Final Touch review


14 February 2017
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FT_Sample_EN-82434.png Final Touch
Is Mike Elliott’s art-based card game a brush with greatness?

In 1832, at the Royal Academy, celebrated landscape artist John Constable was meticulously applying the final strokes to The Opening Of Waterloo Bridge, a painting he'd spent 15 years working on. Then into the gallery walked his greatest rival, one J.M.W. Turner, whose unfinished seascape Helvoetsluys was hanging nearby. Turner considered his painting for a few moments, then roughly dabbed a bright, red splotch on it. At first glance it looked like an act of vandalism. But no: he'd just added a buoy. Job done, Turner strutted out again. It was the landscape painter's equivalent of a mic drop.

One-time Magic man Mike Elliott's Final Touch is the closest you'll ever come to recreating that infamous art-history moment in the form of a light card game. Even if the concept actually casts the two to four players as art forgers, working in a studio alongside each other to recreate famous works. Well, supposedly working together. Each forger seeks to claim credit for each painting, by cunningly applying the final touch and earning the full fee for themselves, or otherwise viciously smearing the work so that their rivals are forced to flog it for half price. The first to earn $25 is the winner. 

It makes for a fast-paced but absorbing experience. A deck of 25 'masterpiece' cards is placed face-up in the centre of the table, with the topmost card drawn. Each of these cards depicts a pair of cartoonish artists (yes, they wear berets) battling it out in front of a canvas that presents a colour-combination set. Then – and this is a lovely design touch – on the flip is the finished fake you ‘win’ by completing the colour-set, with an added comical embellishment. So, for example, if you successfully apply the last of two blue and two yellow dabs, you'll complete Grant Wood's American Gothic (with a wiener impaled on the dour farmer's pitchfork) and earn yourself $4.

Each player has a hand of five 'touch of colour' cards, which they hope will correlate with the drawn masterpiece’s canvas combo. So each turn you're faced with a choice: either play matching colours (as many as you can or want) to one side of the masterpiece to improve it, aiming to make that full-fee-earning final touch, or 'smear' the masterpiece by placing a single incorrect colour card on the other side. When the third smear is applied, the masterpiece is ruined and your opponent(s) receive half its value. All the while, the next masterpiece is visible at the top of the draw pile, so you'll always need to think ahead; and whether you apply the final smear or the final touch, you receive a bonus go. 

Each turn, then, presents an often difficult, risk-assessing decision — especially as the rules don’t allow you to pass. Do you aim for the final improvement and risk losing the full haul to another player by increasing their chances, too? Do you bluff by smearing even if you could improve, then going for it on the next round after others have added correct colours? Do you give up dollars to your opponent(s) because you know you can win the next, higher-value masterpiece on the pile?

Okay, so it’s not the deepest of titles, and those into heavier strategy will likely feel the novelty subside after a few sessions. But if you appreciate the joys of a quick card game that treats you to bursts of tension and rewards with a fresh-feeling mechanism and vibrant, witty design, then Final Touch may just tickle your palette.

DAN JOLIN

 

CONCLUSION

With its give-or-take, bluff-encouraging dynamic and artist Pandaluna’s joyful take on famous paintings (from Edvard Munch’s The Scream to Dogs Playing Poker) Final Touch fits a ton of entertainment into its minimal play time.

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Buy your copy here.

Publisher: Asmodee/Space Buddies

Price: £13.99

Genre: Hand management, bluffing

Players: 2-4

Time: 15 minutes

Age: 8+

Website: asmodee.us

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