A detailed review of Chiseled, a Deck-Sculpting Card game that takes the idea of deck-building and flips it upside down.
In this card game, you start with a large deck of cards and use tools to chip away at your deck trying to end up with the perfect sculpture by the end. Chiseled does a fantastic job of blending its unique deck-shedding mechanics with its sculpting theme.
But is it fun? Read on to find out!
Disclosure: Thanks Marc from Grand Gamers Guild for providing us with a review copy of this deck shedding game. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast.
Learn about Chiseled the deck-shedding card game
Chiseled was designed by Michael Epstein and features artwork from Nate Brisotti, Jason Butera, Tatiana Quigley and, Ali Swei. It was published in 2020 as a joint effort by Grand Gamers Guild and Copper Frog Games (Michael Epstien’s company).
This is a one to four player deck deconstruction card game that plays in under half an hour once you’ve figured out the scoring system. This small box card game has an MSRP of $29.99 USD.
In Chiseled you take on the role of a sculptor about to start work on their next masterpiece. Your deck represents your block of stone and you use various tools to remove cards from that deck hoping to be left with a perfect sculpture, one that will also impress three randomly generated critics.
For a look at what you get in this deck-shedding card game, I invite you to check out my Chiseled Unboxing Video on YouTube.
In that video, you will see that Chiseled comes in a small box that contains a simple, four slot, box insert designed to hold the four player decks and other cards. The game also comes with a clear and concise rulebook and some useful two sided player boards.
These player boards are notable as they feature two different ways to calculate your score at the end of the game. You can either choose to score what’s left in your deck or what’s in your trash pile. The math here is identical but some players will find one method more intuitive than the other.
The main components here are the cards, which are of excellent quality and have been holding up well to lots of shuffling. The iconography on the cards is very clear and the card design is quite brilliant once you get used to knowing where to look for what.
My only real complaint about quality is that there’s a promo card for the game and it’s not the same size as the other cards, but that is not something that’s going to matter to someone who picks up the game and doesn’t manage to get a hold of that one promo card.
How do you play Chiseled?
You start a game of Chiseled by randomly dealing out a number of tool cards to the centre of the table, nine for four players or seven for any other player count. Three Random Critic cards are also dealt face up so that everyone can see them. Then each player grabs their own deck and a player mat. Each player also takes a check-in timer card and one of the unused critic cards, placing the facedown critic overtop of the timer card so that it points to the five slot. These cards work as both rules reference and a timing mechanism.
That’s pretty much it, this game is super simple to get set up and start playing.
Note that this is the set up for a standard game. Chiseled also come with an optional “Sine Cera” or “Without Wax” expansion. When using this expansion players shuffle an equal number of Wax Cards into their decks (or twelve if playing solo).
The final thing everyone does before the starting player goes is to draw three cards from their deck.
Each turn the active player will select one face up tool card to use. They will do what it says on that tool card, then flip it face down. They then discard any remaining cards in their hand and draw a set of three new cards (plus any additional cards as indicated by the tool they just used).
Once all of the tool cards are face down you flip all of them back over.
If a player’s draw pile is empty they shuffle their discard pile and it becomes a new draw pile. If the hand of cards they are now left with contains at least three sculpture cards they then advance once on their own personal critic track. When this track reaches the end, every other player gets one more turn and then the game ends.
That’s really all there is to it for actual mechanics. Pick a tool, use it, discard and draw.
What’s missing from this description is what all of the different tools do. The tools, and how they are used, are the meat of this game.
The tools include a number of different ways to remove cards from your own or your opponent’s deck. These include the Flat Chisel, which has you draw three cards off your draw pile and trash any Scrap Cards drawn, the Mallet, which has you trash all of the cards in your hand, the Rounded Chisel which makes you trash all of the cards of one type from your hand, and more, including my favourite, the Saw, which has you name a material type and then start trashing cards from your draw pile until you get to one of the matching type.
This may help things make a bit more sense without having the game in front of you, each player’s deck is made up of three different types of sculpture cards; arms, bodies and heads. Each of these sculpture pieces is available in three material types; onyx, silver and gold. There are nine cards for each body part, split into three of each material type. Each deck also has eighteen scrap cards in it.
Once any player’s critic track hits zero, the game ends once everyone else has one more turn. At that point, you move on to scoring.
To get the maximum points in Chiseled you want your deck to contain exactly two arm cards, five body cards, nine head cards (which would be all of them), and zero scrap cards.
The player boards show how many points you get for these amounts as well as all other combinations. It’s worth noting arms are only worth points if you have an even amount. Any scrap still in your deck scores minus three points per card.
If using the Sine Cera variant wax cards are worth 1 point each for every player except for the one who has the most wax. If you have the most wax you actually lose one point per wax card left in your deck.
Now I know that it sounds silly that you want nine heads on your statue at the end of the game but it helps if you think about it like this: each card in your deck represents how much time you spent on that part of your statue, say one hour per card.
So, you don’t want to waste too much time working on the arms as they aren’t the focal point of the statue, but you do want to make sure that you spend an equal amount of time on both the left arm and the right. This would explain why you only score points if you have an even number of arm cards.
The body is going to take a lot more work, so you need to spend more time on that, but you don’t want to spend too much time on it or overwork the body.
The head and face are the most important part of your statue, so you want to spend as much time as possible on that part.
