The A.R.T project shocked me, overwhelming surprised me. I was invited to try the A.R.T project at the UKGE in 2023, and I almost said no. I was tired and done for the day. But I'm glad I stuck around for it. The A.R.T project left an impression on me, a lasting desire to play more, so much so I had to be wrestled away from the copy left on the table (I'm joking! But I really did want to just play it again straight away).
The A.R.T project from Florian Sirieix and Benoit Turpin is a cooperative game in which you play as a team of specialists, the art rescue team. Your mission is to rescue the stolen art from across the globe, however, with resources limited you'll need to plan, react and may have to make a few sacrifices. It's really a resource managment game, resources are key to everything and conserving your resources is fundamental.
Run out of fuel, you can't travel,
Run out of walkie talkies, you can't buy support,
Run out of guns, you can't boost your attack,
Well you can, because here's the catch, you can always spend your health as any resource. But if one player loses their last health, thats game over.
There's a remarkably simple ruleset here, its an ease to teach. Each round is made up of 4 phases;
End of round
As a collective, rather than on your turn (as there's no real turn order), you'll draw 2 mission cards before talking about what mission you will look to complete, and then complete missions in any order. Mission cards will give you resources, often at the cost of other resources and could bring more pesky agents onto the map. But mission cards are also the way you'll discover the lost art, as each Mission card will have a clue or two on. As soon as there is 3 identical symbols on the visible clue cards, you'll discover an art piece which will be placed on the board for you to rescue.
As a team you'll need to plan movement carefully, fuel is limited but you can't let a city collaspe, so travelling to where you'll want to fight is another key decision. So you'll want to plan accordingly, to fight off the agents. If you can't prevent a city from having 5 or more agents at of the round, the city will collaspe and you'll no longer be able to travel to or through that city.
The fight phase is simple, choose a leader, everyone in that city rolls their dice and then compare your total to the agents total (number of agents + threat level + number of agents on the white hand spot). Higher or equal and you'll win the fight, lower and the leader will lost a precious health. Although you can spend walkie talkies at any point to call for allys. As you rescue more art, the ally support gets cheaper but with each piece of rescued art the threat level increases meaning you'll have an ever increasing challenge when it comes to fights.
That's pretty much it for rules, rescue all the art and you'll win, if someone dies you lose, reach the end of the mission deck you lose, run out of agents or lost city tokens you lose.
I don't know where to start, its surprising simple, almost shockingly so, and that's no negative, far from it. The ease of rules and teach are a breeze. And this carries through to the maps, clearly labelled so you know where to place crates and agents, it all helps and keeps the focus on the planning.
The A.R.T project crams so much into the box, so much content it feels like there's two or three expansions thrown in. Each map includes different rules, which admittedly make it all a bit more difficult from restricting travel or changing the core gameplay rules. There's an increasing escalation of difficulty. Although I can't help but think of a missed opportunity for individual player powers.
Every game I've played has felt like it was on a knife edge, the potential to win was always there and maybe at times we were too confident, but the sense of defeat loomed permanently, even when we felt like we could win and would go onto win, a quick board state check and then reality would hit us again. At each turn, each fight, felt like there was a creepy sense of defeat looming nearby.
As you know I rate games on
- Buy or play
- Wait for sale or play if you like game XYZ
If you asked me to rate this after my first play, it would have been a buy or play, like everyone needs to try this game. But what I've discovered is, this game isn't for everyone, I cannot get it to the table at game night, despite offering it, bringing it weekly, suggesting it, repeatedly. The cooperative nature of games isn't for everyone. So this is a play if you like cooperative games, I could see this easily ousting Pandemic from game collections, there's so much crammed into this box that you'll be able to keep coming back to the A.R.T project.
Want a chance to win my copy of the A.R.T project? Leave a comment down below! I'll pick one person at random.
Disclaimer: I went to buy a copy of the A.R.T project but was sent a copy for review. I wasn't paid for this content, which consisted of 5 plays and approximately 2 hours of writing/editing.