Full disclosure: A preview copy of Promenade was provided by Sunrise Tornado Game Studio. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
At this point, it’s been a while since I’ve looked at a Kickstarter game; a whole two weeks, wow. From my perspective writing this, I think it’s been a few days since I wrote up a Kickstarter game (yeah; I did Ocean Crisis a few weeks ago), but I’m trying to stay ahead of the curve since I assume more are coming (and I only sorta remember what I’ve agreed to review, as usual). Anyways, let’s check out another one!
In Promenade, you play as art speculators (or lovers; I don’t mean to assume your intentions) trying to take a walk and look for great art along the way. One artist in particular catches your eye, and you start buying up what you can and setting up exhibitions to show off the works that you’ve picked up. Unfortunately, your fellow art enthusiasts have their own designs on this work, and your conflict, while terrible, is also going to be fairly lucrative. Who will manage to procure the most valuable art collection of all?
First thing’s first; the board’s huge, place it on the table:
Also place the Market Rating Board nearby:
Set up the board by shuffling the 3 Gold Cards and revealing two of them under Morisot Banque. You don’t have to shuffle the 5s; they’re all the same.
Place the orange 1-cost token on the space next to Megan Galerie, and then shuffle the other orange tokens and place three on the other spaces next to the other galleries. Put the remaining orange tokens in increasing order on the track above:
Then add the white tokens on their corresponding spaces:
Since you love cubes so much, take a cube in each color (and that orange disc) and put them all on the 0 on the Market Board:
Give each player a player board. Use the bottom side for now; top one’s for scoring:
Give each of them a set of genre token cubes; put them on the 1 on their player board (all paintings are worth 1 Gold right now):
Now, give each player meeples in a color of their choice; put one on the 0 VP square on the board:
Give each player a set of player cards, depending on which player they are (later players start with slightly better cards, to compensate):
Shuffle the Painting cards:
Give each player 5 to shuffle into their decks. Players should look at these; they’re important. Deal another three face-up to each of the Galleries. Once you’ve done that, place the deck face-down on the board.
Shuffle the End-Game Bonus Cards; add one to each of the Exhibition spaces:
While you’re setting up the Exhibitions, there should be a pouch with three sets of genre tokens and six black tokens; take one from the bag randomly for each space. You’ll have two left over:
All players should shuffle their decks and draw five cards, and the first player will begin their turn!
So, Promenade is a deckbuilder about art collection and speculation. You buy art from galleries and take it to fancy exhibitions to try and increase its value in order to make yourself rich by game’s end (in points, at least). The nice thing about the value is that it can only go up, so, either way you’ll end up rich.
On your turn, what’ll happen is you’ll take one of three actions. Generally, these actions require you to spend money. The nice thing about Promenade is that you start with some Gold Cards, which can be discarded for the amount printed on the card, but if you just want them gone, you can also remove them from the game for the value printed on the bottom of the card (usually higher). The other cool thing is that if you’re out of Gold, no problem! You can discard paintings to spend them as money, too! They’re usually worth 1 Gold at the game’s outset, but their value can increase. Let’s talk about the actions and I’ll explain how. On your turn, you can take any two of these actions (or the same action twice):
This one isn’t too interesting. You just discard one card to draw two cards. That’s about all that’s going on, here.
So, this is how you get new paintings. Look at one of the Galleries (either paintings or Gold) and see how much it costs to buy a card from there (usually printed on the board or on a cube). Discard cards from your hand whose value is equal to or greater than that cost (no change given, sorry) and add the card to your discard pile.
Each Gallery has a Market Rating to the right of its name. On the Market Rating Board, advance the cube matching the color of the painting you just bought that many spaces. If you move it to a new row, it usually increases in points value or monetary value; if its monetary value goes up, then it’ll be worth more immediately to all players.
Last note; if you Acquire two paintings in the same turn, they must be from different galleries. It’s easy to forget that, so, try not to? I usually forget it, at least. Alas.
For this action, you’re going up past the Galleries to the Museums. Pay money equal to the cost of an Exhibition (or more, but still; no change) to add a painting card from your hand to the Museum.
- In order to get a painting into the Museum, you must have an Invitation. All that means is that your painting color must match one of the remaining cubes in that Museum’s area. Black cubes are wild!
