Funfair is a theme park building board game for two to four players that plays very quickly but has a surprising amount of depth for such a short card-driven game.
Funfair is an update to the popular hobby board game Unfair. It has been tweaked to be easier to learn, easier to play and less cutthroat. In this way Funfair is a great gateway game and a great introduction to the Unfair line of game products.
Disclosure: I have to thank Good Games Publishing for sending us a review copy of both Funfair and Unfair. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with the theme park based board game Funfair?
Funfair was designed by Joel Finch, who is also the designer of Unfair. It features artwork by Lina Cossette and David Forest. Funfair is published by Good Games Publishing and just hit the market this year, in early 2021, and should just be showing up on store shelves now.
Funfair is meant to be a lighter and much less cutthroat version of the board game Unfair from the same designer and publisher. This makes it both a more family-friendly game as well as a good entry point to the Unfair series.
Funfair plays two to four players and is all about building a theme park. This game is lightning quick, with games taking under an hour with players who know the game. Even our first game of Funfair, learning the rules with two new players, only took an hour max.
Funfair is a card-driven game and the majority of what you get in this board game box are just cards. One-hundred and fifty cards to be exact. These cards are of great playing card quality and feature excellent thematic theme park artwork and even better iconography that’s easy to read from across the table.
One side of this board is designed so that all the cards face one direction and the other side of the board has half of the cards facing one way and the other half facing the opposite side. Which side you use is meant to be determined by where you place the board, in front of everyone or between the players.
Personally, we found we liked all the cards facing one way and only use that side of the board but I like that there is the other option available.
Not only is each of these currency counters clearly denoted by colour but also by size and shape. The $1 is the smallest and hexagonal, the $5 is larger and round and the $25 is even bigger and more square.
This is some of the best, most accessible, money that I’ve seen in a board game, which is great for people with colour blindness and other vision issues. This stuff is nice enough that I’m tempted to steal it to use it in other games.
One aspect of Funfair, in regards to quality, that I wasn’t impressed by at all was the box insert. This is especially true when you compare it to the box insert in Unfair which features a moulded plastic insert specifically designed to hold sleeved or unsleeved cards and keep the various decks of cards in the game separated.
Here you just get a cardboard trough divided into four parts none of which are really good at holding cards. I can only assume this was done to keep the cost on Funfair down to make this version of the game at a more accessible price point.
The final thing I want to call out is the phase tracking marker which is used each round to keep track of what phase of the game you are in. This helps players keep track of how many actions they have left as well as reminding them to complete things like the cleanup step at the end of each round.
The phase tracker is a small plastic roller coaster car featuring two people sitting in it. While it’s a bit over the top as it’s only used to track what part of the game round you are in, I thought it was a very cool thematic addition to the game.
For people who have played Unfair, this is similar to the marker in that game which features a four-seater roller coaster car.
How is the hobby board game Funfair played?
Each player starts a game of Funfair with one random Showcase card (a big expensive themed thrill ride), a gate card that represents the front gate to their park (this generates one coin in income a turn), thirty coins, and five random Park cards.
These Park cards are a mix of Attractions, Upgrades for those Attractions and park Staff. Attraction types include thrill rides, leisure rides, sideshows, theatres and food outlets. Staff cards give a mix of in game and end game bonuses. Upgrades, which are played onto attractions, include features (things like a loop de loop for a thrill ride or comfortable seating), guest services (like lockers and coat check or an express queue), qualities (Deluxe or Superior) and Themes (like Fairy Tale, Pirate, or Robot).
Each of these park cards has a cost in coins printed on them, an icon representing the type of card it is, some text that you act on when the card is played and a star value. The star value represents the attraction level of your park and generates income every round.
After players get their hand of Park cards six spots on the board are filled with Park cards from the deck forming the initial market.
A random Award card is drawn and placed face up on the board. This will award one player fifteen bonus points for fitting its requirements. Award cards include requirements like having the most themes used in your park, having the most quality upgrades, etc.
Each round of Funfair starts by drawing a City Event card. These are all good things that help all the players and include things such as “A Surprise Gift” that give players a free card from the Park deck they can keep or swap for one of the cards in the market or “A Change of Plans” that lets you discard Park cards and replace them with new ones.
