Canvas Review

14 October 2022
It certainly paints a pretty picture

I’ve never been referred to as any kind of artist, and in fact, my skill levels out somewhere below stick figures, but in Canvas, I’ve somehow blagged my way into fancy art festival competition, and I’m nothing if not competitive. Thankfully, this isn’t a drawing game, but rather a creative layering game, with satisfying results.

The artwork, that I’ll take credit for when the game finishes, is the core of this game, and is truly lovely. You’ll have a background card as your base, which turn by turn, you’ll layer more upon using art cards. The cards themselves are transparent, bar the feature being added, which means you’re building aspects bit by bit into the scene. All cards being the same size, they pleasingly look like a single canvas.

That’s the true triumph of the game – the gameplay is relatively straightforward, but the components on hand to make it look the way it does, and to make you feel a part of the creation, are unparalleled. On repeated plays, you find yourself with similar components but entirely different images, some of which you can’t help but take a quick picture on your phone on to preserve the cool thing you made. And whilst there are deluxe components available – mini wooden easels, wooden tokens instead of cardboard – these would be lovely, but certainly not a requirement.

Given this is, after all a game, the gameplay does factor in, and whilst I’ve already referred to it as straightforward, that’s not to say there’s no thought to be had within it. Upon each layer you add to your masterpiece, you add or obscure icons beneath it. Prioritising the prevalence of specific icons may not give you the artistic outcome you had originally planned for, but it will bank you more points based on scoring conditions, which you draw at the beginning. All the while you’re doing some gentle hand management to keep some of the best cards for later. You pick up new cards from those in front of you using inspiration tokens (of which there are limited provided to you), and the game ends once you have completed three paintings.

Nicely, the game also provides variants. There’s the expected solo variant, that is more top score based and a 1-2 player Painting With Vincent variant, which allows for the lower player count. This version uses inspiration tokens shaken and dispersed, depending on how they land, to inform the automatic action of Vincent. You’re not in contest with Vincent anyway, Vincent merely steals potential cards from you. These are good ways to enjoy the game without a group, but I personally found comparing artwork along the way was so much part of the experience, it wouldn’t be a go-to solo game for me.

Canvas was both exactly the game I was expecting, and nothing like the game I was expecting, at the same time. The basic joy of creating and layering my own masterpiece was exactly as anticipated, but how much this dominates the wider game itself I hadn’t expected. I thought there might be some astonishing gameplay buried within it given the hype of it, but it’s ‘just’ a ‘good’ game, made great by its art. Even if it’s ‘just’ a good or great game though, it’s still one I’d recommend.

Charlie Pettit


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From the perfect art piece to the perfect pond.

Designer: Jeff Chin & Andrew Nerger

Publisher: Road to Infamy Games

Time: 30 minutes

Players: 1-5

Ages: 14+

Price: £40

What’s in the box?

  • 120 Tokens
  • 12 Scoring cards
  • Play mat
  • 15 Background cards
  • 60 Transparent cards

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