Board Game Gumbo: Spice it up! with Pigment from Copper Frog Games
When the Krewe de Gumbo gets together to talk about games, inevitably one of the debates centers on the art in the game. We all have our favorite artists and styles, and it makes for some lively discussion.
Art is such a subjective part of our gaming experience that we rarely agree on what is good art. Some of us just want the best looking fantasy art we can find, others only like certain styles, and still others appreciate the handiwork in a game like Ian O'Toole's art in Lisboa.
But we never really discuss games about art itself. (Of course, we have not yet played The Gallerist or any of the Modern Art releases.)
Faithful readers of this blog will already know that one of my favorite categories of games is small box games that still have some meat on the bones. What if we could play a small box game that not only has beautiful art but the game play itself is all about making beautiful art?
Does your game group like worker placement games? Is your game group always looking for that 20 minute filler game to play before everyone gets there? Do you like looking at the Renaissance masters?
If your answer to any of the above is yes, then let's spice it up with Pigment!
Pigment is a 2018 game design by Michael Epstein with illustrations by Emily Hancock published by Copper Frog Games. The game plays with one to three artists and takes only fifteen to twenty minutes
In Pigment, players compete to paint masterpieces faster than the other painters. Players will take turns placing meeples ("apprentices") in the playing areas, which they will use either to:
- Claim spaces in the Bazaar, which gives more paints to use in painting a masterpiece; or
- Claim Renaissance art from the Masters like DiVinci, Botticelli, and Titian, among many other giants of that time period.
Players will only ever have two apprentices, and only one can fit on any Bazaar or Art card, so one must choose wisely! But, when Art is claimed, the last claimed art in your portfolio will also contain benefit actions, which can sometimes be used as a space to put one of the two apprentices to work.
The game ends when one player paints a set number of masterpieces, usually six.
The box is the perfect size to throw in a backpack or day bag, and is just barely larger than my hand. Inside, there are three sets of different colored apprentices, one set of two meeples for each player. The box also contains a bag full of three primary colors, represented by very tiny wooden cubes. There is also a colorful first player marker, painted with the Pigment logo.
Two different decks are included, the Bazaar where players get more pigment resources, and another deck made up of the available masterpiece paintings. Finally, there is a small rulebook and a nice cloth drawstring bag with the Pigment logo, which is used as a random draw bag when playing the solo mode.
For the price (about $15 at the Copper Frog Games website,) these are very nice components in a tidy little box. The bag is unnecessary for most gamers, but I did play it solo a couple of times and it does come in handy for that purpose.
BUT IS IT FUN?
On the one hand, Pigment does exactly what it is supposed to do. As a worker placement game, it only takes fifteen minutes and comes in a very small package, just perfect to throw as a game to play while waiting for the rest of your krewe to arrive. The first time I taught it, it took perhaps five minutes total to teach, and the rule book is laid out well enough to be able to quickly refer to any rules as needed.
On the other hand -- the amount of cards in the game, both in the Bazaar and in the masterpiece art deck, are very limited. There's just enough art for two or three people to play with nothing extra, and you will likely cycle through the Bazaar decks a few times during game play. And the reality of the game play is that it is pretty standard worker placement fare. Use your two meeples to gather resources, looking for combos or efficient play, or maybe even to block another player from getting the color they need.
There is one element of the game that is a slight shade different from most other worker placement games. Many games give a player an ongoing benefit once you complete a card, tile, or part of an engine. The rub in this game is that players can only use the benefit they receive from completing a masterpiece (for instance, like painting a masterpiece from now on takes one less blue cube, or anytime another player gets a certain color, the player with the benefit gets one, too) until they paint another masterpiece. Once the player completes the next masterpiece, that masterpiece (and its corresponding benefit) is placed on top of the current masterpiece cancelling out that benefit.
That can lead to some delicious decisions. Do you forestall painting a masterpiece to utilize your current benefit by piling up a bunch of paint cubes, and then swoop in to paint a couple of masterpieces in the same turn? Can you combo the benefits from one masterpiece to the benefit of painting another? Do you try to paint a masterpiece that your opponent wants just to prevent her from getting that benefit, or perhaps let her paint that one so it cancels out her current favored benefit?
As you can see, there's some strategy, a little player interactivity, but it is all held back a little by the size of the game and the amount of cards that are contained within the box. In simpler terms, the game is fun and a great little worker placement exercise that I fear may suffer from a bit of sameness in terms of replayability. As small as the box is, it could have easily fit a few more cards in there, and I think the game would have been a lot better for it.
That being said, if you like worker placement games as much as I do, and you love good art and an unusual theme, Pigment is not expensive and so it is an easy choice to throw in for game night. Plus, I can promise you this -- Pigment is an easy game to teach your friends, and would be a nice (but not great) addition to any filler game bag you carry. I have not yet tried teaching Pigment to brand newcomers to our hobby, but I cannot imagine that anyone could not pick it up right away.
One last thing to mention -- despite this being Copper Frog's first project, the owner delivered it on time and with plenty of communication during the campaign. I really appreciated the frequent updates, and will be watching out for his next project because of that.
So, that's Pigment from Copper Frog Games. Have you gotten a chance to play it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!