Game: The A.R.T. Project

Release Year: 2023

Publisher: The Op Games

Designers: Florian Sirieix and Benoit Turpin

Player Count: 1 to 6 players

Play Time: About 45 to 60 minutes (assuming you don't lose early and cut the game short)

Rules Complexity: Moderate

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What do you do when your priceless piece of art has been stolen by the White Hand? You call in the Art Rescue Team (A.R.T.), of course!

The A.R.T. Project is a gorgeous game by Florian Sirieix and Benoit Turpin, the latter of whom you might recognize as the brilliant designer behind Welcome To..., one of the few games I consider to be a perfect 5-out-of-5. Knowing that, you can imagine how excited I was to give this one a shot!

You also have Florian Sirieix, known for After Us and being the co-designer on games like Imaginarium, Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade, and Nicodemus. Plus, Sirieix and Turpin have both collaborated before on Stomp the Plank.

In other words, there's a lot of promise behind The A.R.T. Project. But how well does it live up to that promise? Here's everything you need to know about The A.R.T. Project, my experience with it, and whether or not it's right for you.

This review is based on a review copy of The A.R.T. Project provided by The Op Games. I played the game 10 times before penning this review and my thoughts and opinions are solely my own.


The A.R.T. Project is a cooperative game where you're all playing as members of the Art Rescue Team trying to locate and retrieve Art Pieces that were stolen by the White Hand. Unfortunately, you have your work cut out for you!

The game is played on a map of cities (between 6 and 12 cities, depending on which map) and you'll be moving from city to city, using set collection to spawn Art Pieces in different cities, fighting off White Hands through dice combat, all while managing your limited resources and trying not to die.

A round looks like this:

  1. Everyone draws two Mission Cards and plays one. Each Mission Card has a resource cost to play, then spawns White Hands in certain cities, then provides you with resources gained, and lastly counts toward set collection. Once a set is collected, an Art Piece is spawned in the set's respective city.
  2. Everyone moves their pawns. Moving from one city to an adjacent city costs Fuel, and every player who moves must spend a Fuel for each city-to-city movement they make. Once everyone is done moving, it's time to fight.
  3. Everyone fights White Hands in their cities. To fight in a city, everyone in that city rolls their respective dice and compares the result against the current threat level plus the number of White Hands in the city. You can also spend Gun resources to boost your result by 2 per Gun. If you succeed, all the White Hands in that city are removed. If you fail, one of you loses a Health resource.
  4. Cities are overrun if they have too many White Hands at round end. An overrun city is no longer traversable, which could cut off areas of the map. Plus, whenever White Hands are added to an overrun city, they instead raise the global threat level and make combat more difficult everywhere else.
  5. Optionally, you can also hire Allies. Allies are permanent extra dice that you can roll during combat against White Hands. Each Ally Die costs a certain number of Walkie Talkies, starting off very expensive but getting progressively cheaper whenever you successfully recover an Art Piece.

The Fuel, Gun, and Walkie Talkie resources exist as a shared pool between all players, whereas each player has their own Health resources. Whenever Fuel, Guns, or Walkie Talkies are needed but there aren't enough, players can sacrifice Health in their place.

You win when you've collected all the Art Pieces for the map that you're playing on. You lose if too many cities are overrun, if the Mission Deck runs out, or if anyone runs out of Health and dies. And that's about it!

Setup and Table Footprint

The A.R.T. Project doesn't take up a lot of space, but it does require a decent amount of setup time for a game that's relatively simple.

Setup takes about 5 to 8 minutes and involves:

  • Picking the map you want to play on.
  • Everyone picking a character card plus respective pawns and dice.
  • Distributing Health tokens to everyone.
  • Setting up the shared supply of Fuel, Guns, and Walkie Talkies.
  • Setting up the pools of White Hands, Art Pieces, and Ally Dice.
  • Shuffling the Mission Deck and adding the stop marker.

