Dale Yu: First Impressions of Museum

Museum

  • Designers: Eric Dubus and Olivier Melison
  • Publisher: Holy Grail Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 30-45 mins
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Luma Games (distributor)
  • Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/2Y1UDHH

Luma Games is a new company to me, but they have made a fairly quick mark on the English language market by getting the distribution rights to games from Horrible Games as well as many other companies.  Museum was an unknown game to me, but I had a chance to take a short demo of it at the stand at Origins 2019, and I was happy to take a copy home to try out.

In Museum, the game is set at the turn of the 20th century, the golden age of museums. As interest in and accessibility of museums grew exponentially, many institutions underwent an intense period of expansion on both an intellectual and physical level, searching to grow their collections for profit and science.  You play as a curator of one such museum and it’s your job to build the biggest, most coherent collection that you can.

Each player in Museum has a small collection of relics to get them started, after which, they will have to send explorers around the world to uncover others. These relics each have a value which is either the cost to add them to your museum, or how much they contribute towards adding other relics to your museum. “Spent” Relics are added to your reserve. You can withdraw them from it by exchanging them for an equal amount of items however your opponents also has access to your reserve! During the game you will be required to assemble different collections.  At the end of the game points are scored based on collections and their value and the player with the most points wins!

the board can be a busy place

The main board is set up in the center of the table.  There is room for two face up cards from each of the four continent decks (Europe, America/Pacific, Africa/Middle East, Asia).  Each of these decks is slightly different each game due to different Public Opinion cards that are shuffled in at the start of the game.  In the center, you will find the Headline card deck and the Favour card deck. There is also a much smaller Expert board which is placed off to the side; the top 3 cards of the Expert deck are displayed face-up here.

Each player also gets their own personal museum board.  They get a starting hand made up of one card from each of the four Continent decks as well as one Favour card.  Finally, each player starts the game with a Patron card as well.

my empty museum at the start of the game

The game is played over a number of turns, with the active player first doing the exploration phase and then moving on to the action phase. In the exploration phase, the active player must choose one of the face up object cards on the main board.  Each object card has a value in the upper left corner. The background of the title is coded to the continent of origin, and each card has one of six domain icons in the upper right corner. The bottom 85% of the card is simply flavor art and text. Then, each other player clockwise has the option of taking one of the remaining cards, and for each opponent that chooses to take a card, the current player will take one Prestige Point from the supply.

Then in the Action phase, the player takes one of two actions: A) Furbish their museum or B) Perform an Inventory.  If you choose to Furbish, you take a card from you hand, your discard pile or even an opponents discard pile. You must pay for the value of the object being placed in your museum by discarding other cards from your hand of equal or greater value to the placed object and/or by discarding Prestige Points from your supply; these are placed usually in your own discard pile.  If you choose to place a card from an opponent’s discard pile, you must pay then a Prestige Point to be able to take their card AND you discard your paid cards/Prestige Points into their discard pile. You are allowed to place as many objects as you wish so long as you can afford them all.

This object can now be displayed in your museum, and it can be placed in any spot.  You are free to re-organize your museum collection at any time; it is only scored at the end of the game.  However, as you place the new object in your museum, you also take an immediate reward of victory points equal to the value of the newly placed card.  Additionally, you get a bonus if you place a Level 5 object; since this thing is a Masterpiece, you also get 1 Prestige Point from the supply for acquiring and showing such a renowned thingamajig.

You also have the opportunity to hire one or more experts to work in your museum.  You pay for any desired expert card and put them onto the left side of your player board.  You can have multiple Experts working for you, and if you do, their effects can stack together.   You do not score points for buying/placing Expert cards.

If you choose to take Inventory, you are allowed to go through your personal discard pile and take back as many cards as you like, to a limit of 7 cards in your hand.  If you choose to do this option, you may not hire an expert nor display a new object. 

Finally, regardless of which option you chose (Furbish or Inventory), you are allowed to play a single Favour card each turn.  You draw a new Favour card for each 10 points that you score (there are reminders for this on the scoretrack), and each Favour card has a one-time action on it.

example of a favour card

Once you have finished your turn, there is a little bit of housekeeping.  First, check your hand size to make sure that you don’t have more than 7 cards in it.  Then, refill the board with cards from the appropriate continent decks. If you flip over a Public Opinion card, a Public Opinion token is placed next to that continent, and this can affect end-game scoring. Finally, if you are the final player in turn order (meaning that the start player is about to take another turn), you draw a Headline card – these cards often have special rules on them which supercede the usual rules, and the Headline card stays in effect until a new one is drawn at the end of the next round of turns.  Additionally, the rightmost Expert card from the expert board is discarded and a new one is placed at the left, with the other shifted over.

