We can’t do a full review of this game because we only received the rulebook. That being said, the game uses several familiar game mechanics and we’ll do our best to provide a good overview and what the game may feel like during play.
You play the part of a “museum curator”, or really a museum director using each turn to make your workers perform tasks such as acquiring art, building museum wings, and collecting income from your visitors.
Instead of worker placement, the game has “employee chips” which are double-sided cardboard discs, each side having a different employee type. When performing a task, you choose a face-up employee that matches action you wish to perform and flip it over. If another chip has the same employee face-up, you may perform a “double allocation” by flipping the second chip over. Therefore, if you’re able to sequence the actions properly, you’ll often be able to perform a double allocation on your turn. Each chip displays the flip side in a small circle at the bottom so you can plan ahead.
At the start of the game, the exhibit wings are put in a spiral. Using the Carpenter action, players choose a tile, paying nothing if they choose the outermost tile in the spiral. Or, they may choose a tile further in the spiral, paying $1000 per tile they skip over.
Getting objects from the excavation site into the exhibits in your wings appears to be the core of the game. Using the Archaeologist, you draw two objects of the same color and place one in the auction house and one in your storage. Double allocation: you may choose objects of different colors, which likely means that players will often double allocate without changing the effect of the action just to set up a subsequent turn. It seems like this action should be used sparingly as it loads objects into the auction house which is available to all players.
Storage has a maximum capacity of six objects as denoted by the six dashed circles in the upper left of the player board. The Restorer moves one or more objects from the same color from storage into an exhibit matching that color, one object per exhibit. Double allocation: you must choose from two different colors which likely means if you don’t have two colors available, you can’t flip two chips.We can already see that the size of storage makes the game more of a puzzle. If you load up storage with a color that you can’t use in your exhibits, those spaces are going to remain filled reducing your effective storage capacity. Likewise, if you fill storage with all the colors at once, you will only be able to move a few objects into your exhibits at once.
To buy objects from the auction house, use the Collection Manager action. You may purchase one or more objects of the same color. You can see that the price for the first two objects is $1000, increasing to $2000 for the third object and $3000 for any objects after that. There is no limit to the number of objects in the action house or to the number of objects a player may purchase using the Collection Manager action. Double allocation forces you to buy from two different colors. There isn’t a rule clarification for when only one color is available, so it’s unclear what happens if only one color in the auction house has colors.
Contracts are a complex way to achieve Visitor Points. There are two types of contracts Standard and Complicated and each player starts the game with one of each. Most contracts appear to be worth 1VP per filled exhibit on average (note the white number in the black circle), but since contracts are rare, completing more difficult ones would really boost your score.
You complete a contract by having filled exhibits that match the color and relative orientation of the contract. So, not only do you need to build exhibits in a certain pattern (stay tuned), but you need to fill those exhibits with matching objects (stay tuned).
The way to get more contracts is to cover the two marked spaces on the visitor track. The visitor track is the path of rounded squares starting at the top of the player board extending down in an L shape. There are two spaces marked with red and black wax seals.
When you acquire a second or a fifth visitor token you’ll draw one standard contract and one complicated contract and keep one. When you fill a wing with objects, that wing is completed and you place one visitor token on your visitor track.
The final action is the Financial Manager. This action simply gives you $1000 per visitor token on your visitor track (double allocation: $2000). Money appears to be very tight in this game. Even though smaller wings earn less or no VP, they are useful for gaining income. If you aren’t in need of money, you would want to purchase exactly the right wings to match your contracts and avoid the wings that have no victory points except to complete contracts. And purchasing from the auction house is much more efficient than using the Archaeologist to just get one object into storage.
The game ends as follows: when the last wing is taken, that player receives an object of any color to add to their storage. Once the current round is over, there are two more rounds of play before scoring. There doesn’t appear to be a clear way of tracking this. During this time, the Carpenter allocation gets you $1000 since there are no wings left to take. VPs are scored on completed contracts, wings, $4000 in money converts to 1VP, and each exhibited object is 1VP. Money is a tie-breaker.
The theme is original and fairly strong. Buying up the spiral to get better wings is a clever mechanic. It seems like the contracts dealt out at first will have the largest effect with those acquired later in the game mostly up to luck in terms of whether they can be scored. Having the two-sided employee chips may or may not be really fun. It may make the game into a clever puzzle or it might lead to more analysis paralysis without much payoff. We’re interested to see how it feels when actually playing the game. We’re also concerned that the puzzle of laying out wings is diluted by the lack of ability to acquire specific contracts. It would be nice if there was a set of public contracts that could be awarded. It would add an element of player interaction that seems missing. (We recommend playing Cottage Garden for comparison. It has a similar mechanic of polyominos in a spiral and placement, but all information is public so player interaction is more present. This game, on the other hand, appears to have more variety in scoring and more opportunities for varied strategies which Cottage Garden does not have.)
Nitpick: Typically, if a game goes from $1 to $5 in currency, this will cause a lot of exchanging. It’s very minor, but a frequent source of errors and wasted time in games.
Another nitpick is the player actions are called allocations because the idea is that you’re allocating a worker of a specific type. We like the idea of this, but it feels a little clumsy. Also the employee names aren’t obviously tied to each action. This will likely cause confusion.
It appears the game met it funding goal so go check it out on Kickstarter!