Full disclosure: A review copy of Geometric Art was provided by EmperorS4.
And we’re back with another EmperorS4 title! I have like, four of these teed up, so I’m hoping I’m going to be able to power through all of them as the new year starts. Not 100% sure if that’s going to actually work, since I need to basically finish four weeks of reviews in two weeks’ time; I should consider taking an actual break or something at some point, but it’s not going to happen. Alas. Either way, not your deal; let’s talk about Geometric Art!
So, in Geometric Art, like A Fake Artist Goes to New York, you find yourself once again presenting in an art exhibition. You keep getting into fancy galleries. Thankfully, this one just requires some … constraints. You must understand the intuition of geometry if you want to progress, since you’re going to be fairly limited in that regard. You can try and participate in the Joint Exhibition, but there are also ways to discover which of you is the Best Artist. Will your artistic skills be able to reveal their depth when viewed from many angles?
The game itself has two versions: a Cooperative and a Competitive one. I’ll cover both. Generally speaking, though, they both have a lot of things in common. You’re going to give each player a player board and a marker:
Set out the dice nearby:
Shuffle up the Theme Cards:
There are various Ability / Dice Number Cards; set those aside for now:
For this mode, simply give each player an Ability Card and a Return Die Card; you don’t need the Dice Number Cards.
For this mode, shuffle up the Dice Number Cards and place them near the deck. Reveal one to start!
Again, two modes: Competitive and Cooperative.
In the Cooperative Variant, start a round by revealing a new Theme Card. The symbol on the back of the card on top of the deck corresponds to the theme you’re going to draw on the front of the flipped card. Now, roll the dice. Each player may use each symbol on the dice one time in their drawing.
Draw something and give it a title below the fold in your player board. When you’re ready, it’s time to reveal your art!
Choose one player to be the first Exhibitor. Everyone else should discuss what they think the painting is. The Exhibitor cannot speak. Once they’ve settled in, each player individually guesses what the painting is, and then the Exhibitor reveals the title! If everyone guessed correctly, the Exhibitor puts a checkmark in the box above the art on their player board. For every player who guessed incorrectly, that player puts an X in one of their boxes and immediately removes a die from play.
Continue doing this in clockwise order until every player has been the Exhibitor. Then, the round ends. As a bonus punishment, if players have made the same drawing (generally with the same name) as any other player, all of those players add an additional X to their player boards (but do not remove a die).
Once the round ends, check to see if you’ve lost:
- If only one die remains, the players lose.
- If any player has gotten too many Xs, the players lose.
- 2 Players: 4 Xs
- 3 Players: 5 Xs
- 4 Players: 6 Xs
- 5 Players: 7 Xs
Otherwise, if you complete the fifth round without anyone losing, everyone wins!
In this mode, players play similarly to the cooperative mode, but everyone is in it for themselves.
Roll all 7 dice, but then reveal the top Dice Number of the deck; you may only use that many dice. Still use a Theme Card and draw a picture. Once everyone’s finished, you can reveal to each other simultaneously, but I prefer to wait until it’s a player’s turn to be the Exhibitor. Feels more fair.
One player will again be the Exhibitor, and players compete to raise their hand first to take a guess. When a player raises their hand, if they’re correct in their guess, they get two checkmarks. The Exhibitor gets one. If they’re wrong, they get an X and the other players have a chance to guess. If all players guess incorrectly, the Exhibitor receives an X as well.
The next player clockwise is the Exhibitor, and play continues as before until all players have been the Exhibitor, then the round ends. If multiple players drew the same thing, like the cooperative game, they receive an X.
The game ends once any player has received too many Xs:
- 3 Players: 5 Xs
- 4 Players: 6 Xs
- 5 Players: 7 Xs
Once that happens, all players count up their checkmarks; the player with the most wins!
Player Count Differences
The major one is that it’s much easier to lose the game at higher player counts if players get dragged to the wrong consensus. Since every player removes a die, you can run out of dice rapidly. Be careful with that and make sure players are aware of that as a consequence before you start playing. Unless you love short games, in which case, go wild. Not here to tell you how to live your life. The competitive version has pretty much no meaningful changes with player count, though I would contend the game takes slightly longer since you’re guessing more drawings in an individual round. I’d like to see some tweaks for the cooperative game so you don’t hemorrhage as many dice at higher player counts, but beyond that I don’t really have a strong preference for player count. Even if you’re losing rapidly, it’s still hilarious, so, whatever works. I still think it’s a blast to play.
- Neither game rewards you for being intentionally obtuse. You’re not trying to win a prize for abstract art or help the world realize that you’re the reincarnation of Picasso himself; you’re trying to get someone to guess what you meant to draw with a few terrible blocks. If you can do that, great! Otherwise, don’t necessarily endeavor to try and do things like “finishing the last drop of mayonnaise” or whatever weird thing might be technically possible from your combination of cubes but isn’t actually going to help anyone correctly guess your drawing. Remember; you’re trying to help the players guess, even if it’s the competitive variant! You get more points that way.
- Don’t forget about your Ability Cards. A lot of players don’t use these when they might actually be really helpful! Especially as the game heads towards its final few rounds, you might be able to leverage those cards to prevent further catastrophe. Also, playing your “get a die back” cards early in response to some initial problems can save you a lot of future heartache. Either way, not enough people use those cards quickly enough, so I try to recommend to people to play them sooner rather than not at all.
