Mary Dimercurio Prasad: Review of The Gallerist

galleristBox_RenderedSmallThe Gallerist

  • Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
  • Designer: Vital Lacerda
  • Artist: Ian O’Toole
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Playing Time: 30min per player
  • MSRP $79.99
  • Release: 2015

 

  • Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
  • Game Played: Review Copy
  • Number of Plays: 7

 

Introduction

The age of Art and capitalism has created a need for a new occupation – The Gallerist. Combining the elements of an Art dealer, museum curator, and Artists’ manager, you are about to take on that job! You will promote and nurture Artists; buy, display, and sell their Art; and build and exert your international Influence. As a result, you will achieve the respect needed to draw visitors to your Gallery from all over the world. There’s a long queue of unemployed Art aficionados lined up, hoping to work with someone of your stature. Build your fortune by running the most lucrative Gallery ever. (From the rules.)

Rules Summary

The object of The Gallerist is to gain the most money by buying and selling art, hiring assistants to use in the international market, discovering artists, promoting artists, bidding on art, and fulfilling (hidden) bonuses.

Players are given two cards at setup: a curator card and an art dealer card. These are hidden during the game and only scored at game end. The curator card gives bonuses on sets of art in the player’s gallery (unsold art). The art dealer card gives bonuses on sets of sold art (next to player board).

player_boardsE

Player Boards

In clockwise order, players take turns placing their Gallerist (pawn) and completing a Location action plus an optional Executive action. If your Gallerist or one of your assistants is displaced by another player’s Gallerist on their turn, you may also perform a Kicked-Out action. Assistants are player-colored meeples that may be left behind on an action space when the Gallerist is moved. They are also required when choosing an international market action (explained later).

The other meeples in the game represent different types of visitors: white=curator, pink=VIPs, brown=investors. In general, pink visitors help with influence, brown with money, and white with both. Tickets of matching colors are used to move them (more on that below).

boardSetUpE

The main game board has a lot of stuff going on. At the top left is the contract area, including a draw pile and four available contracts; contracts are necessary for selling art. The left side of the board has 3 columns containing two grids that make up the international market. At the top of the columns are the requirements to go in each column, plus a bonus (influence). Further requirements or costs are listed on each row. The top grid, with 4 rows, holds reputation tiles. These tiles, when gained, will go in a designated area on the player board and are scored at the end of the game. You must own the type of art listed on the row in order to place there. The bottom grid, with 3 rows, makes up the auction (bidding) area. The cost in money is listed on each row. At the end of the game, the player(s) who spent the most money in this area will win a choice of art (tile); selection is done in descending order, but there is one less tile than the number of players (except in the solitaire game where one is available, although the dummy player might get it if you aren’t careful!). At the bottom of each column is majority scoring, performed at the end of the game.

Artist Tiles

Artist Tiles

The right side of the board is where the artist and art tiles reside. There are four types of art/artists, digital art, painting, sculpture, and photograph. The artists come in two colors, red and blue. One of each type and color of artist will start on the board (8 total), with one discovered; the rest may be discovered during the game. When discovered, the artist tile is flipped to the side with a fame track; a white cube denotes the current fame. Stars on the track, in intervals, indicate milestones; each time the white cube moves to a new one, the artist’s work(s) goes up in value. When the white marker reaches 19, the artist becomes a celebrity.

Before being discovered, the backsides of the artist tiles show the starting fame and starting promotion level. There is also a space for an artist bonus tile (placed during set-up) and, on the red artist tiles only, a space for a curator meeple (white). Below each artist are two signature tiles, representing the two works of art an artist may have in circulation at a time.

Artist Bonus Tiles

Artist Bonus Tiles

Next to the red and blue artists of each type is a pile of art tiles matching their type. On one side the tiles show a picture of art (displayed when bought), on the other the tiles show how much the artist’s fame will increase when the art is bought and the number/type of tickets the purchasing player gains (1 or 2).

tickets

Tickets – in the game, tickets are used for moving visitor meeples from the plaza to a player’s lobby, and from their lobby to their main gallery (they may also be used to move a visitor from an opponent’s lobby to the plaza, but that’s just mean). Buying art is one way to get tickets. There are three stacks of tickets, one for each visitor color. This is one of the game timers – when one stack runs out, there is intermediate scoring. Running out of all tickets is one of the three triggers for the end of the game.

