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Justin H

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Barker's Row is a card based game where you play a Barker trying to attract rubes to your sideshow. You do this by hiring new attractions and using their unique powers to bend the rules of the game.

Overview - You begin the game with a stand for your rubes and hand of three Attractions. Attractions are the stars of your show and each will have one of four suits. There is a central shared play area which contains Barker's Row and the Midway. Barker's Row consists of face down deck of cards numbered 1 through 3 in the 4 suits, plus a wild. Next to the deck you will have three face down individual cards that you can select from to play into the midway. The back of the cards will tell you what suit they are in, but you won't know what the value is until it's flipped. Each turn you play 1 card from Barker's Row into the Midway. Then, if there are enough cards that match a suit of an Attraction in your hand you can hire that Attraction. For example: you have a Horror attraction and your cost to play is set at 5 and there are 3 Horror cards worth 3, 1 and 1, you can play your attraction. These attractions go in front of you and have a unique power that can be used once, then they are retired. Each time you hire an Attraction you get two rubes added to your stands, draw a new attraction card, and you go up a level on the Strong Man Tower. The Strong Man Tower is a meter that tracks how much you have to spend out of the Midway to hire an Attraction. So each time you hire an Attraction the next one you hire will cost more. Certain cards will also allow you to get rubes without having to hire an Attraction. Whoever fills their stands first wins!

The Good - First thing that struck me about this game was the visual aspects. I love the stands being filled with rubes, for which there is a good variety of high quality printed meeples that you put on your stands. There is a good variety of attractions, and I like the art. They are all color coded to match their respective suits and provide a nice contrast of dark backgrounds and unique pictures.

Game play is the most important thing and I think that it's good fun. It's not a super weighty game and plays relatively fast. Luck plays a good factor in the game due to the randomness of the cards. You have to hope your suits show up, and hopefully your attractions have good abilities. I particularly like the aspect that you know what suits are coming up, but not what the values are going to be. This leads to some interesting strategy, as well as a risk/reward system. Maybe you can get that Freaks card with a value of 2 to play your attraction, but what if it's a 1? Then maybe your opponent will be able to play their Freak, if they have one that is. I also like the function of the Strong Man Tower. By having the escalating prices for hiring attractions it helps prevent one player from running away with the game.

The theme is supported through the great art, the stands full of rubes and the variety of attractions. Also, the Barker cards each have a descriptive adjective on them, so when you play your attraction you can read all the descriptions of the cards you used to pay for it in your best Barker voice. My group likes doing this, but it's not a necessary part of the game.

The Bad - My biggest complaint, which really doesn't actually detract from the game, is the wobbly Strong Man Tower. It's made from 2 pieces of chipboard that is held together by a clip that is inserted through the bottom piece. It stays up, but because everything is sitting on a clip it doesn't sit even. I've read that some people are putting stuff on the bottom board to increase the stability, so I guess there are home fixes for this. I get that the tower is there for thematic reasons, but it might have been better for just a tracker. Second small gripe is that not all Attractions are created equally. There's a good variety, which means that some are distinctly more powerful that others, which might leave some players sore if they didn't get any good ones. At least at the start you get dealt 5 and get to keep 3.

Overall I rate the game at 8/10. It's fun to play, and with a shorter play time you can mix it in easily with your game night. While the strategy will never get too deep it's nice to have a game that is easy to play and teach.
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Daniel Heidenreich

Palm Bay
Florida
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Have you found there is a first player advantage? The two times I have played first player won. I'm not saying there is one especially after two plays, but wanted to see if you had a similar outcome.
 
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Jonan Jello
United States
Newark
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♫ As the masters rot on walls ♫ And the angels eat their grapes ♫ I watched Picasso Visit The Planet Of The Apes ♫
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Barker's Row is beautiful in the art and colors department.
I was expecting larger rube meeples and, at the smaller size with my waning eyesight, can't appreciate the cool art as much as I'd like. Not a deal breaker for me, though.

jhochges wrote:
The Bad - My biggest complaint, which really doesn't actually detract from the game, is the wobbly Strong Man Tower. It's made from 2 pieces of chipboard that is held together by a clip that is inserted through the bottom piece. It stays up, but because everything is sitting on a clip it doesn't sit even. I've read that some people are putting stuff on the bottom board to increase the stability, so I guess there are home fixes for this. I get that the tower is there for thematic reasons, but it might have been better for just a tracker.
Ahhhh, I hadn't considered bolstering the wobble. I could do with that with some spare chipboard. I like it!
If the little colored markers become a nuisance to pull off when moving them up, I may end up just laying the tower down like a usual score tracker.

DH 0001 wrote:
Have you found there is a first player advantage? The two times I have played first player won. I'm not saying there is one especially after two plays, but wanted to see if you had a similar outcome.
I felt there was an advantage, but I then lost to the second player.
I'd like to read what others think.
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Glenn Wigmore
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I felt there was an advantage, but I then lost to the second player.
I'd like to read what others think.


