If you’ve ever wanted to go to an art museum and play a game with friends at the same time, Atelier: The Painter’s Studio from AEG is for you. This game features forty paintings from four different eras of classical art. Playable in under an hour, this game is a colorful break or exciting appetizer for game night. Though small pieces make this unsuitable for children under 14, the rules are simple enough that any family can enjoy.
Atelier is, at its core, a worker placement game. Your ability to paint relies on how well your adorable art student meeples can collect supplies for you. They will not always be able to get you what you need, however. All actions you take are based on the dice you roll at the start of a round. Once each player has used all their dice, the round ends. Even if you get the roll of the dice you need, if your students aren’t the majority at a paint pile, they will not be able to collect any paint. If luck is entirely not your friend, and you find that you cannot roll what you need, just get inspired. Inspiration tokens can be used to re-roll unused dice, paint paintings, or seek another patron.
Patrons give each player a hidden objective to complete. This will help guide you in choosing which paintings you want to paint. There will be seven available paintings at all times, but only one artist can claim each one. Each painting lists its color requirements, so keep an eye on what paint your rivals have on their palettes. And I do mean that literally. The player board is styled as an artist’s palette, paint splatters and all. The whole game embraced the theme, and it shows in the details. The only place I found lacking was with the patrons. We only got to see three, since our game was so quick, but checking the deck afterward it became apparent that a lot of the art was reused. I would have loved to see them flavored as historical figures or other artists.
Not every painting can be a masterpiece. These special paintings will be marked with a star and underline beneath their title. Masterpieces are usually worth more points, but more importantly begin the rush to the end game. As soon as one painter has completed three of these paintings, they gain a “First Master” token, worth additional points. Players will finish the round as normal once this happens, but the next round will be their final chance to earn points. It can be helpful to plan ahead for this inevitability. Either delay as much as you can by blocking your opponent from getting the paint they need, or stockpile paint and inspiration so you can paint multiple paintings in that last round.
Players also have a choice in how they conduct their turn. Starting with the player who has the “First Player” token, each player can choose to take as many actions as they have active dice for. This means you could use all your actions at once and forfeit any further turns in the round. Or you can choose to play more conservatively, watching your opponents and taking your turns one action at a time. This can drastically change the pace of play. If everyone uses all four dice whenever they can, the game will be a fevered rush to out paint your opponents. If everyone takes their time, however, it can be quite calm for a competitive game.
Atelier is simple and quick, with the art itself acting as the star. If you or a friend is an art fan, this would make a welcome addition to a collection. Without the art connection, it may not hold up against other games of the genre. Since so much of the gameplay is determined by the roll of the dice, it makes it difficult to play to a strategy. But, if a break from all the strategy is exactly what you’re looking for, take a step into the painter’s studio, look at some beautiful works of art, and relax.
You can pick up a copy of Atelier on Amazon.
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