It's the fun of shoddy carnival rides without the danger of death or dismemberment! Carnival is a card game that is controlled by dice—which seems odd given this is published by Dice Hate Me Games... It pits players against each other as Carnies trying to build their carnivals before the other players finish theirs. Each player has 5 different attractions placed in front of them, which require 4 different elements to complete construction: Banners, Lights, Seats, and Materials. By completing 4 of the 5 attractions (Bumper Cars, Ferris Wheel, Roller Coaster, Carousel, and Flying Swings) you win!
Turn Sequence - At the beginning of your turn you roll 3d6 (that's gamer speak for three six-sided dice) and choose to use two of them; these dice are placed on a tableau and they give you a corresponding action that you can use at any time during your turn (steal a card from another player's midway, swap a card with another player, swap a midway card, etc.). Players can play any number of cards from their hand into their midway and complete their dice actions, and that is pretty much the turn.
There is a handy little twist though: Each player is given three Admit One tickets at the beginning of the game; they can play these tickets at any time and cancel a dice action that has just been declared. So you can tell your friend to get his grubby little paws off of your Ferris wheel lights! This also results in your opponent losing that action.
The cards, with the exception of wild cards, are all one of the elements needed to build your attractions. That is to say, there are no special ability cards in the game—that's what the dice are for. It works well. It keeps your hand balanced and not full of special cards that do you no good if you have nothing built—or even started—in your midway.
The Bottom Line - The game has a bit of an identity crisis in that it doesn't feel like it should be more than a filler game, but it took us a little too long to play than a filler (I'm guessing subsequent plays will speed things up, though). It's designed for 2-4 players and there are a few variants, such as playing with 4 players in a team-on-team scenario, instead of every man (or woman) for himself. I found it highly competitive as a 4-player game, and things got pretty cutthroat pretty quickly! (Yes, I'm saying that as a positive!) The game includes an expansion pack called "The Sideshow," which we haven't yet busted out, but when we do I'll post a quick review on it!
Free Stuff - Dice Hate Me Games included another little freebie in the game: a single card with the rules for a game they call "Lucky Dice." It's a completely random, up-to-the-roll-of-the-dice type game. Once you've "solved" it, you will go crazy because you never roll what you need to score the most possible points. They did, however, create a free iOS version that you can download right here! Give it a test drive and let us know what ya think!
All in all, you're not going to invest a ton of cash into the game, and if you're playing with the right folks it can get pretty competitive, so it's definitely worth a spin!
Have you played with the Sideshow expansion? What did you think?
Thanks for reading!