I think it’s inevitable that Meeple Circus gets compared to another colorful dexterity game, Junk Art. Junk Art has been and will continue to be a huge hit in my household. I think the highs and lows are more extreme with Meeple Circus as each game of Junk Art is dependent on the city being drawn and not all are simultaneous games, so the excitement is subdued as the games pace is slower. When building for acts, there are moments of tension and exuberance as you create a perfect circus or finish right before another player but on the flip side, there are moments where you are able to make a great scoring opportunity but it comes too easy and there’s little or no excitement as the action was more routine than anything else. Due to the draft, the game doesn’t force you to take risks. You can play the game at your own level but that may provide an uneventful experience.
I think the variety of the cities in Junk Art provide a much more complete game compared to Meeple Circus. This variety creates a more even gaming experience as players have more opportunity and variety to score points. The scoring is completely different as Junk Art has players trying to ensure their structure stays standing whereas Meeple Circus has a set of specific goals that need to accomplished and they can be independent of one another so high stacking isn’t necessarily needed.
The scoring in Meeple Circus can also be too varied as players may have difficulty completing certain tasks to no real fault of their own. To add to that, the “harder” acts to complete only awarded an additional point or two. I harped earlier that players will play Meeple Circus for the enjoyment and experience of building the acts and this is a primary reason why. If a player was in a strict mindset to just win, they could complete easier tasks and run the board against players trying to play for enjoyment.
The theme of Meeple Circus shines through much more than Junk Art. The components and iconic music provided from the app really drive home that circus atmosphere and help turn Meeple Circus from a simple filler type game to something with a little more staying power. The wooden meeples, with their bright colors and characters, creates a visually stunning game that might be one of the most thematic games I have ever owned. It’s a clear head-turner when on a table especially when compared to Junk Art, which is just colored shapes on the board. I think Meeple Circus looks much more appetizing to non-gamers, light gamers, and children and that could be a major factor in which game is better for you and your collection.
But those components also create a problem that Junk Art doesn’t have: the stability of the pieces. You need a completely sturdy playing surface and players need to ensure that no one bumps into the table or else everything will come crumbling. This is also true for Junk Art but less so due to the larger bases and weights of the pieces. Also, any ceiling fans will blow pieces over if they are set to high enough of a setting. Just something to keep in mind.
I like the idea of Meeple Circus but don’t know if it has a place in our collection beside other dexterity games, namely Junk Art. Yes, the art and theme is fun, eye-catching, and engaging but I never felt like I was having as much fun as I do playing Junk Art, Ka-Boom, Terror in Meeple City, Pitch Car, or Flick ’em Up.
Another difference and a big reason why I see Junk Art coming to the table more than Meeple Circus is the special challenges in round three of Meeple Circus. There’s a time and a place for clapping your hands or performing a task one-handed and you’ll know when you’re in the mood for that.
While Meeple Circus has rounds and you can bust one out if you’re in the mood, I don’t get a sense of completion when playing that way as the rounds are meant to build upon one another.
Lastly, player count is important. Meeple Circus can fit up to four players around the table but that will increase the time of play since the final round is played individually. Junk Art can fit up to six and while some cities have players playing individually, it never has turns taking more than a few seconds, even when playing with individuals plagued with analysis paralysis (as there’s only so much that can be done).
If we had to choose one over the other, Junk Art is the clear favorite of the two. It doesn’t have the flash and pizzazz that Meeple Circus has but it’s a much more concrete and enjoyable game.