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Subject: A review from a satisfied Vital fan rss

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Stephen Lovell
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My first Vital Lacerda game was Vinhos. It was on my radar for a good two years after release, but was out of print or otherwise unavailable to me for whatever reason. When I was finally able to snag it I was hooked. The depth and complexity of the game with it's interwoven systems made me fall in love.

Kanban was announced and I followed it in it's early stages of development. Initially I was put off by the difficulty in getting much accomplished, but after realizing we were playing it wrong, the game became fantastic.

Upon realizing CO2 was another Vital game, I had to have it. While much different than Vinhos and Kanban, I definitely enjoy it.

It's fun watching a designer grow and change over time, and The Gallerist is Vital Lacerda's crowning jewel (at least for now). It has elements from each of his previous games, along with new elements that blend together to deliver at an astounding level.

Theme

You play as a gallerist, an art dealer and curator that spends the game discovering new artists, promoting them, displaying their work, and selling it for profit when needed. There are four different types of art in the game, each of which functions identically, but make things much more flavorful.

You are also working to attract visitors to your gallery and make connections with people on the international market, which function as an income mechanism and an end game scoring mechanic, respectively.

This is one of those games that, when you're talking at the table about what you want to do, it sort of sounds like you're actually doing the real thing, and it's great. Everything you do in the game makes sense on a thematic level, which is hard to say for most euro/strategy games these days.

Components

The box is big. Not like, FFG coffin-box big, but it's bigger than most euros. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of.

That said, this game's components are absolutely fantastic. The insert is wonderful, with a plastic lid to keep the components held in. The board fits into a recess in the lid, with the player aids and rules on top of that. There are grooves in the box to make it easy to slide the top off and grab things. It's just incredibly well put together.

And the cardboard. Literally the best cardboard components I've ever handled. They are thick and chunky, but handle easily. Placing works of art in your gallery is a treat, as they are depicted actually hanging in an art gallery, with little people looking at them. The easels are an unnecessary but fun addition to hold the bonus works for the end game auction. The gallerist pawns are tall, making them easy to see. The art on the board is great, the colors are great, everything is just great.

Gameplay

Gameplay is fairly straightforward. On your turn, move your gallerist pawn to a new location and take one of the two available actions. There are four total locations, with eight total actions between them. Most of the time it's fairly simple to decide what main action you want to do, but the real trick is that there is a bonus related to almost every single thing you do.

Acquiring a contract card will let you sell a work of art of a specific type, but it will also give you a one time bonus action you can take once before the contract is fulfilled. Taking a reputation tile not only gives you an end game bonus objective, but it also immediately gives you some bonus influence and an immediate one time effect, depending on where you place it on your board.

Each artist you discover gives a random bonus each game, and each work of art you buy will add more visitors to the center of the board. And, to get those visitors to your gallery, you'll need tickets, which can be acquired through a plethora of bonuses that can be triggered all over the place.

Half the time, you don't care as much about your main action as you do about triggering a certain bonus. "I really need brown tickets, so I think I'll promote this artist I have a work for to increase his fame, thus increasing the work's value, and that will allow me to take tickets."

This can lead to some AP, depending on your group, but that is easily forgivable.

If you're a Vital fan, you'll know that he likes to include ways to gain bonus actions, and that doing so is critical to success. In The Gallerist, these come from kicked out actions. If another player ever displaces your main pawn, or one of your assistants (workers that can be left behind when you leave a space, and are also used for various other things), you can either take a free bonus action, or spend influence to take one of the main actions for that location.

The cost is variable due to the way influence works. Sometimes it will only cost 1, others it will cost 5, or somewhere in between. It's really important to weight the cost and decide if it's worth it, and getting those extra actions is a key to victory.

The final thing I'll mention is the Art Dealer and Curator cards. Each player gets one of each: One deals with art that you've sold in the game, and one deals with art you have still in your gallery at the end. The combination of these cards creates a sort of puzzle: What combination of art do I acquire/sell/hold on to to maximize my potential score.

Summary

Pros
- Fantastic components and art
- Thinky, interwoven mechanics
- Well executed theme

Cons
- Can be AP inducing, leading to downtime
- Some things in the rule book are hard to find
- Slightly long set up time

If you enjoyed Vinhos and Kanban, you'll love The Gallerist. If you aren't familiar with Vital's previous works, this is a great place to start, as it is my favorite game by him.
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Steve Carey
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An excellent concise review, Stephen.

