Your dream is to become a famous painter and no matter what happens, you’re sticking to that dream. Even if you barely have any paint left, even if you almost starve, you’ll keep painting until the end. The life of an artist is hard after-all, but worth it. Your works of art will be remembered through the ages. So get as much paint as you can, make sure to eat once in a while, and paint more canvases than anybody else. Make your dream come true.
Set collection, resource management
Number of Players
1-4, but 3 or 4 is best.
In the solo variant, you only use 35 of the canvases and basically have a race to see how many canvases you can paint without starving. You get scored by how many you completed to see how you rank.
30-60 minutes. With less players it will go faster, but even with 4 players it never seemed to take a full hour.
There’s not much down time in Starving Artists unless other players can’t decide what they want to do. Even then, since there aren’t many in depth options, it won’t take long to get back to your turn. Plus, you’ll probably be using that short down time to think about possible actions to do.
How Does it Play
When I first saw Starving Artists, I assumed it would be a mediocre little filler game. I was definitely wrong. Not only are the paintings beautiful, but the mechanics flow naturally and all seem to fit into the starving artist theme.
Each round is considered one day in the life of an artist and during that day you can complete two actions and one potential free action. For the most part you just choose to gather paint, buy a canvas, or paint a canvas. At the end of the round, any of the players can sell their completed paintings if they want. Selling potentially gets you victory points, food, and paint cubes depending on how much the painting is worth. Then, you lower your food by one when you start the next round. If you don’t have any food left, you starve.
It’s a pretty simple game, but there is strategy to it for sure. Choosing when to sell a painting is probably the most impactful strategic decision you’ll make. This is because the paint cubes you gain from selling a painting come from the paint market, which gets fairly empty at times, especially if you’re playing with the full 4 players. You’ll also have to share those cubes with anyone else who’s selling that round, which will lower the number of cubes you’d get even more. You never have to sell unless you’re going to starve, so make sure you wait until you have the most to gain.
Painting has some strategy to it as well. You can have more than one painting that you’re working on at a time, which is beneficial to maximize your paint action. Each time you paint, you can paint up to four squares total spread across any of your canvases. Don’t waste that turn only painting one or two squares since there are other actions that might benefit you more, like drawing more paint cubes or buying another canvas. Unless of course, you’re about to starve. There are also some squares that have two different colors, which opens you up to more choices as well as a wild paint color.
There are two different ways to win Starving Artists so you can focus on different play styles if you want. The first way to win is getting to a certain number of victory points, which you get from selling paintings worth points. The other way is to just get to a certain number of sold paintings, even if they’re worth 0 points. Technically, even if you starve you can still actually win if you have the most points and neither of the win conditions were met by anybody else.
There are only a few actions you can make each turn and none of them are complex. There are even decent rules for junior players if you want an easier game or are playing with kids.
There aren’t many pieces to this game, but all of the pieces it does have are of great quality. The canvas cards are thick enough that they don’t feel flimsy at all and the artwork is fantastic since they’re of actual famous paintings and other works of art. They’re also a nice size.
Side note: I own a large tapestry of “The Accolade” pictured above, which made this game even cooler for me. It was such a nice surprise to find one of my favorite paintings in this game. I’m guessing a lot of people have felt that way too when they see art they recognize, meaning this game can connect to people in a way a lot of other games can’t.
The player’s studio cards have a nice summary of the rules and are of the same quality as the canvas cards. The rules are translated into German on the back, as well. Also, they have neat little fruit tokens to keep track of your food levels to see if you’re starving or not. Each player gets one for their nutrition level and one for the scoring track.
The tiny colored cubes used to paint with are great looking. Maybe I just like shiny gems, but they really make the paintings look great once you add these cubes on top. They’re so colorful, but this picture doesn’t do them justice unfortunately, they’re much brighter than this. They come in a nice bag too.
Just a note, the rules do have a section for colorblind players, but it would still require a person who wasn’t colorblind to initially sort the cubes.
The box is small, which is nice when you want to bring it places, and everything fits in nicely. The inside of the lid has the scoring track and some rules printed on it.
Set collection games often feel like they could be just about any theme and still work, but this one has rules that really make you feel like a starving artist. So many of my decisions involved how to make sure I wouldn’t starve. Also, the colored cubes often match the color on the painting really well so when you’re adding them on top, I can actually consider it a bit like painting. The rules call it “paint-by-cube”, which is a neat play on paint-by-numbers.
There are a lot of art cards in Starving Artists and even after playing multiple times, I don’t think I’ve even seen half of them.
This isn’t a rule or mechanic, but my favorite part is all the paint cubes. They just look so nice.
Least Favorite Part
I don’t like that once one person starves, the rest of the players only have one more round before the game abruptly ends. I don’t like the game ending that way since it feels like a letdown and if I win, it feels like I won by chance.
Thankfully, there’s an optional rule called last supper that allows a player who’s about to starve to discard a completed painting for food. This not only prevents a lot of people from starving, but it also feels thematically accurate. An artist could give away a fantastic painting just for a meal if they were hungry enough.
For the colored set collection aspect of the game, not the theme, this reminds me of Ticket to Ride.
None, but the game company is selling a game mat for the paint market and canvases that looks great.
The Bottom Line
It’s a quick game without much complexity, but it’s really fun anyway. Sometimes all I want is a simple, but really fun game, and Starving Artists fills that perfectly.
This section is for confusing rules. Basically, if I had to look a strange rule up, I’d rather make it easier on anyone reading this and list it here. I apologize if I’m wrong on any of them, please feel free to correct me.
Fairway 3 Games has a FAQ for Starving Artists that you can find here: https://www.fairway3games.com/starving-artists/rules-frequently-asked-questions/
Going over 5 nutrition: On page 6, “Immediately take four paint cubes for each extra food.” The rules don’t specify, but you should take these extra cubes randomly from the bag, not from the market. The creators answered this on boardgamegeek. https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1723366/extra-food-cubes-come-bag-or-market
Starving: If one player starves, the other players have one more day to complete their work before the game ends.
Also, on page 8, “if someone does starve, and neither the painting nor point objectives were met, then the player with the highest point score wins. The winner could be the player who starved.”
Last Supper Optional Rule: On page 8, “If you would otherwise starve at the start of the next turn, you may discard one completed painting and raise your nutrition level by that painting’s star value. The painting does not count as completed for end game purposes.”
The rules didn’t specify, but this means that you also have to remove any victory points you gained from completing that painting and lower your token on the scoring track. The creators answered this on boardgamegeek. https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1724638/last-supper-optional-rule