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Writer, EFL teacher, web developer, amateur chef, and gamer. When out of the classroom and offline, Jay is eating homemade tacos on his balcony while reading a rulebook. He enjoys his expat life in Taipei. 

Promenade KS Edition

Promenade KS Edition

Designer: Ta-Te Wu
Artist: Ta-Te Wu
Publisher: Sunrise Tornado Game Studio
Published: 2019
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 50-75 minutes

Late 19th Century. Paris, France. Avenue de Clichy. The famous Cafe Guerbois. On the right day, at the right time, between the bohemian chatter of the day and the rich smell of espresso, you could spot Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Bazille, Manet, Pissarro, or Cezanne in mad dialogs over the new controversial trend in the art world—Impressionism. One hundred years later on the other side of the world, artists sell their latest works along Santa Monica’s famous Third Street Promenade. Fifty years later, across the largest ocean, on a tiny island, Impressionist artist and board game designer, Ta-Te Wu designs a game that celebrates both the Third Street Promenade and the now much-celebrated art style of Impressionism.

Promenade is a 2-4 player economic deck building game the explores the fluctuating and ruthless economy of the art collector world. Players shrewdly manipulate the market value of Impressionist art by building and exhibiting their growing private art collection. Build a business. Exploit public demand. Ruthlessly outmaneuver opponents. Orchestrate your rise to power and prestige. In the world of art collecting, the gulf between prominence and destitution is a fine art. Welcome to Promenade.


Art

The graphic design of Promenade is bright, playful, and original. All the impressionist card art used for the game was painted by the designer himself. Ta-Te Wu not only designed the game Promenade; he did ALL the artwork himself as well. His work is impressive and inspiring. My personal favorites were the blue seaside pieces: Sailboat, Storm, and Lighthouse. Promenade, even, as a prototype has table presence. I often noticed players admiring the art while waiting for their turn. Bright and colorful games are always a breath of fresh air.


GRAPHIC DESIGN AND ART ARE NOT FINALIZED. THESE ARE PHOTOS OF A PROTOTYPE.


currency 3335.jpeg
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cropped from Cezanne’s “The Card Players”

cropped from Cezanne’s “The Card Players”

On your turn…

you’ll take 2 of 3 possible actions: haggle, acquire, or show. Players can take the same action twice.

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Haggle - Place one card from hand above the Action Slot of your player board, then draw two more cards from your draw pile. As this is a deck builder, whenever you need to draw but your draw pile is empty, simply shuffle your discard pile and create a new draw pile.

Acquire - Visit the promenade on the lower edge of the board. Purchase one card from one galerie. The cost of the card will be noted to the left of the Galerie’s name. Place the cards used for purchase and the recently acquired card above the Action Slot of your player board. If a second, third, or fourth, acquire action is taken, players can never acquire from a Galerie they had previously bought from that turn. After each acquire action taken, be sure to adjust the market value of the purchased art according to the Galerie’s market value.

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Show - Players place an art card from hand in one of the 7 exhibits of the museum. To do this, players must be able to pay the cost of the exhibit and be sure the exhibit has a demand for that particular style of art. Then adjust 5 things: (1) place the art card at the uppermost available slot in the exhibit, (2) place your meeple on the top right corner of your recently exhibited piece of art, (3) remove the demand token from the exhibit and place it on the VP pentagon adjacent to the card slot, (4) move your VP counter along the VP track, and (5) adjust the market value of the exhibited art according to the Exhibit’s market value.

At the end of your turn, if you have more than 5 cards at the end of your turn, then you must discard down to or below 5. Then, discard as many remaining cards from your hand as you wish, then draw up to five cards. You must begin your next turn with 5 cards in your hand if possible.

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There are two currency cards in the game—a $3 and a $5. Each $3 card has a special ability that can be triggered for the cost of removing the card from the game. The base game powers include: (3A) trash this card to acquire two art cards from the same Galerie with an $8 discount, (3B) trash this card to acquire a $5 card for free, and (3C) trash this card to exhibit one art card with an $8 discount. However, each art card is also a “currency card”. At the beginning of the game, all art cards are valued at $1. With each acquire and exhibit action, one style of art increases in value. When the market value goes up, ALL of those cards in the game go up in value. Therefore, you can acquire numerous seaside cards to drive up their value until each blue seaside card in your deck is worth $7. Now you’re playing with power!

Endgame

The game continues until one of three endgame conditions is triggered: (1) 12 or more paintings are exhibited in the museum, (2) the art card deck is depleted, or (3) any one market value reaches or exceeds 70. When the endgame is triggered, the current round is finished, and players begin tallying their scores. Players score from: (A) exhibiting paintings in the museum, (B) from any museum bonuses that apply, (C) all the art cards in their deck, and (D) all the currency cards in their deck. The player with the highest score wins Promenade!


cropped from Caillebotte’s “Les raboteurs”

cropped from Caillebotte’s “Les raboteurs”

Another Deck Builder?

