Full disclosure: A review copy of Everyone Loves a Parade was provided by Calliope Games.
Like I said, I’m trying bits and pieces and mixes. One thing I’m trying more of is these mini-reviews, where I cut out the setup and gameplay and deliver the opinion parts of the game straight to your eyeballs for cheap. Two this week: this, and It’s A Wonderful World. We’ll see how it goes. If you like it, please comment; if you don’t like it, well, don’t comment, but I dunno. I’ll figure it out. I may do more of these going forward, pending my availability. Either way, without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Calliope’s Everyone Loves a Parade.
In Everyone Loves a Parade, you are small-town Americana float designers who seek the glory of building the ultimate parade float. There truly is no greater honor. However, only one of you can float, down here. The rest will languish in obscurity as “that person who made that weird float with the yellow flags” or whatever they’ll use instead of your much-shorter-name. Truly crushing. Over the course of three rounds, you’ll build out floats to impress the fickle crowds (and perhaps help use the dice to sway their opinions with decoration card abilities), and ultimately you’ll choose which of the three crowds is best-suited for your float by placing it in front of them. But be careful! Everyone has an order assigned before the round starts, and you might get stuck going after a player who has their eyes on the same crowd you’ve worked hard to convince they love your float idea. Can you successfully convince the crowd that you are the greatest of all floatcrafters?
Player Count Differences
Most of it is around entropy, honestly. The big thing is, in the two-player game, you play as two players, essentially, so you’ll have two sets of order cards and you’ll be building two floats. At higher player counts, you’re going to see a lot more chaotic movement around a certain number of crowd cards as players attempt to move in those directions. It’s good to be first at higher player counts, provided anything is worth getting, but it’s not the worst to be on the lower end of the order, as there might just be too many cards for players to torch all of them. What you want to do is try and create some tension around one very valuable card and let them fight it out so that you can grab the card that still works for you (or have an order card that lets you add additional dice). Just don’t fall behind, score-wise. I think, even then, the time to play scales upwards rapidly at higher player counts, so I may prefer this one at the lower end.
- You’re gonna have to be flexible. Don’t drill too deep into one plan for the Crowd Cards. They’re highly likely to change, and players will change them for you to try and mess you up. If you’re locked into one set of decorations, you’re not going to do all that well.
- Take cards that let you manipulate dice. You really want to be able to either mess other people up or help yourself. Help yourself if you have a high number; mess other people up if you have a lower number (or if you’re already in a good spot, do both!).
- Order matters a lot; keep that in mind. You don’t want to invest a ton of time into a crowd that you’re ultimately not going to get, unless you’re making them less valuable.
- More importantly, let your opponent think they have a lower order card than you if they don’t actually have one. Give them some reason to scramble and panic. The best thing to do is to have a player going first have zero good options. Then you’ve really messed them up.
- If you have the lower order card, it generally comes with an ability. If so, it usually helps to make all the crowd cards undesirable, since you can usually improve them. This is, of course, a risky proposition, but it might be worth it if that allows you to clown the player in the lead (or elevate yourself past them, which is even better).
- Try to get overlapping items on your float so that you can claim extra points. You can double-count items if the crowd wants both (they asked for Blue and Flowers, so Blue Flowers are worth double points). Try to make sure that happens consistently across your decorations if you want to maximize your score.
- You should try to mess up the plans of the player in the lead; there’s no other way to catch up. Just be careful; if they go before you they may assert that taking whatever you want might be more worth it to them than any other option; then you’re left with only bad options as well. Punishing a player really doesn’t work well when they’re going to go first in the next round’s order, which is kind of a bummer.
- Remember the rough probabilities of various dice faces and use that before you roll or add dice. Flowers / Flags / Balloons and Red / Yellow / Blue appear on 1 / 2 / 3 dice faces, respectively, and you shouldn’t rely on low-probability events to save you. Is it cooler? Indisputably. But you shouldn’t rely on them alone; you’ll end up getting ruined.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I really like the theme, honestly. There’s something relaxing to watching a parade. It’s probably because I grew up in a similar small town and this reminds me of the annual Homecoming Parade, though we had a vastly smaller budget. It’s nostalgic! And that’s good.
