Published on April 20th, 2016 | by Nicole Jekich0
Paint or Death!
Our Review of Starving Artists Now on Kickstarter
The life of an artist is a constant struggle and as starving artists ourselves, Luke and I felt compelled to play and review this game. The “starving artist” is a common term for a creative person who lives on the barest of means and uses all income, time and energy to work on their craft and artistic profession. The same predicament can also apply to the independent game designer who also shares the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck or working on their project on evenings and weekends. No one gets into these artistic professions for the life of wealth and luxury. The life of following your passion and making paying for bills and food is hard and Starving Artists is a game that reflects how hard that struggle can be.
Life of an Artist is Easy…Just Don’t Starve
I wouldn’t imagine such a colorful and innocent looking game would have such a brutal rate of success. In Starving Artists, players are building paint-by-cube works and selling those paintings in order to feed themselves and to also pay for more paints to continue the process. The goal of Starving Artists is to be the best, most renowned painter, usually by selling the most valuable paintings, by the end of the game…provided that you don’t starve first.
The gameplay is very easy to learn and players can quickly set up and play anywhere. Every turn each player will take two actions, one at a time, starting with the first player (the one wielding the carrot token) and alternating until everyone has complete two actions. Players can choose to: Buy: pay for a canvas from the line up by paying its cost in paints and adding those paints to the payday pile; Paint: which allows players to add 4 paints or colored cubes to any of their canvases; or Work: where players can choose 3 paint cubes from the bag without looking.
These are all the actions in the game and players can use any combination on their turn. Another important move is trading paints where a player can move 2 cubes from their studio to trade for one cube from the payday pile. This move does not count as an action and is helpful in getting the paints you desperately need to complete your paintings. At the end of the second action, players can sell paintings to increase their nutrition, accumulating famous points and receive a payout from the pile of paints in the payday pile. The lead player then passes the carrot and the game continues this way until someone starves or a player reached the famous threshold.
Survive and You’ll Be Famous!
The simple gameplay and artistic theme definitely lulls a player into a sense that this game is all about painting and making beautiful things, when actually players are literally trying to survive. Each turn you are drawing closer to starvation and move down your nourishment track to mark the passing of another day. Each player’s tracker is maxed out at 5 nutrition so even if you sell a lot of paintings at once you can never bank extra nutrition, but can only buy more paints to use on future paintings. If you ever move the nutrition token below 1, you are out of the game. This prompts each player to lead once more and then the final scoring begins. The end of the game is also determined by a player completing a certain number of paintings to become famous. The target number of points is different depending on the number of players.
My experience playing the 2 player version with Luke was tough as each of us won due to the other player starving. It was a lot of effort to keep painting and feeding yourself until reaching the 20 point goal for the 2 player game and there were multiple occasions where we were one paint cube away from completing a painting and staying in the game. Even with the brutal rate of survival, I still found myself setting up for another game and wanting to try again. The 2 player game is quick at about 15-30 minutes of game time and the turns go quickly so each player is engaged the whole game.
Renowned Artists and Paintings
The beautiful art selected in the game are from some of the most famous painters and features iconic works from my favorite impressionists like “Water Lillies” by Claude Monet; “Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh and “Dancing at Le Moulin de la Galette” by Renoir. Starving Artists has a variety of art and artists pulled from different art movements like the cubist works of Piet Mondrian to the Baroque lighting and realism of Rembrandt and even the crisp wood block prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige. This game is a must-have for fine artists as it features large prints (3.5″ by 5.5″) of these great works of art which is far better than any sample I’ve seen in a textbook. If I could add any fine art to the game I would push for more Pre-Raphaelite portraits and mythological paintings like those of John William Waterhouse and the grand landscape paintings by the Hudson River School.
Players throughout the game will be building these famous paintings by placing cubes that correspond to the missing color as noted by the colored border. This is a fantastically creative way to manage resources in a game. Completing a painting is also visually satisfying as well. The added cubes really fill in the colors that the painting was missing; plus if you play this game on a sunny day you’ll even have the color of the cube shine through and color the canvas on their own. The only downside I could find with Starving Artists is the colored cubes are very colorblind-unfriendly. Holding up all 7 cubes to our colorblind friend and gamer provided very poor results as he could identify just 3 of the 7 colors. This unfortunately doesn’t look like a game that could translate to a color-blind friendly version as all the colors are used to represent the variety of colors used in the canvases.
A Game Made For Artists
I love Starving Artists. It is definitely one of my favorite games of the year because of its beautiful use of fine art in the game. The gameplay is easy to learn yet challenging and very visually rewarding for a player’s efforts. This is game that you will want to play again and again because of the feeling of accomplishment each time you build a painting. Starving Artists gives both gamers and artists a beautiful reward by letting them contribute to a paintings done by a master. This isn’t a game that just has great art– it showcases the beauty and variety of art across the world and inspires others to create their own.
Starving Artists is currently on Kickstarter and the base game is $29 plus shipping. There are a lot of opportunities to unlock more accessories for this game, like a player mat with a beautiful Rembrandt painting and of course more cards in game. Backers will also be voting on 10 new canvas cards to go into the game. Every 3 days there will a new duel between two paintings, which is a great idea to get more artists invested in the game. Vote for your favorite on the Starving Artists comments section of their Kickstarter page and share the contest via social media. The first matchup will be: