Recently I was given the opportunity to preview an upcoming new game that is currently in the design process. I received a print and play copy of the game and rules. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!
Curators is a game by Jacob Westerlund, published by Worldshapers. It is for 1-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of the chief curator of a museum with dwindling visitor numbers. They will be trying to develop creative displays and win contracts for famous objects to be placed in their museum. In the end, the player that can best run their museum thus earning the most visitor points will be declared the winner.
To begin, a certain number of exhibition tiles will be placed in the middle of the play area randomly in a spiral. The tiles used are determined by the number of players. This spiral is known as the exhibition market. In the middle of the spiral , the role change token is placed along with the end game token which is placed on top of it. The auction house board is placed near the spiral. An object disc of each corresponding color is placed on the bottom spaces of the rows on the auction house board. The remaining object discs are placed to the side in an area called the bank. Each player chooses a color and is given a set of double sided employee chips and a museum entrance board in their chosen color. Each chip is placed in front of the player with the yellow star ring side face up. The museum entrance board is also placed in front of them. Each player is also given 4 dollar bills, 1 reputation token and an object disc in the color of their choosing. This disc is placed in the basement of their museum entrance board. The reputation token is placed on the first space of the reputation track. The contract cards are shuffled together and each player is dealt 2 contracts. These are kept secret until the end of the game. The remaining tokens, money and contract cards are placed to the side in the bank area. The first player is chosen and play now begins.
The game is played over several rounds. Each round players will take a turn. On a player’s turn, they have the choice of 2 options. They can draw new contracts or allocate two employees. To draw new contracts, the player simply draws 2 contract cards from the deck and keeps 1. The other card is returned to the bottom of the contract deck. To allocate an employee, the player will flip over one of the double sided employee chips and then take the corresponding action for the side that was just flipped over. It should be noted that if a player has 2 identical symbols facing up on their employee chips, then the player is allowed to allocate both at the same time, taking the chosen action twice and flipping both chips over. There are 5 different employee actions that may be taken; Financial manager, Researcher, Archaeologist, Exhibit designer and Collection manager. The Financial manager allows the player to receive $1 for each of their reputation tokens. The Researcher allows the player to place objects of one color from their basement to any exhibits of the matching color in their museum. If doing this causes them to fill 1 or more exhibition tiles, the player may take a reputation token for each completed exhibition tile. The Archaeologist allows the player to take 2 undiscovered objects of the same color, placing 1 in their basement and 1 in the auction house. The auction house is filled from the bottom to the top. The Exhibit designer allows the player to buy an exhibition tile from the exhibition market. The player is allowed to buy any tile, however only the outermost exhibit tile is free. The cost increases by 1 for each tile further in the spiral the chosen exhibition tile is. Once bought, the tile must then be placed in the player’s museum. The first tile placed may be placed wherever the player choose, however future tiles must be placed adjacent to a room on a previously placed tile. The Collection manager allows the player to buy 1 or more objects of the same color from the auction house by paying the cost next to the auction house space from where it was taken. Each object bought is placed in the players basement. If the market is empty once a player has made their purchase, it is filled with 1 object of each color. Once the player has finished with their chosen option, play passes to the next player in turn order.
During the course of play, players will be completing contracts, either from the 2 that they started the game with or one that they obtained from drawing a contract on their turn. Contracts are completed when a player has built the shape shown on the contract card and they have placed objects on the spaces of those shapes. Some contracts will have wildcard symbols on them. For these contracts, any exhibition room color can be used.
The game continues with players taking their turn until the last exhibition tile has been taken. The player that takes this tile also collects the 2 visitor points end game token. Play continues until the round has ended and then one more round is taken. At this time the game ends and scoring occurs. Players score visitor points for each completed contract, for each exhibited object, for each set of $3, for each completed exhibition tile and for having the end game token. Each player adds up their visitor points and the player with the most is the winner.
This game has a lot of different pieces to it. Granted, the pieces are still in the design process so getting a really good handle on how the finished product will look is still a ways off. From my best estimation, it appears that there will be quite a lot of cardboard pieces with this one. There are employee chips, museum entrance boards, exhibition tiles, dollar bills and 5 dollar bills (yes, it appears that these will be cardboard and not flimsy paper.) object discs, the end game token, reputation tokens, the auction house board and the role change token. That’s quite a lot of pieces. At the moment, the artwork for these cardboard pieces is quite basic. Probably the most elaborate pieces are the employee chips and the object tokens as these all have a small icon on them that represents what they stand for. For instance, the archaeologist employee chips has an image of an Indiana Jones style Fedora on it. The museum entrance boards have a small reference in the bottom corner that shows what each employee action is through a series of icons. It’s a nice little reminder of what each one does, once you’ve played the game a time or two. The final piece is the stack of contract cards. These are completely square like the cards from Fields of Green. They have a visitor point reward number on them, a small picture of the item it represents and a museum layout. There’s also a description that tells when it was discovered and where it’s kept. I’m not going to be harsh with the components at this point as this is still in the early stages. I’m hoping and banking on the graphic design of each piece to greatly improve. As it is now, the game is functional and it’s easy to figure out what each piece is and how it works. As things progress and this gets closer to being released, whether through Kickstarter or wherever Worldshapers decides to put it out into the world, I’m expecting a much better looking game overall. In any event, when looking at the pictures just know that this is no where near being finished.
