The Gallerist Review - A Triumph Over Chaos

A lot of people think I avoid heavy Euro's like the plague but this simply isn't true. Good, solid crunchy Euro's are great fun, but if you want to keep me there for 3+ hours it needs to keep me interested and immersed. That means not only must the mechanics be good, but the theme must be strong and interesting as well. Dry, soulless Euro's I can only take as a short game, but there are exceptions (Terra Mystica). In fact by the time this goes up I should have recorded my next podcast episode with my Top 10 Dry (Pasted Theme) Games, so check that out.

Vital Lacerda ranks up there among my Top 10 Designers despite his relatively small portfolio (no this isn't brown-nosing). He's able to create heavy Euro games that incorporate a strong thematic flavour - a trait I latch on to greatly. Vinhos I've yet to try, but just reading the description suggests it depicts wine-making in great detail making it intriguing enough for me to pre-order the deluxe version. Kanban as per my upcoming audio review did a great job of portraying the internal aspects of running a car factory and dodging your mean boss. And now we have The Gallerist which by description alone I can tell it's got a strong thematic tie-in to the world of Art, something I have limited knowledge of I must admit. I couldn't tell the difference between Michelangelo the painter and the ninja turtle and can't draw my way out of a paper bag!

Does this game support the claims I've just made? Do I think this beats Kanban, one of my (spoiler alert) favourite Euro's I've played? Plenty to talk about here!


Designer: Vital Lacerda
Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
Age: 14+
Players: 1-4
Time: 120-180 Minutes
RRP: £69.99


A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words


Combining the elements of an art dealer, museum curator and artist manager, you have The Gallerist, a role which players will take on. Players will promote artists, buy, display and sell their Art and exert their international influence to draw visitors to their gallery. 

Each player has one worker to choose from four locations on the board. At the Artist Colony, you can discover new artists on the scene looking to be the next Van Gogh and acquire their art to exhibit in your gallery, thus boosting their fame. A trip to the Sales Office will allow you to pick a prospective contract to sell your Art and then sell said Art for "hopefully" a greater value than you bought it for. Spending time at the Media Center will give you the opportunity to promote your artist even further in the public domain and hire assistants to help you with other tasks. Every Gallerist needs his helpers! And finally send your assistants off to the International Market (you're way too busy) to increase your reputation and influence as well as bid on auctions for internationally renowned Works of Art to add to your gallery. 

Visitors to your gallery will help you to achieve your goals. Investors bring in money to acquire new art, VIP's boost your influence across the globe and Collectors do both of these as well as increase the fame of artists.

Through careful planning and use of your resources, you'll seek to make your gallery the most financially lucrative there is. That's a general overview of what you're doing in The Gallerist. If you want a more detailed rules explanation, I urge you to check out the PDF rulebook on BoardGameGeek or (if you must) check out my buddy Paul Grogan at "GamingRules!" for his introductory videos.


A Beautiful Body Perishes, But A Work Of Art Does Not


I don't recall Eagle-Gryphon Games being the pioneers of component quality, but then I haven't played many of their older titles. But wow, something recently has changed because lately they are pulling out all the stops to make their games look good and The Gallerist is no exception. It's a high price tag, but you get a giant box with a well designed insert (not flawless, but I'd be nitpicking) full of chunky tiles and linen finished cards. These are some of the best tiles I've seen in a game outside of Days of Wonder titles, they all feel solid and bulky with clear graphics all over, they're a joy to behold. Even the money counters are nice and thick as well. It's not a standard sized box, but I think most players can get over that. As for the art easel stands, they are essentially a gimmick, but it's a welcome light touch that aids in delivering on the intended theme.

An Artist Says A Hard Thing In A Simple Way


Vital Lacerda's games are naturally pretty complex and as such you rely on the rulebook to effectively draw you in and teach you the game quickly and efficiently. This has been a hit and miss affair so far from experience, but The Gallerist re-defines how a rulebook should be written for a heavy Euro game. I will go on record saying that this is one of, if not the most well written rulebooks I've seen. The order in which parts are explained follows a clear logical progression and every single action is explained in multiple individual steps with full colour pictures (taken I'm guessing from Tabletopia or an animation program) for all of them. It looks great on the page and it just made learning The Gallerist a breeze compared to something like Kanban or any other heavy Euro game I've come across.

All the special bonus tiles are clearly referenced on the reference guides and even though there's a lot of iconography present, most of it is fairly intuitive and many of them are variations of each other. I find icons to be easier to process than a ton of text anyway, but that's a personal learning style I accept. If you're not comfortable with icons, it may take you a little longer to grasp this.