The game continues until the end of a turn when at a player has scored at least 50 points on the board.  All other players get one more turn and then the game moves into final scoring. All players are now given a chance to re-organize the cards in their museum.  This is important because the physical layout counts here! There are a number of different ways to score points, and a card can be included in both a civilization set and a domain set if it meets the criteria for each.

Civilizations – this scores cards based on matching color in their title area.  You must have at least 3 cards of matching color. There is a nice chart that tells you how many points you can score this way; from 1 point for 3 matching cards all they way up to 85 points for sixteen matching cards.  Cards in a civilization set must be orthogonally adjacent to each other in your museum.

Domains – this scores cards based on having the same icon in the upper right corner, but each card in this set must be of a different color.  Again, refer to the chart, and you can score from 5 points for a set of 3 cards up to 25 points for 7 cards with matching icon but unique color. Cards in a domain set must be orthogonally adjacent to each other in your museum.

Patrons – remember that you chose a patron card at the start of the game.  Each Patron card has a rubric for awarding points based on the cards/sets you have collected.

Gallery Layout – on the left of your player board, there are a number of layouts which score points – for filling out a specific colored zone with a single collection, or perhaps for filling up every slot in their museum.   If you meet these criteria, score the points as listed on your player board.

Prestige points – Score 1 victory point for each unused prestige point you have at the end of the game

Public Opinion – Look through your discard pile at the end of the game. For each card in the discard pile, lose points equal to the number of Public Opinion tokens placed on its respective continent area on the main board.

The player with the most points wins!

My thoughts on the game

Museum is an interesting set-collection game that has a nice puzzle element in figuring out how you want to lay your cards out in a physical sense in your museum.  Your museum is not locked into any configuration until the final scoring, and I find that I’m always moving stuff around when I’m not the active player, trying to get the collections that I’m working on to intersect in nice ways so that I can score cards in multiple sets and/or achieve layout bonuses.  By moving cards around, it also helps me figure out which cards would fit best in my museum (or let me know that they aren’t available because I can see them in someone else’s museum already!)

It can be a bit AP inducing as you have free reign to look at all the cards on the board AS WELL as cards in all the discard piles.  By having a pre-formed plan (i.e. I’m looking for red cards now OR I’m looking for cards with a column icon), you can hopefully narrow down your choices.    While you are considering this, you also have to keep in mind the special rule for the round presented by the Headline card as well as any special abilities granted to you by your Expert cards.  And, to top it all off, don’t forget to consider the bonuses scored by your Patron card – it definitely pays off to meet the criteria of your patron!  

a finished museum board

The Patron cards are a good way to focus your initial strategy, and I have found that in my initial games, that has made my choices a bit easier to process.  Some of the Patron cards seem inherently better than others, but that’s an off-the-cuff judgement, and I’m hoping that my initial feeling will be proved wrong as I get more familiar with them.  I do like the risk/reward inherent in them. You could choose to stick to an easy Patron card for a lower number of easily gained points, or you could choose to go for a Patron with a higher payoff, though it might be a bit harder to achieve that goal. 

Once players are familiar with the flow of the game, turns move quickly.  In addition, as each player has the option of taking a card into their hand on each player’s turn, you’re never too far away from having to at least glance at the board and see what’s going on.  Early in the game, unless there is a card that I simply must have now – the cost for taking a card out of turn is high. You must give your opponent a Prestige Point (which can turn into a victory point) AND your discarded cards go into your opponent’s discard pile; giving them easier access to a lot more objects.  However, near the end of the game, sometimes buying a card on someone else’s turn is a nice way to seed their discard pile with cards of poor Public Opinion, and this turns into a double bonus – you add a card to your own hand while giving your opponent some negative VP cards to their discard pile.

