Review of The Artemis Project, a super smooth dice based worker placement game

In this review we take a trip to Europa, one of Jupiter’s Moons, to look at The Artemis Project. This is a very clever, dice based, worker placement game that packs a lot of punch for its short playtime.

One of the key features of The Artemis Project is that players need to decide when to shift their focus from engine building to end game scoring.

Disclosure: Thanks to Grand Gamers Guild for providing us with a review copy of this game. They are also a sponsor of The Tabletop Bellhop Gaming Podcast, though they weren’t when we received this game or when we first started playing it. As part of our partnership with Grand Gamers Guild, you can use our code BELLHOP to save 10% off when shopping on their website.

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What is The Artemis Project all about?

The Artemis Project Box

The Artemis Project was designed by Daryl Chow and Daniel Rocchi, and features artwork from Josh Cappel and Dominik Mayer. It was initially Kickstarted back in 2019 and was originally available in three different versions, the Retail Version, the Pioneer Edition and the Galileo Edition.

With the game’s second printing, Grand Gamers Guild has decided to retire the Retail Version, and are now only offering the Pioneer and Galileo editions.

The version we were given to review is the Galileo edition. The only difference between the Galileo edition and the Pioneer edition is that the Galileo edition has thirty metal Expedition Badges. These are nice to have but in no way change the gameplay.

The Artemis Project plays one to five players with a game time of over two hours at the higher player counts. The fewer players you have, or the more experience everyone at the table has, the quicker the game gets. At this point with a group who has all played before we can usually hammer out a game in an hour and a half.

While this game has some meat on it with a BGG weight rating of 2.83, we found it flows really well and people pick it up quickly.

An in progress shot of a game of The Artemis Project

In The Artemis Project, you are a team of stabilisers helping to build a colony on the ocean moon of Jupiter, Europa.

You will start by harvesting materials and energy from under the thick ice crust and building resource generation buildings under the icy crust. You will recruit new colonists, as well as train and upgrade the ones you have, embark on dangerous expeditions on the moon’s surface, and deal with unpredictable events. Halfway through the game, your focus will shift from resource generation and engine building to end game scoring as you start to build surface buildings.

All of this is handled through a unique dice placement and displacement system where what your opponents roll is as important as what you rolled, where player order can really matter, and where low rolls can be just as useful as high ones. 

Check out our The Artemis Project Unboxing Video on YouTube for a look at all of the great components you get in the Galileo edition of this game. Remember the only thing that is unique to this specific edition of the game is the metal tokens I open up near the end of the video. Everything else you also get in the lower cost Pioneer edition, and I’ve got to say everything is really top notch quality.

One of the dual layered player boards in The Artemis Project

The dual layered boards work well and the fact that the two main resources in the game are very different shapes and are made of different materials (translucent plastic cubes for energy and wood cylinders for minerals) is fantastic and great for accessibility. Each of the different colonist types has unique colours and shapes which is also great for accessibility and just cooler than the cubes they showed off in the original Kickstarter.

While some of the components are a bit over the top, like the big chonky embassy miniature and the somewhat silly shake ship drop ship for randomizing what colonists show up, it never goes quite too far (and if you really don’t like the shake ship, there’s always the drawstring bag).

Before I get to an overview of play I want to call out the instructions for being very clear and well organised with lots of examples.

This is one of the better board game rulebooks I’ve read.  I also want to note that the box does not come with any form of organization at all, other than some extra baggies. If you end up enjoying this one as much as we have, you may want to look into some form of third party box insert. 

How The Artemis Project is Played

The Shake Ship from The Artemis Project.
Sure it doesn't work perfectly and the game includes a bag for people who care, but I find it's fun.

At the start of a game of The Artemis Project, everyone picks a colour and takes a matching player board and pieces. They also grab three minerals, three energy, one toolkit, and one Pioneer colonist.

Each player’s score and relief markers are placed on the board, and the board is then seeded with four of each of the other colonist types, Engineers, Marines, and Stewards. The rest of the colonists are put into the bag or the Shake Ship. The building tiles, expedition cards, and event deck are shuffled, and six event cards are taken from the deck with the rest placed back into the box. 

Next, you go through board set up. This is done at the start of the game as well as at the start of each round. Expedition cards are drawn and displayed next to the board and the vents and quarry are filled with energy and minerals based on the numbers on those cards. A number of buildings are drawn and displayed on the other side of the board, new colonists are dumped out of the shake ship or drawn from the bag and placed on the doorstep, and an encounter card is revealed. 

Encounter cards include a mix of banes and boons. Each event card shows what phase it affects and you place the embassy marker on that area of the board as a reminder.

An encounter card from The Artemis Project.

