Spectaculum is a game designed by Reiner Knizia, published by R & R Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be managing 4 traveling circuses as they try to gain as much gold as possible. Players will hire and fire entertainers as they try to make the crowds happy. The player that can best manage their finances will be declared the winner.
To begin, the game board is placed in the center of the play area. All of the village tiles are shuffled together and then randomly placed face up on the village spaces on the board. The entertainer cards are separated into 4 different colored stacks. Each one is then shuffled and placed face up beside the matching colored path in the corners of the game board. A colored cube of the same color is placed on the corresponding prestige path on the number 5 space. Players are each given 1 entertainer card of each color, which is placed face up in front of them. The coins are separated into separate piles by amount. Each player is then given 20 ducats in game currency. All of the colored travel markers are placed in the bag and shaken up really well. Each player then draws 3 markers from the bag which they must keep concealed from the other players. Play can now begin.
On a player’s turn, they will place their 3 travel markers on the table in front of them. From this point, they will place those 3 markers on the game board either before or after performing up to 2 entertainer actions. Those actions can also be separated, performing 1 action before and 1 after the 3 markers are placed. The 3 markers must be placed at the same time and can not be separated like the entertainer actions can be.
There are 2 types of entertainer actions; sponsoring a new entertainer and releasing an entertainer from your sponsorship. To sponsor an entertainer, a player will take an entertainer of their choice from one of the colored entertainer decks and place it in front of them with the other entertainers of that color. The player must then pay the amount indicated by the corresponding colored prestige path. The other action available is to release an entertainer. To do this the player will choose one of the entertainers face up in front of them and place it back on the corresponding colored deck. They will then be given the corresponding amount of money as indicated by the colored prestige path.
Placing a travel marker on the board moves the circus of that color to a new location. Those markers can only be placed on a space that has no other travel markers on it and that is adjacent to tierh the headquarters of the same color or to another travel marker of the same color. Travel markers can be placed on village tiles as well. Each of these village tiles can affect the circus either positively or negatively. There are 9 different event tiles. The parson’s smile, helping hand and legendary performance tiles all give from 1 to 3 bonus points to reputation. This is shown by moving the marking piece of that particular color up the correct amount of spaces on the prestige path. The royal court gives a whopping +5 to the prestige of the circus. On the negative side, the thief, botched performance and delay events take away from 3 to 1 points in reputation. This is shown by moving the marking piece backwards the correct amount of spaces on the prestige path. There are even two special tiles; pay day and illness. The pay day tile gives each player 2 ducats for every performer they have that matches the color of the travel marker. The illness tile is the opposite of that. For every colored performer that matches the color of the travel marker, the player must pay 2 ducats to the bank.
The game ends at the end of a player’s turn when only one red bordered village tile remains without a travel marker on it and the royal court has a travel marker on it. The game can also end if there are no more travel markers to be drawn from the bag. Players will then be paid the corresponding amounts for any entertainers they still have as indicated by the prestige paths. Players then add up their money and the person with the most ducats wins.
This game is composed of some really nice looking pieces. The board looks like a medieval kingdom with some really nice details on the different circus tents and the royal court. It’s not overly fancy but it really comes through with the theming. The travel markers and prestige markers are all brightly colored wood. They are very sturdy and nice. I kind of feel like something else should have been used that was a little more in line with the theme, but I don’t know what I would have recommended, circus trains maybe. In any case, they get the job done and are easy to determine where the different circuses are headed. The village tiles and ducats are all made of thick cardboard. The coins i really like. The different colored denominations makes it really easy to determine which coin is which. The village tiles are a little bit lack luster though and really feel like they have no theme to them at all. I would have much preferred tiles with different icons on them for the different events. Add in a small player reference aid to show what icons mean what and you’re good to go. The numbers make it feel like the economic game that it is instead of adding to the theme. The entertainer cards are really beautiful with lots of great pictures of the different entertainers. There are also 4 overview cards for help with understanding the game. The final piece is a cloth bag to hold all the travel markers. It’s really good quality and is large enough to get your hand deep down in there. In a way, I like the components but I also feel like there could have been a more thematic way of approaching some of the pieces.
8 out of 10
The rulebook for this game isn’t very big, only consisting of 4 pages. The rules are in color. There are some nice pictures of the different components as well as how to set up the game. There are even examples of gameplay. Everything is well written and easy to read as well as understand. There is even a variant included to change things up a bit. All in all, the rules are very straight forward and simple.
9 out of 10
The game itself is at heart a very economic game. Through the game you will basically be buying and selling entertainers. Of course you want to buy low and sell high. The different tiles and routes that are made will change things up and make some colors more profitable than others. The theme seems a bit pasted on as the different entertainers don’t matter, only the color of the card does. Still if you try hard enough to imagine it, you can make the game feel somewhat thematic. Maybe if you play a little circus music in the background. I know that probably sound a bit negative, but I actually like the game. It was really fun but it could have easily been Wall Street companies instead of Circuses. I have to say though, that I’m more fond of the circus theme as opposed to a Wall Street theme. To me if there was some variation on the value of certain performer cards as opposed to just the color, it might have made it a little better. Likewise, the village tiles really pull me out of the theme with those huge plus and minus numbers on them. Like I said, negative sounding I know, but don’t let that dissuade you from the game. It’s a very neat and tight economic game regardless. Do I like the theme, yes. Does it work on this game, no. Do I like the game anyway, yes.
8 out of 10
Spectaculum is a light economic game disguised as a game about traveling circuses. It’s not a very long game to play, with most games lasting no more than 30 minutes. The artwork is really nice on the cards as well as the board. I would have preferred better village tiles though without the large numbers on them. The game is simple and easy to learn. I think that fans of economic games will enjoy this. The theme is nice but really feels pasted on. Even with the few minor flaws, the game is really fun and still very much a good game. I would recommend this game. It’s a great intro into economic games and is light and fun.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out R & R Games at their site.