Once you've absorbed the rules, you'll quickly see that when all things are considered, The Gallerist isn't actually that complex to learn. You have four places to go to with two possible actions each, three types of visitors, artist tiles, the ticket mechanic and the international market. That's essentially the major areas for rules in the game and again, if you like icons, you'll pick it up in no time.





The Perfection Of Art, Is To Conceal Art


So why does the box say "two hours" for playing time? Well because even though the turn sequence is fairly simple, there's a lot of depth in how you play The Gallerist. You have multiple options on your turn for what to do and it's made even more interesting with the very clever "kicked-out" mechanic. This is where unlike most worker placement games, your pawn can be knocked out of a space it was occupying. However by doing so, you then have the option of spending some of your influence to take an action after that player has finished their turn. It's purely optional, but already you can see that turn order is not linear in The Gallerist.

One round you might only do something on your own turn and leave it at that, but on a subsequent round you might be able to time it so that you get effectively two turns in a row or at least be able to do that one extra thing you were hoping you could do sooner rather than later. Leaving an assistant behind after moving your pawn gives further opportunities for this to occur when they are kicked out. It's really cool and helps to cut downtime significantly. You can't just sit back and wait, you're engaged at all times in case another player grants you the chance to perform additional actions and of course when you take your actual turn to go to a location, you're thinking about the likelihood of your opponent benefiting as well and may actually reconsider your move. It kicks (no pun intended) the decision making to a whole new level.


Life Is Short, The Art Long


This of course will mean that The Gallerist is a long game. The box says "two hours" but that's for solitaire and two players. With three or four, you're looking at a solid 3 hours or more depending on experience with the game. Teaching the game will require a good twenty minutes or so on top if you have new players and of course you have to allow for some analysis paralysis although strangely enough you don't encounter it as much here, due to their being only 3 possible locations (you have to
leave your current one) to choose from, it's all about what you do when you get there.

However The Gallerist will never be considered short so if you don't like long games, this won't be your thing. The solitaire mode is actually pretty decent, one of my favourites from a Euro perspective, and two player mode is fine, but you don't experience the Kicked-Out actions as often. I find this best to play with three or four players despite the length because of that semi-interactive aspect.

The end game goals are a mix of obtaining reputation tile bonuses, increasing your influence and exhibiting or selling certain types of Art as dictated by your initial Curator/Dealer cards. Plenty of goals to attain, but you'll never manage them all and the tiles allow for a little bit of specialisation, but not to a great extent. I would have probably liked a few additional paths to victory, but your choices in how you reach the end result will always be different and a focus on a specific aspect does mean an automatic loss. I've won a game where I focused on a ton of investors getting me money. My influence across the Art world sucked heavily, but I was never a poor Gallerist ever again allowing me to buy whichever Art works I needed and make a killing on the international auction.


Verdict


The Gallerist is one of the best Euro games to come out during 2016, without any doubt. Everything in this game ties in with the theme of running an Art gallery, right down to using tiles of actual Works of Art from real artists. And supported by a collection of components in a giant box that has put Eagle-Gryphon on the map for high quality. They may take up a lot of space on your shelf and table, but they will look the business and justify their price tag and they don't need miniatures to do it!

The game play is made so much easier with the benefit of a well crafted rule book and mechanics which by themselves are not difficult to grasp, but give way to a large amount of depth that will require multiple plays to fully master, though a few more paths to victory would have been nice. The theme is strong and makes even Art, which is not a subject I'm keen on, interesting enough to avoid a dry, bland Euro experience, which some recent releases seem to keep falling victim to.

Put a gun to my head and I'd probably still prefer to play Kanban, but that's mostly on theme alone. The Gallerist definitely has the upper hand in game play, graphic design and accessibility to a wider Euro audience despite its weight. With this promising start to my experience with Vital's games, it's only got me more hyped to get my copy of Vinhos Deluxe and check out his new project for later this year. If you like heavy Euro's you owe it to yourself to give this one the time it deserves. Much like Art, it is a triumph over chaos.


If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/


YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You like heavy Euro games that incorporate a strong thematic tie-in.


The "Kicked-Out" mechanic caught your attention - it's a great way of reducing downtime.


You don't want a ton of complex rules - this is one of the easiest heavy Euro's to learn.


YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You feel the price point is a bit high - but you really are getting quality for your money.


You feel the time length is too long - 2 and a half hours is the minimum threshold.


You struggle with iconography - it will make the difference to how easily you get into it.


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