Board game for 3-6 aspiring circus owners ages 8 and above
Designed by Ray Mulford 2003 for
Advanced Primate Entertainment
Rules rewrite by Rick Heli
A description of the Big Top deck
- 52 Circus Cards in 4 suits: Clowns, Sideshow (bearded lady),
Animals (elephant), and Performers (tightrope walker)
- 24 Gate Receipt tokens (6 sets, each with the values $10, $7,
- 6 Scoring tokens (marked +$20)
- 6 Organizing Charts
Each suit has two sets of cards numbered one through six.
Eacs suit comes in two flavors, one called Light, having
white numerals, and one called Dark, with black numbers.
In addition each
suit has a Poster card, labeled "P", which does not have a number.
The Poster cards belong to both flavors.
The object of Big Top is to be the richest and most successful circus
owner. You accomplish this by playing your entire hand to make money
from all your Gate Receipt tokens. You can also earn extra money by playing
cards at the right time.
- Each player takes one set of Gate Receipt tokens (a 3, a 5, a 7 and a 10),
a Scoring token (20+),
and an Organizing Chart.
- Place the Organizing Chart so that the pictures are facing you and the
dollar values $0-$3 are facing the center of the table.
- Set your Scoring token to the side until you earn money.
- The person who most recently attended a circus shuffles
the deck and deals all of the cards to the players. It does not matter if
one player has more cards than another.
- After evaluating his hand, each player places his Gate Receipt tokens
face-down on the Organizing Chart, one token per picture (suit). You
should invest according to your confidence that you will be able to play
all of the cards of that suit. Once all players have placed all Gate Receipt
tokens, the round begins.
- The round starts with the player to the left of the dealer and proceeds
around the table clockwise.
Player Turn Sequence
On his turn, the player must perform the following:
- You may have some cards on the picture portion of your chart.
These will be henceforth known as calling cards.
Starting with the leftmost one, slide each one space left. But do
not slide any card which is on the $0 (leftmost) space and do not
slide a card if the space to the left is not vacant.
- Then go through the following to determine the one thing
which you may do on your turn:
- Play a calling card to the center of the table, i.e.
the play area.
A calling card may only be played if the card having the same suit and
flavor but value one less is at the center of the table. Note that the
"P" card is considered to be one less than both "1" cards for its suit.
If you can perform this option, you are required to do so and may
not instead do any of the others below. If you have the ability to
play multiple calling cards, you may choose which one to play first.
(Once both flavors of a suit's "1" card have been played, players may
wish to stack up all the cards of a suit-flavor combination in order
to save space.)
- Play a card from your hand to the play area.
If other players currently have calling cards of higher value than
the card you have played, but sharing the same suit and flavor, you
now receive points equal to the total of this amounts printed on
the chart under these cards. Score them by advancing your scoring
token. If you achieve over 20 points, flip your scoring token over
and re-start it at zero to indicate this.
Note that for rewards purposes, the "P" card is considered to include
- Call a card by playing one of your hand cards to the
$3 area of your chart. Note that you can never have more than one
calling per suit on your chart. Also, a card that can currently be
played to the center of the table may never be played as a calling
- Pass and do nothing if you cannot legally
play or call a card. However, this option is not available if you
can do any of the above. Optional: players should decide before
the game whether players are required to show their hand to all
other players in case of this eventuality.
End of the Round
The first player to play his last card, including all called cards, wins the
hand. This ends the round immediately.
If you win, you earn all the money from your Gate Receipt tokens ($25)
and any money you have collected on your Scoring Track during this
If you still have cards in-hand or called on the table when someone goes
out, you do not earn the full $25 in Gate Receipt tokens. You only earn
the Gate Receipt tokens for suits that you have completely played out
(i.e. suits with no cards in-hand or on the Organizing Chart.) Add this
amount to your money earned on your Scoring Track.
On a scrap of paper (or the back of an old circus ticket), the
scorekeeper records the total money earned (Gate Receipt tokens plus
Scoring Track) for each player.
The Next Hand
Remove your Scoring marker from the track between rounds. You begin
every hand with $0 on the track.
Deal rotates until each player has dealt once (or twice in a 3-player
game.) Whoever has accumulated the most money is the most
successful circus owner and wins the game!
Art: Alessandra Cimatoribus
Layout/Production: Kevin Brusky
Play testers: Shyam Kumar, Kevin Horovitz, Michael Denman,
Bill Weis, JP Franz, the Brusky clan