The A.R.T. Project Review, a fantastic cooperative game about saving the world’s artwork from The White Hand

A review of The A.R.T. Project from The Op

In this cooperative board game, a ragtag group of heroes, the Art Rescue Team, must work together using limited resources to collect allies and rescue the world’s artwork from the sinister White Hand.

The A.R.T. Project is a French game brought to North America by our friends at The Op. Not only is it one of the best looking games we’ve ever played, it’s also one of the most fun cooperative board games out there.

Disclosure: Thanks to The Op for hooking us up with a review copy of this art heist themed board game. Links below may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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What you get with The A.R.T. Project board game

The rather evocative box cover for The A.R.T. Project from The Op

The A.R.T. Project comes from designers Florian Sirieix and Benoit Turpin and was originally published by Lumberjacks Studio, an indie publisher from the Normandy region of France, and localized for North America by The Op or USAopoly

This cooperative game can be played with one to six players, but we’ve found there’s a real sweet spot at three. Games are surprisingly quick with our three player games taking about forty-five minutes tops. There are quite a few moving parts in The A.R.T. Project and the age recommendation of 12+ seems about right. 

In The A.R.T. Project, you are part of the Art Rescue Team, a ragtag group trying to rescue the world’s artwork from The White Hand.  You will travel the world, from the US to Japan, and even to the Polynesian Islands, working together to find clues and recover crates of stolen artwork, battling the White Hand together, along with a team of allies. This cooperative game has players using cards to collect clues, move around the map, manage resources, and battle the White Hand with a simple d6 dice pool mechanic. Can you recover all of the artwork before you run out of time or before the White Hand takes over too many cities?

One of the most impressive things about this game is the Vincent Dutrait artwork which you can see through our The A.R.T. Project unboxing video on Youtube

An promo pic from The Op for their game The A.R.T. Project

It’s not just the artwork that’s great here. The iconography is fantastic, the card design is very functional, and the wooden resource and white hand tokens are all uniquely shaped and coloured. The game features three double sided play boards each with a different map. The rulebook is also designed in a dossier format that fits the theme. You even get some bonus bits like a fully usable postcard from The White Hand.

The game rules are clearly presented with plenty of examples. While the rulebook looks thick, that’s just because of the special rules for each map. The basic gameplay is quick to learn and makes sense.

I honestly have no complaints about the production quality of The A.R.T. Project. It is truly a great looking and very functional game.

How to play The A.R.T. Project

We actually won this game of The ART Project. A cooperative board game about saving the world's artwork.

A game of The A.R.T. Project starts by the group picking one of the six maps to use. Each offers a different challenge with its own section in the rulebook which you will use to set it up. Setup generally involves putting a number of white hand tokens out on the map.

Next each player chooses a character and takes the matching character card, D6 die, and three health tokens, and places their playing piece on the starting city for the map that you’ve chosen. You then load the van with three of each resource: guns, fuel and walkie-talkies. The clue deck is set up which involves shuffling the deck and inserting an end-of-game card in the bottom part of the deck. 

Each turn in The A.R.T. Project players will each draw two cards from the clue deck in any order. You can see the city icons on the backs of each card, which may influence who you want to get what. 

Players look at the two cards they just drew and choose one to play. Each card has three parts. First is the cost to play the card. These costs can include any of the three resources or health and come in a variety of different combinations. If at any time a player wants or needs to spend a resource but they don’t have it, they can instead spend a heart (this is called the golden rule and it comes up a lot). 

The next section of each clue card shows a number of city icons, for each of these you will place a White Hand on the appropriate spot on the map. 

Trying to decide what card to play in what order is a huge part of playing The ART Project

The third section of each clue card lists a reward. This indicates a number of resources you will collect for your team. This can include any of the three resources or hearts. Note you are limited to a maximum of six of each resource but players can collect any number of health. When collecting hearts the players as a group decide who gets the heath.

Not every clue card will include all three of these sections. Some cards have no cost but then usually list three cities, other cards cost a lot but they put no new White Hand counters out, or provide no reward.