The rulebook like the components is also in the early stages of development. I have the 0.0.26 version of the rules. So things will change I’m sure, if they haven’t already. As it is, I just have a copy printed out on plain printer paper. Looking at the rules, I can point out a few things. There are a few pictures in the rules, such as a picture of how the game looks set up, along with an example or two with detailed pictures for them as well. I do hope that as things get closer to production that the number of pictures and examples increase. Just to add a bit of pop to the book. The rules themself are fairly easy to understand. I couldn’t find anything major that stood out to me as an issue. There were a few minor spelling or wording problems but nothing that is any reason for concern. The rules also include a solo variant which progress through 6 different stages. In this variant you are hired as the curator of bigger and more prominent museums starting at the local museum and progressing all the way to the curator of the Louvre in Paris, France. Each one offers a new challenge as well as increasing the difficulty each time. Overall I think the rules cover everything fairly well. A couple of times I found myself looking back at the rules for clarification. Thankfully I was able to find what I was looking for rather quickly and without too much trouble. I think everything is laid out quite well making it easy to find what you’re looking for. I think as long as some more pictures and examples get added to the finished rulebook, everything should end up looking great. For the time being, I’m good with the rules.
This game is a nice mixture of worker placement and tile placement. I like how everything works together as you’re trying to get visitor into your museum. The game has several different mechanics that remind me of other games that I enjoy quite a bit. The exhibition market and it’s spiral of tiles makes me think of Patchwork, while the employee actions feels a little bit like the role selection in Puerto Rico. Choosing which role to take at the right time, as well as which tile to add to your museum can be really important. A bit of planning ahead is a good idea. For the most part, these mechanics blend together into a cohesive game that is quite fun. I will say that there isn’t a whole lot of player interaction in this one though. In fact, it feels a lot like multiplayer solitaire. I guess that’s just the euro games style that this game has been influenced by. As it is, the game has a lot of interesting choices to be made as you work to fill those contracts through the arrangement of objects and tiles. Of course the goal is to get as many visitor points as possible. If you make the wrong choices, it can be quite difficult to acquire these. I guess the main thing to say about this game is that if you don’t mind a good euro game, then you’ll probably like this one too. As for the solo game, I probably like this part of the game the most. I like the puzzle like aspect of getting everything just how it needs to be, as well as the campaign like progression that increase the difficulty. In the solo mode, you have a number of allocations to finish the game in, not turns. In other words, you really have to plan out each move with scientific precision, especially in those later missions. As you start those harder missions, you’ll have a certain set of contracts that you’ll have to complete before you run out of allocations. As I said earlier, this can be quite challenging. Overall I think this game works. Of course there’s still a bit of refinement that can be done to make things even better, especially with the graphic designs. Still where it’s at right now, I think it’s headed in the right direction. I look forward to seeing the completed game in all it’s glory. Here’s hoping that this continues to evolve into what I’m sure will be a really great game.
8 out of 10
Curators is a game of worker and tile placement set inside a museum. The game doesn’t take too long. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes. At present, the components are still a work in progress. I’m sure that as this gets closer to being published, things will look much better. For the time being I think there are several things that can use some work. The same is true of the rulebook. With a few small touch ups, I think the rulebook will be great. The game itself is fun and mixes the worker placement and tile placement mechanics together quite skillfully. I like how the feel of each of the different roles that a player can choose on their turn. Each one has a very unique feel that works thematically. The solo game is quite challenging and the most enjoyable part of the game in my opinion. I like the increasing difficulty along with the campaign like feel that each level walks you through. I think that fans of games like Patchwork and Puerto Rico should find aspects of this game that are very familiar. I those aspects should make this game enjoyable for them. I also think Euro game fans will also like this one, as it doesn’t have a whole lot of player interaction. Solo fans should find this game fun and challenging. Overall, I like this one pretty well, especially as a solo game. This is one that I would recommend keeping an eye out for as it becomes available to back on Kickstarter or purchase from your local game store. With the right aesthetics and a bit of work, I’m sure this one will be a great game once it’s published. Get your tickets now before the museum closes.
8 out of 10
For more information about this game, please check out Worldshapers on their Facebook or Twitter accounts.
You can also keep an eye out for the Kickstarter link coming April 2019.