In April 1993 Irish indie band, the Frank and Walters, released a jolly good-natured candyfloss song called “Fashion Crisis hits New York”. It made you smile, it made you dance, it was whimsical and light. And I can’t help singing the title of this game to its catchy chorus melody. Google it now and play it in the background while you read this review. You’ll see what I mean!
You can spot an Oink game easily from the other side of the games shop. In a world of big boxes with high art and armies of miniatures, Oink produce games with in business-card sized boxes using clear, simple modern retro styling. Distinctive. Stylish. Efficient.
Their elegant and spare design continues inside the box. You empty out a fold-out rule book done mainly in pictures (imagine a riff on IKEA instructions); 10 coloured felt pens; nine sturdy key-fob sized tiles – each a different colour; and a pad of sketch pages. No wonder Oink publish games at almost pocket-money prices.
The box claims a 20-minute playing time for five to 10 players of ages eight and up. So, we can deduce that it’s a quick, simple party game. The rules unfold to a single page, can be digested in one read-through and then you’re off!
Every so often a story comes out of the art world that some charlatan from way outside the ivory towers, with no training, has fooled the art world into taking them seriously. Think of Tony Hancock in The Rebel. Earnest critics have been duped, eye watering sums of money have changed hands. Then the fraud is revealed and everyone has red faces. The world chuckles at these events as a way of ridiculing the po-faced art establishments and a general idea that “Any-could do it”...“my toddler could paint a better picture”...and so on. Fake Artist turns this idea into a game.
Playing A Fake Artist Goes to New York
At the start of each round, The Game Master (GM) secretly writes a word (such as ‘lion’) on the backs of all but one of the tiles. They put a cross on the remaining one then share the category (in this instance ‘animal’). The GM hands out the tiles to the others players. Now you’ve got a group of ‘artists’ who know what to draw plus one ‘fake artist’ who has only the category to go on.
The pad is passed from player to player, each adding a single element to a collaborative drawing. In our example, the artists are drawing a lion together. The fake artist’s job is to join in without anyone spotting that they are a fraud and don’t know what they’re doing. The pad goes round twice so everyone gets to add two lines to the picture. After that, all the players vote to decide who they think is the fake artist. After the reveal the fake artist (win or lose) must guess the hidden theme. If the fake artist gets the majority of votes they (and the GM) lose, otherwise the artists lose. After the reveal the fake artist (win or lose) must guess the hidden theme. Simple.
Like all party games, A Fake Artist Goes to New York works best with a large group of people. The game makes a framework but it is up to us, the players, to fill it with fun. Adding a line to a sketch on a pad isn’t that amazing. Watching our friends suffer in the face of their drawing skills; laughing at the poor quality results; bluffing like a poker player is fun.
The rules don’t say it, but every group I’ve played with has adopted a don’t-talk-too-much policy. It must be the secrecy invoked by glancing covertly at the back of your tile. This means you tie yourself in knots trying to work out what the previous artist was trying to do – often adding an element that makes sense to you but not to anyone else. Hilarity ensues. This makes the fake artist’s job easier as, to a certain extent, all the players are working in the dark.
After the big reveal of the voting and the fake artist tries to guess the secret theme, there is a big round of noisy, “What was that bit supposed to be?” or “Why did you draw this?” or “Oh! I thought that was its tale” and the next round begins with a new GM and new topic. After the 20 minutes, you’ll have gone round the whole group and you can choose to stop.
Closing Thoughts on A Fake Artist Goes to New York
If you followed my instruction, that Frank and Walters song will now be stuck in your head. You’re welcome. Just like that song, A Fake Artist Goes to New York is light, fun, whimsical and good-natured. It’s not competitive enough to cause arguments. It’ll happily fill a gap while waiting for your meal in a restaurant or after a more heavy game.
No-one is going to make this their headline game for an evening of play but equally no-one will shake their heads and say “No,” either. The replay-ability is limited as, essentially, the gameplay is the same each time. The age guide of eight makes it a neat family game and certainly my children took to it easily. Having said that, after the initial set-up of the round the GM is merely a spectator which frustrated the younger players. Luckily, each round is just minutes long, so you don’t have to suffer it for long.