Also, remember that when scoring you can do things one of two ways. You can look at what is left in your deck, as we just described, or you can look at what’s sitting in your trash pile. In this case, you are looking to have seven arms, four bodies and no heads in the trash.
Once you’ve scored your statue there’s one more thing to do and that’s check in with the critics. Here each player will check their cards against the three critic cards that were laid out at the start of the game. Critics can award players bonus points based on what’s in their trash piles. These points are based on the materials used in your statue. These include things like having more onyx than gold in your trash, or having the most silver out of all the players, or trashing an even number of scrap cards, and more.
Once you add any critic bonus points to everyone’s statue points the player with the most points wins.
It’s also worth noting that you can play Chiseled solo. The game plays the same as it does with more players. You are simply trying to go for the highest score possible.
The game includes a solo score chart that will give you a ranking based on how well you do. If you find this too easy or boring, the game also comes with a card of solo challenges to make the game more difficult and interesting for solo play.
Who will enjoy Chiseled?
Back when deck building was a new thing and the industry was starting to get flooded with various Dominion variants, one of the primary strategies in many of these games was to thin your deck down as much as possible and build a super sleek engine.
During that time, I had the idea of creating a deck-deconstruction game. One where you start with a big fat deck and the goal of the game is to streamline that deck as much as possible. However, while I gave this concept some thought I never came up with any working mechanics. Now here comes Chiseled (and technically Xenon Profiteer before it) and we have someone using that concept brilliantly.
The most impressive thing Chiseled has done is to perfectly integrate a theme with the concept of deck-deconstruction, which they call deck-sculpting.
This really is a brilliant concept for a deck construction game. In Chiseled your deck is your block of stone and you use tools to remove cards from it. That’s top notch theme integration here. Even the scoring ends up being thematic as long as you think of each card as time spent on each part of your sculpture.
In this game, you are literally choosing which tool to use to best sculpt your deck, dealing with what you have on hand and if you use the wrong tool things can go horribly wrong. And as with reality, you don’t quite know the exact make-up of the material you’re working with and there’s an element of discovery as you work the stone.
Forgoing the theme and just looking at mechanics, I’m just as impressed. The deck sculpting system works and works well, though there are some things that may take a bit to click in. I’ve found with experienced deck building players, some have a hard time dealing with the fact that you don’t actually play the cards from your hand. In Chiseled, the cards in your hand are there only to be discarded or trashed, nothing else. It’s not the cards in your deck that do things, it’s the tool cards.
The other big hurdle I’ve found in introducing Chiseled to new players is the scoring system. When I first introduced Chiseled to my game group everyone baulked at what seemed like an arbitrary scoring system. That’s changed now that we’ve come to the understanding that the cards represent the time spent not actual physical body parts.
The first time I looked at Chiseled, even I was confused as to why you would want two arms, five bodies and nine heads in your deck at the end of the game. Before reading the rules I just assumed that your end goal was going to be two arms, a body and a head, this isn’t sculpting Cthulhu after all.
Now that I’ve found a way to rationalize the scoring system, my only real complaint about Chiseled is that it can start to feel same-y after multiple plays, especially in a row. The game only comes with thirteen different tool cards and with four players you are going to be using nine at once. While different sets of tools do really change up the gameplay, the overall feeling doesn’t shift much between games. The critics do add more variability but I’m sad to say that they don’t change the game as much as one might think.
Chiseled is a game that I will happily play one to three times in a row, but then not touch for a month or so, only to bring it back out again and play a few more games in a row. I also love breaking it out to introduce it to new people, just to show off the unique mechanics and how well they tie into the theme.
Overall I love that Chiseled exists. This game features some of the best theme integration that I’ve ever seen. I also love seeing that someone was able to come up with a brilliant way to make deck shedding work, a mechanic that I even played around with a bit myself for a while.
While the scoring system in Chiseled may seem a bit odd at first everything else is excellent right from the start. This includes both the component quality, the ease of learning and the actual gameplay. While I can burn out on Chiseled if I play too many games in too short a time period, this is a game I will definitely return back to after a break.
If you dig deck building, you really should check out Chiseled as it takes a mechanic you like and flips it upside down in a brilliant way.
If there’s an actual sculptor in your group or you have a friend who is one this could make a really cool gift. I think that someone who’s actually worked stone will find the concepts in here make a lot of sense and that would make for a fun gaming experience.
If you hate deck building I still think you should give Chiseled a shot. Find a friend with a copy, do a demo, or see if the local game cafe has a copy you can try. You may just find that removing cards from a deck is more fun than adding them in.
Lastly for “Take that!” fans, be sure to try the Without Wax variant as I’m sure you are going to love tossing those wax cards into your opponent’s discard piles while racking up some bonus points for yourself.
That pretty much covers it (and yes, I pretty much recommended this game for everyone, and I’m not ashamed of that). This really is a fascinating, unique and fun card game. One that I think could appeal to a wide range of game groups.
The deck-sculpting card game Chiseled truly is another hit from Grand Gamers Guild.
The thing that drew me to Chiseled is the entire concept of a deck-shedding game. I love the idea of a game where you start with a big deck filled with a mix of junk and useful cards that you then widdle down through play. I think that mechanic was used brilliantly here.
What’s a game that features a mechanic done perfectly? One that’s used in a way that just makes perfect sense with the theme? Let us know about it in the comments below!