Thursday, October 6, 2016

Masters Gallery (Eagle-Gryphon Games)

When it comes to art, I admit that I am a bit of a snob, and have very particular tastes. I don't like modern art, maybe because I don't get it, and I don't see the appeal of Warhol, probably again, because I don't get it. When I heard that there was an older game (2009) that utilized works of famous artists (Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Degas and Vermeer), and that it was designed by Reiner Knizia, I knew I wanted to give it a try. The game is called Masters Gallery.  It is designed for 2-5 players, ages 8+, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It is produced by Eagle-Gryphon Games, and retails for $25.99. In this game, you are an art critic/gallery owner. You have your favorite artist, but your opinion can be changed depending on how the market changes. Your goal is to have the most valuable collection of art in your gallery.

1. Display the five Artist Cards in the middle of the table in the following order: Vermeer (17), Degas (18), Monet (19), Renoir (20), and Van Gogh (21). (Note: These numbers indicate how many Masterpiece cards there are for each artist.)
2. Place all the Value and Award Tokens to one side of the playing area.
3. Shuffle the Masterpiece Cards, and deal each player a hand of 13 cards.
4. Place the remaining Masterpiece Cards in a face-down deck to the right of the Artist Cards. Reveal an "extra card" from the top of the deck and put it face-up to the right of the deck.

Game Play - The game is played over four rounds. A round ends when when all players combined have played a total of six Masterpiece Cards of one artist. (Note: This includes the "extra card.") On a player's turn, he selects one Masterpiece Card from his hand displays it face-up in front of him, grouping by individual artist. If the card played shows a symbol, you follow the directions below:

Solid Black Square - Draw one card from the deck and add it to your hand.
Double Black Lines - Play a second card face up of the same artist. (Note: You ignore the symbol on the second card.)
One Gray Line and One Black Line - Play a second card face down. (Note: It does not have to be the same artist as the first card you played)
Four Small Squares - All players select one card from their hand. Players reveal the cards simultaneously and ignore the symbol on these cards.
Black Circle with Gold 2 - Take one Award Token and place it on an Artist Card of your choice.

The game is very simple to learn. All you do each turn is play one card. Those cards might give you a special ability, but that's it. However, the strategy in this game is deeper than it appears. With four rounds and no guarantee of when each round will end, you need to carefully choose which cards to play and which cards to keep. Add to that, you start with 13 cards, and as the rounds go on, you will have fewer and fewer cards at your disposal. The award tokens also stick around at the conclusion of each round, making this game more marathon than sprint.

Though the simplicity is a big selling point, I think what I like best about this game are the components, which are merely a deck of cards and some cardboard tokens. On the cards are famous works of art of five famous painters. This makes this an educational game, a family game, a strategic game, and a bit of a classy party game. You can learn about great art, while playing a game and having fun too, and if you get beat soundly your first time, the game is quick enough that you can simply play again and tweak your strategy.

On a final note, I would like to point out one of the few negatives of the game and that is "luck of the draw." The game is not random, because there is strategy to it, but at the end of the day, you can only play the hand you are dealt. If someone gets more of the cards with special powers on them, then they have a better shot at winning than someone who does not. This isn't as noticeable in lower player count, but in a high player count, it can make the game feel a bit more random and chance-driven. That complaint aside, I think this is a fun game and one that any art-lover needs.

This game was provided to me for free by Eagle-Gryphon Games in exchange for an honest review.