Reiner Knizia’s Amazing Flea Circus – Big fun under the Big Top
I ordered this game from an online retailer (that advertises here on the Geek) for the express purpose of playing it with my four-year old daughter after seeing it listed on several Geeklists recommending games to play with kids.
Considering how this game was supposed to contain soft rubber dogs and cats, I was not expecting such a small container.
Game components -
I opened the box and sure enough – there were a host of rubber dogs and cats:
20 White rubber Cats
20 Blue rubber Dogs (Cartoon-like Bulldogs)
and a package of 55 cards.
I have no other game that is packed with such economy, and yet there is room to spare.
Each player is a ‘Ringmaster’ of a flea circus. The fleas will be performing various acts and they intend to draw spectators in the form of ‘Dogs and Cats’. (Get it? It’s a Flea Circus and the Fleas are looking to draw a crowd of Dogs and Cats! Knizia is a genius!)
Game Play -
This is basically a card game. The points scored are represented by the blue dogs (two points each) and the white cats (one point each).
The dogs and cats are the lure that will hook your average 4 year old. While the game is recommended for players age 6-years and older, the game is most definitely teachable to a four year old child. The various cards and their associated actions/point values are not too complicated yet offer enough variety to make for an interesting game.
Tallying up points in the end is a fun exercise for a four year old – each dog counts twice and each cat counts once.
Rules – a (very) brief overview:
Each player will manage a hand of five cards. The object is to either draw spectators (dogs and cats) from the pool in the middle of the table, or to STEAL spectators from other Ringmaster. The players proceed in a clockwise order and play one card (or multiple cards if playing ‘clown’ cards). The card played is placed face up in front of the player and is his ‘current attraction’. As the rounds continue the players will place new cards on top of the current attraction cards – thereby there is only one card showing in front of each player. Depending on the card played in combination with the other player’s cards/current attraction two things will determined: 1- how many points are scored; and 2 - where the points will come from. (I.e. Are you gaining new spectators from the pile in the middle, or are you stealing a competitors spectators? Finally, after playing the card(s) the player replenishes their hands to five cards.
-Various “attraction” cards worth 2,3, and 4 points.
-Free Ticket cards(steal 2 points from another player)
-Flea Acrobats (cumulative points scored based on ‘SHOW’ stacks.)
-Clowns (a player can play as many ‘clown’ cards as they hold for one point each)
-Animal Catcher (a penalty for all other players followed by a reshuffling of the deck)
(refer to the game rules for a complete explanation of the cards and scoring)
The game ends when there are no more dogs and cats in the pool of spectators.
Small children tend to get bored with card games fairly quickly, but the rubber cats and dogs included with this game seem to keep their attention. A four year old child can easily master the concept of the game in it’s entirety – this includes all of the cards, and the prospect of stealing spectators from competing ringmasters.
The only part they have trouble with is the point system. For a four year old the following math problem presents an almost insurmountable challenge: A dog is worth two points and a cat is worth one point. How many animals should you take if you scored three points? A four year old child has extreme difficulty figuring this out; AND THAT IS PRECISELY WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY THIS WITH YOUR FOUR YEAR OLD CHILD; they will slowly develop some math skills.
While there is certainly some strategy that might get overlooked by a child, this is a fairly light game for adults. I’ve found that it I a good game to play with a mixed age of children – ages 4 and older.
I highly recommend this game. The rules are fairly brief, the game is highly portable, the cats and dogs put a simple card game over the top.
(Real Men Play Board Games with Children)