The very bottom of each clue card shows one or two clue icons on it. This information is repeated on the back of the cards. After everyone has played their card for the turn, if you have three matching icons showing between all cards played you must place an art crate at the city on the map matching the symbol on the cards. Note this is not optional.

During this phase players are free to talk to each other and plan out their next moves and their card plays. The order cards are played in can be extremely important and players will need to puzzle out who should play what. This is a big chunk of the gameplay in The A.R.T. Project.

The A.R.T. Project comes with a wide variety of maps, six in total, each offering a different challenge.

Once everyone has played one clue card, players can move their pawns on the map. Cities are connected by lines on the map and in general moving from one city to a connected one costs one fuel. Remember the golden rule, if your group has no fuel you can spend hearts to move, but you can’t spend hearts instead of fuel.

After everyone has moved you resolve each city in the order you chose. If a player’s pawn is in a city with an art crate, and there are no White Hand tokens there, you collect the crate. If this is your seventh crate collected, you win!

If there are White Hand tokens present where any player is located, a battle happens. Battles are simple, each player present rolls their D6 dice and they are trying to hit a total that is based on how many White Hand are in the city plus a number based on how many crates your team has collected so far. The more crates you’ve collected, the tougher the White Hand fights back. Guns can be spent to add two to your total and any dice can be re-rolled by spending clue cards that the group has in play. You get to see your initial results before any of this additional expenditure.

Battles aren’t easy to win but, luckly, you can get additional help by calling in allies. These are black D6 dice that can be used by any player in any battle. You earn them by spending walkie-talkies. At the start of the game these additional dice cost six walkie-talkies but the price goes down as you collect more crates and more people join your cause. 

Things are looking a bit grim in this game of The ART Project

So the more crates you collect the tougher fights get, but it also becomes easier to hire allies. This can make the order you chose to fight in very important, as the fights are resolved one at a time, and the results of one fight may affect the next.

If you win a battle, all White Hand tokens from that city are removed from the board, and you get to collect any crate they were guarding. If you fail, the active player loses a heart. Also remember the golden rule, if you don’t have any guns, hearts can be used to give plus-two to your rolls.

Your team loses if any single player runs out of hearts. You also lose when you lose four cities to the White Hand.

At the end of each round, after all battles are fought and all crates are collected, you check the board to see if any cities have been overrun. This happens if they have five or more White Hand tokens on them. An overrun city is marked with an overrun token and the city is considered lost.

You can’t enter or move through lost cities, plus any new White Hand tokens that would be placed in a lost city instead go to a special spot on the board. You then add the number of tokens here to the White Hand strength for ALL battles.

The Polynesian Islands map from The A.R.T. Project is one of the most challenging. While movement is much easier, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the White Hand.

The A.R.T. Project rules include four difficulty levels. What these change is how many hearts each player starts with. The levels range from Easy, with four hearts each, to “They did not know it was impossible so they did it.”, with only one heart for each player.

In addition to these overall rules, which apply in every game of The A.R.T. Project, each map has its own idiosyncrasies. For example, on the Egypt map, moving down the Nile is free but moving up the Nile costs fuel. On that map all of the cities are in a straight line, so losing a city to the White Hand can be devastating.

When playing on the Polynesian Islands map, it only costs one fuel to get to any city, but there are two cities for each icon. When a clue card is played White Hand tokens are placed on both of the matching cities, and when you locate a crate you have to pick from one of the two spots to spawn it.

On the Scandinavian map, every city gives you a bonus or a penalty when collecting crates. Plus, some of the routes cost extra fuel to use.

Overall each of the six maps has a very distinct feel, which adds a ton of replayability to The A.R.T. Project.

Not only cooperative game fans should check out The A.R.T. Project

Sometimes things just don't go the way you want them to when playing The A.R.T. Project

The most striking thing about The A.R.T. Project is the art. This game looks fantastic. This game has some of the best production values I’ve ever seen. This includes the board, the instructions, the wooden components, and more. The card design here is fantastic. The cards look great, and their layout is very practical and easy to read and use at the table.