While the game doesn't actually take up much space, it does feel messy because there are so many token pools and bits to manage.

The different maps are all the same size, clocking in at 16.5 x 11 inches. (For comparison, Ticket to Ride's game board is about 32 x 20 inches.) So, yeah, the game should fit fine on most tables. I'm able to play on my card table without issue. But it's pretty messy and greatly benefits from token bowls.

Learning Curve

No individual gameplay element in The A.R.T. Project is difficult to learn or understand, but there are several of them working together to create a more complex experience. I wouldn't call it heavy, nor would I call it easy.

You have to know things like: how the Mission Cards are resolved, what the different resources (Fuel, Guns, Walkie Talkies, Health) are used for, the factors that affect the White Hand target roll during dice combat, the factors that influence your own dice combat score, how to handle a city that's overrun by too many White Hands, and how Art Pieces are spawned through set collection.

Everything comes together in a way that makes sense and the actual gameplay is surprisingly smooth once you know how the phases work. But it can be a lot to digest for someone who doesn't normally play board games.

I would say that The A.R.T. Project is a family-plus board game, about a step up in rules complexity from games like Ticket to Ride and Pandemic.

Game Experience

Decision Space

The A.R.T. Project is cleverly designed to force you into tough decisions round after round. You don't necessarily have to crunch a bunch of numbers to make a decision, per se; rather, every decision comes with a significant cost and the choice you make ultimately comes down to which bad thing you're willing to accept.

Resource management is central to gameplay. You have a limited pool of three different resources and each Mission Card is sort of like a resource conversion action: you spend some resources to gain other resources. If you don't have the necessary resources, you spend Health instead.

On your turn, you draw two Mission Cards and choose which one to play.

So, when choosing between your two Mission Cards, you're mainly looking at which resources you need to gain and whether you have the necessary resources to play that card. When you're low on resources, sometimes you're forced to play the lesser card simply because you can't afford the other one.

Meanwhile, the Mission Card will likely spawn White Hands in certain cities, so you need to weigh the benefit of resources gained against those additional White Hands.

Where are you going to spawn White Hands? If a certain city already has four White Hands, you probably don't want to play that Mission Card that's going to spawn another White Hand in that city.

This Mission Card is going to spawn 2 White Hands on the Bust City. The Bust City already has 4 White Hands on it, so this would be an extremely risky play!

Because if you do play that card, you'll have to reach that city and wipe out the White Hands this very turn. If you don't, that city will be permanently overrun and cause all sorts of problems for you.

So, maybe you really need the resources offered by that Mission Card. Are you going to risk spawning White Hands on that city? Or are you going to play the safer Mission Card that doesn't give you what you need?

Where are you going to spawn Art Pieces? When choosing a Mission Card, it's not just a choice between resources gained and White Hands spawned. You also need to consider the set collection aspect.

Maybe you really need a third Music icon to spawn an Art Piece in the Music city, but the Mission Card that gives you the Music icon requires too many resources. Are you going to sacrifice Health in place of those resources just to spawn the Art Piece? Or will you forego the Mission Card and hope for another Music icon next turn?

On some maps, you need to retrieve Art Pieces from cities in a certain order, which increases the importance of collecting the right sets at the right time. Skipping that MUsic icon this turn might be too risky. Maybe it's best that you play it right now despite the costs and consequences.

Movement is prohibitively expensive. Fuel might just be the most important resource in The A.R.T. Project. You need it to get around, and each movement by any player costs 1 Fuel. On some maps, moving costs a whopping 2 Fuel. That's quite a lot when you can only hold a maximum of 6 Fuel between all players.

On the Scandinavia map, moving along the white lines costs 1 Fuel but moving along the red lines costs 2 Fuel. If you aren't careful, you can run out of Fuel before you can do anything.

So, you really need to choose your movements wisely. The A.R.T. Project wants you to move around as a group to make combat easier (since you can combine your dice when you fight together), but prevents you from doing so by making Fuel so scarce.

