Artificium - Board Game Box Shot

Artificium

| Published: 2014
7 11 1

Grab a handful of remarkably versatile golden acrylic bits and try to forge your kingdom!

go to: Who would enjoy this game?

Overview

A neat little card-based building game, Artificium is a lightweight, quick-playing exercise in resource management that requires some thinking and planning… but not so much to keep you from interacting with your fellow players. It’s a great game for an evening with friends who aren’t necessarily gamers.

Set Up

There are 7 boards in Artificium, but none are truly game boards. The largest board is simply a victory point tracker, and needs to be set up in the middle of the table with one token in each player’s color placed on the “0” spot. The remaining 6 boards are player boards – each player takes one, and any remaining are returned to the box.

Artificium Wide

The players’ boards require no pre-game set-up. Players simply claim one, and take 5 gold “coins” from the bank to begin the game. Note that all goods in the game are represented by the same yellow acrylic pieces; if they’re located off the side of your player board, they are coins; if they are on your player board, they represent one of 9 goods depending on where on the board they are located.

The most substantial set-up occurs with the cards. All 108 cards in the game comprise a single deck (although this deck is made up of 2 different kinds of cards, explained below). To set the deck up all cards are shuffled, 5 are distributed to each player, and an additional 6 are dealt face-up to form the “card market”. These are cards all players can draw from, though it may come at a cost.

That’s all there is to set-up. It’s easily handled in under 5 minutes.

Gameplay

Artificium is played over 4 quick rounds. The start of each round is the Card Market phase. During this phase, players can swap out a card in their hand for one of the 6 face-up cards in the Card Market. But you’ll want to be prudent – while your first swap is free, each additional swap will cost 2 of your precious coins!

Trading cards with the market is done in turn order (there is a first-player marker assigned randomly to start the game, and passed clockwise through each round), so you can pick up cards that an opponent discarded if they suit you better than the discarder. Because of this, you’ll want to be very careful with what you give up – it may be better to hold onto a card you can’t play this round than sacrifice a high-value card your opponent can score immediately. Decisions!

Once all players are satisfied with their hands (or have run out of appealing options), the playing of cards begins. Play is simultaneous – each player will pick a card from their hand and play it at the same time. Depending on the card played, players will either construct a building or take an action:

  • Building Cards create or improve resources available to you and score victory points.
  • Action Cards won’t give you victory points or help develop your resources, but help you manipulate your hand as well as those of your opponents.

Artificium Action Cards

Once all players have reconciled their first played card, everyone simultaneously plays a second card. This continues until each player has either emptied their hand or passed (because they can’t or don’t want to play the remaining cards in their hands).

There are 9 types of resources in the game, of graduating worth:

  • Wood and Wheat, the two entry-level goods worth one victory point when a producing building is built.
  • Coal, Food and Ale, developed on a one-to-one basis from wood and wheat, and worth 2 victory points when a refinery is built.
  • Crystal and Metal, both developed on a one-to-one basis from food (you’re right, that doesn’t make a ton of sense!), and worth 3 victory points when a refinery is built.
  • Potion (developed from one coal and one crystal) and Sword (developed from one coal and one metal), worth 5 victory points when a refinery is built.

Artificium Player Board

Finally, you can upgrade your potion or sword once more. By combining with ale and 1 coin, they can become people you recruit – a wizard or a knight, respectively. Both of these individuals score 8 victory points when recruited, and have a drastic effect on the game: the wizard allows you to immediately draw 5 new cards and discard 3 (the discards can come from your hand or the just-drawn 5); the knight allows you to move back 4 spaces the victory point marker of an opponent of your choosing.

After 4 of these rounds, the winner is the player with the most victory points.

Components

Artificium Contents

The 7 boards in Artificium are quite sturdy and clear. While they do little to prop up the theme of the game, they are quite easy to read and serve to keep everything in order.

Artificium‘s 108 cards are of thick stock with a nice linen finish. The acrylic pieces are generic and efficient, which is necessary considering they need to represent 10 different items during the game.

The 8 included wooden markers (6 player VP trackers, 1 first player marker and 1 round marker) come with stickers that resemble house crests (or an hour glass in the case of the round marker).

Everything looks nice, but nothing does a great job of tying the theme to the gameplay. This results in a little “theme drift” that can make Artificium more of an abstract strategy card game.

Learning Curve

Artificium could become a staple gateway game; it is incredibly easy to learn and teach, but gives enough depth to make you want to best yourself on the next play.

Artificium Card Chain

You’ll play approximately 20 cards in a game. Did you play those cards in the best order possible? Did you maximize your chances to improve the 20 cards you have at your disposal? Should you have made a move to bolster your coin supply early to help with a money squeeze at the end of the game? There is a lot here to keep you coming back – but it’s packaged with rules anybody will understand in around 10 minutes.

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {yes}
Everything about Artificium works for families; there is nothing mature thematically save the use of “ale” – but everything is symbol-driven, so you could change that to “juice” if you wished. And you will be able to teach this to an 8-year-old easily.
Strategy Gamer {yes}
While Artificium is certainly light fare, you are given the opportunity to build a strategy from your initial hand and develop it as the game progresses. The few things other players can do to mess with you – the action cards – are really just minor inconveniences that are unlikely to spoil your plans.
Casual Gamer {yes}
This is really easy to bring out with any group, even non-gamers.
Avid Gamer {yes}
Easy to learn/teach. Not much of a time commitment. You’ll always be able to find people willing to play.
Power Gamer {no}
Artificium is the antithesis of power gaming.

Final Thoughts

Artificium is a great slightly-more-than-filler game. It’s very easy to learn, but has enough depth to bring you back.

While it was mentioned above that the theme is pretty loose, the gameplay is fun enough to compensate. The simultaneous action makes it so that you’re always thinking about what you’re going to do next… unless you’re laughing at another player’s misfortune or boasting about your Artificium prowess. This is a “pile-around-the-table-for-a-good-time” game that will take little of your evening from you. Unless you play it 3 or 4 times back-to-back… which may well happen.

If you appreciate games that play in under 30 minutes – or maybe just a little more if you’re playing with a full 6 – and make you think and plan rather than roll dice, Artificium is for you. It works as a 2-player game as well, so don’t feel turned off by the repeated mentions of 6 players. Your strategy and approach will remain the same at any player count, and you’ll have to roll with a few punches regardless of how many opponents are present.

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