‘Mom!! Look at that guy! He just made a whole rabbit disappear!!’ The large crowd was driven apart. ‘Come and see!’ A big man with a top hat, standing on an open cart, pulled by an emaciated mule, was passing through, the man’s large moustache blowing in the wind, like a bird in flight. ‘Come and see! Come and see! Wonderful freaks of nature! The two-headed woman! The winged pig and the smallest person on earth! Come and see! Only 2 dollars!’ The kid, blond hair and red cheeks of excitement, looked up at his mother. She could not resist his big, blue, begging eyes. ‘Yes, you can go, but finish your hot-dog first.’ He stuffed everything in his mouth, took the two dollars from his mother and ran after the moustachioed man with the top hat…
What you get for your money:
A game board, 4 players boards, 12 building site tiles, 5 character tiles, 10 attraction tiles, 36 showman tiles, 20 newspaper tiles, 20 money tiles, 24 building cubes, 1 cotton bag, 4 player scoring pieces, 1 starting player tile and the rules
How do you play the game:
The goal of the game is to create a spectacular amusement park. Every player is a family of showmen and has its own player board with nine spaces for their showmen in their own colour. On these spaces you can see what your income will be next turn once you’ve put the men to work. The cheaper ones (circles, 1 point), the knife swallower, magician and weight lifter, will lure some customers in and generate some points. The slightly more expensive stands (the how do you call this shape, 2 points), the ice-cream vendor or organ player, will bring in some money. The most expensive showmen (squares, 3 points), like the fortune teller, will generate some building cubes during the income phase. However, at the start of the game, all showmen are placed on their designated spots and you start with a basic income of one point, one money and one random cube every turn.
Your income will change when you ‘build’ these showmen and put them on the board. The board is a big empty field with 24 spaces where you can put building site tiles. Building site tiles are square tiles with four spots. On some spots you can put a showman, others are already taken by benches or toilets. At the beginning of the game there are four random building site tiles in the middle of the board and every player gets 2 money and 1 random building cube, a red or a white one.
On your turn you can do several things, but first you get the income your player board indicates. Then, you can place a random building site tile on the board, pay the cost and get a bonus. You can pay the cost and put a showman on the board. Or you can build a grand attraction. The last action is something special, because attractions are built on top of the showmen. There are 10 attractions and every attraction has a certain shape and certain requirements. The roller-coaster for instance is four spaces wide and will cost you two red and three white cubes. It also tells you that it can only be built on top of showmen of at least two different colours (players). The player who builds it gets six points, but the players of which the showmen were that helped building this attraction also get points depending on which shape their showmen were. For instance, you are the purple player and you build the roller-coaster on top of one yellow circle, one blue whatyamacallit-shape and a purple square and circle. You receive six plus three plus one is ten points, the yellow player receives one point and the blue player gets two points. All the showmen are then put back on the player’s boards.
In your turn you can also hire a character by paying him two money and then you can use its ability. With the help of a policeman, you can turn a point into a cube. The journalist is another one, give him a cube and he will write about your park. You must take a ‘secret’ newspaper token from the stack and this token gives you one to three points at the end of the game.
At the end of the game every player gets points from their newspapers and minus two points for every showman that’s still on the main board. The player with the most points wins Coney Island.
Generally, I like the mechanism where you have to build something to reveal a source of income. It keeps everyone from playing too hasty and keeps players in check. You do have to think about what you are doing or otherwise your engine will come to an early halt and it then takes a couple of turns to get back on your feet.
This is a disadvantage of that mechanism. At that moment, you are not really playing the game any more, for a turn or two, you just receive goods and wait. But is it the game’s fault or yours?
I also like the idea of building showmen in a certain shape and needing multiple colours to build an attraction. You constantly have to look at your opponents. What can he build? Can he build it faster than myself? He might use one of my own showmen for his benefits before I can use him myself.
This is a fine mechanism, but it’s also the main reason why I don’t like this game with four players (and a little less with three). With four players it’s very chaotic. You have no control over what’s happening and you can’t really plan ahead. You just hope for the best.
With two players you do have control over what is happening on the board. Both players use two colours and in this way you are able to plan ahead and create some sort of engine with the showmen on the board, the income you will get from them and the characters you hire.
The characters in a four player game will never stay at your side for long. They are far from loyal, so you probably can’t use them on your next turn. They are a nice addition to the game, though.
In a two-player game you can still block each other and you can still steal each other’s characters, but you can still execute your own plan too.
Coney Island is not a very heavy game, the choices aren’t very hard to make. This game is more on the medium-light side of the spectrum.
Although Coney Island in its essence is an abstract game, when you look at the individual components, it does make some thematic sense. The characters you can hire have abilities that match their occupation and these are people you would probably want to hire in a real amusement park too. A weightlifter and a magician generate some buzz and people will come and watch, sure. An ice-cream vendor will sell ice-cream to these people and you will get money, very logical.
Exactly, logical, not thematic. When I play this game I never get really into the theme, I never feel like I’m building an amusement park. Why not? Because the mechanisms themselves do not make any thematic sense. Building attractions on top of showman of different colours. Why? If you only have some bumper cars, why do the showmen who were there before go back to their trailer? Do you not need them any more? Why would you build benches and toilets on an empty field?
Some flavour, little theme.
The illustrations are all very lovely and cheerful. A small gripe is that the illustrations on all the tokens are very small and most of the (potential) building sites remain empty throughout the game.The board therefore never really looks like an amusement park, it’s just a accumulation of colourful tiles in a field of green.
Quality of the game parts
Just good quality, sturdy cardboard pieces and decent wooden cubes.
As I already stated above I do not like this game as a four player game. The lower the player count the more I like it. I think it a pretty interesting two-player game. You have control over your resources, you can plan ahead and your opponent can get in your way (although, to be fair, that doesn’t happen very often in a two-player game). These are basic elements of a decent game.
And decent it is. Although it’s more interesting and less chaotic with two players, the game never becomes really exciting or crazy fun. Coney Island is just a very decent, accessible, abstract game with a cheerful appearance; a game I will play once in a while for some variety, but will never be real excited about. I would give it a 7 for fun as a two player game and a 5 (maybe even a 4) as a four player game. As a whole it’s just an OK game.