The start player is given the snowcat. They get to decide if they want to keep the snowcat and go first or they can place a resource on the snowcat and pass it to the next player. That player can keep the snowcat and any resources on it or add a resource to it and pass it on to the next player, and so on, until someone accepts it (which means they go first and also get all resources on the snowcat). Note it can go around the table more than once, though we’ve never personally seen this happen.

Next everyone rolls their dice and takes turns placing them on the board starting with the player with the snowcat and going clockwise. At this point you aren’t resolving anything, you do that after everyone has placed all of their dice. When placing their dice, players can use toolkits to roll their dice up or down one pip per toolkit. 

There are seven places you can place your dice in The Artemis Project. You can place dice at the Base Camp to take part in expeditions, in the Vents or Quarry to gain resources, at the Gantry to build buildings, on the Doorstep to recruit new colonists, at the Academy to promote an existing colonist, or at the Outfitter for victory points or toolkits. 

The rather narrow board from The Artemis Project

The dice placement rules vary depending on where you go. At the Base Camp dice are stacked bottom to top and colonists can be played along with your dice to modify your, or your opponent’s, dice or to give you a special bonus if the expedition succeeds.

At the Vents, Quarry and Doorstep, lower valued dice bump higher dice to the right. At the Gantry once a die is placed another die can only be placed there if it’s higher than any dice already on the chosen building, and the Academy only has room for two dice total. Any number of dice of any value can be placed into the Outfitter. The Outfitter is the only spot where you immediately get something when placing your dice, including toolkits that can be used later in the same planning phase. 

Once all dice are placed you resolve each section in order starting with the Base Camp. Each Expedition card is resolved. They either succeed or fail depending on the total of the dice placed there. The player who contributed the most gets a badge and gets to pick one of the two rewards on the Expedition card, while the player who contributed the second most gets the other reward and a badge. Any other players there suffer from exposure and go up one on the Relief Track. 

Grabbing energy from The Vents in The Artemis Project

Both the Vents and the Quarry resolve the same. Starting from the left, the lowest numbered die, and working upwards, resources equal to the value of each die are given to that die’s owner. If the resources run out, any remaining dice get nothing but their players get to go up on the Relief Track by one. 

The Gantry works as an auction. Players have the option to build the building their dice are sitting on by paying a matching amount of minerals. The player with the highest die value gets that option first, then the next lowest die and so on. If a placed die can’t be used because someone builds the building first, that die’s player moves up on the Relief Track by one.

The Doorstep works a bit like the Vents and Quarry, with players getting to hire new colonists at the cost of two energy each. The difference here is the die value determines how many colonists they can hire. If there are no colonists left when your die comes up you get to go up on the Relief Track.

Orange is upgrading one of their colonists at The Academy in this game of The Artemis Project

Players at the Academy discard the colonist they sent there and take the appropriate replacement from the board, if available. If a replacement isn’t available they get nothing and they do not go up on the Relief Track.  

While resolving actions don’t forget the event card that was revealed at the start of the turn, and be sure to resolve the event at the appropriate spot on the board. Many events modify what you get, the costs you pay, or allow you to take additional actions. 

While taking actions in The Artemis Project you will also be managing your colonists. Whenever you get new colonists they can be placed into any of your existing buildings that have room for them. Any leftover colonists go into the shelter on your player board. Whenever you build a building you can immediately move colonists from your shelter into it, but you can’t take colonists from another building to fill a new one.

After all seven regions are resolved you move to an upkeep phase. At this point, players may move the position of one of their colonists or swap any two. Players then activate each of their fully staffed buildings in any order they choose.

The orange player is about to activate all of their buildings in The Artemis Project

Next, players must pay one energy per colonist in their shelter and lose any colonists they can’t afford. Then the board is re-seeded as described above (including drawing a new event) and a new first player is determined, with the snowcat starting at the player to the left of whoever had it in the last round.

At the end of six rounds, players calculate their scores. While playing, points are awarded through some of the underwater buildings, many of the expeditions, by putting low dice at the outpost, and through some events. 

At the end of the game, players will earn points for leftover resources, each of their fully staffed above ground buildings, their total number of buildings (full or not), sets of colonists, the number of badges they have collected, and their remaining toolkits. The player with the most points wins. 

While I think this covers everything mechanically, at a high level, what this doesn’t get across is how the game plays at the table.

The snowcat from The Artemins Project is used to determine start player.

Each round in The Artemis Project is filled with difficult decisions. This is one of those games where there are lots of things you want to do and no way to do them all. The first few rounds of the game are all about engine building, starting with making sure you have enough resources to build some buildings and then getting the colonists you need to fill them. You also want to make sure you are taking part in some expeditions. Partly, because they have some pretty useful rewards but also because you will lose points at the end of the game if you haven’t collected some expedition badges. 

