Playing the Board Game Fresco
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You don’t have to be an artist to play Fresco, but that’s what the game intends to make you feel like. Does it succeed? Probably not. After all it’s really a Euro game where the theme doesn’t matter a whole lot.
That said, the mechanics do fit together nicely and make sense relative to each other.
You’re an artist during the Renaissance with a daily job to do. You get up each morning, assemble your assistants, assign them their tasks, and get to work on the ceiling of the cathedral you are restoring for the bishop.
There are three mechanics worth mentioning here. The first is how you start your day. The earlier you decide to wake up and begin planning your day, the unhappier your team of workers will be (and they’ll let you know it), and the more costly your materials will be that day. The offset of course is that you get access to everything before those who sleep longer.
The second item is the morale of your troops. If you have a pack of happy campers, they’ll let the unemployed know and encourage them to join you. Thus your crew will grow in number allowing you to get more work done.
Conversely, if morale is low, an unhappy camper will seek employment elsewhere, leaving you with fewer assistants. This whole idea reminds me a little of the Evilometer in Dungeon Lords.
The third mechanic is the planning of your day which is done by placing your worker tokens on their assigned spaces behind one of your shields. This reminds me a little of placing your imps and gold in the board game Dungeon Petz. I don’t know if Vlaada Chvátil, who designed both Dungeon Lords and Dungeon Petz ever played Fresco, but it just seemed unusual that these second and third features came together in Fresco as they do. Dungeon Lords was published a year before Fresco and Dungeon Petz a year after, so there’s probably no connection – just an interesting coincidence.
One last item about Fresco that is unusual is that the base game comes with 3 “expansions”. This isn’t the only game that’s had more options included in the base game (though maybe the first with three), but if you’re going to include them right away, why call them expansions? I think variations might be a better term. Yes, I’m being picky and it doesn’t really matter, but there it is.
Fresco is not difficult to learn, and you’ll most likely enjoy it. You will want to have 3 or 4 players to avoid playing with a “dummy” called Leonardo, so pick up a copy, gather a few friends, and paint that cathedral today.
Fun Meters (out of 5)