On the bottom of the board is the influence track. No only does it track each player’s influence, but also denotes money and fame star icons at intervals. When spending money or increasing fame, a player may go backwards on the track to another icon of the same type to gain one for each icon of that type the player moved back. For example, if a player moved back 2 stars when increasing fame (see actions below), that player may add 2 more to fame to the artist.

The center of the board contains the plaza, surrounded by four galleries (one per player, each with a lobby and main gallery) and four locations, each with two possible actions. When a player moves their Gallerist pawn to a location, they choose one of the actions to perform. The locations and actions are as follows:

Artist Colony

  • Discover an Artist – flip the artist tile, mark the artist’s initial fame (fame is also price of artist’s art when purchasing), gain bonus shown on bonus tile, take signature token (place on commission space on player board).
  • Buy Art – pay cost (equal to current fame, or initial fame if commission piece), take signature token (if commission piece, just move token previously gained), place token at current star rating next to player board, receive indicated tickets, increase fame of artist, and place artwork tile in player’s gallery (player board).

Each player may only have one commission piece and may not buy art from that artist until they have purchased the commissioned art.

Sales Office

  • Take Contract – (optional) draw four new contract cards (covering previous), choose and take one contract card, place contract on player board, draw another as replacement if space is empty, receive ticket shown on player board if space was empty.
  • Sell Art – gain money shown next to that artist’s signature token on player board, move art tile next to player board (out of gallery), remove a visitor from player’s gallery to plaza, flip contract card and orient top matching type of visitor removed, return artist’s signature token.

Media Center

  • Promote Artist – pay influence indicated at the new level (player influence is tracked on main board), receive bonus for level (each artist starts at a certain level, from 0 to 3, and may go up to 5 incrementally), place new level promotion token on artist (return previous one), increase artist’s fame by 1 plus an additional 1 for each collector (white meeple) in the player’s gallery.
  • Hire Assistants – pay cost of assistant (listed on player board; they are bought from the top down and generally increase in cost), move assistant to office spot on player board (max storage 4), gain hiring bonus listed for that assistant.

International Market

  • Reputation Tile – put assistant on eligible spot, gain influence (listed at top of column), place reputation tile on one of the provided spaces on player board and gain its bonus, move visitor from player’s lobby to plaza.
  • International Auction – put assistant on eligible spot, gain influence (listed at top of column), pay money listed on row, gain bonus on space.

Kicked-Out Action – performed when another player displaces your Gallerist or assistant. After the other player takes their turn, the displaced player may either spend influence by moving down to the influence track to the next star (fame icon) to take one of the Location actions, or perform one Executive action.

Executive Actions – if taken on a player’s turn, it may be done either before or after the Location action.

  • Use tickets to move visitors; ticket color must match visitor color.
  • Use bonus from contract card.

There is an intermediate scoring when one stack of tickets runs out. At this point, players gain influence and money based on what meeples are in their main gallery (not lobby). The game end is triggered when two of these occur:

  • No tickets.
  • No visitors in bag.
  • 2 artists become celebrities.

The players finish the current round then play one last round without Kick-Out actions.

Final Scoring – everything is converted to money; scoring includes the following:

  • International Market column majorities
  • Reputation tiles
  • Value of art in player gallery (sales value)
  • Auction art set aside at beginning of game – determined by the International Auction
  • Art dealer and curator bonuses (hidden bonus cards)
  • Influence track – players gain money based on their location on the track

The winner is the player who earned the most money.

Full rules for The Gallerist are available in pdf form on Board Game Geek. 

Thoughts

Vital Lacerda, is the designer of several very popular and highly rated Euro games: CO2, Vinhos, Kanban: Automotive Revolution. The first two I played were OK – I would probably play them again – but Kanban was my favorite from 2014 (I still love it!). When I heard about The Gallerist, I was very excited to know more.

The Gallerist is a thematic, fairly heavy weight gamer-game. The intro describes the theme pretty well – you and your opponents each play a Gallerist, a new occupation in the art world. Overall the theme works well with the game. On Board Game Geek, Vital even describes several thematic tips to help you remember the rules.

Basically, this economic game is all about planning, timing, and management, with some set collection. You will want to optimize your moves to get the biggest bang for your buck (and influence).

