Michael Loth
3 - 7
9 - 199
InteractionComponents & Design

I admit, there are wide ranges of modern art I don’t get. If you put a piece of butter in a corner you shouldn’t complain when the cleaners remove it. And if you want to pass a picture of a trumpet as a masterpiece, at least write Ceci n’est pas une trompette below it. I don’t want to belittle the choice of artwork in Belratti, but if your paintings are realistic depictions of everyday objects then you don’t get to complain about forgeries.

[pullshow/]Art forgery is what Belratti by Michael Loth, winner of the Hippodice Game Contest, is about. The players in the cooperative party game are painters and curators. Curators ask for paintings to be made, the painters provide them. The famous forger Belratti smuggles his own works into the selection, and it’s on the curators to unmask his dastardly works.

Painting for Beginners – How to play Belratti

Belratti is a game for up to seven players, split into two roles: curators and painters. The roles change after every round, so you’ll experience both sides of the game. A round is very simple in theory, not so much in practice.

The curators draw two cards and place them face up on the table. The cards come from the same draw pile as the painters’ cards and give the topics of the two exhibitions starting soon. The curators now have to agree on a number of paintings to order from the painters. They may only talk about a total number, not how many for each topic, and the painters may not tell them how they think about that number.

Next, the painters play a total number of cards to match the curators’ order. They may not talk about specifics, only about their cards being a great, mediocre or bad match for the exhibitions. Those grades are highly subjective, because all cards only show a simple, everyday object. One topic of the exhibition might be a wooden plank. One painter might think a hammer and a screw are great matches with that because they are tools used to work with wood. Another player might place a mirror and a notebook because they are of a similar shape. And the curators might look at all those cards and decide that surely they must be the forgeries.

The Play-at-home Puzzle: which are the forgeries, which painting goes to which exhibition? (Click here for the solution)

The game is named after a successful forger, and Belratti will have his say. Before the curators look at the art the painters submitted they shuffle in four random cards from the draw pile. Then they not only have to tell the real paintings from the forgeries, they also have to correctly identify for which exhibition a painting was intended. At least for this part the curators can and should discuss as much as they want. Or until the painters get bored, because they are not involved in the discussion.

Then comes the big reveal. The painters identify their paintings and for which exhibition it was intended. Every card that ended up in the correct exhibition is a point for the team. Every forgery that made it to the exhibition is a point for Belratti. Real paintings in the wrong exhibition are no points for anyone.

The game ends when Belratti has six or more cards in his score pile. The players success is graded based on the number of correctly identified paintings, with nine or less being a complete disaster and thirty or more being godlike.

That’s never going to work

While this is all pretty straightforward, there is a strategic element that will make you think: Aid cards. There are four of them, two for the curators, two for the painters. The curators may reject one of the exhibition topics and replace it with a new card, and they may ask the painters if a painting card is one of theirs. The painters may modify the curators’ order and deliver one painting more or less, and one of them may replace his hand cards with new ones.

All aid cards can be used once, then they are turned face down and have to be recharged. Each of them shows a number from three to six on the back, and to recharge that card the players have to play a perfect round with that many orders – a perfect round being a round where all paintings were put into the correct exhibition.

Is it art or should I chuck it? Our Verdict

Belratti is a very simple game in theory. Even with the four different aid cards you won’t take five minutes to teach it. But between the many association games where you have to guess which image goes with which other image, Belratti stands out for being extra tough.

The Protagonists

With only one item depicted on each card and the painters having a very limited selection of cards you’ll have to make some rather tenuous connections. As in, the banana goes with the fish bones because of the German band Bananafishbones. [pullthis]It’s frustrating for everyone involved, but at the same time it’s extremely satisfying when you do get it right[/pullthis].

The game’s difficulty forces you to use the aid cards often, which in turn forces you to recharge them and ask for numbers of paintings that no one is really comfortable with. It’s a vicious circle, made worse by all cards having different recharge values.

With it’s singe-object painting cards Belratti looks much more plain than other image association games. Not ugly by any means, but plain. That will probably keep some fans of games like Dixit or Mysterium away. However, if you’re looking for a challenging game with an interesting strategic twist you should have a look.

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