By Raymond "Indiana DuMeeple" Dumee on February 13, 2020
During the early twentieth century, the golden age for museums, people like Indiana Jones explored the farthest corners of the continents and raided forgotten tombs in search for the most exotic artefacts and rare antiquities (and let's not forget the eyeball soup) to bring back to the civilised world. Here the curators of the world's most prominent museums then get to argue over who gets the forgotten wonders of the world to proudly display in their exhibitions.
In Museum, a card drafting and set collection game by Holy Grail Games, designed by Eric Dubus & Olivier Melison, you will be playing as one of the curators of one such museum and it is your job to put together a collection of artefacts from all over the world to display in your museum for the viewing pleasure of your ever-demanding public, the critical press and the wealthy patrons of your museum.
The box is filled with a Central Board, four double sided Player Boards and there is a small board for displaying Experts. All the artefacts are beautifully illustrated by Vincent Dutrait on the game's one-hundred-and-eighty Object Cards. Then there are Public Opinion Cards, Favour Cards, Headline Cards, Patron Cards, Expert Cards and a bunch of Prestige Tokens and some markers. In our Kickstarter version, we got some extra stuff like a few miniatures and some extra cards and boards.
The Central Board is divided into the four continents. Displayed on each of the continents, there are two Object Cards, specific for that region. On the central board, there is also room for Public Opinion Tokens, for when such card is drawn a token will be placed on that continent and could lose you points in the end, Headline Cards which are every round drawn and will slightly change the game conditions and Favour Cards, to favour yourself a little bit. And, last but not least, there is room for placing Prestige Tokens along the edges of the board, which comes in the form of a score track.
Each player starts with a Player Board, one Object Card from all four continents, one Favour Card and a Patron Card. That Patron Card sets a few extra end game scoring possibilities. Every turn, a player selects an Object Card from the Central Board and places it in their hand. From this hand, you may play any Object Card by paying its cost by discarding other cards until the Object's cost is met. These discarded cards end up in a Common Pool in front of you and all other players have a chance of buying these cards as well (or, should you so choose, you can take them back in hand). The Object Card you played will be displayed in your Museum and your score marker moves up the score track accordingly.
When a player reaches fifty points the end game is set in motion. Every player finishes their turn and you get one last chance to rearrange your museum in order to make the most out of your Object Cards by creating collections. Then, you add these scores with the points from you patrons, your Prestige Tokens and the placement in your Main Gallery. Deduct the points you may have lost by the Public Opinion and that is your final score. The player with the most points wins the game.
The Final Verdict
The Good things: Both the theme and the artwork of Museum works really well with the rest of the game's core mechanics. This is superbly done and the game really sets an ambiance as if you are a real curator and the Central Board looks like your messy desk. Together with the things you need to keep in mind: like the public opinion, the press and the patrons, I can imagine this is stuff you will also have to take into account as real life a curator. Looking at the design and all the object cards have a unique drawing and are a journey of recognition. All the cards are of good quality, same as for the other components and there is an insert for storing everything neatly.
Less than awesome things: Where to store everything in the box? There is no explanation about how stuff fits back into the box and I am still figuring out the best way to store the game. As always with games incorporating the drawing of cards, there's a substantial amount of luck involved, which means it can take some time before you get the artefact you need (especially with two players). Luckily, I can tell you that this issue is negated by the game's expansions (The luck, not the storing problem. This only becomes bigger with the addition of more and more material). Expansion sets like "The Black Market" add an extra market system to the game where you may purchase Objects and Favour Cards and players have another possibility to obtain cards besides hopefully drawing them from a pile.
The version used for this review is from the first Kickstarter campaign, which means I got the expansions as well. Museum is a fun game that is easy to learn and doesn't take too long to play. Most of the time, the game takes up just under an hour. The replay value is high, mainly due to the large number of cards and combinations you can make with them, which means you probably won't get bored of playing this game anytime soon. Museum plays really well with even just two players, so you won't need a large group to play it and, as I've said before, it really makes you feel you are playing a game that fits the theme. Lastly, I would like to point out that, while you don't necessarily need the game's expansions, because without them you still have a very solid and beautiful board game, they surely do add a lot of extras and gameplay you won't want to miss out on!
So, that is all the time we have for today. If you'd excuse me, I have to get back to my other job. You see, besides being a successful curator, I also like to get my hands dirty and work in the field, exploring forgotten temples and finding ancient dust-covered artefacts! Now, let's see what's behind this stone door, shall we? Damn... snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?
Holy Grail Games
Year of release: 2019
Designer: Eric Dubus & Olivier Melison
Artist: Vincent Dutrait
Players: 2 - 4 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 45 minutes