I’m not sure if I’d call it a work placement game per se – it’s more action-selection… you mainly just move your one pawn and take an action. You might want to keep in mind who may get a Kick-Out (KO) action when you move, but that’s probably of lesser concern to optimizing your own turns. You will want to time your Executive actions so you make the best use of them – whether before or after your main action. Sometimes you will want to do both types of Executive actions but since you may only do one on your turn, you will have to plan for this. Remember you can use an Executive action as your KO action on another player’s turn, and it doesn’t cost influence!

You will want to time the sales of your art pieces such that you will make the most money you can (after all, money is how you win), although it’s difficult to hold onto your art until they realize their full potential (i.e. when the artist becomes a celebrity). You will probably need to sell some art at prices lower than you’d like in order to get the money necessary to hire assistants, participate in the International Auction, and buy more art. There are other advantages to selling early though: it frees up an assistant you might need, it provides another bonus space, and it allows you to have one more curator in your gallery (there is a limit to the number you may have, equal to 1 plus number of art pieces sold).

You will need certain types of art in order to choose reputation tiles you want, which will score at game end. For example, if you have a painting, you can choose from the reputation tiles in the painting row, as long as you have the necessary visitor(s) in your lobby as specified on the column. Some reputation tiles will benefit you more than others depending on how you play. For example, one of the reputation tiles gains you money and influence for each VIP (pink visitor meeple) you have in your gallery. If you have/plan to have a lot of VIPs in your gallery, you might want this tile. You will also need art in order to meet your hidden bonuses.

This is where the set collection element comes into play: you will want to collect art that matches well with your hidden bonuses. The bonus cards all follow the format of their type. Curator cards have two goals: 15 money for four specific artworks in your gallery at the end of the game and 10 money for three specific artworks in your gallery at the end of the game (potentially worth a total of 25). The same artwork may be used to fill both goals. I didn’t mention it in the rules summary but the 4th gallery slot on the player board may only be filled when the player has a celebrity’s artwork in their gallery, so in order to fulfill the former goal, you must either have a celebrity’s artwork in your gallery or win the necessary type of art in the auction. The art dealer cards have three goals: 5 money for one specific artwork sold plus two goals worth 10 money each for two specific artworks sold (potentially worth a total of 25 money). Between the two cards there are 50 money (points) available. Good luck getting them though – it’s not as easy as it may sound!

Optimizing your influence track is also very important. Ideally you will want to use at least some money on the track before gaining a Kick-Out action, or at least move up a space in front of a star. The reason is that the KO action will require you to move down the track to the next star – if you are already at a star, this is 5 moves backwards, whereas if you are on a money icon it is usually 2 or 3 moves back, or only one move back if you are in front of it.

There are many different bonuses in the game. Managing these is crucial to winning. Bonuses do things like allow a player to move a visitor from the plaza directly to the player’s gallery, gain money, gain influence, increase an artist’s fame, gain tickets, etc. Since there are only 8 actions, bonuses are what give players a lot more flexibility and choices during the game. They are essentially customizations – you get to choose how to customize your play. For example, you might want to concentrate on money so you could collect brown tickets, move a lot of investors into your gallery, grab the bonus that rewards you for investors at the end of the game, go on the auction spaces that give you money for your investors, use contracts that move investors into your gallery directly from the plaza, flip contracts to the brown side then use an assistant to gain money with it, etc. There are similar bonuses for influence.

Another thing worth mentioning is the use of assistants. Assistants used in the International Market stay for the rest of the game so you need to plan accordingly. Assistants used for bonus actions on contract cards remain until the contract art is either sold (flips) or the contract is replaced. You will probably want to minimize the times you must use the action to hire assistants (so you can do other actions) but you have to keep in mind that your office only holds four assistants. Having an open bonus action on one of your contract cards might save you from losing an assistant (out of the game). For example, if your office is full and you get a KO action, the Kicked-Out assistant will return to the office at the end of the action so you may use the bonus as your Executive action option (rather than the Location action) thus freeing up one space for the returning assistant.

All these choices make the game interesting and different each time you play. The game even comes with extra artist tiles (you play with half), as well as a couple extra artist bonus tiles and some extra reputation tiles for more variability. I have played the game 6 or 7 times now, with 1 to 4 players, and I’m still looking forward to my next play. I could see myself enjoying this game for years. I think I like the game best with 3 players but it works well other numbers. The 2-player has a different feel since there is only one other person competing. It’s easier to just concentrate on your own artists/artwork whereas in a 3 or 4 player game, one of your opponents is likely to help in promoting an artist for whom you share artwork. The 4-player game can get a bit long. If the players keep it moving it may not be a problem but if any are a bit slow taking turns, the game could drag. I wouldn’t recommend playing with any AP players no matter the count (but that’s just me).

