“Hold on lads… I’ve got an idea!” was just one of the many iconic lines ushered by Michael Caine in the Italian Job (the original obviously, not the terrible remake). The character Charlie Croker was a loveable rogue, like those in Oceans 11 that join a long list of other onscreen rapscallion’s that we root for. Well, I’m here to remind you these are crooks and need to be captured! Which is exactly what you will be doing in The A.R.T. Project. Tracking down an underground network of thieving thugs known as ‘the white hand’, and recovering valuable art from around the globe, you are the Art Rescue Team after all. There are no cool mini coopers, but there is a pretty sweet camper van to stash your stuff inside! Wanna find out more? Read on…
Choose one of the maps and place components within easy reach. Everyone chooses a character. These don’t have any asymmetric powers so just go for the one that embodies you the most. Every player gets three heart tokens and the camper van needs stocking with three of each other component.
Shuffle the mission cards and insert the end tile 12 cards from the bottom. Set up is complete.
Setup may vary depending on what map you use, but this is the general gist.
The aim of the game is to collectively save all the art pieces. There is no turn order in this game, so with limited communication you try and optimise who plays when. The round is split into three main phases:
The Mission phase sees players draw two cards. Players will then try to work out the optimal turn order and which cards to play, without saying too much. They choose one to activate, and discard the other. A card will often have a cost, reinforce white hands on the board, and grants a resource reward. If on any played cards the symbols of three art works match, a work of art crate is placed on the relevant space on the board.
The Movement sees players spend fuel tokens to navigate the board. They will also be able to collect Art Pieces if there is one in the city if it also has no enemy pawns.
The Fight allows players to attack ‘The White Glove’ on their current spaces. This is dice rolling fun but the strength of the opposition grows throughout the game. Gun tokens will help with victories, as will converting walkie talkies for back-up dice.
If ever a city has too many white gloves at the end of a round it becomes a fallen city making it impassable for future rounds. This can bolster the white gloves fighting force too.
While the rulebook clearly states you can opt to talk through everything on a card, we have adopted the more thematic way of discussing this that the rulebook suggests, saying things like, “If I play the card I want to, we are gonna need some extra ammunition”. I find it so much better than listing exactly what is on a card, because at that point you might as well play open-handed.
There is a solo mode for The A.R.T. Project and I reckon it would be quite good looking at the rules. I haven’t tried it out for you yet I am afraid. I have played it at many other player counts, and the sweet spot is two to four. Five would be my maximum. While it does officially sit more; the additional difficulty and downtime of playing at higher players will be a put-off for me.
What it’s like
If you’ve played co-operative games before, the A.R.T. Project will definitely feel familiar. This game uses dice rather than cards like some other co-ops. There are a couple of things that sets this apart from the crowd though.
The variable turn order and limited communication instantly makes this feel different. I like the dilemma of who should play their card first, especially when things get tight. It does get tight too! The game arch is clever, as you recover more art, the white gloves get tougher, but your back up dice become cheaper. Inevitably towards the climax of the game you end up rolling dice audaciously!
Throughout the game you will be balancing your resources and health points, hearts can be used as wild items but if any team member uses too many they die and you’ll lose the game. Efficiently spending resources is crucial to success.
The A.R.T. Project has been quite tense in the games I have played, often going down to the wire. That shows how well balanced the game is. I have won more than I’ve lost, but some of those have been on the last roll of the dice. I have also not even attempted the hardest level of difficulty suggested in the rulebook of starting with just one heart! One particular game went down in myth and legend as I rolled four sixes and a three on the last ditch effort to secure a thrilling victory.
The different maps add variety. Each comes with little tweaks to the rules but none of them overcomplicate or bloat the game unnecessarily. In that regard, they are nice to have included in the box and will certainly increase replayability.
I am a little surprised there is no asymmetric powers, not necessarily character specific ones. I’m thinking more roles that are allocated at random that mix the gameplay up further, as I think that would’ve been a nice addition.
The Vincent Dutrait artwork oozes cool and as a result this looks fantastic on the table. The components are good quality and it all just fits together as a neat little package.
The player pawns resembling chess pieces should be unusual for the theme, but it inexplicably works. Combined with the board it feels like you are overlooking the covert missions on a war map. The other wooden components are good, from the white gloves to the mini guns and petrol cans. Even the dice feel lucky! The colour palette is appealing too.
The rulebook does a great job of being thematically produced but still delivering the info you need to get playing succinctly. It even has tabs, how cool is that! The box is a kookie size but as a result it isn’t shipping air around the globe. There is no insert in sight but it fits really neatly so it isn’t necessary.
I really don’t have any complaints about the visuals of this one!
Final thoughts on The A.R.T. Project
It’s really difficult not drawing comparisons to the stalwart in the family weight co-operative genre, Pandemic. The A.R.T. Project is certainly in a similar weight and class and I believe if you like Pandemic, then there is a lot to like here too. While it will feel familiar, there is also plenty that is different to warrant owning both. Playtime is probably a smidgen quicker and for me, smoother. Where I think The A.R.T. Project nudges ahead is in the ways you can mix up gameplay with the different maps, making each play feel a little less repetitive than Pandemic.
The limited communication with the variable turn order is very clever. It really hinders the alpha co-operative player taking control of what everyone should do. Players can discuss the ideal scenario but often that doesn’t fit with the cards that are dealt, so each player has decisions to make as to which card to play and more importantly, when.
The managing of resources is also a really interesting element to the game, particularly with the heart health points acting as wild resources.
I find defeats in co-operative games more crushing than in competitive games. You don’t even get the joy of another player winning in a co-op! You just all sit slightly deflated looking at each other. The good thing is The A.R.T. Project is so good you won’t mind playing again to try and rectify the defeat.
The A.R.T. Project is a really interesting co-operative game and I have enjoyed every game I’ve played so far.
Number of players: 1 to 6
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 12+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 12+
Playing Time: 15 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Florian Sirieix and Benoit Turpin
Publisher: Hachette Board Games
The A.R.T. Project is a really solid family-weight co-operative game. The theme and styling is super cool and the aesthetics go a long way towards making me excited to play it.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Fantastic to look at on the table
- Tense games
- Different maps to mix up gameplay
- Family friendly
- Luck of the dice
- No asymmetric player powers
- Defeats feel crushing as no one wins
Buy The ART Project
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