faidutti

Artist: Rafał Szyma

Publisher: Portal Games / Pegasus Spiele 2021


Genre: Auction, set collecting, bet, bluff

Users: For experts

Special: Many players

Version: de

Rules: de en pl

In-game text: yes


My rating: 6


Chance (pink): 1

Tactic (turquoise): 3

Strategy (blue): 2

Creativity (dark blue): 0

Knowledge (yellow): 0

Memory (orange): 1

Communication (red): 2

Interaction (brown): 3

Dexterity (green): 0

Action (dark green): 0