ArtSee is a game by J. Alex Kevern, published by Renegade Game Studios. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players take on the role of curator of their own art gallery. They will be adding new exhibits to their galleries in an attempt to attract visitors and earn prestige. The more prestige that they earn, the more likely that a famous masterpiece will be added to their gallery. In the end, the player with the most prestigious art gallery will be declared the winner.
To begin, the exhibit cards are separated into 2 decks, one for the starting exhibit cards and one for the main exhibit cards. Each deck is then shuffled separately. Each player is then dealt 2 cards from the starting exhibit deck to create their starting gallery. These cards are placed face up and side by side in front of the player. Players are then dealt 3 cards from the same deck to form their starting hand. These cards should remain hidden from the other players until played. Any remaining cards in this deck are then returned to the box. A certain number of cards are then removed from the main exhibit deck, based on the number of players. These removed cards are also returned to the box. The remaining cards in the main exhibit deck are then shuffled together and then split into 2 face down draw piles, which are placed in the middle of the play area. The masterpiece tokens are separated by category and are also placed in the middle of the play area in 4 separate rows, each row designated for a specific category and arranged in numerical order. The prestige tokens are placed near the play area to form the supply. Each player chooses a color and is given a number of visitor pawns in their color based on the number of players. The remaining visitor pawns are returned to the box. The first player is chosen and play now begins.
The game is played in a series of turns with each player taking a turn, beginning with the first player. On a player’s turn, they will follow a series of 5 steps. The first step is to play a card. To do this, the player takes an exhibit card from their hand and places it in their gallery face up. They may either add the card to an existing column, or start a new column. If the player chooses to add the card to an existing column, they will place the new card on top of one of the existing columns of cards, making sure that the art pieces from each card in the column are visible. If the player chooses to start a new column, they will place the card either to the left or right of any existing columns. This creates a new column to be able to be added to on later turns. On the second step, the player will welcome visitors. In this step, each of the active player’s opponents will check their galleries to see if they have any columns where the exhibit card on the front of their columns match any of the same categories for the card that the active player just played. Basically this means just looking at the played card and see if any of the colored boxes match any of the colored boxes for the top card of each of their columns. If any of these match, in color not specific art pieces, the opponent may choose to place a visitor from their supply onto their matching exhibit card. For step three, the player may earn prestige. This can be done in two different ways. One way is by checking to see how many visitors are on the exhibit card that was covered up by the exhibit card that was just played. The player will gain 1 prestige for each visitor on that card, removing and returning the visitors to their supply. The other way that prestige can be earned is by checking the direction of the arrow on the exhibit card that was just played. The player then checks the column of cards in that direction and counts the number of art pieces that match the featured category from the played card. The player then gains 1 prestige point for each art piece that matches. Basically this means you look at which way the arrow points and look at the stack of cards in that direction. If the card played was on either end, then the player will look at their opponents closest stack of cards in that direction. They’ll then match up the colored painting block at the bottom of the card with the row of that same color in that stack, earning a point per piece of art. In the fourth step, the player may claim a masterpiece. To do this, the player adds up the prestige that they earned this turn from visitors and matching art pieces. As long as the total is equal to or greater than the requirements to claim the token, then they may take that token from the supply. It should be noted that the player may only claim a masterpiece token that matches the featured category of the exhibit card that they played this turn. Once the token is claimed, it is placed in an empty slot, either between two columns or on either end of the player’s gallery. Basically this means that the player will be placing the token at the top and between two stacks of exhibit cards in their gallery or on one end at the top. One more thing of note, these masterpiece tokens count as an art piece for that category. This means that when an exhibit card is placed in a column next to the masterpiece token and the arrow on that card points towards the token, the player gains an additional prestige if it matches the featured category. For the fifth and final step, the player will draw a card. To do this, the player simply draws a card from either of the two face down draw piles and adds it to their hand. One thing of note, if one of the draw piles becomes empty, the top card of the remaining pile is moved over to the empty pile to make sure that there are always two piles if possible. Once a player completes this final step, play passes to the next player in turn order.
The game continues with players taking turns until the end of a player’s turn where both draw piles are empty and all player hands are empty. When this happens, the game is over. Final scoring will then take place. To score, each player will earn prestige equal to the prestige values of each of the masterpiece tokens in their gallery. They also gain bonus prestige based on how many masterpiece tokens that they have of different categories in their gallery. Players total these points and the player with the most prestige is the winner.
