I am not allowed to play Bohnanza. It was 2009, we were on vacation at the Polish sea with friends, and I epically won Bohnanza. In the evening, when we get back to the room, my wife Merry, with a solemn tone, said to me: ‘I forbid you to play this game ever again. You embarrass our family.’
Since then, over the past 12 years, I have played Bohnanza twice. Secretly, so Merry doesn’t know. I am petrified of her anger.
She forbids me from playing this game and many other games where you need to talk a lot and negotiate because, in these games, I somehow turn into a crazy salesman that yells, outtalks everyone at the table, begs and threatens other players, throws money, grabs cards from people’s hands… I cannot explain it. Something is happening with me. I lose control. It’s pure madness. It is really embarrassing.
My wife Merry didn’t playtest Dreadful Circus. If she did, though, she would be proud of me. Over the years, I grew as a player. I don’t yell. I don’t grab other player’s cards. And I still win. Because instead of yelling, I think. In Dreadful Circus, there are so many layers to discover and then take advantage of. Let me explain.
In Dreadful Circus, in each round, two players put one of the cards from their hand on auction. The rest of the players can make an offer for these cards. If a player wins the bid, they add the card to their tableau. These cards modify final scoring. It’s super simple – see what cards are offered, pick the one you prefer, and make an offer.
And then there are these beautiful layers and levels of thinking the player who sells the card discovers. Should I take a better offer? Or should I be satisfied with the smaller bid but be sure that the offered card won’t end up at John’s table? Should I sell this card to Martha because this card has no synergy with her other cards, so basically, I will get money, and she gets nothing?
Nice. But what about we take one step backward. Before you choose offers… You look at your hand. You see what cards you may offer for sale. Do you go with the card that Robert would loooove to have, and you expect to earn good money? Are you going with the card that would help Mathiew? He is in a terrible position, and with this card, he could come back into the game. Will he pay a lot for it?
Nice, huh? But what about we take one more step backward. The setup is done. You have 7 cards in hand. You will put one of them in your play area now. It will tease a bit of your strategy for this game. You will sell four of these cards to other players during the game. These will help them score points. You will play the sixth card in your tableau at the end of the game. And you will discard the 7th card. No one will get it.
You smile? You see yourself building the strategy when you get the cards. And then in each round, you are adjusting strategy, and you put differently than the planned card on auction. You see how players’ tables are growing, what they need, and what you have in your hand.
Dreadful Circus is a brilliant set collection game with the perfect mix of planning, negotiating, and outsmarting opponents. Bruno Faidutti did something exceptional here.
And most importantly, Merry allows me to play it!