Full disclosure: A review copy of ArtSee was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
I think this is the first time I’ve had like, three weeks of Renegade Games in a row in a while. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they release a lot of stuff, but generally speaking, it’s been a while since I got this good of a streak going, which is fun. And it’s been a fun streak, with Terror Below (and its “expansion”) two weeks ago and Time Chase last week. Now, we’ve got ArtSee and I still need to figure out what’s next, especially since ClipCut Parks arrived. Anyways, let’s dive into ArtSee and let me figure out what’s next from Renegade on my time.
In ArtSee, you’re a budding art gallery curator, and you want to build out your selection. Naturally, no place will even sell you Masterpieces unless you’re sufficiently prestigious, but a great museum isn’t built in a day; it’s built over a series of rounds against other museum curators trying to do the same thing! I imagine the town’s got a very loose permit office or something. Or maybe they love museums? Who knows. Anyways, try your best to build your Gallery and earn Prestige. Will you be able to become the greatest museum in town?
First, shuffle the Starting Exhibit Cards:
Deal each player two face-up adjacent to each other (forming columns), and then put three face-down to form their starting hands. Put the rest back in the box. Then, prepare the Main Exhibit Cards:
- 2 players: Remove 4 random cards of each color / category.
- 3 players: Remove 3 random cards of each color / category.
- 4 players: Use all the cards.
- 5 players: Remove 3 random cards of each color / category.
Shuffle them and split them into two roughly-equal size decks. Then, separate the Masterpiece Tokens by type and place them in the play area:
Set the Prestige Tokens nearby:
Finally, give every player a set of Visitor Pawns in the color of their choice:
- 2 players: 5 Visitors
- 3 players: 7 Visitors
- 4 players: 8 Visitors
- 5 players: 9 Visitors
Once you’ve done that, choose a player to start and you’re ready to go!
Alright, ArtSee is about making yourself the greatest art museum in the land by expanding your galleries. As you do, you’ll get the opportunity to attract visitors, gain Prestige, and ultimately collect Masterpieces. It’s all impressive, but watch out for greedy opponents who might try to mooch off your greatness! When the game ends, only the player with the most Prestige will be able to call themselves the greatest art curator of all!
On your turn, you’ll do the following actions in order:
Play a Card
This one isn’t too challenging (though it matters the most). Play a card from your hand either on or adjacent to one of your existing columns. It should cover the bottom half of the card, not the top. You may create new columns to the left and right of existing ones, but you cannot create new columns in between existing ones. Once you’ve played a card, your opponents may Welcome Visitors. If you played a card on top of existing Visitors, set them aside for now.
This is only for your opponents; you cannot gain Visitors on your turn. Look at the card that was just played. Every one of your opponents may add one Visitor to each of the cards in their gallery of that color. Note that the bottom half of the card determines what the card’s type is. They may also choose to not add Visitors, if they’d prefer not to do so.
Now, you score. The card you just played has a type and an arrow. Look at the column the arrow points to (it may be one of your opponents’!). Score one Prestige for each of the art pieces of that type in that column.
Additionally, if you set aside any Visitors because you played a card on a gallery column containing them, gain 1 Prestige per set-aside Visitor and then return them to your Visitor Supply.
Claim a Masterpiece
Now, you may claim a Masterpiece, if you want. If you scored 5 or more Prestige as a result of the card you just played, you may claim a corresponding Masterpiece of that type, if it’s available. A few caveats:
- The Masterpiece must be able to be placed. You place a Masterpiece between any two columns in your play area or on the left or right end of your play area. Only one Masterpiece per location.
- You may only take one Masterpiece of each type. If you took a less valuable one and now you want a more valuable one, too bad. No trades.
- You don’t have to take the Masterpiece if you don’t want to. You can try again on another turn. Just be careful that someone doesn’t take the one you want before you can.
- Masterpieces count as art. They sit between columns and will give you a bonus Prestige if you play a card that looks for art of their type, just like any other art on a card. Just remember, if you play it on the end of your play area, your neighbor can get those points too!
Draw a Card
Draw a card from the deck. The backs of the cards indicate what type of art is featured on the front.
End of Game
After all cards have been played, the game ends! Count scores:
- Masterpiece Bonuses: Each Masterpiece is worth the number of Prestige points indicated on the back of the token.
- Masterpiece Sets: Gain Prestige points for the number of different Masterpieces you have:
- 1: 1 Prestige
- 2: 3 Prestige
- 3: 6 Prestige
- 4: 10 Prestige
Add in your Prestige, and the player with the most Prestige wins!
Player Count Differences
Practically, the only differences between player counts in this game is that higher player counts are riskier, because other players can grab Masterpieces. At lower player counts, say, two players, your opponent can only grab one of each Masterpiece, so you’re incentivized to go for the highest-value one. Worst-case, you can still get the second-highest value one, which is basically just as good. At higher player counts, you may never be able to get the ones you need because all that are left for you are the highest in each category, and I’m pretty sure it’s challenging to get the highest-value Masterpiece in every color. Like, functionally, it might be doable, but practically I don’t think it’s going to happen. To that end, I think I like it at lower player counts, just because there’s less competition for Masterpieces, but you do get fewer Visitors, too, I suppose? That’s more a probability thing than anything else. It’s not a strong preference, but yeah, lower player counts.