Next up is just how much game you get in this box! I can see The A.R.T. Project being a totally valid and enjoyable game with only one double sided map. For the price of the game I would have been perfectly happy with that. But you don’t just get one double sided map, you get three, giving you six maps total! Each of which has its own special rules. These additional maps are the kind of thing you expect to be sold as a separate expansion, yet you get all if it in the one game box. This makes for a fantastic value.

The variety of maps and their unique rules are what makes this game great. Each map feels very different, presenting its own puzzles to be solved. While the overall mechanics are the same, subtle changes make each game have a different feel.

The base mechanics in The A.R.T. Project are solid and drive group discussions over quarterbacking. The planning phase really is the heart of the game. Here you are all deciding what card to play and I find this phase both fascinating and difficult.

One of my favourite maps in The ART Project is the Egypt one.

Every card has a cost, both in resources and in where you are placing White Hand tokens, and resources are TIGHT in this game. The order you play your cards can be very important as you will often need someone to play a card with a specific resource first just so someone else can be able to even play one of their cards, and while doing this you have to also watch how many White Hand tokens you are putting on the map. 

The downfall of all of this collaboration and puzzle elements, is that it gets more difficult the more people you are playing with. With everyone adding White Hand tokens to the map before anyone gets to act, the game gets significantly harder with more players. That resource management gets more tight as well. While the higher player counts do make the combats easier, that doesn’t matter if cities are getting overrun faster than you can move to them and do anything about it. After many plays we found the sweet spot in The A.R.T. Project to be three players. It’s also rather good at at two and I will play at four but I have no interest in playing with five or six ever again. 

On the opposite end of things, the game plays lightning quick solo. When playing The A.R.T. Project solitaire, you play one character and have an ally. You get three cards each turn and have to play two in any order you want. The rest of the game is basically the same except for your ally can’t fight on their own, but they can collect artwork and do contribute a die when fighting with you. 

Three players is the sweet spot for playing The A.R.T. Project

Overall I really dig The A.R.T. Project. I liked it well enough during our first five and six player games, but fell in love with it once we tried it with three players. As a three player game this is one of the best that I own and it’s up there in my list of top cooperative games overall.

If you dig cooperative games you are going to want to check out The A.R.T. project. While it features some mechanics that you will find familiar from other cooperative games like Pandemic, there’s plenty of interesting and new things happening here that really sets it apart from similar games. The dice based combat system being something you really don’t see often in cooperative games.

The dice and the hidden information on the clue cards also helps to reduce quarterbacking. In general I found quarterbacking to be rare with this game. Yes, players all have to collaborate and work together to solve the games various puzzles, but rarely did I see a player telling another player exactly what to do with their turn or what cards to play.

If you collect great looking games you are going to want this one on your shelf, Vincent Dutrait really outdid himself with this one.  You could put the map boards from this game up on the wall, in the house of any gamer, and they wouldn’t look out of place.

A postcard from The White Hand that comes in every copy of The ART Project

Even if you normally don’t like cooperative games, I recommend you give The A.R.T. Project a try, especially at lower player counts. This one hits a little differently from most cooperative games and may just win you over. 

Localising The A.R.T. Project was part of a new initiative from The Op to expand their strategy game offerings. They are planning on releasing games with a bit more meat on them than they usually publish and I think they nailed it with The A.R.T. Project. While it may be heavier than what we usually see from The Op, I think the feel of this game fits in great with their catalogue. I can’t wait to see what they bring us next!

That’s it for this review of The ART Project, a clever cooperative game with fantastic production values and lots of replayability, through its six different scenarios.

We ended up getting more than we expected from this one. What’s a game that you’ve played that had way more content than you expected? Where you find stuff you usually find in expansions, right there in the game box? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

The A.R.T. Porject Cooperative Strategy Game from The Op
  • JOIN THE ART RESCUE TEAM: Immerse yourself in the thrilling world of art recovery as you become a member of the elite Art Rescue Team. Your mission: stop “The White Hand” organization from stealing priceless artworks across the globe.
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