I tried the solitaire game and managed to win at the Master Gallerist level. It might have been a fluke – the contract cards worked out well. My art at the end included 4 of the same type, two in my gallery and two sold because they were on both goal cards; the two in my gallery were also two of the three that became Masterpieces. Since the movement of the dummy player is predictable, I made use of the KO actions I needed by moving there ahead of it (making sure I had the influence), otherwise I tried moving to places without the opponent or its assistant to prevent another ticket from being discarded (game timer); mainly this was the last location I visited. It forced the dummy to remove its own assistant so no ticket was discarded. I had to buy and sell art a few times in a row – they didn’t go up much in price but it worked towards my goals and gave me bonus actions. I was also careful in timing my pickup of reputation tiles so I was able to get the ones for which I had art plus were going to get me the most points at the end of the game (I wasn’t sure if I could pull off the Master Gallerist so I was aiming for 180 money of the next level down). My last action was to get the highest spot in the auction so I won the auctioned art. Yay!

About the worst thing I can say about The Gallerist is that the setup is a bit fiddly. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, the game is actually pretty straightforward. The rulebook is very clear and well written. The player aids really help – you just have to follow the steps on them as you do an action and you won’t go wrong. The iconography will make sense after a couple playings, but if you forget, the icons are explained on the player aid or back of the rulebook (for reputation tiles).

The game artwork is clean, clear, and functional. The main board and player boards are well laid out, with reminders printed where needed. Real artists from all over the world created the artwork on the art tiles, although it’s all modern – you won’t find any classics here. There is a list of artists and their works in the back of the rulebook. One piece is listed from 1997, the rest are from 2004 or later. All the sculptures plus a few other artworks were done by the game artist.

The large box is super sturdy. It comes with a plastic insert for the pieces and a cover to hold the pieces in place, which even includes a slot for the game board. The components are high quality: nice boards, wooden pieces, thick tiles, linen finish cards, velvet bag for visitors meeples, and even little wooden easels for displaying auctioned art. Note: the standing leg that folds out on some of the easels may be a bit too loose. If this is the case, you could sand the front peg down a bit so it doesn’t push the art forward in the stand. This only happened with one of mine.

Vital Lacerda’s 2016 release will be Lisboa, also from Eagle-Gryphon Games. Check for it on Kick-Starter later this year. I’m looking forward to giving that a try!

Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers:

Lorna: My 4 player game went on a bit too long for me to put this game solidly in the like it category.  For me, the game is not very intuitive and has been a bit of a bear to get the rules right both times I’ve played making it extra long and less likely to get it to the table. The game itself while having nice production quality is gi-normous and doesn’t fit well anywhere.

Jonathan Degann: I like meaty games and have enjoyed all of Lacerda’s prior games, and this lives up to expectations.  There are many different things in the game to manage: getting visitors into your gallery and getting them to score, winning the majority battles in the international market, getting your art to appreciate and collecting the right sets.  Each of these has various obstacles, so it’s not just a matter of doing them, it’s figuring out a way.

The weakness in the game, relative to Kanban, is that it is so overwhelmingly tactical.  For example, it is difficult to set any strategy that is going to appreciate your art.  A player receives tiles which gives him victory points at the end based on varying conditions, but the nature of play is such that one rarely benefits from focusing on his unique set – you just collect lots of stuff knowing it will generally pay off.  Kanban in contrast, has more assertive and difficult player interaction and tension.

Larry: I found this somewhat more straightforward than Kanban, but there’s still a lot of interconnections and seemingly arbitrary bonuses scattered about.  The kicked-out actions seem like a clever idea, but they can make planning difficult, since you can’t be sure when they’ll be triggered.  It can also lead to considerable downtime, since even in a 3-player game, there can be as many as 7 actions performed by your opponents between your turns.  It’s a reasonable game, but still too dense for my tastes and my abilities.  If it had a champion in my group and I could play it repeatedly over a short period of time, it’s possible the penny would drop.  But there’s no indication that will happen and I didn’t find my one play appealing enough for me to pursue this.

Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers:

  • I love it! Mary Prasad
  • I like it: Jonathan
  • Somewhere between Like it and Neutral: Lorna
  • Neutral: Larry
  • Not for me…
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About Mary Prasad

More about me at: http://artbymdp.blogspot.com
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