There is a weird cycling of cards from your hand to your discard pile and then back into your hand when you take inventory.  I have found that I often want to take high valued cards when it’s my turn, if only to give myself a lot of buying power when that card is in my hand, and then I can pick it back up and use it again and again – I might not ever try to place it in my museum, but it will serve me well as a constant payment source.

Word choice in the rules is a bit strange.  Yes, I know that Luma games is Canadian, so they’re always trying to sneak in extra “U”s where they don’t belong. But I’m trying to not let that colour my opinion of the word “Furbish”.  I have always felt this was like combobulate. I suppose it’s a word because it is a bigger word with a common prefix before it (discombobulate or refurbish), yet, it’s not the sort of word that you hear in daily speech.  Sure, it doesn’t affect game play one iota, but it’s something that has been commented on each time I’ve taught the game…

The artwork is really really good (as you would expect from Dutrait).  In fact, the back of the rules is dedicated to letting you see the beautiful art from each of the objects.  The actual game information is found all in the top sixth of the card in the colored banner, and in actuality, this is all that you need to see.  The thin strip of info also allows you to stack the cards nicely in the different columns of your museum so that you can easily see the matching colored background or matching icons as well as easily reference the value of each card.  It is kind of a shame that you can no longer see the artwork which takes up the bulk of the card; but luckily that’s just chrome for the game.

And while I’m talking about the stack-a-bility of the cards, I should mention that we have made it a useful house suggestion for each player to stack their discard pile neatly so that each card header can be easily seen.  In this way, players can easily glance at all of the cards available to them each turn – and this makes the game go faster while giving all players the same chance at all of the possible cards. The only other house modification we might make is to limit the re-arrangement time at the final scoring to 3 or 5 minutes.  There is some serious possibility for min-maxing, and really, players should have some time to organize their cards during the game. There is nothing worse than ending the game on a down note because everyone else waited twelve minutes while one gamer tried to squeak out two more points from their museum. Sure, ideally, I’d want everyone to turn in the best score they can – but at some point, you just gotta say that things are done…

one other quibble with the components is the size and icons on the public opinion tokens. We often got them mixed up as the size of the token is small and then the size of the important information on it is even smaller. It would have been nice to have a different colored ring or maybe a double ring around the -2VP token side. When you try to glance at things quickly on a very busy board, it’s hard to tell.

The rules are in a large sixteen page book, and there are plenty of italicized examples with illustrations to help you understand the rules.  There are also nice tan blocks of bolded important rules which can help focus the reader when learning the game or flipping through to answer an important question.   Some of the organization in the rules seemed a bit off to me – for example, there is a two page explanation of how to Furbish your museum, and in the section about laying a card down, it talks about scoring points with those cards at the end of the game.  However, a fairly crucial rule (well, at least in my opinion) about scoring points equal to the value of the played card doesn’t get printed until two columns over in the rules. I missed this rule on my first read-through, and to be honest, if I was skimming the rules later – this immediate scoring rule would likely be missed again because it’s not written within the paragraph that actually talks about placing the card!  Interestingly, there is even a tan bolded section of rules to not be forgotten, and the bit about scoring points immediately is strangely not included here. To balance that out, there is a nice glossary/appendix of card explanations that does greatly help in answering any questions about terms and cards that you will see in the game.

Overall, Museum is a nice beginner/medium weight game; it has fairly simple rules and engaging art. And from what I’ve seen, this is just the start.  There are a number of expansions that are in the works (or maybe already available) that look to make this one more complex if so desired. The base game itself even can be modified (in either direction) by modifying which expert cards, headline cards, and/or public opinion cards are included in the setup.  I have liked my first few forays into the world of museum furbishing, and I might try to grab one or more of the expansions at GenCon to see how they add to the experience.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. Craig V
  • Not for me…Joe H.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Dale Yu: First Impressions of Museum

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: First Impressions of Museum – Herman Watts

  2. We really enjoy this game, though there are a few issues; the patron cards can be very hit or miss, especially the civilisation based ones – I’ve had occasions where cards of my patron’s civilisation have never come out!
    And, as you also pointed out, AP can set in and lengthen the game considerably, especially when playing 3+ players.

  3. Garry Rice says:

    It did not go over very well with the four or five players at the other table the other night. They were there for around 5 hours and were also struggling with the end game scoring quite a bit. The game may be ok but I was very glad to be at the other table:)

  4. Pingback: 2019 Origins recap | The Opinionated Gamers

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