OK, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but anytime a new theme park board game is published, I immediately must have it. I’m not sure what is about this genre of games that attracts me so much, but I want to play them all. I mean, don’t even ask me how many hours I’ve logged in Planet Coaster…
And the newest one on my tabletop is Tenpenny Parks. Designed by Nate Linhart and published by Thunderworks Games (Cartographers, Roll Player Adventures), Tenpenny Parks will have you trying to build the best amusement park.
Tenpenny Parks is played over five rounds, with the goal of earning the most victory points. Each round takes place over five phases.
1. Gain Revenue: Earn three dollars, plus any bonuses from attractions and concession stands.
2. Actions: Via a standard worker placement mechanic, you’ll take alternate taking turns placing your meeples on various locations around the board. Some are free, such as removing trees, gaining money, or taking a concession stand. While others cost money: building rides and expanding your park. Rides are purchased from the carousel location which will adjust the price you pay. Once built, you must place the polynomial-shaped tile in your park (no orthogonal touching previously placed tiles allowed) and adjust your marker on up to three tracks: Thrill, Awe, and/or Joy.
3. Bonuses: Whoever is furthest along on the three tracks can choose to either gain a VP or move their marker back one space and gain a bonus: an extra worker, the first player marker, or $3 depending on the track you are on.
4. Advertising: Each of your rides will let you spend money to gain VPs. The ratio will depend on the ride built.
5. Clean-up step: About what you might expect.
After the fifth round, players total up their VPs, including bonuses for end-game goals and secret objective cards. Most points wins.
One of the first things I noticed about Tenpenny Parks is just how fantastic it looks. I mean, Vincent Dutrait is one of the premier tabletop artists, so no surprises there. His work is always stellar. But the production values are excellent as well. The tokens are thicker than the usual punchboard and there is a 3d carousel that sits on the board (Bonus points because it can stay assembled in the box). So top marks to Thunderworks for producing this game.
One thing to know about Tenpenny Parks is that it’s a really tight game. Both in terms of action selection and money. For actions, you are getting about 15 actions (unless you grab the bonus worker a few times) for the entire game. These must be split between building rides, expanding your park, and clearing trees (among other things, but you’ll be doing those most). So, every action you take is incredibly important. I really hated going to the bank in the game, because spending one of my precious actions to gain $2 felt like such a waste.
But that’s the other thing about the game. Money is even tighter. You start with a nice nest egg, but it goes quickly. Most rounds you can expect to earn about $4-$7, which can allow you to buy about 1-2 rides a round, at most. But we constantly felt like we were chasing money in the game. This is doubly so because of the need to advertise. During phase four, you can spend money on VPs, but doing so it will cut down on your opportunity to expand your park. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of just how tight the money was in the game. I really liked building and expanding my park but having to chase down VPs with advertising wasn’t as interesting to me.
Speaking of building the park, I did enjoy the optimization puzzle there. You must fit this polynomial-shaped tiles into tight spaces. Again, because actions are so tight, having to spend them to clear out some trees means you need to think really hard about where to positing your rides. There are bonus spaces on the board that earn you a bump on one of the three tracks if you cover them up, so that will factor into your puzzle as well. But since rides can touch orthogonally, and trees get in the way all the time, you’ll have to be careful not just what rides you buy, but where you build them as well.
I also enjoyed the emotion track mechanics. Having to make tough decisions on whether to take the bonuses or VPs made for interesting rounds (well except the last one). And each of the bonuses are rather good. The extra worker and money are obviously awesome, but even the first player token is important. Some of the hidden goal cards want you to collect specific types of rides. If you are going last in a round (especially at a higher player count), then you may need to go first to be able to buy them. But not only that, the first player gets to rotate the carousel, adjusting the price of all the rides. If you know you want green ones, then it’s nice to give yourself a -$2 discount when buying.
Overall I enjoyed Tenpenny Parks, but I’m not sure where I’d rank it in my collection of theme park games. The production values are fantastic, and the tile laying puzzle with the trees was pretty interesting. However, the tightness of the money wasn’t as appealing to me. I’d rather be a parkitect creating a park with cool rides than trying to scrounge up $3 to run an ad in the newspaper. This game definitely felt more along the lines of managing a park over designing one. Regardless, we still had fun playing Tenpenny Parks, and if you think you’d enjoy a worker placement game with a really tight economy, this one is worth checking out.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A great entry into the theme park genre, just be aware that both money and actions are pretty tight.
• Money problems got in the way of building my park
• Some secret goals feel harder than others