Thoughts On: Fresco

Posted by James (admin) on October 11th, 2010

(With Spiel in Essen only just over one week away, there are so many games I’ve played this year that I have still yet to review.  Always so many reviews, so little time.  Rather than let my thoughts gather dust during the on-coming mass of reviews of new games, I’m going to post some ‘Thoughts On’ articles over the next few days.  First up, Fresco.)

In Fresco, players buy and mix paint colours so they can paint the cathedral ceiling to earn points.   The main game mechanic is a worker placement game but there are some clever twists.  At the start of a turn, each player places one of their workers to determine turn order by saying when their workers will get up to start work.  Going (getting up) early is good because you get the first pick of the paints to buy and have first chance to paint sections of the cathedral which makes them unavailable to other players.  However, going (getting up) early is bad because the paints at the market cost a lot more, plus the workers become less happy (which can mean one may go on strike next turn).  This is an excellent balance and I find it’s the most fun decision-making part of the game as you (and the other players) struggle to decide which position in the turn order would be best.

Each round, players secretly commit where their workers will be assigned by placing them on a board behind their screen.  The worker boards are then revealed simultaneously and each action (buy paint, etc.) is resolved.  This works really well, plus – as with all good worker placement games – you rarely have enough workers to do everything you want.

You can send workers to the theatre (they don’t do anything else productive that turn) which is a humorous touch but which integrates well into the gameplay too as the theatre boosts worker morale and a happy crew of workers gains you a temporary extra worker to use (and avoids one going on strike).

Publisher Queen Games produce some great quality games and Fresco’s physical quality is reassuringly high.  The wooden pieces are  colourful and the board looks great.

On the downsides, planning which paints you need to fulfil the requirements of the tiles (which score you points) is quite difficult because you don’t have much knowledge of what paints other players currently have.  Planning which paints you can buy at the market (as the supply is limited each turn) is easier because it primarily relies on turn order; but, once you get to the painting of the cathedral, it’s hard to know what will paints will be needed because other players may have completed the tiles ou were hoping to.  I end up sort of guessing which paints I need and try to keep my options open but I wish there was a bit more knowledge in that section.  Also, without this knowledge, getting the foreman’s piece moved to near the tile you just completed so you can score bonus points feels more luck than judgement.

Overall, I like Fresco – I’m not sure I have enough information to make all the decisions I need so I feel some is a little left to chance, but there are some good decisions to be made and it plays easily and quickly.  I’ve only played the basic game and want to play it with all three expansions that come with the game as I have heard that they add more meat.


[Played with 3 players and 4 players]

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