New South Wales
Originally posted here:
Synopsis: You are artists seeking fame and fortune, though at the moment you’re staving off starvation. You are creating beautiful works of art, which you will pitch to the market the moment they’re ready for sale.
Completed works of art are crucial to winning the game, because when you sell art you gain point, but also food. If you ever run out of food, this causes the game to end prematurely and someone to win. Otherwise, the game will continue until someone earns a specific number of points, scaled to the number of players. To complete art, you will be matching cubes of specific colours (paint) to ‘gaps’ on the various canvas cards to fill them in.
Each round, you will be able to take one action in the morning and one in the afternoon. These actions will allow you to acquire more units of paint, apply said paint to your tapestries, or traded some paint for new canvasses to complete. The end of the round is the night phase, where your levels of hunger increase and you can sell art if you’ve completed any.
Where one of the tricks of this game comes into play is that each work of art has sale value. If multiple people sell art at the same time, the player with the highest value of art will be able to take the first and best selection of paint that has been accumulating in a central pool. Since paint cubes are the game’s economy, this can make or break your bank.
Commentary: The most appealing aspect to this game is the sheer abundance of artwork. Playing this game is a small education in classic and modern artworks. I also like some of the choices that accompany the various artworks, such as the inclusion of widely known comic book covers, which provide food and paint, but no points. Little flares like this lend the game a sly commentary on artistic value.
Beyond this, the game really boils down the basic resource management in the face of a small economy, and colour matching. There aren’t a large number of choices you can make, and these constraints are likely what will cause you to fail at completing art and thus starving. The game even advises you to have multiple canvases being worked on simultaneously to help you maximise the painting action whenever you take it.
One of the other things that was particularly pleasing to me was the time taken to facilitate colour-blind players. There is a small section on how to sort coloured cubes, both in the common pool, and upon the artwork cards to allow you to organise the cubes in a way non-dependent on discerning their colour. Admittedly, it would still require another player to sort those cubes who can differentiate those colours, so it’s not perfect. However, it is a good sign of growing awareness in the hobby of the needs for accessibility in gaming.
Ultimately, this is a game that is light on actual game play. Mechanically, sometimes there is a bit of a feel of going through the motions. The enjoyment of this game is derived from the engagement with the works of art. Given this, Starving Artists offers something unique in the tapestry of gaming.
Verdict: An interesting filler game, with a few highlights. For fans of art and imagery.