The Amazing American Circus, from Klabater is a fresh take on the deck building genre. You are the estranged son of a failed Ring Master who’s recently passed away and left you his failing circus. Hesitant to take over, you’re informed of a circus competition with a grand prize of $100,000 that piques your interest. Can you pull this failing troop out of the dirt and raise it to new heights?
The gameplay for The Amazing American Circus is split between shows, circus management and travel. First things first. You put a show together and build a deck. Shows are made up of 3 entertainers, each has their own associated themed cards, some entertain, others protect or regain focus, so by picking three entertainers you’ve already chosen a combined strategy for your deck, depending on their level entertainers have a selection of different cards to choose from, you pick 5 for each to make up the deck of 15.
Shows have 1 objective, impress the audience members enough to get them to sit down and enjoy the show, This means dropping audience vitality with entertainment cards, once they hit 0 they sit down. However different audience members have special moves to distract entertainers, dodge being impressed or recover vitality, you need to choose carefully who to focus on.
You also need to avoid your entertainers losing focus, by balancing defensive actions with entertainment actions you can survive each round while witling down vitality. Finally, the show is also a race against the turn count, the longer the show goes on the more you will cycle through your deck, each cycle removes focus from your performers and causes you to lose cards permanently for that show. This can cause a carefully designed deck to perform poorly.
You can’t lose from 1 failed show but it does harm your income and several bad performances in 3 cities will end the game.
After the show, The Amazing American Circus shifts to resource management.
How do you spend the money you’ve just earned? Do you upgrade the wagons to give bonuses to recruiting and entertainer levelling? What about upgrading the entertainers themselves? Or hire new ones?
The upgrade feature for entertainers is unique for the genre. You can either add more cards to their deck or upgrade an existing one, this can potentially break the game by creating a very powerful combo between cards, like stacking more juggling balls on the juggler and unleashing them all for 5-6 impress points per ball.
Money also has to be put aside for travelling food, when moving to a new city if fed well, performers can get boons, if not they develop flaws which can impact the show.
Art and music?
The art is 2D and minimalistic but isn’t exactly a bad choice, in fact as it’s based in the Old West it often resembles an old-time 2D puppet show. The music is at home in a saloon, with western piano and harmonica toons matching the visuals nicely.
The tutorial could do with being broken up over a few shows. It throws every mechanic at you at once. However, the game is meant to be played multiple times, with each attempt teaching you something new. Other than that it has a lot of promise and has hours of entertainment.