Spotlight on Games > Translations
English Translation
May 20, 2006
Big Top
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

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.

Set up

  1. 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.
  2. Place the Organizing Chart so that the pictures are facing you and the dollar values $0-$3 are facing the center of the table.
  3. Set your Scoring token to the side until you earn money.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Then go through the following to determine the one thing which you may do on your turn:

    1. 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.)
    2. 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 both flavors.
    3. 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 card.
    4. 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 hand.

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