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Fresco Big Box

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

Having recently posted on Board's Eye View pictures of The Gallerist, I've been asked about other art themed games. I have several in my collection but among the most lavish is Fresco. In this game, players are artists deploying their assistants to buy and mix paints (some colours can only be made by mixing others), completing work in a cathedral and earning victory points in the process.

Players each have two screens to conceal information from opponents: one to screen their assets (money and paint) and the other to secretly and simultaneously set down the actions they intend to take in the next turn. A novel feature of the game is that players choose what time they get up to go to work. If they get up early, they will take their turn ahead of others and so will have better pick of the paints on offer at the market, but they will have to pay more and their mood will be depressed. Those who choose to turn up late will benefit from cheaper prices and being in a better mood, but they may find they cannot buy the paints they need. Players 'mood' can affect the number of apprentices willing to work for them: the laid back Master evidently attracts more apprentices to join him, while the early rising Master may find apprentices deserting him.

Even the 'basic' edition of Fresco includes 'expansions', and this is the 'Big Box' edition with a huge array of options. You can of course choose which ones to incorporate and the rules helpfully spell out exactly how each is likely to impact on others and on end-game scoring. The various expansions introduce commissions for portraits, work on stained glass windows, use of gold leaf, donations to replace the cathedral's bells, and buying medicine and healing sick apprentices. I backed this game on Kickstarter, so my copy also includes an alternative playing board, but this is just a cosmetic difference and doesn't affect game play.

Fresco's visual appeal contributes greatly to its strength. It means that Fresco is a game that can grab the interest even of those who may not be regular board game players. The modular approach to adding layers of complexity to the game allows players the option of starting simple and adding a new element once everyone is familiar with the basics. That makes the game relatively easy to teach and learn - a big plus for a 'euro' game.

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