Revised by Herb Levy
THE GALLERIST (Eagle-Gryphon Games, 1 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 120 minutes; $79.99)
The art world is a vibrant world of artists and their creativity. But to make a living in that world, you need to be able to harness a certain creativity of your own in discovering the next great artist, enticing patrons into your gallery, buying and selling art for profit and more. If this seems like an excellent choice for a game’s theme, you would be correct for in this Vital Lacerda design, players are the heads of art galleries attempting to do all that and more in The Gallerist.
The large gameboard represents the art world with its many facets and set up requires a good deal of preparation. All playes begin with 10 on the Influence Track and a large “Gallerist” pawn in the matching color to their chosen gallery divided into the gallery proper and an adjoining lobby. Tickets (in brown, pink and white, the amount depending on how many players) are placed in stacks on the board. Contract cards are shuffled and four revealed.
In the section for artists, the 16 artist tiles (half in blue and half in red) are shuffled. One by one, these are placed on the board. The first drawn blue artist is placed face up; the rest face down (waiting to be “discovered”). Four types of art are found in the game – digital art, sculpture, painting and photography – and there will be one blue and one red artist for each specialty (excess artist tiles are removed and are out of play). Artist bonus tiles are placed on the undiscovered artists. (These tiles provide rewards for players who choose to discover them later in the game.) The clientele (aka Visitors) for the galleries are represented by three colors of meeples: brown (Investors), pink (VIPs) and white (Collectors). A white Visitor is placed on each red artist and will come into play when/if that artist is discovered. The art tiles (a stack for each of the four types) are shuffled and one of each removed. The top work in each stack will have Visitors randomly placed on them (equal to the number of tickets found on the tile). Those four removed pieces of art are mixed and one or more (one less than the number of players) placed aside on easels as “works of international renown”. This art will be claimed as the game reaches its conclusion.
Another area represents the International Market and “reputation tiles” are randomly placed with 12 going on the top four rows of the Market and one put at each of the four Locations of the board.
All Visitors are placed in a bag. Then, randomly drawn, one is placed in each player’s lobby and four more put in the board’s center (aka the Plaza). Players are dealt 1 Art Dealer and 1 Curator card. (These cards will reward players for certain types of artwork on display and sold. These are kept secret and will score at the end of the game.)
All players start with 8 assistants “in reserve” and 2 active (situated at “desks” on the player board) and 10 Money. The start player is chosen randomly and in REVERSE turn order, player’s move their Gallerist to one of the Locations and collect the reputation tile there, placing it onto their individual player board. Now, armed with some Money, some Influence and some assistants, players are set to embark on their foray into the art world.
At its core, The Gallerist is a worker placement game with your Gallerist piece and your assistants allowing you to take actions. On a turn, a player may move his Gallerist to one of four Locations and do one of the actions available there. The four locations are:
Artists Colony – Here a player may discover a new artist or buy a work from an artist already discovered. Discovering means choosing one undiscovered artist, gaining the bonus tile there and flipping the artist over. A “fame” marker (white cube) is placed at the brown starting space on that artist’s “fame” track and the player receives one of that artist’s signature tokens (denoting a “commission”). In the future, the player may cash in that commission and buy work from that artist at his original value and not at the more expensive value that work by a famous artist would command at a later date. Alternatively, a player may buy a work of art, the cost equal to the current fame value of the artist, collecting a signature token to indicate the purchase. Artwork bought (via commission or not) is taken and displayed on the player’s board in his gallery. Any Visitors on a purchased work move to the Plaza.
Sales Office – Here a player may choose a contract card (to prepare to sell a piece of art) or, if a contract is already possessed, sell a matching work of art. Four contract cards are on display, each depicting an icon of one of the types of art in the game. If a player doesn’t see a contract of interest, another four may be drawn and he can choose from them. A chosen contract is placed on the player board and, depending on where it is placed, may reward the player with a ticket. If a player has a piece of art that matches his contract, that art may be sold at the current value of that artwork, the contract card flipped over (and any assistant on it returned to his desk), the signature token returned to the board and the sold art placed below that player’s board as a record of the sale. If the player has any Visitors in his gallery, then, to symbolize the buyer of that piece, one Visitor (the player’s choice) is removed from his gallery to the Plaza.
Media Center – This is where the assistants available to a playe can be recruited (and become active). The cost to hire assistants gradually rises but they also free up rewards (tickets, Influence, Money) when hired. They are moved to one of the desks on the player board. (There are only four desks so no more than four may be situated there.) Alternatively, an artist can be promoted thereby increasing his fame and the value of his art. All artists have a starting “level”, some as little as “0”, By spending influence equal to the next level (e.g. 2 influence to raise a Level 1 artist to Level 2 etc.), the new “Promotion” token is placed on the artist (replacing the “old” one if there is one present) and the artist’s fame increased by 1 plus 1 for each Collector (white meeple) in that player’s gallery. As artists increase in fame, the value of their work increases as well. Artists may even be able to become so famous that they reach “Celebrity” status. In addition, the player receives a bonus (a ticket, a Visitor, Influence etc.) based on the level being promoted.
International Market – The market is divided into three columns. In order to claim a space by placing an assistant, 1 Visitor of any color in that player’s lobby is needed for the first column, 1 Investor and 1 VIP needed for the second column and 1 Collector AND 1 Investor or 1 VIP needed for the third column.
