Games with Two

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Chilling at Coney Island - Carnival Review

Jason Moslander
United States
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Originally posted at

In the late 19th and early 20th century, people flocked to Coney Island in New York for entertainment: roller coasters, Ferris wheels, bumper cars, swings, and delicious food (we have the Coney Dog because of that beautiful island). Now, you have the opportunity to get into your DeLoran and head back in time to the early 20th century and build your own Carnival. You can be a traveling Carnival or setup shop on the famous island, it's up to you. However, you have competitors who are vying for the parts and materials you need to build your rides. It's a race to see who can get their Carnival up and running first. Will you be the "winner?"

Carnival is a dice and card game for 2-4 players. The game plays in 30 minutes and was designed by Cherilyn Joy Lee Kirkman and was published by Dice Hate Me Games. In the game, each player is trying to build 5 rides at their Carnival. The first player to build 4 rides is the winner. Players build rides by playing cards on their Midway (area in front of them, that has five cards that represent the five possible rides to build). Once a ride has four different cards on it, it is completed. The fun part of Carnival comes with how you obtain new cards. This is accomplished by rolling three dice. The player then selects two of the dice and allocates them on a tableau in the middle of the table. Based on the player's dice roll, they are able to draw a card from the deck, draw a card from the discard pile, steal a card from another player's hand, trade cards with another player (cards in each other's hands), trade cards with another player (cards that are in each other's Midways), and steal a card from a player's Midway. If a player rolls three of a kind, they are able to do all three actions. Players can also chose to discard their hand, granted they have a wild, and draw the same number of cards back into their hand. This action is more to keep the game moving, when a player doesn't have any playable cards. After players take their actions, they may play cards into their Midway. This process is repeated until a player completes his fourth ride.


Carnival has some beautiful components. It comes with three wooden dice--they look as if they have come right out of the early 20th century. A very nice touch to add to the theme. The artwork and graphic design are great as well. It has a simple look and feel to it. This gives you the sense that this is an easy game to play and learn. It also reminds you of a simpler time; a time without blogs, smartphones, tablets, jet airplanes, etc. I love that in a game. The presentation of a game can go a long way in bringing out the theme. One of the issues I had with the game was that the card stock. The cards, tickets, and board have a glossy finish, and I prefer more of a matte finish. This a personal preference, and doesn't hinder the game in any way, and the quality of the components is still very good. The only other issue I had was the rule book. It explains the game play, but we found ourselves asking questions about "legal" trades, especially when trading from one Midway to the other. I do believe this has been corrected though, as there is a 2.0 version of the rules available on the Dice Hate Me website. Finally, the price is right on with this one at $20; you really can't go wrong.

Game Play
The game play of Carnival is great. I love how they mixed a card game with a dice game. Instead of having a list of actions you can do, you have to follow the actions that you roll. I also love that you can block another player's actions. This brought me great joy as Mrs. Games with Two was about to steal one of my cards (which she managed to do anyway, but it made her use up some of her resources). The game play is also fast pace and simple to learn. This game can get to be pretty cutthroat as you are constantly stealing and trading cards with one another. If that is not your thing, than you may want to stay away. Mrs. Games with Two doesn't always care for that style of game, but when it's just the two of us or the right mix of people, she loves them. I think it stems from her love of Rummy and this game really does have a rummy feel to it since you are laying down sets of cards and picking up from the discard pile. If that is you style of game, or you know someone who loves Rummy, this is a great choice.

How is it with Two?
Carnival works very well with two players. If you like a back-and-forth game between players, this one may hit a sweet spot for you. The game can also get very tense, especially when both players are close to completing their fourth ride. Our game became very tense once we each had three rides completed. As for playing with more than two, I believe you can have a good time with this, but I am weary about the possibility of having a "gang up on the leader" mentality, especially late in the game. Of course, this is the case with most games, but it seems that this style of game may encourage it more. Other than that, this one is a gem, that can work well with two, three, or four players.

Final Thoughts
We had a great time with Carnival. We love the compact size of the game box, and the simple game play. It's a great way to start off a game day. It's also a great game to play on a weeknight. It doesn't take long to setup, teach, or play--that is our style of game. With our limited time on most nights, this is a great addition to our collection. And if you enjoy a little "take that", with some dice rolling and "Rummy Style" card play, you will probably enjoy this one as well, especially if you have ever dreamed of being a carny.

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