Available from the Renegade Game store for $30.00 or at your local UK store
ARTSEE is a J.Alex Kevern 2-5 player game featuring cards, meeples and small tiles on which there are parodies of really famous art, such as the Mona Lisa wearing glasses and a necklace, Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' with a pair of sunglasses on the table next to them, or René Magritte's 'Son of Man' where there is a hand holding the famous Apple in front of the bowler-hatted man's face. The parodies are perfect but as they are on such small tiles their worth is devalued as you have to look so very close to appreciate them. There are full size cards in the game, so full or even half sized tiles would have given players a better view of the parody artist's work. Janos Orban is credited as the illustrator so I will go out on a limb and congratulate him for the parody work, it's awesome!
As an Art Gallery curator you are looking to have the most prestigious exhibits of famous Masterpieces and the most influential visitors. Having the most Prestige points, in the form of coin-like counters, is the way to win; these counters are in values of 1s, 3s, 5s, 10, and 20s each in an ID colour.
The Masterpiece Tokens are, as I said, way too small to be appreciated. They are also numbered (5, 6, 7, 8, 9) and colour coded into 4 category sets of 5 tokens each: Grey = Still Life; Red = Abstract; Yellow = Portrait and Green = Landscape. The numbers on them are the cost of claiming them and the small dots along the base edge are their Prestige value. To claim a Masterpiece you have to earn equal to or over its cost in Prestige Points in the current turn; you also have to have played a card that corresponds to its category.
There are two ARTSEE decks one with White borders and one with Black borders. The White bordered cards are the Main Exhibition cards and those with Black borders are the Starting Exhibit cards. At the beginning of the game deal 5 Starting Exhibit cardsbut deal them as a 2 and a 3, the two cards form the start up of the player's Gallery, the three cards then make up the player's hand; the remainder of the Starting Exhibit cards are returned to the box and are no longer required for the game - in case players are good at card recognition make sure nobody sees the returned cards. Not all the Main Exhibit cards are used either, unless there are four players, as with 2, 3 or 5 players a number of random cards are removed unseen. Players also have a number of visitors (the number of which depends on the number of players), Meeples in their chosen colour (well chosen from the colours available), which are placed in Art Galleries to help you earn Prestige; the special rule is that all of the other players can place visitors in the active players turn, but the active player cannot.
The main idea of the game is to build up a gallery of Exhibit cards in rows and columns. The Exhibit cards have either a left or a right facing arrow on them which points to the next column which is the one that scores Prestige points if there are categories of art there that match the category of the card just played. If the card is played on the last column in the gallery (either side) and the arrow points out away from the gallery then the next column around the table is scored which means you will be scoring Prestige from an opponent, at least you will if you have chosen the correct card to play - the game is all about knowing when and where to play cards and keeping a good eye on what and where your opponents are playing. When there are only two players the wrap-around will obviously always be one or the other end of your opponent.
As you play cards into your Gallery your opponents check the categories of paintings and may place a visitor accordingly on a matching Exhibit card in their Galleries; remember you cannot play visitors on your turn only on opponent's turn.
When you gain Masterpiece tokens you immediately place them above your gallery cards, above and between two columns. At the end of the game there are additional bonuses 1, 3, 6 or 10 Prestige points dependant on having different Masterpiece categories. The cards show two sections, the top part is your display of Masterpieces whereas the bottom half of your Gallery is in the colour of one the categories, the Paintings shown on the walls of the lower half again only show the category colour, they are not Masterpieces.
This is a fairly short game, it ends almost before it begins, taking just 30 minutes from start to end; finishing when both draw piles (white bordered cards are shuffled and split into two roughly equal sized decks during Setup) are empty and the players no longer hold any cards in their hands. The rules book is short and concise, easy to follow and filled with visual examples of play.
ARTSEE is a neat and enjoyable game with a little luck and a little skill. There is not a lot of actual hands-on player interaction, but players can affect each other's play and that is an enormous part of the fun. Having the most prestigious Gallery at game end takes some doing but more often than not the right decision is there for you, as long as you can see it. The price tag of $30.00 seems a little high considering the game's length but it reflects the amount of quality card and colour printing that has been used bringing the game to your table. ARTSEE is good for gamers and families, possibly best for families who play abstract boardgames regularly.