Download the Rulebook (9MB PDF) Atelier is a fast-paced game featuring die rolling, set collecting and european-style gameplay.
AEG's ATELIER: The PAINTER'S STUDIO is a 2-4 player game by Nicolas Bongìu with cards featuring cut-a-bouts of actual works of art; mainly thanks to the Norton Simon, the Metropolital Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Getty and the National Gallery of Art.
There are several board and card games that feature artwork but this is the first that I have seen where so many well known and famous pieces of art are put to such a good ingame useage.
Some liberties have been taken by the designer, such as adding information on and around each painting, but the main shot of the artwork has been kept scrupulously visible so that it is recognisable; each art card also tells you who painted the original, what it is named, and where you can visit to see it in person. What is extra good about this is that the game can be educational (a word that often kills sales for some reason) but only if you bother to read the small print.
ATELIER has you playing the rôle of a Master Artist with a small school of Students (meeples in your chosen colour) that you are coaching in the skill of painting recognition in your very own Atelier (art workshop). The game suggests that you are collecting paint so that your Students can complete Masterpieces, whereas, having done a little research into painters of such they are more likely looking at these Masterpieces and attempting to replicate them or at least their painting style, so that's my personal take on the situation - it doesn't really matter as however you view it, the idea is to get paint, spend the paint to 'buy' paintings, use the special actions of those Masterpieces (some are immediate, some once per game and some every turn) and then score their VP value at the end of the game. Some of the paintings have a 5-pointed Star top and centre on them, these are the true Masterpieces whereas the other Masterpieces are mere paintings in comparison.
The painting theme is a good way of using this mechanic and the actual replicated artwork makes a refreshing from the usual farming, commercial or residential building of this game genre. Unlike many of the other games ATELIER players make their decisions based on rolling dice. Each player has 4D6 and each spot on a Die has an Action associated with it. Rolling a 1 or 2 allows you to place a Student at one of the paint colour (Red, Blue, Green, Yellow) supply piles; a 3 allows the movement of 0-1 student of each player from one colour to another (including your own is implied but not categorically stated); a 4 lets you collect a paint cylinder from all of the paint supply piles where you have the majority of students (in a 4-player game having equal highest number counts as a majority); a 5 lets you paint a Masterpiece, you can spend the paint on your palette back to the supply and take one of the displayed paintings that match the paint used and a 6 lets you take one paint cylinder of any colour whether you have a student there or not.
On their Turn the player rolls all four dice and must use at least one of them. If you cannot or do not want to take one of the Dice Actions you may spend a die (or more than one) to gain Inspiration chits which can be used for one of the three actions associated to Inspiration; 1 chit; reroll all die before spending any dice, 2 chits; paint a painting - spend paint as if you had rolled a '5', and 3 chits Draw a Patron card from the top of this specialised deck. Basically Patrons are like Tasks, Quests or Missions. Patron cards have ways of scoring additional bonus VPs at the end of the game by completing their requirements.
You have to use ONE of the dice you rolled but you can use as many as you want, taking the actions accordingly. If you use all of your dice then your Turn is over and you have to wait until all players have used theirs, but if save any dice then you roll them at the beginning of your next turn and again have the same dice action options. Once all dice have been accounted for the round ends and a new one begins with players regaining their four D6 and the next player clockwise becoming Start Player.
There are several times in the game when the word 'Students' is used in a contrary or confusing way - ie its use isn't explained clearly and you have to use what I like to think of a gamers-sense (it's like commonsense but not as common) which generally leads to a house rule being implemented. Of course I may just be misreading the rules so I'll put my concerns down here and let you agree, disagree or whatever. Maybe you will know the true ways the word is to be understood?
1). Die Result 1 or 2: Place 1 of your students from your Palette at a paint pile - obviously YOUR student
2). Die Result of a 3: Move Students. Move 0-1 students belonging to each player - obviously each player and thus by association of 'each' YOUR student as well.
3). Die Result of a 4: Collect paint. Take a paint from piles where you have the majority of students - again obviously YOUR students.
4). Die Result of a 5: Paint a Painting. "If the painting has a student requirement, you must return that many students from paint piles to your player board .." - this implies you return YOUR students but can be misconstrued, many games allow you to use other player's pieces as your own and this could be one of them in this case. It's a weak argument I know, but it isn't totally an impossibility.
On The Paintings:
5). Joan of Arc Masterpiece painting. On your turns you may remove 1 student (meeple icon) to gain one Inspiration chit - there is nothing to specifically state the student removed has to be one of yours.
6). Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise painting. Once per round you may remove 1 student to take any die action - there is nothing to specifically state the student removed has to be one of yours.
7). The Horse Fair. Gain 1 Paint from the pile with the most students - this probably does mean what we think - the pile with the most students, not where you have the most students.
8). Young Ladies of the Village. Each player in turn order Places 1 student. Then, Places 1 additional student - do all players place an additional student or just the painting owner? It's easy enough to assume it's the painting's owner, but is it right?
9). The Card Players. Once per round you may spend 1 Inspiration chit to Move up to 2 students - yours or anyones ? - Not clarified so we guess yours or anyones.
10). Irises. Your 3s allow you to Move 1 additional student - yours or anyones ? - Not clarified so we guess yours or anyones.
11). Haymaking at Éragny. Once per turn you may remove 2 students ... - yours or anyones ? - Not clarified so we guess yours or anyones.
These may sound a bit finicky but when you think that The Combat of Giaour and Hassan, Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer), Poppy Field (Giverny), Yellow Dancers (In the Wings), Dressing for the Carnival, Milton Dictating to his Daughter, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte 1884, and Boating, all move, remove, add extra, does something with Students etc. specifically state 'you' or 'yours' it makes the aformentioned painting's specials worth considering. We go with the rule that unless it mentions the player specifically (as 'you' or 'your') then it means all/any Students.
Once we accepted that rule the game ran smoothly and was as much fun and entertainment as any of the games in this genre, better if you really like classic artwork
You should be able to find ATELIER online and at various game stores for the truly great price of around £27.00