Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 25 April 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Montmartre

Game: Montmartre

Publisher: BLAM!

Designer: Florian Sirieix

Year: 2019


I have memories of school trips to Montmartre as a teenager. Teachers' warnings to keep a close eye on your bag, warnings not to accidentally get your hair braided, or let your arm be grabbed for a henna tattoo. But once you've reached the top of the steps, a quaint area of Parisian alleyways, and many artists is revealed.

Montmartre is a card game for 2-5 players that focuses on the artistic charms of this area of Paris, rather than the tourist trap features that stick in my memory. As an artist you are inspired by your muse to create beautiful paintings, but also offering those paintings to art dealers, or selling them off for smaller sums of money when your gallery is over-flowing. Making ends meet as an artist is hard and you need to attract art dealers in a competitive market where other artists are also trying to sell. Montmartre is a tactical game of set collection, where timing is key.


Gameplay

Montmartre has a choice of two actions that you may perform one of each turn. Each turn you either Paint, or Sell to a Collector. When you paint you take one of the four cards from your hand and add it to your growing collection of paintings. If the card placed has a value of less than 6 then you can also place a second card, so long as the sum of the two cards does no exceed five. After doing this you may then sell any number of paintings of one colour to peasants. While this isn't a winning strategy, it does give you a couple of francs for paintings that you deem useless, and keep your total paintings under the 6 card tableau limit. Finally you can refill your hand from one of the three face up draw piles.


The other action is to Sell to a Collector. When you do this you can sell to any of the collectors other than the one who was last to buy a painting. You must also be eligible to sell to that collector, either by having the most paintings in their desired colour, or the highest value of paintings in their desired colour. Should you meet the requirements then you will discard the highest value card of the colour you are selling to and take the top card of their deck. These cards start with a value of 2 francs, increasing up to 10 francs for the final card. After selling you can check if you are eligible to fulfil a newspaper contract, done by selling paintings to two/3/4 different patrons.

The game ends when 2 of the patron decks are empty, after which each player will play to the same number of turns. The player with the most francs wins. In a two player game there are some minor variations: the newspaper contracts require sets of pairs of patron cards rather than singles. Patrons that were sold to do not get blocked, and you now must sell to two patrons at the same time when you choose to Sell to a Collector.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Two player variant - no three words send more shivers down my spine when opening a board game manual. Montmartre is one of the rare exceptions to this rule, the two player variant included does change the game, but if anything for the better. Adding in the restriction to how you can sell makes Montmartre a strategic games of watching what your opponent is doing and playing cards to thwart them. With clever play you can manipulate them away from selling the the collector you want. However due to the limit of 6 paitings for each player this dance doesn't go on forever, sooner or later something has to give. This can be due to card luck, simply not having the right card to counter their latest play (though with three face up draw decks this is relatively uncommon), or simply because ultimately you do have your own goals to deal with.

In our experience this gave a natural progression to the game. Early on when the collectors are worth a measly 2-4 francs you aren't too concerned about what your opponent is doing. But in the late game when they are worth 10 points each, and even more importantly it's the last card in that colour so getting it makes your opponent's cards of that colour useless. That's when the competition ramps up. The point swings available in the last moments of the game can easily change the victor, especially when a lucrative newspaper contract is on the line!



The art design in Montmartre works extremely well, with the value of cards linking up to how complete the painting is. Collectors don't even mind buying sketches so long as you have more of them than the players who have fewer, more finished artworks. Since you can play two cards of value 5 or lower, so long as the sum isn't too high, the low value cards still have value, even the value 0 sketches. Conversely a value 6 card is sometimes the worst thing to have as it's empirically worse than a 7 or 8 with no ability to double play. 

Ultimately Montmartre is a solid card game with a large focus on player interaction. Every move your opponents make affects you and vice versa. Be prepared to curse your opponents as they block you for the third turn in a row, just be aware they they are also cursing you under their breath! If you are looking for a relatively fast card game with some decent decision making then look no further!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Sometimes it's hard to get excited about a small card game. There's lots of them out there and very few do something to make them stand out. Montmartre doesn't look like much, but it's a card game that really impressed me. What looks like a bidding game at first, is actually a very clever set collection game. You are trying to build a tableau that outbids other players at the table and there's a certain amount of memory and tactics that helps you to do that.

The two player game is even more intense because there's an added layer of seizing your opportunity at the right moment. Taking the value 4 art collectors, only to lose some cards in your tableau and thus give your opponent chance to take the value 6 collectors beneath is not a smart move, but finding the right time to jump on an opportunity is what will edge you ahead in the game. I really loved this back and forth - it felt like a deeper experience than you might get with more players at the table - a real tug of war.


The only drawback that we found with two players was that, even with three draw piles for the deck, it because stagnant remarkably often. When all of the yellow art collectors have been taken and all that you have in the draw pile is high value yellow paintings, the player who is lucky enough to uncover something that's not yellow is at a huge advantage. The draw pile will obviously cycle more with more players. Aside from this causing a big points swing in one game, all of our others have been very close and very satisfying to win. There's no doubt that with this level of player interaction, things get mean, but it's not a direct attack situation, so there's not too many hard feelings after a loss.

Whilst it's not super special or innovative, I'm really quite impressed with Montmartre and hope it catches some attention when it gets a full UK release soon.


You Might Like...
  • The tactical game play here is really fun to puzzle out.
  • The game for two players feels very well thought out, even though it’s a variant.
  • Montmartre has that classic, clever card game feel that could stand out as a filler game with longevity if it gets enough buzz.
You Might Not Like...
  • Whilst the two-player variant works – it’s a completely different game to playing it with more players.
  • The deck shuffle can sometimes work against you, especially in a two player game where what you need is a bit more specific.

The Verdict
7/10 Montmartre is a really elegant card game. With the two-player variant, you have a very different, but still a really good game experience in the box. It’s tactical and clever, with a very classic card game feel that hopefully makes it stand out from the crowd.



Montmartre was a review copy kindly provided to us by Lucky Duck Games in partnership with Blam!.

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