Once you do that, place your meeple on the painting (so you remember it’s yours) and take one of the cubes matching the color of the painting you just added (or a black cube, if you want) and place it on the highest uncovered VP space (I definitely forgot to do this; whoops) and score that many points. I remembered the points; just ended up returning the cubes to the bag.
If it’s your first time exhibiting a painting, you may also take a New Exhibitor Bonus (it’s a one time thing). These are either immediate discounts on the cost of exhibiting or bonus VP.
As with Acquiring, you now advance the Market Rating of that painting by the value on the Exhibition. That’s usually much higher than the value in a Gallery, so that’s nice.
End of Turn
At the end of your turn, first thing you do is discard as many cards as you want from your hand (you don’t have to discard any), and then draw back up until you have five cards in hand.
Next, if any Gallery is depleted, remove its cost token from the game and replace it with the leftmost available cost token from the line above that is higher-valued. As you might guess, it would be weird if a Gallery decreased in cost. Sort of a Painting Warehouse Blowout Sale or something. Not common. Either way, if multiple Galleries are depleted, replace them from left to right. Once you’ve done that, refill all Galleries (even the not-depleted ones) back to their full amount of paintings (3, 3, 2, 2, respectively).
Last thing, if there are fewer than two 3 Gold Cards under Morisot Banque, reveal cards until there are two face-up.
End of Game
At the end of a player’s turn, if any of these conditions are met, the game end begins! Finish the round, of course:
- 12 (or more!) paintings have been exhibited in the Museum.
- The painting deck is depleted.
- One or more Market Rating tokens are 70 or higher.
Once the last player has completed their turn, move to final scoring:
First, move all the Market Rating Tokens (except Gold) to the left side of the board; that’s how many VP each painting of that color is worth in your deck. For Gold, move that token to the right side of the board; that’ll be a ratio of how many Gold to need to earn a point.
Now, score paintings! You can use the back of your Player Board to help. Note that paintings in the Museum aren’t included in this scoring! You already got points for them when you exhibited them, you double-counter. Also score your Gold based on the ratio it achieved on the Market Rating Board.
Last up, score End of Game Bonuses! If no more Invitation Cubes remain below a Museum space, that End of Game Bonus scores! Do whatever the card says. If none are fulfilled, then whichever exhibition has the most paintings scores. If there’s a tie, all tied exhibitions score their bonuses.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I think the thing to watch as player counts change is that other players can effectively conspire to do things that will super help or super hurt you. If they are all feeling helpful, they may make moves that increase the value of cards in your deck, which is always nice; unfortunately, these moves may be buying all the paintings of the color you want. Best case, that means your advantage is minimized; worst case, they also cause the market to refresh, making subsequent paintings more expensive for you. Neither of those are great options.
It also makes the museum more interesting, as players can conspire actively to pick museums whose end-of-game cards hurt other players, rather than help them. Naturally, I’d recommend not doing so out loud; in-game collusion is frowned upon. But you might be able to leave the option open for another player in a way that you can’t do at lower player counts. That said, at lower player counts, you have more control over the market manipulation, so you might end up being more pleased with the results that you got for yourself. I don’t really have a major preference on player counts; the game plays differently but it’s still interesting regardless.
- I think it’s slightly better to run a large deck than a small one, provided you have the same number of high-value cards. See, the thing is, you’re still getting points for the small-value cards; your buying power is just somewhat reduced. If you can get other players to inadvertently raise the value of your cards (usually by leaving only those cards in the market so they will eventually buy them), then you can artificially inflate your own value, which is awesome! You should do that as much as possible.
- Be careful about going too hard in a single color right out of the gate. Other players may not take you up on that and you might be responsible for raising its value yourself, which may be less than ideal. Just make sure that you’re also confident that you have the most of the color you decide to boost the value of, obviously.
- Trash your starting cards quickly. Once you get paintings that can replace them in value, it’s time to get rid of them.
- Trashing the 3 Gold cards isn’t a bad move either, if you’re in a bind. Usually they’ll let you exhibit or buy and still have enough cards left over for another action, which is great. Just remember that Gold is usually worth something at the end of the game, as well.
- Generally try to avoid putting your high-value cards in the Museum. Naturally, you might have to if you want to get stuff done, but getting rid of a 5- or 6-value card when you have 1-value cards in your hand is … never a particularly excellent move.
