One of my “white whale” board games seems to be one with an amusement park theme. I have always loved video games such as Sim Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon, so naturally, I’d love to get a great board game that embraces this theme. Yet I’ve really struggled to find a theme park board game that draws me in. The closest so far has been Steam Park, but the real-time, dice rolling aspect of the game wasn’t all that enjoyable. Unfair was also fun at times, but I never really felt like I was building a theme park.
So, the newest contender to this underserved genre is Meeple Land. Published by Blue Orange Games, Meeple Land will have you building out your theme park with rides, food stands, and busloads of visitors. Will this be the game to buck the trend and actually give us a good theme park game? Let’s find out.
Games of Meeple Land are played out over 4 rounds. Each player starts with a blank piece of real estate and some money to start building their park.
On a player’s turn, they can either buy a tile, advertise, or pass. Tiles will come in one of three sizes and either be a ride or a service stand (food, gift shop, bathrooms). After buying a tile, it’s immediately placed into your park by connecting its path to an existing one.
Each ride can hold a specific number and color of meeples. Many have bonus spaces that, if connected to a matching service tile, will allow you to play additional meeples there (and maybe earn you extra money). Instead of buying a tile, you can spend money to advertise, which lets you pay to immediately collect two meeples and add them to your park.
Players go around taking turns until all players have passed. When a player passes, they collect a bus of their choice from the line. Each bus will bring new meeples to your park, which can immediately be placed on rides. Once all players have distributed their meeples, they collect income for any meeples in their park. If there is no room for a meeple, they must way outside at the gate.
The game ends at the end of the fourth round. Players earn victory points for having different types of rides in their park (set collection), meeples on rides (some colors score one point, some two points). Players lose points for any meeples standing at the gates and for any road that is cut off by another tile. The player with the most points wins.
Meeple Land is a fairly easy game to get to learn, which is not surprising since Blue Orange Games excels at family games (Kingdomino, Slide Quest). Pretty much everything in Meeple Land works how you’d expect it. Place tiles to build your park, put visitors on rides, collect money from them in your park. Easy peasy.
One of my favorite parts of Meeple Land is building out your park. I love seeing it grow as I add a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, and gift shops. As tiles can be rotated any which way, it definitely has a special planning aspect as most players wanted to place tiles optimally to avoid negative road points. One thing that bugged me was rotating the tile made the art upside down. I wish the illustrator would have gone with a top-down view of the tile to avoid this. But that’s more of a personal gripe than a knock against the game.
Looking deeper into the mechanics, the main focus in Meeple Land is deciding the best routes to spend your money. Do you go big tiles early, which cost the most but can hold the most visitors? Or maybe you want to grab that service building to boost up existing rides. Players will have 13 tiles to choose from in the market, so there are a lot of options for what to purchase on your turn.
Speaking of the market, I do wish that there were rules to clear a row. Many times, we’ve been stuck with rides that we all have, especially near the end of the game, and they just kind of sat there taking up space until someone finally bought a duplicate. As points come from building different types of rides, it can be really annoying to have to spend $8 building a ride you already have only to see your opponent scoop up the one you just revealed.
Despite a few minor gripes, I really enjoyed Meeple Land. It wasn’t the deepest of games, but for a light tile-laying game, it definitely makes the best use of the amusement park theme I’ve seen yet. I enjoyed building out my park and deciding how I was going to spend my money each round. The rules in this one are definitely light enough to be played as a family game, yet my regular gaming group also had fun with it as a casual offering.
If you’re like me and have been searching for a game that actually uses this theme well, you’ve found in the Meeple Land. While I wouldn’t mind an expansion that adds a bit more depth, overall, this is a solid, lightweight tile-laying game that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to build their own theme park.
Final Score: 4 Stars – Uses its amusement park theme well and its light ruleset means it can get to the table quickly.
• No way to clear the market
• Upside down art!!