You're simultaneously trying to put out fires (i.e., cities swarmed by White Hands) while trying to progress towards victory (i.e., retrieving Art Pieces), and you feel like you're pulled in every direction because everywhere demands your attention. You just don't have the Fuel to do it all.

Do you even want that Art Piece yet? Even when an Art Piece has been spawned in a city, you may not want to retrieve it right away. Why? Because whenever you collect an Art Piece, the difficulty of overcoming White Hands in combat increases.

At the start, you might only need to roll a 6 + the number of White hands on a city to defeat them. After retrieving an Art Piece, you might need to roll an 8 + the number of White Hands. After another Art Piece, you might need to roll a 12 + the number of White Hands. You can see where this is going!

The more Art Pieces you've retrieved, the higher the threat level grows. In this case, I now need to roll a 13 + the number of White Hands on a city in order to defeat them.

If a lot of cities are swarming with White Hands, you might want to hold off on retrieving Art Pieces until you can fight them off, otherwise you'll kick up the difficulty and endanger your own chances of success.

Are you going to let that city die? Maybe you're the type of player who likes living on the edge, in which case you might knowingly play a Mission Card that overruns a city just to secure a critical resource or set icon.

This city has been overrun and is now a Lost City, which means I can't move through it anymore.

This is usually a bad idea because the consequences are permanently debilitating (more on this below under the "Fun Factor" section), but the option does exist.

Luck Factor

Success in The A.R.T. Project hinges on luck and there's no way around it. Even on the easiest difficulty setting, you need a solid string of good luck to even have a chance at winning. Otherwise, you will be boned. I've lost games in as little as 15 minutes due to a nasty combo of card draws and dice rolls.

The Mission Cards are ruthless. Typically, the idea of "draw two and play one" is enough to mitigate the randomness of playing from the top of a deck. But in The A.R.T. Project, it's not enough. These cards are seriously brutal.

The problem is that there are just too many factors to consider when deciding which Mission Card you want to play. You need to be able to afford the costs, and it can't spawn White Hands on a swarmed city, and the resources gained need to be the right ones, and the set icons need to be useful.

But the worst factor is the cost to play cards. If you don't have the right resources for one, you have to play the other. If you don't have the resources for either card, you have to pick one and eat the costs as Health instead.

Sometimes you just get unlucky. Here, I've drawn two Mission Cards that each cost 3 resources. If our team doesn't have any Fuel or Guns, both of these options will cost me 3 Health to play.

If you're low on resources, the game can end in the blink of an eye. Draw two cards that each require three resources to play, but your team's supply is empty? Too bad. You're losing three Health now, which probably means you're dead.

To mitigate, you have to cooperate with teammates. Maybe they can play cards that will earn enough resources to let you play without being harmed! Which is nice in theory, but rarely plays out that way.

Instead, nobody ever has the perfect cards to give you what you need without harming themselves or making suboptimal plays that forego the other things you need to keep making progress as a team. Again, it's all about the luck of the draw.

The luck mitigation for dice combat is too expensive. From the very start of the game, the difficulty of winning dice combat is to roll a 6 + the number of White Hands on the city. Since every city starts with two White Hands, the base target for a successful combat is already an 8+.

If you go at it alone, you have almost no chance of winning. You'd have to roll a perfect 6 and spend a Gun resource to boost your roll by 2. If you roll a 4 or 5, you'd have to spend two Guns. And if you roll a 2 or 3? Three Guns.

But resources are so scarce in The A.R.T. Project (more on this below under the "Fun Factor" section) that you need to be judicious with Guns.

These black dice are Ally Dice that I've hired by paying Walkie Talkie resources.

So, the other option is to fight with allies, but that's also expensive. Bringing another player with you to every fight requires spending lots of Fuel, while hiring Ally Dice costs insane amounts of Walkie Talkies.

