Type: Worker Placement / Euro

Time to play: 150 – 180 minutes (Teaching: 20 – 25 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Player (2 – 4 Players)

You have run a farm, perhaps a cave, maybe you have even run a vineyard… but I bet you haven’t run an art gallery?! Well now is your chance. Time to open up Vital Lacerda’s tightly coupled mechanics that allow you to run an art gallery!

The Gallerist is an incredible rich game from a very well known designer – touted as one of his best (with Vinhos or Kanban), this games blends a lot of simple actions and strong mechanics to create a very complex and developed engine. The overall theme of this game is to collect, promote and either exhibit or sell art – if you can do this well you will build money and influence (influence which converts to money at the end!). The richest curator at the end is the winner.

As a short side note, I think it would be a little misleading to say that this is a game where money is the only winning condition; specifically money is really 1VP per money at the end and everything else scores VP at the end. I say this as a lot of the “money” rewards are given at the end where the VP is not really fungible with in game money.

So back to the core of the game – this is a worker placement with only four places! That’s right you really haven’t got much space to maneuver. Now each space has two possible actions and you can take a small executive action before or after the move. What does that mean? It means that the game offers you a complex decision tree – space (1 of 4), action (1 of 2) and then do or don’t take an executive action (which you could take first!).

If all that’s not enough then let’s add the second turn that happens anytime another player enters the space you are in. If you took a piece of art just now, and then another player wants to do that – well you may be able to take a second action at the end of their turn. This reduces downtime, and adds to the complexity – you need to prepare to be able to trigger that action and you need to be able to maximise the benefit. For example, you need influence to take a full turn (as opposed to a short executive action) and then you might need the money to buy the art (or other action).

So what kind of things can you do within these mechanics? You can discover artists / buy art, or you can get a contract / sell some art, or you can hire workers / promote artists and lastly you can put workers in the auction house / international markets. Those pairs are the four paired actions on the board – bouncing between the ones that will help you most is tricky to navigate, especially when you can end up getting second actions at helpful or useless timing!

Hopefully the action names carry over a bit of the theme that is being pushed through but I would highlight a particularly clever mechanic that I like and that’s FAME. Fame determines how much the art of that artist is worth. The artist gets famous on discovery, but it’s probably a low level of initial fame (unless he was a really good artists!). Then you can promote him – but you must step up the promotion over time, and that gets progressively expensive for a diminishing return. Lastly, for each art you or anyone else buys it increases the fame of the artist and it does so by the quality of that art and the number of collectors the buyer has in their gallery!

This mechanic is multi-layered and provides the route by which players gain value through art. At the top of this pile – it’s the way to having a celebrity work of art and the fourth slot in the art gallery. Sometimes it’s easier to promote artists, sometimes you can tag on to artists others are promoting / buying art from, and sometimes you will discover an artist and let everyone else do the hard work!

I end up really caring about the artists in my gallery, constantly watching for their success because it effects my money! I think about promoting them, I think about how long I want to hold their art, and I think about whether or not I discovered them! This really enriches the theme for me.

Alongside this rich theme of this game, there is another key aspect that I should include in this review – as it’s either a good thing or a bad thing for players (personal preference). It’s a build your own scoring mechanic! During the game you will place workers in the markets and this will give you immediate bonuses but also one of the randomly selected 16 end conditions for scoring. Money and influence will always score, but the 3-6 you will probably pick up from this market will meaningfully effect your score!

With that though comes one downside for me – this area is pretty much mandatory to every strategy and that’s a shame from my view. The need to earn these chips through the game doesn’t feel thematic (like the artists discovery/purchase of art) but if you don’t go back there enough there is simply no way you will win this game.

That said, the way the mechanics work and the interlinking of all the spaces here through the workers, the art and the artists is incredible. You then add to that three colours of workers (asymmetric uses) that you are bringing to your gallery or selling art to and you have an incredibly rich game with emergent complexity. Every action you take needs to be sequenced, balanced and offer you options for your next round based on what other players do! Very tricky, but incredibly interesting!

Last notes;

  • If you like a tight interconnected game, with the ability to develop a thematic and complex engine – this is a very strong purchase
  • If you hate that break of the theme when the scoring kicks in – try this first, and see how you find the markets
  • If you win, then try again and see whether the variable set up (different artists, objectives, and different art!) will change your plans!