After resolving the city step you move on to the park step which is the meat of the game. Here players take turns doing one action at a time. In general, players will get three of these actions though you can unlock a fourth action each round by building your Showcase ride.
The actions are:
Build – Pay the cost in coins for one of the cards in your hand or in the market and put it into play doing anything the text on the card says. You can build at most five different attractions in your park and each attraction can have any number of upgrades but never two of the same upgrade. Parks can contain any number of Staff cards. While all upgrades increase the point value of your attraction, most of them also include some other special rules on them, like letting you draw more cards, get some money back, manipulate the card market, etc.
Take – Take a card from the market and put it into your hand to save for later, or discard a Park card from your hand to draw five from the deck and keep one, or take two Blueprint cards and keep one.
Blueprint cards are end of game scoring cards and work similarly to routes in Ticket to Ride. They have a requirement listed on them and a bonus. The requirements include things like having a thrill ride with at least two feature upgrades in play or having a theatre with a theme, a guest service upgrade and a feature in play, and so on. If, by the end of the game, you have ALL of the requirements on a Blueprint card you score the points listed, however, if you don’t you lose ten points. If you have all of the requirements you can also be eligible for the bonus portion of the card which has further requirements.
For example, the Blueprint that requires you to have a thrill ride with two features gives a bonus if you also have a food outlet. These cards are all ranked easy, medium or hard and have points assigned to them based on how difficult they are to fulfil.
The Blueprint action becomes unavailable for the last two turns of the game, which is indicated by placing a blueprint closing card into the city deck at the appropriate slot at the start of the game. When this card comes up it warns players they have one more round to buy blueprints and is then flipped to the blueprints closed side and placed on top of the blueprint deck for the remainder of the game.
Loose Change – Thematically you are scrounging around your attractions looking for money that’s fallen out of your guests’ pockets. Mechanically you get one coin for each attraction in your park
Demolish – Remove a card from your park, something you may want to do to fulfil a Blueprint, or if you find you want to replace one of your attractions with another one that generates more coins or combos better with a Staff card.
Once everyone has completed their three or four actions for the round we get to the guest step. Here players get income based on the star value of their attractions and upgrades. They also generate any bonus income from Staff. For example, the Coton Candy Vendor gives you two coins for every leisure ride in your park.
The other thing that happens in the guest step is that outside investors give you $5 towards the completion of your Showcase ride. These rides cost $20, provide three income, and give you one additional action per round (for a total of four). A big choice in this game is deciding when to build your Showcase. Do you wait until they are fully or almost paid off by investors or do you spend the money yourself early to get that extra action and some income back?
Finally, there’s a cleanup phase where the market is wiped and six new Park cards come out. Players also need to discard down to five Park cards if they have more than that in hand. Last, you pass the first player marker to the left.
This continues for six rounds total, at the end of which you move to final scoring. Here points are awarded for a number of things:
Attraction size: You count up all of the icons on all of your attractions and score points for the total number, the more icons the more points. These points ramp up as the attractions get bigger. For example, an attraction with three icons is worth twelve points whereas one with four icons is worth sixteen and an attraction with eight icons is worth thirty-eight points. The scoring track goes all the way up to seventeen icons though we’ve never seen anything that big in any of our plays.
Blueprints: You get points for completed Blueprints plus points for any bonuses earned and lose points for any incomplete Blueprints.
Coins: Every two coins you have at the end of the game is worth one point.
Staff: Most staff cards are worth a set number of points but some others give points for things in your park. For example, the Robot Performer awards you three points for every robot-themed attraction in your park.
The Award: As noted above fifteen points are awarded to the player who fulfils the current game’s randomized Award card’s requirement.
The player with the most points wins.
One thing I want to call out here is the excellent Funfair scorekeeping piece of software Good Games Publishing has online. This isn’t an app. It’s web-based and I quickly added a shortcut to it on my phone. This brilliant bit of software walks you through the scoring process and does all of the math for you, you just enter in the number of icons on each ride, the various blueprint points and bonus points earned, etc and it does all the work.