Every fight comes down to spending your precious resources to maximize your chances of rolling a success, but the cost is so prohibitive that you rarely have enough to secure a good chance of winning, let alone a guaranteed win—and even when you think you've mitigated well enough, a bad roll is still a bad roll.

Sometimes your rolls are just terrible—and if you re-roll, those re-rolls can be equally bad.

In the case of a bad roll, you have one last resort for success: to re-roll dice by throwing away progress on set collection, with each thrown-away set icon granting you the ability to re-roll one die. Yet, even here a bad re-roll is still a bad re-roll, and you're punished further with lost progress.

Fun Factor

I don't find The A.R.T. Project to be fun at all. It's not just a war of attrition and crisis management against the White Hands, but the difficulty is cranked so high (even on the easiest level) that you just feel hopeless at all times.

In most dice games, a successful dice roll is cause for celebration. You want to roll something good because you're going to get something good out of it—and when you do, you feel like you've made progress.

But in The A.R.T. Project, a successful dice roll looks more like a sigh of relief than enthusiastic cheering. You haven't gained anything; you've only postponed the inevitable. There are no emotional highs. It's stress and desperation.

I hate that resource gains are so stingy. Most Mission Cards have you trading in one or two resources for the same number of resources of a different kind. Other Mission Cards have you turning in three resources to gain one or two, which is a net loss.

In fact, I went through and counted the distribution of all 72 Mission Cards to see how they fare in terms of resource gains and losses:

  • Cards with -2 net loss: 1 (1%)
  • Cards with -1 net loss: 8 (11%)
  • Cards with no net gain or loss: 18 (25%)
  • Cards with +1 net gain: 23 (32%)
  • Cards with +2 net gain: 19 (26%)
  • Cards with +3 net gain: 3 (4%)

More than one-third of the Mission Cards either hinder resource management or provide no aid at all. Even if you do play a net-positive card, that progress can be canceled out by another player who plays a net-negative card.

This wouldn't be so bad if the resources themselves weren't so crucial to doing what you need to do to win. You need 1 Fuel per movement! You need 1 or 2 Guns to win combat on your own! You need tons of Walkie Talkies to hire a single Ally Die! Yet most of the time is spent converting them one to one, or otherwise inching up by one or two resources gained per round.

Which, again, wouldn't be so bad if there wasn't a strict timer on the game. The A.R.T. Project ends after ~60 Mission Cards have been drawn, which means about ~30 Mission Cards have been played. That's not a lot of time to build up resources, especially when so many of the cards are unhelpful.

The loss of a city is too punishing. Not only does it remove a potential spawn point for Art Pieces, it becomes impassable and potentially cuts off entire sections of the map. Losing a single city can make the game unwinnable.

On the Egypt map, a single Lost City will cut the map in half, making it impossible to reach certain cities.

Not just that, but these Lost Cities make the game permanently more difficult because any White Hands that get added to a Lost City end up increasing the global threat level of all remaining cities. Two White Hands on a Lost City will forever offset the power of a Gun token, making Guns that much more ineffective.

"Then don't play Mission Cards that add White Hands to Lost Cities!" As if my options weren't already limited enough by stingy resource gains and the need to collect icon sets, which are required if I want to spawn Art Pieces and progress the game.

No matter which card I play, I'm forced to spawn a White Hand on the Book City. Since the city is overrun, I have no choice but to permanently increase the global threat level and make the game harder.

No word of a lie, losing a city instantly makes a significant chunk of the Mission Deck unplayable. It's always better to play the other card—assuming you have the resources for it AND it doesn't also add White Hands to the same city.

The A.R.T. Project is hard enough without this kind of permanent increase to difficulty that happens part-way through. As far as I'm concerned, the moment you lose a city, you've already lost the game.

Most damning is the fact that the main goal of the game—to retrieve Art Pieces—is cause for despair. You often dread collecting that next Art Piece because you know it's only going to make the game harder, so even when you're making progress towards victory, it feels bad and burdensome.

