Updated: Dec 3, 2019
In The Gallerist (Eagle-Gryphon), players are each running art galleries. They are competing to attract collectors, investors and VIPs to their gallery. They discover and promote artists working across a variety of media, and they buy and sell works of art. Ultimately, the winner is the player who ends with the most money but players build and expend their reputation as well as their cash during the course of the game.
There is a lot going on in this medium to heavyweight ‘worker placement’ euro game. The set-up alone can take nearly half an hour and the game can easily run to three hours. It is complex because players are always balancing their various options but it is not so complex as to make the game difficult to play.
Once players have got to grips with and can decode the icons on the many tokens, players are mostly choosing each turn between one of three locations (the fourth being the location you are already at) and selecting one of the two actions available to them at the location they move to. If another player is already at that location, or has left an ‘assistant’ meeple there, bumping that player gives them the option of taking an extra action.
There are mechanisms for boosting the prestige of an artist and so raising the value of their work, and there are benefits too to recruiting more assistants and putting them to work for you. As with most games by designer Vital Lacerda, it is only after you have begun to play and experience at first hand how well the diverse actions dovetail together that you appreciate the sheer elegance of the game’s design. Fans of his previous game Kanban, however, will be disappointed that Vital has not this time included his wife Sandra as a moody non-player character to reward or punish the gallery owners. I still have high hopes that an expansion might introduce her into The Gallerist as a visiting art critic.
Though The Gallerist is long, it remains engrossing throughout. Even with players taking a bit of time to think about their optimal move, the game never drags because players are themselves thinking about their next action, and because there is a distinct possibility that it may come sooner than their ordinary turn because they or their ‘assistants’ are bumped.
In our play today, I made the mistake of not snagging the sale contract I needed when I had the chance, leaving me unable to sell a particular artwork when I wanted to raise cash, but this is a game that always offers up other options.
The theme comes through strongly, helped by attractive components, including original artwork contributed by real-life artists. This is a game for which it’s definitely worth taking the time and trouble to get over the learning curve. And that learning curve is not as steep as it otherwise might be because this game benefits from a clear and well-written rulebook. And there’s sufficient variation in the set-up to give a fair degree of replayability to The Gallerist: despite this being a game with little randomness or luck, no two games are likely to turn out exactly the same.