How many thousands of words have I written about worker placement games so far this year? I’ve lost count. It’s a great mechanic which many of the best games are built upon — but it feels like there are just SO MANY of them in the BGG Top 100. So, at this point, I think the important question for worker placement games is simply “How are you different?” That’s what I’ll focus on in my review of The Gallerist.
The very first thing that jumps out about The Gallerist is how visually stunning this game is. It’s fitting, as the game puts players in the shoes of art gallery curators, using their wits and influence to profit off of an increasingly complex industry. The game revolves around the works of art that players commission, buy, display, sell, and even bid on at auction.
It would have been easy for designer Vital Lacerda to represent these ‘works of art’ as wooden cubes or generic tokens. But instead, he played the role of gallerist himself, curating a stunning collection of actual unique works of art to be featured in the game. He reached out to the board gaming community (BGG thread here) to invite amateur artists to submit works of art to be included in the game, along with a great selection of already-published artists. You’ll also want to check out this thread for a touching story about how Lacerda went to great lengths to include a late submission from a fan’s recently deceased mother.
Not only did Lacerda include people in a really cool way, he also ended up with a fantastic collection of unique art that goes a long way toward immersing players in the theme. It’s that level of extra effort that sets a great game apart from a good game.
There are plenty of visually appealing games out there, but the Gallerist also features a beautiful design that is somehow simple and complex at the same time. @GamingRulesVids humorously noted that “It’s dead easy. 1 worker, only 4 places to go.” While technically true, there are many intricacies to the actions that can be taken at each of the four locations on the board.
This review is not intended to be an overview as well, so I won’t get into those intricacies in detail, but i will highlight a couple of the mechanics that differentiate The Gallerist from other worker placement games.
Any time your Gallerist leaves a location, they can leave behind an assistant. And when another Gallerist kicks you or your assistant out of a location, you get a chance to take a bonus action. These bonus actions can be hugely beneficial, and this mechanic forces you to think about your opponents plan and the timing of your actions. If you can properly anticipate what your opponents want to do, you can force them into a decision of either altering their plans or aiding yours.
The “kicked-out” action mechanic reminds me of Istanbul, where you can force opponents to bribe you if they want to use a location your merchant already occupies. It feels slightly less confrontational than blocking opponents from an action you’ve taken, and it adds one more strategic factor to consider.
The Influence Track
There are two currencies in the world of art dealing – money and influence. As your gallerist’s influence grows, they can cash in on some of their clout to promote budding artists, enjoy special discounts, or simply get a little more business done before heading to the next location. But the currency of influence is not as easily measurable as cold hard cash. It’s somewhat fluid, and if you don’t spend it wisely you can quickly run out.
Practically speaking, influence points are measured on a scale from 0-35. In order to promote an artist or take a bonus location action when kicked out, you must move down to the next lowest multiple of 5. So whether you’re at 11 or 15, cashing in influence would cause you to move down to 10. There are also coins along bottom of the influence track, and you can achieve discounts when making a purchase by moving down to the next coin icon.
Spending influence can be hugely helpful over the course of the game, but it requires careful planning in order to be able to spend just 1 or 2 influence at a time when you need it, rather than 3, 4, or even 5. And when it comes down to it, that’s what the Gallerist is all about: being able to think just one more step ahead than your opponents.
There are a lot of very good worker placement games on the market right now, and it leaves many of them feeling a bit tired. If you’re like me and have a carefully curated board game collection (read: limited board game budget), there’s simply not room for all of them. To me, The Gallerist does feel like the works of art it features — unique, inspired, beautiful. Maybe your collection doesn’t currently have room for yet another worker placement game, but if it does — I definitely think The Gallerist is worth a look.
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