I don't want to pick up this Art Piece yet because it's going to make future combats harder.

The A.R.T. Project is a discouraging slog, a frustrating grind, all without a climactic finish that would otherwise make the suffering worth it. If you ask me, The A.R.T. Project is atrociously difficult to the point of being unfun.


As far as pacing goes, I have few complaints.

The turn-to-turn flow is pretty smooth once you've nailed down the phases, and there's very little downtime. Everyone is simultaneously choosing between their Mission Cards at the same time and openly discussing which ones to play in which order, so you feel involved at all times.

Then, when it comes time to move and fight, it's all pretty quick to resolve. You add up the threat levels, then roll the dice. The results are easy to parse—you either win or lose—and then it's back to more Mission Cards.

The only thing I don't like is that the game can instantly end in an anticlimactic way, usually due to a bad card draw or series of bad dice rolls. (See above under the "Luck Factor" section for more on this.)

A full game takes about 45 to 60 minutes, but if you're like me and you lose all the time, expect that loss to occur somewhere around 20 to 25 minutes in.

Player Counts

The A.R.T. Project is essentially the same game at all player counts, but different challenges arise as you go from few players to more players.

At 1 or 2 players, you lack the flexibility to put out fires across the map. You're too weak on your own, so you'll need to travel together to have a fighting chance against White Hands. But that means spending twice as much Fuel all the time, so you'll have to prioritize the hiring of Ally Dice. Not easy since they're so expensive.

At 4+ players, the challenge shifts. You have broader coverage of the map, but you still lack the Fuel to move around willy-nilly. What ends up happening is people sit in their own cities and fight off the White Hands while trying to spawn Art Pieces. Unfortunately, you burn through Mission Cards at a faster rate, so you have fewer rounds to retrieve said Art Pieces. At 5 to 6 players, you need to be retrieving 1 to 2 Art Pieces every single round if you want to win.

Ultimately, The A.R.T. Project feels like it was designed for 3 players. (Supported by the fact that every example and illustration in the rulebook is for 3 players.) You don't burn through the Mission Deck as quickly and you have enough flexibility to cover the map and reach cities as needed.


The A.R.T. Project comes with three double-sided game boards, meaning you have six different maps on which to play. Each of these maps (except the starter one) has special rules that change how the game is played, and the changes really feel impactful. It's like you're getting six games in one.

But the core gameplay—of resource management and dice combat—is still the same, and it's still the same frustrating experience no matter the map.

If you like action point puzzle games and/or hand management puzzle games that ask you to make tough choices and be as efficient as you can be, you'll probably like this one. But only if you're also a masochist who doesn't mind games that are unsparingly hard. (I'm sure winning feels great. I've still yet to win.)

On the other hand, if you hate being at the mercy of luck, or if you hate the possibility of driving yourself into a corner with decisions made several rounds ago, you'll probably hate this one. The A.R.T. Project really is an unforgiving game that can only be won if everything goes your way.

For me, The A.R.T. Project is stressful, draining, and not fun. I was so impressed by the mechanisms and production on first play, but every subsequent play has made me dislike it more. With ten plays under my belt, the idea of playing it again fills me with dread—not because it's bad, but because I know it's futile.

Solo Mode

The A.R.T. Project has an official solo mode that plays pretty much the same way as the usual game but with some minor tweaks:

  • You start with twice as much Health.
  • You start with a Companion pawn who can move around the board independently of your pawn, but still requires Fuel to do so.
  • The Companion can't fight on their own, but they provide an extra die for combat if their pawn is in the same city as your pawn.
  • The Companion can collect Art Pieces, but only in empty cities.
  • The Mission Deck starts with 15 fewer cards.
  • Instead of drawing two Mission Cards and playing one, you draw three Mission Cards and play two.