I just did a dummy playthrough with three players, and I found the third player won easily with a super-overpowered card combo that allowed him to spam out like 12 cards into the midway (and that was with not even playing the +1 rule right for that sequence). They were behind with 6 points (others had 7 and 8), and they were able to score three attractions plus turf one attraction for an extra rube.

I like that there is a catch-up mechanism, but some of that does seem OP =) Still, I'm sure it's light fun.
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George
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I agree very much with this review. 2 plays for me and I quite like it.

First, I'm a sucker for the carnival theme and the art and rube meeples on the stands are great. Second, I quite like the push-your-luck aspect to drawing cards. Do you draw a category you need and risk that an opponent will claim it? Do you hope for a 1+ wild so you can draw another card?
Finally, synergizing attraction powers can be quite fun, and deciding whether to use them early or late game is also interesting. One of us had a very long turn near the end of the game where they were able to claim 2, maybe even 3 (can't remember) attractions in one go.

The attractions powers are the one worry though. I usually don't care about elements of luck in games, but I do wonder if after many games it will feel like luck of the draw in regard to attractions. Hopefully not.

Oh, and I would agree the tower is kind of a pain. I'm all for bling, but moving the markers up and down becomes a bit tiresome. Maybe it's because I was doing it for the whole table. Next time I'll put the tower on the other side of the table or just make the other players move their own markers!

All, in all, a light but very fun, thematic game.

DH 0001 wrote:
Have you found there is a first player advantage? The two times I have played first player won. I'm not saying there is one especially after two plays, but wanted to see if you had a similar outcome.


I don't see how there could be. The first player only draws a single card. It depends on what everyone else draws after them if they are able to claim something when it gets back around to them.

There could possibly be an advantage to the first person to stage an attraction. But with the ever increasing number requirement, I don't think that is the case either.
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Justin H

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DH 0001 wrote:
Have you found there is a first player advantage? The two times I have played first player won. I'm not saying there is one especially after two plays, but wanted to see if you had a similar outcome.


Not that I've noticed. If you're playing first, there's a decent chance somebody will be play their first attraction before you depending on how many people you play with.
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Tony C
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Played for the first time last night, 2 player. I was first, and I did win, but I think that was more to utilizing attraction powers. I could only play one card to the midway so it just depends on how the cards come out. I ended up getting three rubes in a turn to put me at 13 by scoring an attraction then using two attraction's powers to get a third.
I think the increased cost requirement does help to balance it out. And of course it matters if your opponents are going for (or have) the same suits that you are.
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Lee Schmitz
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I’ve had a chance to get quite a few plays in, and the theme is awesome. They really did a great job integrating the theme in every little aspect of this game.

For two player games, I think there can be a really big advantage to the second player. The first player won’t be able to do anything on their first turn, however with the right draws, the second player may play an attraction on their first turn. Back to the first player who now has no cards to play from and they put a card in the middle. Again, on player two’s second turn they very well may be able to play another attraction. Plus with two attraction powers now, they may be able to play a third that turn or their next.

It does seem to come full circle though because the catch up mechanism of the strong man tower does help. I’ve seen player 2 up to 7 with player 1 still on 4, but they were able to catch up and make the game competitive as the game went on.

I definitely enjoy this game. It’s quick and lighter but the theme just made it a must have for me and the theme makes this game stand out.
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Great review! Everything is spot on.

In regards to "The Bad", has anyone else noticed the low-res quality in the art for the attractions? I backed the game with the extra attraction pack, and there's a very distinct difference in clarity between the art on the main attractions and the extra pack.
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Lee Schmitz
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I have not noticed any difference between the card quality. I did shuffle mine together immediately while opening but don’t notice a difference while sleeving after the fact.
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Justin H

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MisterLog wrote:
Great review! Everything is spot on.

In regards to "The Bad", has anyone else noticed the low-res quality in the art for the attractions? I backed the game with the extra attraction pack, and there's a very distinct difference in clarity between the art on the main attractions and the extra pack.


I haven't noticed this either, but I did mix everything in right away. I'll take a look through my cards and see if there's a perceived difference between any of them.
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Pavel Krasnovskij
Sweden
Skogas
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for people who dont like the wobbliness, tower doesnt have to be vertically up, can put it down on the table and just use some markers to track progress. any markers/pawns/buttons could do as colors of the pawns dont matter much..
 
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MisterLog wrote:
Great review! Everything is spot on.

In regards to "The Bad", has anyone else noticed the low-res quality in the art for the attractions? I backed the game with the extra attraction pack, and there's a very distinct difference in clarity between the art on the main attractions and the extra pack.


I do not see any difference in print or card quality between the base attraction cards and the attraction pack cards. I just looked.

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