In 2008, Dominion changed the world of board gaming with its revolutionary mechanic of deck building. Dominion flew off the shelves. It was, and still is, beloved by many gamers. Soon other deck builders began bombarding the gaming world: Thunderstone, Ascension, Quarriors!, Star Realms, Legendary, Eminent Domain, and much much more. The market became saturated, gamers got bored, and deck building earned its place in the designer’s tool kit as one of many mechanics to tinker with.

It must be asked. Another deck builder? Does Promenade offer anything new or exciting? Is it worth playing?

Yes. Yes. And HELL YES!

Promenade isn’t a deck builder; it’s set collection economy. Most deck builders focus on thinning your deck and making it more efficient—aka the Chapel Maneuver for those Dominion fans. Promenade asks players to fatten their decks and simply make them more consistent. Buy all the BLUE art in the game, exhibit a few, see each individual card raise in value, and your personal collection (your deck) will go from amateur collection to the Louvre. Imagine a game of Dominion where all the cards in your deck were copper but became gold and provinces throughout the game with each new copper card you bought, and each of those coppers became gold and provinces; that’s Promenade—a dangerous cocktail of money, art, and fame.

A third of your points should come from the value of your paintings alone. If you plan to Chapel away your deck, you will lose—every time. Promenade was the first deck builder I had played that didn’t feel like a standard deck builder. Most card games don’t have cards that change through the natural course of the game. Thunderstone explored this idea with leveling heroes, but it required an action and you could only level up twice. In Promenade, the paintings’ values are continually increasing and never decreasing. Your hands and your deck are only getting better and better, and your options of what you can do on each subsequent turn get better and better as well. Promenade has positive momentum in spades!


cropped from Degas’ “L’absinthe”

cropped from Degas’ “L’absinthe”

Negatives?

Fly the friendly skies with Megan Airlines

Fly the friendly skies with Megan Airlines

The art of Promenade is vibrant and evocative. The graphic design is not. I appreciate the decision of function over form; however, for a game that celebrates art, I was left with wanting more. This is most apparent in the currency cards. The graphic design is readable and functional, but it was far from inspiring. For all the effort put into the game, I would have preferred an image that evoked currency on the currency cards as opposed to an image that matched the color palatte. The paintings on the painting cards are excellent. They’re the focus of the painting cards and should be. The graphic design governing the borders felt like an afterthought. I love meeples as much as the next gamer, but having a meeple image on the card felt cheap and uninspired. Why use meeples? Why not something more art related—easels, paint jars, mixing boards, brushes in paint jars? The market board and player boards are hideous. They’re extremely functional and easy to read, but again, for a game that celebrates art, I was left with wanting more. Why not use a painter’s mixing board as your player board? Why not have the market board be a piece of art itself? Promenade gets its name from both the Renoir impressionist painting “La Promenade” and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. This then begs the question: Why use the French “Galerie” instead of the English “Gallery”? Why use Musée instead of Museum? The board has them all labeled as “Galerie” but the currency cards reference them as “Gallery”. The icon for increasing market value looks like it came from an airline company. I’m uncertain why an icon that revolves around art wasn’t used.

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Please understand that this is criticism on an element that has not been finalized and remember these images are from a prototype.


I loved the art of the game, but the graphic design, while extremely functional, felt unfocused and uninspiring. Hopefully, these issues will be addressed in the final version of the game.

Mechanically, I love this game. It scales really well from 2 to 4 players. It does not outstay its welcome. Two to three player games usually finish under an hour. Four-player games usually finishing in about 75 minutes—90 minutes if everyone’s new and has severe AP. The random end game goals and random hand setup really add to the re-playability and do change up gameplay and strategy a bit keeping each game fresh and exciting. After several playthroughs, I have been left with wanting a bit more—more endgame goals for more variety, more $3 cards with more special abilities, more impressionist art, and the inclusion of hidden personal goals for added strategy and balance. I am thrilled to report that these will all be included in the expansion, which will also be available through the Kickstarter campaign.


Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Final Thoughts

For many years, Modern Art has been the gold standard of art-themed games. Art-themed games would come and go, and whether or not they were different games mechanically, they would still be compared to Modern Art. In 2015, Vital Lacerda meticulously abstracted to great detail the complex world of art dealing in The Gallerist. A new standard had entered the world. Both are excellent games. However…

Promenade is now my go-to art-themed game. Promenade has all the savory and tense decisions from Modern Art without all the frustration and math from bidding and auctions. Gamers can dive into and explore the complex world of art dealing in under an hour without having to worry about all the mechanisms in The Gallerist. Promenade exists as a delightful in-between—not too complicated but deep and fast enough to keep the gaming atmosphere electrified and tense.