- When you place a card in the museum, take the black cube first, every time. Taking the wild cube means that an opponent following you cannot just place whatever painting they want into the museum, which is great. It’s even better if the other cards required for that museum happen to be cards that you have many of, so subsequent exhibitions will only raise the value of your deck (even if you don’t play there).
- It’s never bad to be the first person to exhibit something. You can get a 3-money rebate, for instance, or extra points! Either way, it’s not the biggest deal in the game, but it’s not nothing.
- Don’t just buy Gold Cards to boost your score near the end of the game. Unless it’s 1:1 (which buying Gold will disrupt), paintings are almost always more valuable. The only reason I wouldn’t do that is if I’m worried that I’m boosting the value of other players’ paintings disproportionately.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the art. Ta-Te (the designer) did it all himself! Isn’t that kind of awesome? Like it’s a whole end-to-end experience, here.
- Makes the game kind of funny. I assume that his intent wasn’t to flex, but the game is about buying his art and trying to put it into a museum, which is kind of a humorous power move that I respect. Either way, it’s pretty rad, and I love the theme and the art of this game.
- Generally very pro-deckbuilder. I mean, there are lots of genres I like, but deckbuilding was one of my early favorite genres; it’s tough for me to not be into it, now.
- I really like the Museum and its various mechanics. I think having players spend cards to try and unlock end-game scoring effects is super interesting, for instance; it makes for a nice variability tweak but also one with player control. I think it’s a cool mechanic that I haven’t seen in a lot of the games I’ve played.
- I also really like the way that the Promenade costs are set initially. I bungled it slightly, last time I played (I shuffled all of them, not just 2 – 8 [might be worth making the 1 another different color], whoops), but I think that’s a cool way to set value for the various markets without it veering wildly. I also appreciate not only how the Promenade refills (when any one section is depleted), but I also like that it refills the entire Promenade, not just the one that was depleted. It makes for some interesting elements of when to go for a full refresh (especially since the next player gets first dibs).
- It’s an interesting spin on deckbuilding market dynamics, as well. The cards themselves don’t get better in terms of abilities; they just become more valuable over the course of the game, enabling better actions than were previously available. It makes the game a lot easier to learn, in my opinion, since there aren’t new things coming around to mess with you. Once you learn the core game, there’s not much else (until the expansions arrive).
- Giant board. I understand why it’s so large but dang; I could barely fit it into my photography area (and even then, I still struggled with it; I’m not 100% convinced it worked).
- I assume the final box will be a bit less weirdly-shaped. That’s why it’s only a meh! That said, it is rather handy how many places a box this small can fit, so, I’m definitely of two minds on it.
- I think having the New Exhibitor Bonuses on the board makes it a bit confusing. I initially thought that the NEBs were permanent upgrades (-3 to all exhibition costs; +2 points on exhibition) rather than a one-time bonus; since it’s only one-time, it may be worth putting the bonuses on cards and letting each player remove one from the game or something, rather than placing a meeple on it. Then, players know what’s still available without assuming that it’s a permanent upgrade to their character.
- Moving / keeping track of the various cubes that need moved can be a bit tedious / annoying. This is where recessed boards would help a lot; it’s very easy to accidentally knock cubes around. While that doesn’t matter much for the cubes on the board, hitting the Market Board could be a game-delaying catastrophe. That said, I’m not sure how you make a recessed board for a possible maximum of five cubes and a disc…
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I mean, I’m a sucker for art and deckbuilding, yes, but I do really enjoy Promenade! I think there are a lot of things in the variable setup that click for me: the market is dynamic, the museum has a lot of random effects and requirements, and even my deck is somewhat random from the get-go! Naturally, some could complain that that might inject more luck into the game than they’re looking for, but I wouldn’t necessarily buy that; I think it just makes the game feel a bit more vibrant to me every time I play. It also does a good job of showing Ta-Te Wu’s (in my opinion) skill and breadth as a designer. This is a fundamentally very different game than the last game I got from Sunrise Tornado. Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoy Cat Rescue, but this is a very different animal (pun intended) from the previous one, and I like it. Naturally, as with the previous game, there will be expansions to look forward to and new twists on the gameplay, and I’m really excited to see what he comes up with for Promenade (and what he does next). If you’re looking for a pretty dynamic (and just pretty, straight-up) deckbuilder, I’d definitely recommend checking out Promenade! I’ve had a lot of fun playing it.