The upper four rows depict the four types of art. A player may allocate an assistant in the column in which he has access and the matching art. He scores Influence (for the column placement) and takes the reputation tile there, placing it on his player board and reaping the benefit of the space that tile covers (more Influence, Money, tickets etc.) but not the tile itself. (That will score later.) The bottom three rows symbolize making an offer for the “international artwork of renown” placed aside at the beginning of the game. Again, a player needs to have the required Visitors to be eligible to place an assistant there plus spend the necessary money (1, 3 or 6). Assistants placed there stay there for the entire game but players receive the benefit shown on the space (again, more Infleuence, Money etc.)
Not only may players take the action at a Location, they may also do one of two possible “Executive Actions”: Moving Visitors OR Using a Bonus from a Contract Card.
Throughout the game, players will accumulate tickets. Ticket colors match the colors of the Visitors. As an Executive Action, players may spend their tickets (these are removed from play) and move the matching colored visitors from the Plaza to their lobby to their gallery itself. Visitors in the lobby will allow you to do more at the International Market. Visitors in your gallery will impact on the fame of artists whose work gets sold and generate more influence and money.
Contract cards also have a “bonus space” granting a player another Visitor, additional Influence or Money and more IF a player puts one of his assistants on it. (Placed assistants remain there until the contract is fulfulled or replaced.) When the contract is fulfilled, the Contract card gets flipped and another bonus space is revealed. This too, may be occupied by an assistant as an Executive Action.
On the following turn, the player then moves his Gallerist to another Location (you can’t stay in the same place twice in a row) but may leave one of his assistants behind. Should another player move into that Location (or if another player moves into a spot occupied by a Gallerist), that assistant (or Gallerist) is kicked out! Althought this sounds bad, this is actually a major “good” as being kicked out allows you to perform MORE actions! If you are Kicked Out (you derive no benefit from “kicking yourself” out), you may, once again, perform either of the standard Executive Actions. Or, you may be able to perform the major action of a Location once again!
To do one of the actions allowed at the Location when Kicked Out, you need to spend Influence by moving your marker DOWN to the next “starred” spot on the Influence Track. Influence is a powerful force in the game as it not only allows you to take extra major actions, it can also be converted into Money (when needed) and, at game’s end, the more Influence you have, the more Money it is worth and having the most Money determines the winner of the game.
When all tickets of one color have been depleted, an intermediate scoring occurs. At that point, all playes earn additional Influence (2 Influence per VIP and 1 Influence per Collector in his gallery) and Money (2 Money per Investor and 1 Money per Collector in his gallery). Play continues until two of these conditions are met: ALL tickets are gone and/or TWO artists have become “Celebrities” and/or ALL meeples have been drawn from the bag. At that point, the current round is completed and then ALL players take one more turn. Then we score.
Money (which equates to Victory Points) comes from all directions. First is the International Market. Each of the three columns (only 2 in a two player game) is scored individually with the player with the most (second most and third most) assistants in a column receiving funds. Then, Influence and Money earned through reputation tiles gathered throughout the game are added to a player’s postiono on the Influence track or cache of cash (respectively). All artwork in a player’s gallery grants its current value in Money to the exhibiting player. Those “works of renown” (from the start of the game) are now “auctioned off” based on the position of players’ assistants in the bottom three spaces at the Internatioal Market. Won artwork may be used to fulfill requirements of a player’s Curator or Art Dealer card. Both Curator and Art Dealer cards earn Money if the listed requirements are met. Finally, the position of each player on the Influence track provides another “Money” stream. With all Money counted, the player finishing with the most wins! (Tie? Then the player with the most artwork, both exhibited and sold combined, gets the nod. Still tied? Then most Visitors in his gallery. Still tied? Most assistants in play. Still tied? Then we have a shared victory!)
Since worker placement is the key to success, it is imperative that players make the most of their “Kicked Out” actions, not only for additonal use of Executive actions but also, through spending Influence, takinig additional Location actions for maximum impact. Only one Gallerist piece is at your command and that is the only piece that allows for Location actions. On top of that, you cannot remain in a Location two turns in a row. Using your Influence wisely allows you to circumvent these restrictions and can be extraordinarily powerful in increasing your control and reach throughout the game.
Graphically, the production value of the game is outstanding, from the thick tiles, beautiful (and actual) artwork on display to wooden easels used to display those “works of renown”. The tray to hold all the components (and there are a lot of them) even has a plastic lid that snugly fits to keep everything firmly in place. (This is something that Eagle-Gryphon has done before in games such as Francis Drake.)
Many games have “pasted on” themes, themes that seem to have barely anything to do with the game play. The Gallerist is an example of the opposite. Every action smoothly connects with the theme and makes sense as players find and groom artists, buy and sell artwork, hire help to aid in their grand plans for success and seek to attract valued patrons to their gallery. To be successful requires a player to master a juggling act worthy of a game about a circus but it rings true here for the world of art as well. With all this going on, it is no wonder that the game requires several hours to complete. The good news it that the time flies by! (And others must feel the same way as the first print run of The Gallerist sold through with a second run scheduled for this June.)
Because of this involved and highly interactive design, this game is certainly not for the casual gamer. Rather, The Gallerist is an immersive experience, fully capturing the ups and downs of the art world, and a substantial and suitable creation for the serious player. Vital Lacerda has skillfully crafted an intertwining tapestry of game mechanisms to make a challenging and totally engaging experience. When it comes to the art world, The Gallerist itself is an impressive work of art and Vital Lacerda an impressive talent. – – – – Herb Levy
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