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The main criticism I have for Promenade is its graphic design. The Gallerist is a beast of a game, and many gamers shy away from it; however, despite its heaviness, The Gallerist does something that Promenade fails to do—it weaves a strong narrative. The game boards and player boards of Promenade feel a bit outdated—especially when we look at Alexandre Roche’s work on Troyes, Kyle Ferrin’s work on Root, Adrian Smith’s work on Blood Rage, or Ian O’Toole’s work on Nemo’s War. Each of those game boards, even without any tokens or cards on them, evoke a narrative of the game to come—a promise of high adventure.


Mechanically, I love Promenade. Its unique gameplay is fast, fun, and fascinating. If you’ve never played a deck builder before, it might take a game to fully wrap your head around Promenade. However, the game that awaits you afterward is as addictive as the gateway game that got you into the hobby.

Promenade is a game told in three acts. In Act 1, players are feverishly acquiring as much art as they can—all the while driving the price of art higher and higher. A dense cloud of tension clings in the air as each player’s economic engine gains more and more momentum.

Act 2 bursts on the board like wildfire as each player begins to populate the exhibits with their art. Exhibiting art in the museum not only trims your deck, making it more efficient, but it also dramatically increases the value of your personal collection of art in your deck. The increased market value for exhibiting art is borderline ridiculous. Art that was once valued at $1 each quickly escalates to $5. Before you know it, your street-side collection is now the Louvre.

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It’s then that the gears in your head come to a screeching halt. Welcome to Act 3. Players now begin heavily weighing each and every action. They glance at the end game goals, their discard pile, and their opponents. Who has been pushing Seascapes? Who has been pushing and acquiring abstracts? Animals are highly valued, so should I quickly buy some now before the game ends? Your mind becomes a whirlwind of paranoia and insecurity. Do you have enough time to ensure your victory?

Calculating everyone’s private collection of art, in the end, is riveting. Most gamers are shocked when they discover someone has scored over 50 points from their private collection alone. They cheer as the VP markers slowly inch forward with each end game goal. Will you inch far enough ahead, or will you once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?


Promenade is a deck builder and an economic game, but at the same time, it isn’t.


Promenade isn’t a deck builder; it’s set collection. Most deck builders focus on thinning your deck and making it more efficient—aka the Chapel Maneuver for those Dominion fans. Promenade asks players to fatten their decks. Each art card could be worth 1 to 7 VP by game’s end. The fatter your deck, the more points you’ll get at the end of the game. Why diet when there’s more art to consume?!

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Promenade isn’t an economic game; it’s a horse race. Art never goes down in value. It only goes up and up and up and up. Therefore, your private collection’s value only gets better through the course of the game; it never drops in value. You’ll see the value of your deck begin to skyrocket, but you’ll also care about who’s buying what as you don’t want to raise the value of your opponents’ decks. Sure, you could exhibit a red card from your collection, but you’ll also be increasing the market value of every red card in the game, and you know Jenny has at least 6 red cards already. Do you really want to help her? The economic engine behind Promenade reminds me of Camel Up. Players are wagering over a race, but can directly influence the performance of each and every camel. The economic momentum in Promenade is fast, addictive, and best of all, interactive.

Promenade scales well across all play counts and does not outstay its welcome. Most games take less than an hour; however, a 4-player game with all new players where one has severe AP could go as long as 90 minutes. The random end game goals and random hand setup really add to the re-playability and do change up gameplay and strategy a bit keeping each game fresh and exciting. The Kickstarter campaign will also offer an expansion. The expansion will include MORE end game goals, MORE $3 currency cards with MORE special abilities, PRIVATE goals for MORE strategy and balance, and MORE art!

Promenade is now LIVE on Kickstarter! Get your copy of one of the best art games on the market today. I know I will!


It’s hard to not shout “Chubby!” when exhibiting this adorable chubby guy.

It’s hard to not shout “Chubby!” when exhibiting this adorable chubby guy.

TL;DR

Gamer: Cardboard East STRONGLY recommends Promenade. It’s a deck builder that feels more like set collection. The market and economic engine make the game highly interactive as you are invested in your opponents’ turns. The random starting hand and the random endgame goals help add replay value to Promenade. The private goals and the multiple gold cards from the expansion add balance and even more replay value. Promenade feels unique and fun. The mechanics mirror the theme extremely well—better than most games. Promenade is now my go-to art themed game.
Family: Cardboard East STRONGLY recommends Promenade. I’m hesitant to recommend this game to gamers who haven’t played a deck builder as it may be just beyond their level; however, for those of you who have played Legendary or Dominion, I cannot recommend Promenade enough. It scales well from 2 to 4 and is playable with our younger gamers. My friend’s 10-year-old had no problem keeping up. Its unique gameplay makes it worthy of your shelf. Its strategic depth, fun factor, and theme make it worthy of staying on your shelf for years to come.
Party: Cardboard East does NOT recommend Promenade. Although I’m sure many art transactions across the world are done over alcohol; it may become too confusing for the inebriated mind. That being said, I have won a game or two over a mimosa… or two.

Barrage KS Edition

Barrage KS Edition