What I also thought was cool is that they are using this to do research on the game, to see what people’s scores are like and to watch for any trends that they can use to improve the game in the future.
Final thoughts on Funfair from Good Games Publishing
As for my thoughts on Funfair, I have to say right up front that I’m extremely impressed by this game, pretty much every aspect of it.
There’s something about Funfair that just feels very well crafted and polished. It feels like a lot of work went into it and that the game has been tweaked and designed for maximum fun and playability.
I’m sure a lot of this has to do with the fact it’s a follow-up to Unfair, a game that on its own, is very well regarded. While I have not (yet) played Unfair itself, I can tell that they took what worked from that and used it to build this game.
I’ve also heard that this game, Funfair, was made as a direct result of people complaining about the unfairness in Unfair, both the cutthroat player vs player nature of the game and the meanness of the event cards. All of that meanness has been removed from Funfair.
In Funfair, really the only way to do anything bad to another player is to perhaps hate draft a card you know they want. Even that though I don’t think is a valid strategy as there are multiple copies of most of the cards and in all of the plays we’ve had, it’s way more valuable for you to take something you want and can use versus taking something just to deny it from another player.
The design of the cards and the play space in Funfair is top-notch. The iconography is easy to read even across the table which becomes important especially when trying to figure out who is winning the race to get an Award and for looking at your own cards and quickly being able to figure out if you qualify for a Blueprint. I even like that they included a two-sided board, it’s a nice touch. I was also really impressed by the currency in this game as I mentioned earlier when talking about what you get in the box.
If I had to bring up any complaints with Funfair, I only have two. The first is the box insert, it’s just not a good insert for holding cards, which is odd for a game with a hundred and fifty cards, and it’s specifically disappointing when comparing it to the insert for Unfair. While I do fully understand that this was probably done to keep the game at a more accessible price point, it’s still a disappointment.
My other complaint deals with one specific card in the game: The Park Designer. This Staff card gives the owning player 2 points for every Blueprint they have collected at the end of the game as well as making it so that you can’t lose points for incomplete Blueprints. We’ve found that if a player gets this early in the game, especially in their starting hand, they are almost guaranteed to win due to being able to collect a bunch of blueprints and not having to worry about fulfilling them all. There was one game where Deanna managed to score 95 of her 150 points just due to Blueprints and this card. Now there’s only one copy of the Park Designer in the deck and the odds of it coming up earlier are pretty small but I’ve seen it happen twice now. As a house rule, I recommend reshuffling that particular card back in if it comes out the first round.
Other than those two minor complaints I love everything about Funfair.
What I think I enjoy the most is that it manages to provide a very fulfilling game experience in about an hour. I find it very common in engine building games to get to the end of the game and want one more turn. Most of those games have you just finish your engine and maybe run it once before the game ends and I find, in those kinds of games, I always want more time.
I don’t get this feeling in Funfair at all. Actually, it’s the exact opposite, the game feels like it’s exactly the right length. I have just enough time to get the things in place I want to have in place, just enough to fulfil a couple of blueprints and maybe get both of the bonuses. Looking back on the games I’ve played, sure I could have done more with one more turn but then so would everyone else and all of us would just get a few more points, I don’t feel like I would have made any significant changes at that point. I find the endpoint in Funfair very satisfying which again reinforces that feeling that this is just a very well designed and polished game.
Overall Funfair is a great theme park building game. Despite being a filler game, with most games lasting only an hour, I have found every play to feel very rewarding. It’s like I got the feel and experience of a bigger heavier game in a surprisingly short time period. Funfair is expertly designed and feels very polished. While I personally have yet to try Unfair I think this is a fantastic standalone game, a great family weight game and a perfect gateway to hobby board games and/or engine building games in general. Above that though, there’s more than enough meat here for experienced gamers to chew on and enjoy.
I can’t help but recommend this one to gamers of all experience levels.
Funfair and its predecessor Unfair aren’t the first theme park themed board games on the market. What’s your favourite theme park game? I would love to hear about it in the comments. If you’ve played Funfair and/or Unfair I would love to hear about that as well!