Carnival is a 2-4 player title from Dice Hate Me Games. It’s a smaller boxed card game with dice some mechanics as well. Players take the role of carnival managers trying to be the first to build five classic rides in order to open their carnival first.
80 Part Cards – Each ride has four parts, each part comes in five colors. There are also some Wild Cards that act as any part or let you discard cards in hand.
20 Midway Base Cards – These represent the five rides you’re trying to build. Bumper Cars, carousel, ferris wheel, roller coaster, swings.
3 Dice – You roll these on a turn to see what actions you’re able to take (Collectors Edition Dice pictured).
1 Tableau – This is a visual guide to let you know what actions are available for you to use with your dice.
12 Tickets – These let you bend the rules of the game. A ticket will let you re-roll all dice, add or subtract one pip (value of 1) to a single die, or block one dice roll action for an opponent.
You also get fold able instructions and four reference cards.
Since drawing a discarded card is an action you can take, you must always have at least one card in the discard pile (if not place the top card of deck in discard pile). If you have more than six cards in your hand you must discard down to six before you take your turn. You begin most turns by rolling all three dice and using two of them to perform actions.
A wild card can be used instead if you want to get rid of cards in hand.
- Roll dice or Use Wild Card.
- Build your rides by playing as many cards as you like (to begin a ride you must use at least two parts).
- Check for completed rides.
- Make sure you have at least three cards in hand.
First player to complete four out of the five rides is the winner.
I really enjoy games where you use dice to take actions. One of my favorite 2-player games of all time is Roma. Not because it’s particularly deep but because it’s a lot fun. In Carnival you use dice rolls to take actions, just like in Roma, but there is also a set collection mechanic similar to games like Monopoly Deal, which is another title I enjoy. Setting up carnival is a breeze and that’s one of the reasons it comes out so often when I want a quick gaming fix. I personally prefer it with two; it seems a touch long with four.
Luck based games are always polarizing in the board game community and Carnival will no doubt have the luck haters wrangling their torches and pitchforks. In defense I would say that the ticket mechanic mitigates the luck to an extent. For the most part the player that best utilizes all three main mechanics (dice, tickets, wild cards) will be victorious. But I suspect there will be those who just can’t stand the idea of someone taking their stuff.
Carnival is a great looking game. The box looks fantastic and the cards are top quality textured linen. The parts are hard to read from a distance but they get the job done. The only real disappointment I have with the components is that the included wooden dice are a bit of an eyesore compared to the brilliant sheen the rest of the game has. If you have a ton of extra dice lying around you can just replace them but it would have been nice to have better quality dice included with the game.
Carnival is a game where cards are stolen from players on almost every turn so you have to be okay with that level of interaction in order to enjoy it. I don’t know how your game group is but mine is loud and competitive. It’s all in good fun though. We trash talk, threaten retaliation and basically have a great time playing games. Carnival is great for my group because it lets you take out your aggression in a fun way; by rolling dice and messing with other players.