- I mean, you gotta build up some impressive columns. This is your primary vector for scoring points, beyond trying to do the same thing with profiting off of your opponent’s impressive columns. Can’t recommend that as a long-term viable strategy, but it might be worth something every now and then. In the meantime, though, building up your own usually gives you a pretty decent source of a lot of points.
- Once you do, block them off. So I think this part is the real kicker; you want to basically immediately shut other players out of your nice columns when you have a chance to do so. That means that they have to build their own columns and do their own work; they can’t have any of yours. I think this is a smart move, generally speaking, otherwise when your columns get really impressive, you’re going to end up paying your opponents, effectively, as well. Plus, you need to add at least one column to make space for all four Masterpieces in your tableau area, so, do that ASAP.
- Keep an eye on what other players have in their hands. This one is pretty cool. If you look at other players’ hands, the backs of their cards tell you at lot of information about what the fronts have, primarily their color. This means that if you have cards face-up in your Gallery area of the same color, when they play those cards you’ll get Visitors. That’s pretty much strict points for you, so make sure you capitalize on the information.
- Save up those Visitors for big plays. If you get three or four Visitors on a spot, you can play a card on them to usually get the higher-value Masterpiece tokens, which is great. Don’t waste them on a 5; try and get a 9.
- Remember that the backs of the cards give you some information about the front. This primarily concerns you when you’re drawing cards. Try to draw cards such that you can profit off your best column as much as possible, but also don’t forget that you need to build up that column.
- Getting Masterpieces is crucial, but so is timing when you get them. You should try to gently block your opponents, if you can, but you generally need to make sure you get one of each before the game ends. Don’t plan out a complex scheme and ultimately forget to get one of each.
- Be careful about the end of the game. That’s what I mean; it can sneak up on you and you might not have the cards you need to get Masterpiece Tokens. You can only get a Masterpiece Token of the color of the card you play, so make sure you’re taking some that allow you to go after the cards you need, even if you’re giving your opponents some visitors.
- Try not to give other players too many Visitors. This is pretty crucial in general. You don’t want to give a ton of points away, but if you tend to spread them out you also minimize the chances that they’re going to be able to cash out all those Visitors, especially as the end of the game approaches. If you keep giving your opponent Visitors of the same color, they’ll be able to use them to get a killer Masterpiece Token.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art is very nice. It’s also fun! I appreciate that the art sort of plays with its source material and provides a subtle spin on the stuff that already exists. The game looks nice on its own, but I do appreciate the way it all comes together to be subtle, peaceful, and whimsical. I think it’s a very good look for the game, and I think it works well.
- It’s a very soothing game. I think the engine-building component is nice, but so is having an engine that nobody can mess with. You end up just building a few really nice columns, and the whole thing is great. I really appreciate that. Definitely a nice and relaxing game, though still strategic!
- The lack of direct conflict is interesting. I don’t really love direct conflict as-is, so having a game with pretty much none of that is really gratifying, for me. It, like I said, is soothing.
- I appreciate that you can harvest points off of other players’ columns. That’s a cool form of player interaction, even if more strategic players kind of shut it down pretty quickly.
- The getting information from the backs of other players’ cards is a really smart design move. I think it both makes the game look more vibrant (players are holding lots of colorful cards!) and it’s smart; you can use that to try and place strategically and earn Visitors from another player’s move. That’s pretty cool, honestly.
- Can be lightly negatively impacted by analysis paralysis. As the number of columns increase, so do the number of choices, which can really mess with some people. Thankfully, this can be mitigated somewhat by the fact that you really do only have three cards in your hand; there aren’t a ton of options that you can choose from. That said, some people go above and beyond to find a way to agonize. It’ll happen.
- Those Visitors are tiny. I fully expect at least one to get lost.
- Don’t really see what this has to do with an art museum, but whatever. I think it comes in via the Masterpiece tokens sitting between columns like paintings, but other than that there’s not really a ton of connections between the gameplay and the theme, I don’t feel.
- Not really much in the way of a catch-up mechanism. This can be mitigated somewhat if the player in the lead isn’t really paying much attention. Since players can profit from each others’ columns, simply place a card pointing towards their best column. The problem is, as soon as a player gets wise to this, they’ll likely shut their best columns out by building on both sides of them, so there’s no way for other players to get to them. When that happens, you’d best hope that your engine is built up enough that you can make points on your own gallery, otherwise your opponent is going to run away with it.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I think ArtSee is solidly fun! I think the nice thing that it’s got going for it is that it’s solidly a pleasant, relaxing game, and the lack of direct conflict (beyond snatching a Masterpiece Token that another player was eyeing) makes it easy for players to just politely chat while playing the game, which is awesome. The light engine-building component is also something that’s satisfying for players, since they are (or should be) consistently scoring more points over the course of every turn, leading to higher and higher totals. My one worry is that it seems very possible for a player to unrecoverably fall behind the others without much recourse beyond “don’t play wide; play a few really tall columns” or something. That’s not the worst thing, but if the game runs long and you’re stuck in a rut, it’s certainly not the most exciting time. The game makes up for it a bit with a fun theme and some cute art, not to mention some really nice color work, so it might be a great fit for players who want to learn some light engine-building but aren’t ready for something like Gizmos (which, personally, I’m still not). Either way, if you’re a fan of artsy games or you just want a quickish card-based engine builder with pretty much only pleasant player interaction, ArtSee might be worth checking out! I’ve certainly had fun with it.