Designer Vital Lacerda is well known for his deep, strategic games and it's titles like The Gallerist that gave him this reputation. The box declares this to be a game all about the Art of Strategy; It's no surprise, therefore, that it delivers artistic beauty and deep strategy in such abundance.
Before designing board games, Vital previously worked as an art director and graphic designer. His obvious passion for art and strategy come together here to make what many fans would describe as his very own masterpiece.
Easels and Art
The Gallerist may cost more than your average Euro game, but you certainly get what you pay for. The box is cram-packed with strong and beautiful components. The lengthy set-up time will be an issue for some gamers, especially on the first play. However, for me this was countered by the awe I had for the sprawling spectacle that was developing every time I placed a new set of components on, or around, the board.
The pieces of art shown on cards within the game were created by artists from all around the world and the rulebook acknowledges all of the artists alongside descriptions of their artwork. This is one of many elements in the game which displays excellence and attention to detail.
Whilst it does take some time to pick up and teach the rules, once mastered, the clear iconography and player aids make the gameplay intuitive and easy to follow.
All photographs provided by Leah Baskeyfield.
Build Your Fortune
So what’s it all about? Each player is a gallerist competing to have the most lucrative gallery by the end of the game.
This is achieved by managing the following tasks more effectively than your opponents:
- Having visitors in your gallery.
- Buying, displaying and selling works of art.
- Using the media to invest in artists’ promotion and increase art value.
- Building and exerting your international reputation.
You won't be able to carry out all of these tasks by yourself so to be successful, you also need to hire assistants and use them well.
Elegant & Deep
At its heart, the game consists of straightforward mechanisms activated by the worker placement of your gallerist and assistants. What makes the game so deep and complex is the way that every choice made has a ripple effect throughout the remainder of the game by the way it effects the other areas of the art world that you’re influencing.
The first couple of games provide enough to think about without you wanting to monitor your opponents’ actions too closely! However, a key part of the game is the option to leave one of your assistants behind in a location when you move your gallerist pawn somewhere else. The assistant stays in that location until an opponent wants to visit there in which case your assistant gets ‘kicked out’ and you receive a bonus action. This is a fascinating part of the game and one which becomes more tactical as you play the game more and can better anticipate the right times to do this.
It’s clear that Vital knew the subject matter for this game extremely well. The game’s mechanisms complement the theme perfectly. The game is set apart from many other Euros by the way that your choices and resulting actions make so much thematic sense.
The Art of Strategy
Make no mistake, The Gallerist is a heavy Euro game. If you like games that challenge your brain cells, this is the game for you! I've played it several times, learned from my mistakes and developed new strategies yet it's obvious that I've not even scratched the surface in terms of strategy. The learning curve could lead to games which are very one sided when played with beginners, but I think there's enough entertainment here to make even the most competitive player feel fulfilled in defeat!
It's a strength of The Gallerist that you can start playing with a more refined strategy from your last play yet by the end of the game you are thinking of more new things you can do better in your next play. Much like the game of chess, repeated plays of The Gallerist allow new strategies to be tried and successful methods tweaked to even greater effectiveness.
There are some games which I enjoy playing because they contain interesting choices and themes while providing a fun backdrop to the social interaction between turns. There are other games which allow less opportunity for social interaction to take place because they are so immersive, and the choices give so much food for thought. The Gallerist falls into the latter category, it sucks you into its world of Art from the beginning and it’s hard to think of little else until the game ends.
If you’re after a game that’s both immersive and intense, this could be the game for you.