- Try not to fixate on obscure things. This is what happens to me a lot. I see “horrible” and I think the phrase, “A skeleton! Ewww.” It’s funny, but not helpful. Instead, try to think about things like “monster” or “ghost” or “student loan debts”. Maybe not the last one.
- Be careful about drawing the absolute lowest common denominator, though, as well. This one comes up a lot with certain card / dice combinations; if you draw the same thing as someone else you both get an X on your board; that’s not great for either variant. You may need to veer a bit off if you’re worried you’re going to collide with someone else. Ironically, it’s the same problem players face in Just One; nobody will take the obvious thing because they’re worried everyone else is going to do so.
- Remember in both games that the drawer wants you to correctly guess the image. They’re not trying to throw you off; they either want you to guess right so that you all don’t lose dice or they want you to guess right so that they get points. Either way they’re essentially on your team, so, assume best intentions and that they’re trying to help.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I pretty much only ever want to play this cooperatively, but I appreciate that it has a competitive variant as well. I really like cooperative games, especially for higher player counts! I’ve played the competitive variant and it’s also fun, but cooperative is more my speed. Either way, I appreciate that it has the option for both modes but seems to default to cooperative. It’s nice when games are flexible like that; you much more often see competitive games with cooperative variants than the other way around.
- It’s an interesting spin on a roll-and-write game. You’re technically rolling and writing, but it’s not really quite that genre; it’s much more a drawing game facilitated by random player interactions. I’d love to call it a party game, but it’s on the lower end of player counts for that (at 5).
- Portable. It’s a good sized box, but it’s not terribly big, which I appreciate. Should be able to take it most places.
- I just really like drawing in games. I’m consistently AWFUL at it, but it’s a lot of fun. This and Monsdrawcity (Deep Water Games, later) are both drawing games I’ve had a blast with. This one I like a lot because I think the constraints excuse my lack of practiced skill in the space. Now I just need to find a professional artist I can trick into playing this with me. I wonder if Beth Sobel reads my reviews? Guess we’ll find out at OrcaCon!
- The presentation phase is great. I love when you’re playing cooperatively and you just have to watch one player drag everyone else off the right answer (or the opposite). It’s all the best parts of Mysterium and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, but for decidedly lower stakes, which I appreciate.
- I really like the “use the back of one card to choose the front of the next” style of picking things. It’s seemingly more elegant than using an extra die, in my opinion. I know Insider does this as well, and it’s something I’ve always liked. I’m not sure what other games do this.
- No erasers is kind of a problem for a drawing game. You can just use a paper towel or a napkin, but make sure that you have one available. I didn’t, so I cut up a foam eraser into five chunks and that works great.
- The yellow marker is pretty hard to see when used. It’s very bright for drawing on a white surface. I would honestly just say avoid it and use a different marker, if you can.
- Some of the cards, similar to Insider, could use a bit of touching up before a stateside release. There’s just a few oddly-worded, kind-of-esoteric, or vague cards in the deck. I think that it makes it more fun (and it’s not quite as much of a problem as it would be in Insider), but I wonder if there are ways they can be streamlined.
- There aren’t always enough boxes for the checks and Xs you need. You can just note them in the available extra space, but it doesn’t look great on the player board, being real.
- I appreciate the aesthetic, but having art that blocks the drawing area can be frustrating, at times. This is just something that I get mildly stressed about when I play, and I know that I’m weird.
- Having players lose a die every time anyone guesses wrong makes the game scale oddly at higher player counts. It means a five-player cooperative game could only last two rounds, which is kind of strange. I feel like this part of the game might need tweaked, but I’m unsure how to do it, honestly. It’s just an odd thing, since one loud player can steer other players onto the wrong path and then cause everyone to get it wrong.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I think there’s a lot to like with Geometric Art! Personally, I’m a sucker for drawing games, and that stems all the way back to playing like, Pictionary Telephone in college a decade or so ago. It’s just a fun thing to do when you’re sitting with friends, even if one player is much better than the others. The nice thing about this game is that they normalize that a bit by forcing everyone to use very standard geometric shapes to do the work for them. Now all the art’s a bit abstract, but on purpose. It’s also got a good sense of cross-player appeal, as it has both a competitive and a cooperative variant, which will help it a lot if you want to break it out at any particular game night. Personally, it’s very close to 10 plays for me, which means it’ll likely make my 30×10 before the year’s out, which I’m always excited about. I’m hoping this gets brought over to the US so that more people can play it, but I’ll be interested to see if they can iron out some of the clunkier parts. Forcing players to lose dice is great, but if you lose too many in one round, the game ends basically before it even begins. To wit, if you’re playing a 5-player game and all other players are wrong twice (40% of the time), you’ve already lost the game without even getting to draw again. That’s kind of a bummer. It would be nice to cap the number of dice lost in a round at 3 or something so you’re at least guaranteed two rounds of gameplay, but, I’m not a designer so I’m not gonna say that’s a fix. I’m confident once more players get it, though, we’ll start seeing some house rules iron that out. Even then, it’s not that big of a deal; you just play again once you lose. Either way, I think it’s a blast of a game and if you’re looking for a quick drawing game that’s cooperative or competitive, I’d definitely recommend checking out Geometric Art! I’ve really enjoyed it.