Konstantinos Kokkinis &
Dimitris Drakopoulos


No. of Players:
2 - 4

G@mebox Star



I cannot remember the title of at least one game coming from Greek authors in previous years, but as it seems times are changing, and with globalization becoming a integral part of the gaming community Greek authors Konstantinos Kokkinis and Dimitris Drakopoulos have entered the manege with a very promising new resource management game. So, clear the stage for Drum Roll, a game which puts the players into the roles of 19th century circus directors who are touring Europe with the aim of establishing the most famous circus!

The integral part of the rules is based on a worker-placement approach, and this is combined with a purchase-and-use mechanism which gives the players access to a variety of special actions which depends on the performers, personnel and investments hired by each player. However, it is easier to understand the use of these elements in conjunction with the basic structure of a turn, and so let's have a look at the gameplay itself.

Apart from the player board each player starts the game with two random performers, some money and a region card which depicts a region of Europe in which his circus is currently guesting. Furthermore, each player receives a set of three action markers which will be used to mark actions on the main gameboard, and during the action phase (first phase each round) the players chose actions on the main gameboard in clockwise order, starting with the first player and then placing one action marker in turn until all players have used up all of their action markers. Some of these actions are restricted, and so a resource-cube for rehearsal, equipment, promotion, costumes or supplies only may be taken by the first players who choose each of these actions during the running round. The selling of tickets, or the purchase of performers, personnel or investments on the other hand may be done by all players, but here the players face restrictions in so far as each player only may perform these actions once or twice each turn.

Once all action markers have been placed, the players who have markers at the corresponding resource spaces each will receive a resource-cube of the type matching their placement(s). Next comes the selling of tickets, and here all players will receive money according to their current position on the tickets sales track. Finally, the purchases of investments, performers and personnel are dealt with, and now the players proceed in an order of priority, meaning that the players who have chosen the action earlier will be allowed to make a purchase before players who have chosen the action at a later time.

Investments must be purchased blindly at a cost of one coin per card, but each player faces a hand size limit restricting him to a maximum of two investment cards. Performers and personnel on the other hand are chosen from a random assortment of cards which were revealed at the beginning of the turn, but the choice gets more restricted with each player who hires a performer or personnel card in the running turn. The costs for hiring a performer or personnel are displayed on each individual card, and after paying the players are allowed to add the cards to their individual player boards.

After the actions phase, each player is allowed to distribute up to a maximum of two resource-cubes from their individual stockpiles on one or two of their performers, and these cubes will be needed to activate the performers when it comes to the show phase in which the players act with their individual circus. It is important to have enough cubes at each performer to allow at least a poor performance in the show phase, because all performers who will do no performance whatsoever (because they have not received the resource-cubes which are needed for their activation) must be instantly fired and thus will be lost to the player.

The show phase will begin after five to seven action rounds, with the total amount of action rounds depending on a vote of the players after rounds five and six. If enough players vote for a delay at these times, an additional action round will be played, but if the maximum of seven action rounds is played all players who have voted in favour of a delay after round six will be penalized by loosing one prestige (victory) point.

In the show phase the players finally get to act with their performers. Each performer has three levels of performance - poor, good and outstanding. For each level a combination of resource-cubes is needed, and so the players slowly build up combinations of cubes on each of their performers. Quite surprisingly, the cubes are not discarded after use, but they stay on the performers and may not be shifted to other performers. This means that a player has to chose carefully where to place each of his cubes, since a placement cannot be corrected after it was done.

Each performer with enough cubes for at least a poor performance will give his owner access to some kind of benefit, and here the benefits range between the different types of performers. So, Magicians help the players to acquire investment cards and increase their hand size, Acrobats generate money and Jugglers produce or exchange resource cubes. Animal Tamers on the other hand allow a conversion of cubes into money, and Bizarre artists will give reductions on salary costs, because each artist must receive his salary after the show. Any unpaid amount must be substracted from his owner's current prestige score, and so the players are well advised to keep an eye on their budget limitations.

However, most interesting in terms of prestige points are the outstanding performances, since such a kind of performance means that the owner of the performer may choose between two alternatives. On the one hand the player may perform the standard action associated with this type of performer at the highest level, but at the other hand an outstanding performance also gives the possibility to flip that performer onto his backside. The flipping of a performer means that his normal benefit will be lost for the rest of the game, but on the other hand the performer now generates some prestige points for his owner, and also his salary will be reduced. Thus, it is up to each player to decide on the ideal time when to flip a performer, since the loss of the performer's benefit must weighted against the prestige and monetary uses of the flipped performer.

A further prestige bonus may be earned during the show phase if the player's circus contains at least the number and type of performers shown on the player's current region card. These cards are rotated after each show, symbolizing a movement of the circus from one region to the next, and the fulfilling of the demands of the changing audiences will generate additional prestige.

Personnel cards give their owners various benefits, like the General Supplier who allows the movement of three resource-cubes each turn, the Orchestra which generates additional prestige or the Bank Representative who allows a limited conversion of money into prestige. The personnel cards must be paid a salary just like performers, but they do not need resource-cubes for activation and they cannot be flipped. In addition, the investment cards also give the players access to a wide range of additional actions, and here the benefits range from one-time actions to cards which generate additional bonuses for specific types of cards at the end of the game.

The end comes after the third and last show, and now some last minute prestige bonuses will be awarded to players with most performers (largest show), with all five types of performers (full variety), only flipped performers (perfect show) and with eight or more performers (large troupe). Of course, the game is won by the player with most prestige.

On first sight Drum Roll might appear like an accumulation of well-known game mechanics, and indeed the placement of markers for actions and the availability of a broader spectrum of possible actions through the acquiring of assets is used quite regularly in modern type boardgames. However, it must be conceded that the newcomers Konstantinos Kokkinis and Dimitris Drakopoulos have succeeded in finetuning the different elements to a very high degree, creating a hard hitting strategy game where players are competing for performers and resources. This competition keeps all players constantly involved in the course of events, and this increases the already high playing atmosphere which is generated through the skilful implementation of the background story. The graphics, the language-independent components and the gameplay all merge into a very harmonious whole, and the game certainly was one of the highlights of the SPIEL '11.

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