The problem with The A.R.T. Project's solo mode is that you're basically playing as two players except with additional handicaps that hamstring your options:

  • The Companion pawn uses up your Fuel like a second player would, but doesn't have the capability to fight off White Hands. Sure, it can retrieve Art Pieces, but it's so rare for an Art Piece to appear in an empty city—that remains empty long enough for a pawn to get there—that this ability never comes into play.
  • As such, the Companion pawn is worthless unless it's following your main pawn to every city to help bolster combat. But with how expensive Fuel is, the Companion can't always follow you around. Then what good is it?
  • In the solo mode, you draw three Mission Cards and play two. As two players, you draw four Mission Cards and play two. In other words, your choices are significantly reduced and you're more prone to the swings of luck.

If the regular game is a frustrating test of endurance, then the solo mode is downright maddening. You'd be better off playing as two or three full players on your own since the resource pool is shared anyway.

But at that point, The A.R.T. Project is little more than an action efficiency puzzle since you lose out on the cooperative elements—and those cooperative elements are what make this game interesting. If you're just looking for a solo action efficiency puzzle, there are plenty of better games out there for that.

So, I absolutely can't recommend The A.R.T. Project as a solo game.

Production Quality

The production for The A.R.T. Project is downright incredible. Visually, everything about this game screams of a high-quality experience. You can tell that nothing was phoned in and there was serious attention to detail paid to every component.

The artwork by Vincent Dutrait is phenomenal. Everything from the box cover to the maps to the rulebook is just a feast for the eyes. The A.R.T. Project really captures the fun in its theme (reminiscent of stylish heist films).

The graphic design on the cards is intuitive. You read each card from top to bottom, resolving it one step at a time. Each step is clearly delineated and every aspect is easy to read and understand. Having the set icons on the bottoms and backs of each card is also a stroke of genius, making it easier to cooperative.

The resources have custom, unique shapes. Have you ever seen wooden hands like this in a board game? How about cubes painted to look like crates? Not to mention the Fuel, Guns, Walkie Talkies, and Health tokens. The A.R.T. Project has its own identity that shines through in its pieces.

The boards are double-sided and there are THREE of them. A game like this could've easily gotten away with a single map and called it a day, saving a lot of money in the process. For many games, making the board double-sided is itself a huge move. But The A.R.T. Project includes three boards for a total of six maps. Impressive!

The rulebook is thorough and easy to reference. Not only is the rulebook laid out in a manner that makes the gameplay easy to learn, but it even has tabs on the side that make it easy to reference the exact section you need to look up. If only every rulebook made it this easy!

The box size is unusual, but it fits everything and wastes no space. I don't usually like non-standard box sizes, but I can appreciate what The A.R.T. Project does by fitting everything in with no wasted space. And despite the non-standard box size, at least it's still a proper box that fits on the shelf without issue.

The Bottom Line

The A.R.T. Project

Mediocre Score Guide
  1. Incredibly high-quality production with fantastic table presence
  2. Packed with content, feels like having six games in one
  1. Insanely hard even on the easiest difficulty
  2. Stressful and frustrating gameplay of attrition and crisis management
  3. No emotional highs, just a steady stream of hopelessness
  4. Luck plays too much of a role in success (card draws and dice rolls)
  5. Game end is often abrupt and anticlimactic

Setting aside the top-notch production and interesting mechanisms, The A.R.T. Project is a painfully grueling experience that I don't enjoy. It's stressful, it's wearying, and I don't have any fond memories from any of my plays of it.

The A.R.T. Project is such a beautifully crafted game that I can't help but wish I liked more. Unfortunately, beneath the veneer is a gameplay that's underbaked and unbalanced, almost as if it hadn't been playtested.

There are some clever bits in here that make me look forward to what Florian Sirieix and Benoit Turpin will do next, but if we're talking about The A.R.T. Project, I know that I'm never playing it again and I can't recommend picking it up.

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