Board Game Review - Pastiche

The other day, a friend of mine mentioned in passing that I hated Euro-style games. The thing is, I don't. I like lots of games that are made in Germany and are all about harvesting beans or preparing dinner. And to prove that I like games that aren't all about gunfire or topless women, here's a very positive review of a game called Pastiche, in which players make copies of historic paintings. No bodies anywhere.

In truth, you're not actually creating paintings. In Pastiche, you just have to collect the right colors to reproduce paintings from hot-shots like Renoir and Van Gogh. And unlike people who actually paint things, you're going to lay down hexagons in order to match splotches of primary colors and then take cards based on what you matched. That's completely different from the way actual artists come up with colors, because what actual artists do is pick the colors on a computer by clicking little boxes and stuff (I'm pretty sure nobody bothers to actually mix paint any more. Now they just pick color palettes on their iPads).

There are lots of layers to Pastiche. Kind of like an onion, except that it doesn’t make you cry, and it’s a very bad idea to cut it up and put it in chili. The first layer is where you choose what art you want to reproduce. There are four paintings available for anyone, and each player also has two more. You can trade yours for the ones in the gallery, thereby stealing them from everyone else and making them worry because you think you can finish that really hard painting before they can finish their really easy ones. Some paintings require a lot more colors, and so they’re worth a bunch more. Some require very difficult colors, like bisque and gray (which, by the way, are really easy to pick on your iPad, but very difficult to mix in Pastiche). And if you do a bunch from the same artist, you get a bonus at the end of the game, so sometimes it’s worth making a low-scoring painting to pick up a few extra points later.

Then you’ve got the part of the game where you have to actually pick up colors. To do this, you have hexagonal tiles with splats of red, blue or yellow, and you put them down next to other tiles that have red, blue or yellow, and get colors based on which splotches are next to other splotches. Yellow and blue make green, for instance, and if you can mix all three in one place, you can score brown (which is not a reference to heroin - you actually get the color brown).

This part of Pastiche is interesting because there’s a lot to consider. You have to complete your paintings to win the game, but you don’t want to set up your opponents for their turns. You might pass up the spot that gets you that teal swatch you’ve been eyeballing and block your opponent with a tile you didn’t really need, and then when you say, ‘I’ll just take the blue,’ your opponents will cuss you. At least, my daughter will cuss you. I don’t know about the people you play.

You also have to consider the third layer of Pastiche when you’re working that second layer, because you can trade your color cards in certain combinations to grab other colors. The only way to get a black or white card is to trade three matching colors – but you can’t use this method to get a primary color. It’s pretty tricky, and there’s a lot to consider. What this means is that while the entire game finishes in 45 minutes, it would only take 20 if everyone could just take their turns and stop staring at the board, then at their tile, then at the board, then at their tile, then put down the one tile and pick up the other one and start staring again, with interludes to stare at their paintings.

For a game that is pretty easy to learn (not like ‘play this with people who have never even played Monopoly’ easy, but definitely ‘play this with people who can handle Carcassonne’ easy), Pastiche sure does make your brain sweat. Will you go for a bunch of low-cost Degas pieces and work the combos, or will you put your head down and plow forward on that Monet that will score you a boatload of points? Will you grab the spot that gets you four colors, or will you block it with a primary to stop your opponents? Will you sit for the next five minutes trying to figure out how to arrange your yellow and red tile before you change your mind and place the blue one? Actually, that last question was rhetorical. You will totally do that.

I don't pretend that I'm not a fan of games with bloodshed. I like to sack villages and ride off on the women. I like to blow stuff up and get money. But I like just about any game that challenges me to think and plan, as long as it's interesting and not as dull as Puerto Rico. Pastiche does that, and as an added bonus, you get to spend the entire game looking at some of the finest art mankind has ever produced. Sure, it slows down a little when it's not your turn, but since you're going to spend the entire time that everyone else is playing to plan your own move, it's not as bad as you might think. And since you can finish in less time than it would take you to get an oil change, there's still time to watch reruns of Law and Order after the game is over (which, if you have cable, is always playing on one channel or another).


2-4 players

Lots of depth
Timing and planning and smart moves are essential
Spend most of an hour looking at the best art ever made

It will take so long to plan your move, it will surprise you when you're done in less than an hour

I am totally surprised - Noble Knight Games does not have Pastiche yet. But then, it just hit the US like, three days ago, so give 'em a week or so. It's a fun game. It's worth waiting.