- Surprisingly, the crowd cards aren’t that hard to shuffle. I thought they were going to be more tiny-card nightmares, but turns out they shuffle just like regular cards. So that’s nice.
- I also like that the crowds seem samey in an old-video-game way. It reminds me of old arcade games where the crowd is faceless and pixelated, and that amuses me a lot. Was that intentional? Hard to say, but it definitely works within the context of this particular game. I find it endearing, personally. And maybe, if I’m being honest, just slightly eerie.
- I was worried, at first, that you didn’t get to roll the dice, and you might not, but generally you get to roll the dice. You can reroll them with various card actions. That’s what counts.
- I appreciate what the game’s ludonarrative interactions imply. So you’re changing the dice on the crowd cards, which means their preferences are shifting and you score differently for different floats. How does that … work? Are you sending agents of chaos into the crowds to sow lies about balloons? Are you slowly biasing an entire people against the color blue? Are you just loudly yelling HEY FLOWERS SUCK? These are questions the game asks and does not answer, and I think that’s great.
- It’s also cute that generally, as the game progresses, you build up a parade through some small town. That’s a cute way to save state between rounds, even though each round is kind of its own distinct thing that has no real bearing on subsequent rounds besides giving you a person to target, I suppose? It’s just enough to make me lean positive.
- Speaking of parades, it’s kind of humorous that this small-town, classic Americana parade is so intensely over-the-top. My hometown could not have afforded half of the stuff they have in this. It’s egregious and outrageous and classically American.
- This is me being nitpicky, but the screen-printed dice aren’t always the easiest to make out, feature-wise. I can’t really see what’s on the yellow die beyond a blob. Engraving is more pricey, but might have felt a bit nicer (but there are also so many dice).
- It also feels like making the score tracker tokens flatter (so that they stack) may have been better, so that way ties could all be on the same number. This one was just odd, yeah. They fall over all the time and it’s possible to mess up your score if you’re not careful.
- It can be difficult to feel that you have productive agency all the time in this one. If your opponents feel confident, they can basically make it very difficult (especially if 1 / 2 / 3 are all out) to get something that you actually need, scoring-wise. I don’t think they can shut you out entirely, if you have decent luck, but it can be hard to recover if multiple players are shutting you down on your turn, which isn’t a great feeling. It just depends a lot on which cards come up and what decorations are available; there isn’t much you can do if you’re getting consistently unlucky.
- Not much in the way of a catch-up mechanism unless all players band together and decide to try and clown the person in the lead, and even then that may not totally work. I think that’s again, because the three rounds are fairly distinct in their own right, so if you’re worried about this it may be worth treating them as three tiny microgames and just calling each round its own game. You’ll miss the full parade, but you won’t have a round where one player is 20+ points ahead and you need a miracle to stop them.
Overall: 5.5 / 10
Overall, I’m not quite sold on Everyone Loves a Parade. I mean, I do, but I’m not 100% sure that Everyone Loves Everyone Loves a Parade. And that’s fine, albeit a bit disappointing. I think this game might have seen more success if it didn’t feel like it had to adhere to the three-round model to extend out its gameplay; a simple light filler about making a parade that’s only one round might have gone over a lot better, honestly. I think that the problems start when a player gets too far ahead due to an early good round and players can’t catch up. When that happens, you have to slog through two more rounds of “the rich get richer” before ultimately, the anointed one wins. That thankfully doesn’t happen all the time, but it can happen if the right cards get dealt to the right people with a decent frequency. But that’s a preference thing; I imagine there are folks that love the challenge of trying to bring down a score Goliath. It’s just not me, personally. Beyond that, though, the thing that saved this from the obscurity of a sub-5 rating is that I genuinely like the theme and the implementation around the theme. It’s an upbeat game about parades and high-level strategic crowd manipulation to try and exact your nefarious decoration outcomes. Is this espionage? Kind of. And it’s intensely silly. If that sounds up your alley, maybe try this one out at one round and see what you think. If not, well, at least we can still enjoy the idea of sending agents into the crowd to manipulate the townfolk towards red flowers.