Thursday, July 27, 2017

Starving Artists (Fairway 3 Games)

I do not have a single creative bone in my body. That includes anything musical or artistic. That's not to say that I don't appreciate both, and don't enjoy going to the symphony or museum. I just know my creative limits, and they basically stop at paint-by-number. When I heard about the game Starving Artists (self-described as paint-by-cube), I knew I wanted to play this game. Starving Artists is a game for 1-4 players, ages 12+. It takes between 30-60 minutes to play and retails for $30. (Note: You can also add on a game mat for $15, which appropriately has an image of Johnannes Vermeer's work The Art of Painting.)

1. Give each player a Studio Card. This will be used to track your nutrition level, track the day, store your Paint Cubes, and remind you of the day's actions.
2. Give each player a matching set of Player Markers, placing one on the 0 of the score track, and the other on the 5 of their nutrition level.
3. Pour all the Paint Cubes into the bag and mix well. Then, have each player draw six random cubes from the bag, placing them in their studio.
4. Shuffle the Canvas Cards, and place them face-down in a stack. Form the Canvas Market by turning over three and forming a row next to the deck.
5. Give the first-player token (Carrot) to the person who most recently visited a museum.
Game Play - The game is played over several rounds with players taking one action in the morning and one in the afternoon. At night, all players have the option of selling their paintings.
1. Add four Paint Cubes from the bag to the Paint Market (center of the table).
2. Lower your nutrition level by one (except on the first day). If your nutrition drops below one, you are eliminated, and players have one more day left in the game.
3. The first player places the carrot on the morning phase of his Studio Card.
4.  On your turn, you will take two actions (one at a time) and may take one free action. The actions are as follows:
a. Buy a new canvas - Pay one to three cubes depending on where the card is in the Canvas Market.
b. Paint - Apply up to four Paint Cubes from your Studio to any number of your Canvases.
c. Work - Draw three Paint Cubes and put them in your Studio.
Free actions:
a. Trade Paint Cubes - Trade Paint Cubes from your Studio to the Paint Market, using the following ratios - 2:1, 5:2, 9:3. (Note: Trading is expensive and you can trade wild cubes back to the Market but never take them from the Market.)
b. Reset the Canvas Market - Pay two Paint Cubes to the Paint Market to discard the cards in the Canvas Market and draw three new ones.
5. Sell Paintings - In the night phase, the first player declares if they are selling paintings, how many, and which one(s). Other players do this in clockwise order. Selling paintings raises your nutrition level, scores you points, and gets you paid in Paint Cubes. (Note: Players will get paid based on who has the highest value painting sold.)

The game ends at different intervals based on number of players. 2 players = 7 paintings/16 points, 3 players = 6 paintings/14 points, and 4 players = 5 paintings/12 points.
Starving Artists is a game that is creatively simple and simply creative. The concept of taking cubes and placing them on famous artwork to complete the painting is genius and makes you wonder why no one thought of it before. Don't let the simplicity fool you. There is strategy to this game, as it's a juggling act between picking the right Canvas, acquiring the right blend of Paint Cubes, and not starving. I admit that I went hungry and lost the first time I tried playing this. Players turns can create a little downtime, but that is true with a lot of games. The only complaint I heard with the numerous people I played with is that it's a shame that it only plays four. Designer, Mike Wokasch, thought of that and created a kit you could buy that would give you the ability to play with up to six players. I am going to have to invest in this, as I regularly play more than four!

The components in this game are well thought out and produced. For starters, the paintings are very vibrant and high resolution. If it wasn't for the squares to place your cubes, you'd swear you were staring at miniature re-creations of them. The cubes themselves are translucent, which was a brilliant decision. I imagine wooden cubes would have been much more economical to produce, but the plastic translucent ones really add that extra aesthetics to the game. I normally don't buy extra game boards, but this neoprene one is a worthy investment as it serves as both a rule reminder and statement piece for the game.

With over 90 unique canvas cards, the replay value is strong in this game. You won't paint all the same canvases from game to game, and you probably won't see them all either without a couple of plays through the game. With that said, I hope to see the designer continue adding to this game, perhaps through little booster packs, but I don't know how economical it would be. My thoughts were to pick popular artists (Van Gogh, Rembrant, Picasso, etc.) and make perhaps 10 card booster packs of them. (Yes, I know these artists already have several representatives of their artwork in this game). However, if you released popular artist booster packs, you could add even more theme to the game. Let people have their own deck to draw from, and the first one to paint the required number of paintings (based on player count) wins.

What I liked best about this game was the hidden educational/cultural value. When I was in school, I took an art history class, and it was boring! It seemed like no one wanted to be there, including the teacher. This game, however, secretly teaches you and your children about great art through the centuries, as the cards show you the piece and provide an artist and time when it was painted. I thought I knew a fair bit of famous art before this game, but I was mistaken, as there were so many works in here that I did not recognize. I found myself learning without even trying to, and feel like that was an added benefit to a great game. For this reason alone, I think it is a game that belongs in the classroom and homeschool environment, in addition to on a family's game shelf!

This game was provided to me for free by Fairway 3 Games in exchange for an honest review.