Abstract Academy Review

07 January 2023
Just not really sparking joy.

As an art student, you aim to impress your professors, but money is tight so a canvas must be shared. Cards, which are split into quadrants, are placed in a communal tableau, creating colour blocks of different sizes. Random assignments and professors determine the scoring conditions players are competing over; while each player has a personal inspiration card that gives them a further opportunity to score.

Each player’s scoring zone consists of the two rows closest to them. However, the boundaries of the tableau are not predetermined, but instead will be defined as the maximum column and row length is reached. So as you lay cards, you’re attempting to manipulate the tableau to your best advantage, while making life as difficult as possible for your rival(s). It’s a nice idea, but sadly it falls a little flat. Players usually rush to define the boundaries so they can maximise the control they have over their own scoring area, reducing the ability to drastically change the landscape. And while it’s nice to be able to play cards that affect your opponents’ ability to score, most of the time you’re more concerned with your own zone. Plus, you’re banned from placing cards into another player’s ‘home row’. In a 2-player game, this blocks half of your non-scoring space and in a 4-player game it blocks 60% of it. Harumph.

Rounds are quick and decisions are straightforward: with three cards to pick from, there’s usually an obvious play. Personal goals are almost always achieved, giving each player some guaranteed points. In the event of a tie, the public goals are won by the ‘teacher’s pet’ - a first player card. Even though this role is then passed on, it still feels like a frustrating compromise. There’s just not enough opportunity to strategise.

The abstract theme (ha ha) is fine, the components are fine, the gameplay is fine, but it’s just not really sparking joy.

Ellie Dix


Designer: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich

Publisher: Crafty Games

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Time: 20-40 minutes

Players: 2-4

Ages: 8+

Price: £10

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