Artificium is a quick-playing Eurogame for two to six players by Timofey Shargorodskiy. It’s published by Lifestyle BoardGames and Asmodee.
How it works:
Players draw five cards from a deck. They can trade one for one of six cards that are laid face up, or they can swap their whole hand for a new one. They can pay gold to trade out more cards from those available.
They use the cards to create a supply chain. For example, wheat can be turned into food. Food can be turned into crystals, which can be converted into a potion, which can be used to create a wizard. The higher up the chain you go, the more costly the resources are, and the harder they are to get.
There are also cards that let you steal a resource from another player, take a card out of another player’s hand, get money for the cards you’ve played, and take a card back into your hand.
Players choose one card to play, and everyone plays at the same time. They move up the score track accordingly, and occasionally get to pick up free resources in the process. They do this until all the players have played all their cards or passed. The game plays over three rounds, and the person with the most points wins.
Why you might want to buy Artificium:
If you don’t like Eurogames because it feels like you’re playing alone, Artificium solves this problem with its special cards. You can — and likely will — thwart the efforts of your opponents.
Artificium also solves the problem of game length by having players choose their cards and play at the same time. Even with six players, the game takes less than an hour.
It’s also a great introduction to the way Eurogames play. You’re collecting resources and converting them to gain points or abilities. It’s very easy to learn. Most of the symbols on the cards need little or no explanation, and the ones that do are explained well. The rules are written clearly, and they’re straightforward.
The art and components are high quality, and the player boards are a great aid.
Artificium plays best with more players. The cards available for trade keep changing in a game with lots of players, and it’s easier to figure out who to target and why.
Why you might not want to buy Artificium:
The game is not as interesting with two players.
It’s much harder to get the cards you need, since the cards available for trade don’t change much.
You can find yourself forced to hurt your opponent — or just not play — even if you’re way ahead. That can make you feel like a jerk and make your opponent feel worse.
When someone steals a card or a resource you need, it can disrupt a whole round for you. Since there are only three rounds, if you’re not careful, that can ruin the game.
What’s most frustrating is that sometimes stealing isn’t strategic; it’s just a card effect. And if you don’t have one of those cards, there’s no way to retaliate against the person who just destroyed your plans.
If you don’t get the cards you need, the game can get off to a slow start.
I think Artificium is a great teaching game, but it left me unsatisfied. I want a game with lots of interaction to give me a chance to retaliate — which may say more about me than it does about the game.
That said, the design is solid, and the shortness of the game is very attractive. I like games that play well with two players, and this one doesn’t hold up as well for me. If I had a few more people to play regularly with, that might be a different story.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Artificium from Asmodee Editions. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.