This games consists of 4 things; exhibit cards, masterpiece tokens, visitor pawns and prestige tokens. The cards have different pieces of art along the top. Each piece of art starts a new column of that color or adds to that color’s column. Along the bottom of the card, there is a person walking through a gallery, a featured category of art and an arrow that points either left or right. The cards have this really unique look to them. The paintings along the top have some really great renditions of real world paintings, with a touch of whimsy. The bottom of the cards have a more surreal look to them. The designs of the people are more shadowed and implied, as opposed to being more life like and real looking. I like the art pieces but the bottom of the cards I found a bit lacking and less interesting to me. The backs of these cards are colored like one of the 4 categories of art, just like the featured category at the bottom of the card on front. This helps the player know which category is featured on the front of the card while choosing a card to draw. The masterpiece tokens are cardboard pieces and also have some of the same whimsical takes on real works of art as the cards. These I like a great deal. Another piece that’s done in cardboard are all the prestige tokens. These come in 5 different denominations, sizes and colors. Each of these is quite nice and is brightly colored to boot. The final pieces for the game are the wooden visitor pawns. These come in 5 different colors that almost match the colors of the prestige tokens, if only those white 1 prestige tokens were black like the visitor pawns or vice versa. Each visitor has a unique color and shape that’s exclusive to that player’s color. These aren’t just normal meeples. They’re a bit smaller and look like an art lover’s head and shoulders. For instance, the black pawns look like a woman with a french beret on. These are really fun and cool looking. Overall I think the game looks really fun and interesting, especially for art lovers. I’m really intrigued by the designs and think that it’s really well done.
8 out of 10
The rulebook for this game is really well designed. Everything from setup to the steps of a player’s turn are all explained in great detail. There’s a really nice section devoted to explaining the different parts of the cards, which is quite helpful. The book has lots of great pictures and a few examples along the way to help make sense of things a bit better. I’ll be honest, a lot of this stuff didn’t make sense to me the first time I read it. Some of the terminology wasn’t exactly spelled out so that you knew just what was being said. After about the second or third time I read through it, it clicked. All this about categories and columns was a bit confusing. Hopefully as I explained the rules, it made a little more sense than what I read did to me the first time. I think if the terms: card stacks or piles had been used instead of columns, it might have made more sense to me. As it is, I do get it now. I just didn’t get it then. The back of the rulebook contains a gameplay reference that includes each step of a player’s turn, the categories of art and the bonus scoring chart for masterpieces. This is a nice reference and after playing a couple of times, it’s a nice thing to have. The first time or two, it didn’t make a lot of sense because it didn’t give a quick explanation of the steps. It just gives a two or three word reference. While I get it now and everything is very clear to me, I’m afraid that new players may find things a bit confusing and hard to understand. As I said, I think some of the terminology should have been changed to more easily explain each step and rule. Overall I don’t think the rules are bad. As I said, I completely understand them now. I just think they could have been a bit better. The look and feel is great. It’s quite short with only 9 pages of rules. That makes it fairly quick to read. For me I think it gets the job done, even if it takes reading two or three times to understand.
8 out of 10
Let me be completely honest up front, this is not a game that I thought I would like at all. While I do like looking at paintings and art, this didn’t look like my kind of game. I’m proud to say that I was wrong though. This is my type of game after all. Each turn you’ll be playing cards to earn as much prestige as you can, almost in an engine building mechanic kind of way. As you go further along in the game, you’ll start being able to earn enough prestige to start grabbing those masterpiece tokens. This is basically how you score. Of course you’ll earn more points for having having different categories of masterpiece tokens, so you’ll need to diversify. Basically that’s the game. I know the rules make it sound like it’s a lot harder to figure out than that, but it’s not. You will have to determine which way will earn you more prestige once you’ve played a card. Do you take the prestige that the visitor pawns would provide or do you go for the line of paintings in the adjacent stack of cards that match the featured category. Knowing where and when to place the cards is the key, as well as determining which way will earn the most prestige. Once you get the rules down, it’s not all that hard to remember. There is a bit of luck involved but knowing which category will be featured on the card you draw, based on the color on the back of it, is a great help. While the game isn’t one that’s extremely difficult, it does have plenty of strategy involved. The game looks really great and is fun to play. This is one that I think fans of art galleries and even mild strategy fans will enjoy. I also think set collection fans will enjoy this one as well. Overall this is a game that I would recommend giving a try. I’m glad that I gave it a try, otherwise I would have missed the fun that I’ve had playing it. It wound up being better than I thought it would be.
8 out of 10
ArtSee is a game of set collection and strategy in the world of art museums. The game is rather short and only takes about 30 minutes to play. The artwork is really nice, especially the various paintings on the exhibit cards and the masterpiece tokens. The visitor pawns are really unique and fun and bring a bit more of the art world theme to the game. The rulebook is a bit difficult to understand due to some of the terminology and may require an additional read through or two. However once it clicks, you’ll find you don’t need it for much more than the initial setup and scoring. The game itself is quite fun and while I don’t exactly feel like I’m creating an art museum, I still enjoy the fun of playing cards and earning points. This is a very family friendly game and is one that the kids can enjoy as well. Fans of set collection, mild strategy and even beautiful artwork will most likely enjoy this one. This is one that I would recommend giving a try. It definitely exceeded my expectations, much like the Hippie Mona Lisa did. Love that.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Renegade Game Studios at their site.