At about the mid point of the game, the focus shifts. The resource generation and extra action buildings stop coming out and everyone starts to look at the end game. Competition for buildings and colonists becomes more fierce, and people try to up their badge count. Things that seemed easy, like fully staffing buildings, become harder. Some players will also start amassing things for end game scoring based on the buildings they’ve purchased. 

Who should pick up The Artemis Project?

Enjoying a three player game of The Artemis Project

The Artemis Project features one of the best dice based, worker placement systems I’ve ever played with. A big part of this is how the various regions of the board have their own placement rules.

Once you start playing, you quickly realise how important it is to look at what dice the other players have. You need to figure out if you could potentially be outbid or bumped, and where you may be able to do the same to others.

Do you place a six in the Vents because you really need the energy? If everyone else has a lot of low dice, you run the risk of exposure, maybe a four would be safer, or maybe you should use two threes.

You have one die on an expedition, do you wait and hope that another player joins in or do you play two dice there to make sure it succeeds?

Can you get away with playing only a one on that building? Based on the colonists everyone else has, it’s not likely someone will buy it, but then again it would be a very cheap buy at only two cost for each of the other players who have dice to spare.

The expeditions are filling up in this five player game of The Artemis Project from Grand Gamers Guild

In The Artemis Project, you are on a planet with scarcity, fighting for resources and survival, this isn’t a happy friendly co-op. You won’t win without acting selfishly and focusing on your needs. Sometimes you will ruin another player’s plans even without acting maliciously. This means The Artemis Project isn’t the game for all groups..

With all of the bumping and outbidding, The Artemis Project can be very cutthroat and quite nasty. There is a lot of player interaction here. Every die you place is going to affect not only you, but one or more of your opponents, and it’s not uncommon that your well laid plans will be cut off by someone else’s play. Sometimes this is intentional, but often it’s unintentional — a player is just doing what would be best for them but it also happens to hurt you.

One thing I really like about The Artemis Project is that, while there are seven different places you can place your dice, each individual region resolves in a way that is easy to learn and resolves quickly. I also like the level of thematic tie in that makes each action quick to learn and easy to remember.

Will anyone help orange complete their expedition? Sometimes The Artemis Project can be unforgiving. At least they will get to go up on the Relief track.

Expeditions represent taking a risk to get a reward, just as exploring a moon’s surface would. Whoever gets to the Mines and Vents first gets the resources, and those trying to take too much might miss out. Even the order of the actions has a solid flow. Right after mining minerals, you can spend them on buildings at the Gantry.

How much of those minerals you will have to spend is based on market demand. If you really want a building badly you should bid high for it, but you can always take a chance by bidding low and hope no one else is interested. While getting to the Doorstep early means you get the pick of the crowd from the newly arriving colonists.

The mechanics make sense when looked at through the lens of the theme of building a space colony. 

The Artemis Project is a game that rewards repeated plays. Knowing what Expedition cards exist, what buildings can possibly come up, and what each of the different event cards do, will give experienced players an advantage.

My gi8rls both enjoy The Artemis Project.

When playing at the full player count every expedition card will come into play and since there are two copies of every building you will probably see at least one of each of them.

Overall, The Artemis Project is a very solid, dice driven, worker placement, engine builder that I really enjoy playing. This game features some of my favourite game mechanics combined in new and interesting ways, enough so that it makes The Artemis Project stick out from other games in my collection with similar mechanics.

Another highlight is how much punch the game packs in only six rounds and in under two hours of playtime. Every time I’ve finished a game, I’ve felt like I’ve accomplished something. There’s just something rewarding about the play experience in The Artemis Project

Orange is being nasty by stealing this building from green in The Artemis Project.

My podcast co-host Sean noted that The Artemis Project is right on the edge of being too harshly competitive. He found that it saves itself by how quickly it plays. If it had another couple of rounds, it would be too much take that and hate drafting for him.

The Artemis Project ended up being a perfect fit for me (and my euro-loving wife digs it as well), but I know it’s not going to be for everyone. The biggest thing to watch for is the take that, screw your opponents, nature of the game. Resources are limited and you are going to be competing for them. Adding to this are a couple of buildings that directly target other players in a rather mean way.

You can pick up a copy of The Artemis Project direct from Grand Gamers Guild (and don’t forget to save 10% off by using our coupon code BELLHOP).

That’s it for our look at The Artemis Project, a very solid, dice driven, worker placement game about colonizing Europa. There are a growing number of dice driven worker placement games out there, what’s your favourite?

Are you still playing Alien Frontiers? Did Stonemaier win you over with Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, or have you discovered something else? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!

(Plus, as always, I invite you to share your thoughts on The Tabletop Bellhop Discord!)

The Artemis Project, Pioneer Edition
  • Colonize Europa above and below the ice
  • Unique dice placement where all values matter and function differently in different places
  • Highly interactive: play the players as much as you are playing the game
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