The Magnificent: Circus Performances and Lessons to Learn
Coordinate tasks behind-the-scenes to host an exciting circus act with the greatest performances in The Magnificent.
Over the years, solo games have continued to expand with tons of new releases each year! The great games often stand out, but even some of them seem to get lost in time. The Magnificent was one I expected to see a lot more about, yet only managed to find a dinged up copy hidden in a dark corner… At last, I had a chance to explore this intriguing title!
Through choices of building, traveling, and performing, a circus starts to take shape. Polyominoes fill in spaces to meet the requirements of various performers, while dice values power actions and trigger abilities. With just 12 total turns, it’s all about optimizing the greatest circus!
November 11, 2023
November 12, 2023
32" x 22"
I was immediately struck by the strong color scheme that mixed a lot of dark colors with bright gem colors, almost making them look neon against the backdrop!
To be fair, this is almost entirely an optimization puzzle without much of a theme. Travel involves moving around circular tracks and picking up bonuses… Mostly gems.
However, I wasn’t looking for a strong theme when I picked this up! The combination of mechanics was neat.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the rulebook… Just a few pages with plenty of examples. Not an easy feat nowadays!
Get Your Popcorn!
The circus is definitely a place for popcorn, and it was no surprise that the popcorn tricycle showed up to drive right on through the main area. Some performance. Ha ha!
I was certainly in need of some personality, though, as the theme melted away while I finished the rulebook.
That’s not necessarily terrible, yet the goal to reach a certain number of victory points is probably going to be the deciding factor in how long this one sticks around.
No worries for the popcorn tricycle nor the crew, though. I can’t part with anything related to Calico Critters!
As soon as I started to play, I could see how this was going to be an interesting puzzle of making the best decisions.
My first round of play saw a fair number of building and travel options… No performances yet! I really enjoyed the dice placement options and how abilities kicked in.
The end round scoring was also quite clever, removing a single ability card in order to score its unique condition.
Everything moved smoothly, although I definitely felt no connection to the theme. Not terrible, yet it felt like a bit of a missed opportunity for a little more enjoyment.
Such adorable wooden top hats! They made sense along the performance track, while little wagons marked the steps along the travel rings… A literal three ring circus!
The rulebook was kind in offering a threshold for a good victory, followed by some higher scoring tiers. I was far, far away from even being in the same orbit. Ha ha!
Still, I enjoyed the smooth puzzle here. Nothing was too complex, yet high scores require seeing the whole picture.
Will this make it beyond the classification of a good game? That’s certainly something interesting to think about…
Good vs. Great: What Am I Looking For in Games?
It’s true that this hobby is enormous and often overwhelming with many new games coming out all the time. That can be a lot of fun, though! Lately, I’ve been looking at my collection and how I have a nice amount of good games, but certainly try to spend a lot of my time discovering and playing great or excellent games. Yet… Is that the ultimate goal?
For instance, am I looking for every game to possibly move into my top 20 solo games of all-time? Actually, no. I try to find the fun in each game, although that’s very vague. Thinking on it some more, I’m looking to learn something from each game. That may be figuring out mechanics I like or dislike, or even appreciating some design decisions.
Time is a limiting factor for many of us. Would I love to spend my hobby time exclusively on solo games that are only great or excellent? Sure. But it’s never a guarantee that a new game will be amazing, and even some older favorites fade away over the years. I still can learn something from each one, though, and that’s always a good thing!
Most likely, this one isn’t going to stick around forever. Yet even if it doesn’t turn out to be one of my favorite games, this is a wonderful example of a game where combining familiar mechanics creates an intriguing puzzle. Even without a theme, it shines as a strong game design with moving parts that work well. Not always an easy thing to accomplish!
Filling in the Spaces
There wasn’t much to the polyominoes beyond filling in large areas and ensuring I had the required tiles to use my posters for performances. Interesting, but still pretty dry.
I had thought this would feel a lot more like building up a circus and designing the flow of tents and attractions… Nope! Much simpler than that, which wasn’t a bad thing.
At the end, I had a chance to place my leftover gems to fill in some final spaces and earn more victory points.
Definitely nowhere close to even winning, though! But I learned a lot and could see how everything connected.
It was pretty neat to see everything converge to put together some fantastic performances. With the tent bonuses and the right tiles in place, magic happened!
I didn’t get the right feel for the best timing, although with just 12 total turns, performances are likely only going to account for around 3-4 turns per play. Challenging!
There was one moment when I had to reverse everything due to poor planning and the tents not being placed… Ha!
Working to hit that victory threshold should be a fun reason to come back to this one at least a few more times!
Play Number: 1-4
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Outcome: 158, 162, 172, 157 (4 Losses)
Definite progress started to happen, but then I got a little risky with using some very powerful dice. Lost a few victory points, and used up all of my coins without a clear strategy. Still, I was surprised at how different each play felt! Even without the theme coming through, I was very intent on continuing to play in order to improve my score. Just need to work on this one like a magic trick… One day, it will work! Or we’ll all have a good laugh at the fizzle. Ha!
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- There is a very intricate puzzle to optimize against with just 12 actions, yet it never feels overly complex.
- All of the rules fit on a handful of pages with clear visual examples that explain everything needed to play.
- Deciding which dice to use is an interesting choice that takes a lot of elements into consideration, including cost.
- Filling in spaces with the polyominoes adds another layer to the overall puzzle in a way that feels connected.
- Only a handful of the cards are used with each play, allowing for a lot of variety and interesting combinations.
- Not much is needed to manage the solo mode, which works very well and plays pretty quickly for the depth.
– Cons (Negatives)
- Although it seems like there would be a robust theme, it quickly disappears and becomes a very mechanical game.
- The dark color scheme makes some components pop like neon, yet the overall table presence is somewhat bland.
- With the ultimate goal of reaching a victory point threshold, this likely isn’t a game that will stick around forever.
- Some of the iconography isn’t very intuitive, and requires looking up explanations throughout the rulebook.
Score 200+ Points
- Overall Goal Progress 50% 50%
Goals and Milestones
Score at least 170 points.
Score at least 180 points.
Continue the Conversation
What do you like about The Magnificent? Have you reached a personal best score? It’s pretty clear I have a bit of learning left to do to reach the bare minimum of 200 victory points! Although I don’t expect this one to be the best game in my collection, I’m learning a lot from it and having a lot of fun. Definitely a great experience I’ll enjoy!