I especially enjoyed your introduction as I'm currently on a Vital Lacerda journey of discovery.

Kanban was first and somewhat befuddling. Then came The Gallerist, and it was love at first sight. We also squeezed in a game of CO2, and it was absolutely brilliant. Finally, I'll be playing Vinhos for the first time this weekend.

For fans of medium-heavy euros, The Gallerist is a great choice!
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David Janik-Jones
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This is definitely one one my must-play list. I enjoy Vinhos a lot, thought CO2 was rather "meh", and really disliked Kanban. I wonder where this design will fall on that scale?
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John Di Ponio
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On the fence with this one. Just have to wait a bit to make up my mind.
 
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Stephen Lovell
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DaveyJJ wrote:
This is definitely one one my must-play list. I enjoy Vinhos a lot, thought CO2 was rather "meh", and really disliked Kanban. I wonder where this design will fall on that scale?
I'd be interested to hear why you disliked Kanban. Also, CO2 was meh for me as a 2 player, but it was great with 4.
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Marco yeye
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Quote:
This is definitely one one my must-play list. I enjoy Vinhos a lot, thought CO2 was rather "meh", and really disliked Kanban. I wonder where this design will fall on that scale?
I personally put this on the same level as CO2. I find Kan-Ban slightly more complex in a way that doesn't let me want to propose it as often as I would with the Gallerist/CO2, however I love all 3.


I can understand why someone could dislike Kan-Ban yet I hear many folks comparing it to Vinhos. You are now telling me you put them on two opposite sides of your "appreciation" axis. I think I'm curious too about your reasons ...

Never played Vinhos, but I look forward to.
 
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David Janik-Jones
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For whatever reason Kanban just rubs me the wrong way. I find it heavy for the sake of being heavy, with too many meshing parts that don't make any sense as a whole, a cluttered visual design, and plays just "inelegant", much like another game design that I thought added complexity and layers for no absolutely extra benefit, Bruxelles 1893. There's just too much going on and it doesn't have any real flow for a player as they do things out of sync. Steve used the word "befuddling" and that's not a bad way to describe the game. The "gears grind" as it were. I actually fin the only part I like is the meeting ... I think that could almost be a game unto itself. The rest felt like dead weight.

I hear people who know Vital's designs keep saying Vinhos is also a heavy game, yet I grokked it immediately, actually enjoy playing it, and compared to Kanban, is smoothness personified. Just has much more polish and elegance to the turns and player actions, and the mechanics just seem to mesh together better for me. It's a "tighter" design.

CO2 was good, but confusing to explain to new players and when compared to other in-depth or interesting Euros I'd want to put on the table, fell way short of the mark needed to keep it in my collection. I didn't find it especially fun to play (part of what makes a game good for me). If I'd wanted to maintain my 350+ game collection it would have stayed, but as I was ruthlessly paring down in the last years, CO2 didn't stand a chance. I probably wouldn't even play it again, unless it was the only game brought out for a night of gaming (which is still far better than Agricola, because if that was the only game our group managed to bring out, I'd simply go home, crawling on my hands and knees if I had to).

So, The Gallerist for me is a theme I'm very interested in (I publish an art magazine, collect art, hang out with artists, and know how the gallery system works from the inside), but I'm very wary of simply pulling the trigger and buying since neither CO2 or (especially) Kanban were keepers (Vinhos is owned by a friend up the street). I'll get a chance to play soon enough and will think through the gameplay and design then.

P.S. Hope that made some sort of sense. It's harder to explain exactly why I so dislike Kanban though compared to something like Agricola, where I can easily identify the one mechanic (blocking) I really dislike to point to (in addition to several other flaws I find in that game ... Diplomacy-like cut-throat gameplay, runaway leader issues, poor balance for experienced vs inexperienced players, length of play, etc). Vital's games are much like the COIN system of games from GMT to me ... I know I should like them, but for whatever reason they just don't click for me.

P.P.S. This all said, The Gallerist is actually still on my Secret Santa wish list so it's not like I'd turn down a copy, but down the list a ways into the 3-rated "like to have" category below a lot of other games I'd probably like more.
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David Baskeyfield
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Thanks for the great review. I'm really interested in the game but can't find it anywhere. Do you know when and where it will be available?
 
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