Thursday, October 12, 2017

Circus Flohcati: not a gem but worth hanging onto

I must have bought Circus Flohcati at least ten years ago. Probably more. It was one of the games I like picked up relatively early after I really starting collecting. Fairly cheap and it was a Knizia.

I got the Rio Grande edition, with the cartoony artwork and saturated colors. It also came in a tiny box just big enough to hold the cards, which is why it has stayed in my collection.

Because I never got around to playing it. One of the top many poor victims of too many games, not enough time.

Fast forward to RinCon 2017. I got in a game of it with the edition that uses pictures that look like they were stolen from the Miss Peregrine books and faded colors that looked identical to my color-blind eyes.

And I’m now glad it has survived all those purges.

Circus Flohcati is a card game that’s all about pushing your luck and set collecting. It consists of ten suits that each have a distinct color and circus acts ranked 0-7 and nine action cards.

The core mechanic is simple. Flip over cards in a row. You can stop whenever you want and take a card but if you flip over a card that matches the suit/color of a card already in the row, you discard that card and your turn ends without you getting a card. You also don’t have to flip over any cards. If there are cards in the row, you can just take one.

Action cards let you take cards from opponents or let you flip over cards until you get a duplicate but you still get to take a card. You can also lay down three cards of the same rank as a trio. They are no longer in your hand but they will be worth ten points at the end of the game.

The game ends in two ways. If someone displays all ten suits/colors in their hand, they get ten bonus points and end the game. Otherwise, it ends when you draw the last card in the deck. In addition to any trios, you get the value of the highest ranked card of each suit you have in your hand. Most points wins.

There are a number of straight push your luck games in my collection. I’ve gotten tons of play out of Can’t Stop and I also have really enjoyed Cloud 9 and Incan Gold. As simple as Circus Flohcati is, and it is simple, it’s not as simple as those games.

What makes Circus Flohcati interesting is the hand management. Trying to make trios, working towards a good end game hand, all that adds an extra layer of decisions to the game.. We are still looking at a simple filler/children’s game but it does you a few choices beyond daring to flip another card.

Really, the trios are what make the game for me. They add value to the lower ranked cards and they mean you have another collecting goal beyond grabbing high cards. In a fifteen minute game, that extra  bit of decisions adds some oomph.

Don’t get me wrong. Circus Flohcati isn’t one of Knizia’s greats. It’s not even one of his great short games. But i has fun with it and I think it will prove worth hanging on to.

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