Updated: Apr 21, 2020
As the gaming world begins to tire of zombies, vikings and zombie vikings, game designers are casting a wider net when they are considering themes for their board games. Recently, there's been a flurry of art and artefact collection games that involve collecting treasures and exhibiting them in a gallery or museum. From heavy euro games like The Gallerist (Eagle-Gryphon) to the splendid set collection game Museum (Holy Grail) through card games like Antiquity Quest (Grandpa Beck), museums must be the new zombies.
Published by Worldshapers, Curators is an upcoming entry to the genre. Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of the game, with art by Emilie Vaccarini Francis and Niklas Wallén. The 2–4 players are each curators of competing museums. Each has five employees, represented as double-sided poker chips. The double-sided aspect is important because workers have a different specialty on their converse side: so you'll start off with a Carpenter, Archaeologist, Collection Manager, Restorer and Financial Manager but when you take one of those actions, you flip the chip so that obverse function is face up. This means that if, for example, you take a Carpenter action on your first turn, you'll have two Financial Manager icons face up. When you take the Financial Manager action, you can choose to use both these workers (in which case, both will be flipped) and you'll get double actions.
In the centre of your table, different shape tiles representing exhibition wings are laid out in a spiral, much like the tiles in Patchwork (Lookout). You will use your Carpenter actions to acquire and 'build' the tiles onto your individual player board: you can always take the end tile for free but to choose any other tile you have to pay $1000 for every tile you skip. In choosing and laying these tiles, you'll want to have regard for the secret contract cards you'll have drawn at the start of the game. These require the wings to match a particular pattern.
You use the Archaeologist action to claim and place in your storage area an artefact of one of the three colours, placing another artefact of the same colour at the auction house. It's from the auction house that your Collection Manager can buy artefacts, which again go into your storage area.
Your Restorer can take one or more artefacts of any one colour from your storage and place them into an exhibition space on a wing, subject to it matching the colour of the artefact. When you fill all the exhibition areas in a wing, you attract a visitor to the museum. That's where the Financial Manager comes in: when you use this action, you get $1000 for every visitor in your museum.
Theme notwithstanding, designer Jacob Westerlund has created in Curators a puzzle game. You'll be looking to optimise your worker activations so as to qualify as often as possible for double activations. You'll be seeking to select and place tiles that will help you to achieve your secret objectives because these will reward you with victory points. You may also be tempted to take some of the larger wing tiles because these also score victory points, provided of course that they are 'completed' with appropriately matching exhibits. The puzzle of taking your activations and placing out your wings and exhibits is teasingly simple - even non-gamers will be able to play and enjoy this game - but play this game with puzzle-game aficionados and you'll find it a tense contest to rack up the highest score.
Puzzle games usually lend themselves well to solo play, and a solitaire option is already in the works for Curators and should be incorporated in the published edition. Curators is being launched on Kickstarter. Click here to link to the KS campaign.