Art Decko Review


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20 May 2022
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Galleries and Salaries

Procure works of art from galleries of varying repute to build your personal hoard. But can you drive up the value of your most abundant genres to clinch victory from rival collectors?

Art Decko has similarities with other deck building games. Each turn you draw a hand from your growing deck, use the cards to acquire others and discard to use again in future.

But there are differences too. Here there is a heavily economic streak, as your primary aim is to raise the value of your art.  Each painting falls into one of five categories: Art Nouveau, Renaissance, Surrealism, Pop Art and Impressionism. Buy a painting card and that genre appreciates. Five galleries sell art at increasing costs. The trick is to pick up cheap cards and then build their worth over time.

Paintings can be used to buy cards, but unlike gold, their value increases over time – making them valuable in-hand, as well as at the end game. As the game progresses, the galleries become clogged up with unfashionable art, forcing players to invest in forgotten genres and therefore giving these a boost. In fact, in every game I’ve played, the eventual difference in values has been slight. While this can leave you feeling like your early game strategy was a little futile, it keeps all players properly invested in the outcome of the game. The eventual winner usually only triumphs by a point or two.

Exhibiting a painting in the museum earns you points and boosts the genre, but loses you the card. If you’re not careful, it’s a move that could end up leaving you worse off, or benefiting others more than yourself. It’s often hard to make informed decisions, because the exact make-up of other players’ decks is impossible to track. Far from hindering the experience, however, I found this added to it. In a game where everyone is frequently rewarded, achieving marginal gains is a primary goal. When another player raises the value of a whole swathe of your cards, you’ll be left inwardly chuckling in barely concealed delight. It’s an advantage to shop around. The player who doggedly aims to specialise in only Renaissance works cannot hope to triumph unless others are raising the value too. A mixed portfolio and a poker face are good weapons for this art battle.

Decisions are rarely clear-cut. If you grab the last painting in a cheap gallery, it will trigger a restock of all galleries, giving other players first picks of the new paintings... If you dig deep in order to exhibit, you will probably throw away the second of your two actions – and the ability to take two actions on each turn feels very strong… Unplayed cards can be saved, so holding back and curating a killer hand in one turn, may advantage your next...  Discarding gold for one-time actions can accelerate your early game, but may leave you feeling a little short. The randomness of the cards creates variety and generates interesting situations, leaving you wanting to play again in order to try out new strategies and tactics.

A large table is needed as the central board is huge and individual player boards need additional space. My biggest complaint is that each painting appears five times in the deck. When building a collection, you want to feel like you’ve acquired the original, not one of five prints. Original art is expensive, of course, but I would have loved more of it. Hats off to the five artists; the work they’ve done here is incredible.

Ellie Dix

PLAY IT? YES

The economy is central to Art Decko – it’s all about driving up values and riding the market, but the way you do this is through deck building. It’s an unusual but brilliant combination. A single card or an exhibition bonus could determine the outcome of the game. You’ll rarely know who’s won until the final reckoning, keeping everyone engaged until the very last.

Pick up your own copy here

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Play this if you liked: Modern Art

While the mechanics are different, in both games, players speculate by acquiring paintings of different types and aim to manipulate the market to cash out at the highest price.

Read our review of Modern Art here

Designer: Ta-Te Wu

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Time: 45- 60 minutes

Players: 204

Ages: 10+

Price: £45

What’s in the box?

  • 75 Painting cards
  • 42 Gold cards
  • 4 Player boards
  • Market rating board
  • Museum game board
  • 16 Exhibition bonus tiles
  • 20 Cost tokens
  • 46 Painting genre markers
  • 40 Player ribbons
  • Gold Market rating marker
  • Draw bag

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