Dexterity games have come a really long way in a relatively small amount of time. For a really long time there was only Kerplunk which could be put into this category and that lasted a good 30 years. However, since the advent of Jenga and the rise of children wanting to do their best Godzilla impressions on a tower of wood (or perhaps more shamefully full grown adults wanting to do their Incredible Hulk impressions… CHRIS SMASH!) there have been dexterity games crawling out of the woodwork all over the place it seems.
For me, I am quite happy about this fact. I love to throw a couple of hours into some pure escapism as much as the next person, but it’s really nice to find something like Flick ‘em Up or Garbage Day that you can sink as little time as you like into, and just mess around for a bit. It’s the gaming equivalent of putting your feet up on the sofa and kicking back for a while.
Junk Art struck a chord with me as soon as I saw it for some reason. In the partially famous words of someone (could be anyone) “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and thus Junk Art was born. It could also have had something to do with people like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin that people have started to question what can be made in to art, but someone has now made a game about it.
So was I right to be interested?
The premise of Junk Art is that you’re a bunch of… well, Artists which make sculptures out of Junk (see, Junk Art wasn’t just a clever title) and try and establish yourselves as renowned artists by going on a world tour. You get to choose where you go on your own world tour and each location will give each of the winning Junk Artists some fans of their work. The Junk Artist with the most fans at the end of the World Tour is the winner.
That in itself would be pretty bland, but each leg of the Junk Art World Tour has different winning conditions and you can even net yourself bonus fans if other conditions are met. Coupled with this variety is also the fact that you’re given 3 blank cards to make your own cities complete with your own rules to spice your game up your own way if you want to. It does also come with some cactus cards which can only be used if you have a copy of Flick ‘em Up, but I haven’t looked into what they’re for as yet.
Playing with your junk
What? It’s OK, we’ve all done it; there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
So what comes in the box? For starters: “Junk” with which to make your art from. You get 15 wooden pieces of assorted shapes in 4 colours; blue, green, orange and grey. These can vary from cylinder shapes to odd rhomboid and flower pot shapes. Each of these come with a corresponding Junk Art card which is used in each city.
You also get 6 black wooden bases which you need to start your Junk Art on for the majority of the cities and 2 bags of fan tokens. Black ones for 5 fans and white ones for 1 fan each. Oh yes, there’s also a tape measure to see how tall your junk is.
That’s actually it! But, what more do you think you would need?
One thing which is worth a mention at this point is that the box and the components are really well made with no mistakes. Not only that, the box it comes in is made from sturdy wood in a very similar way that the original Flick ’em Up was. It seems that Pretzel Games are more for quality than quantity when it comes to making their games and it’s really nice to see.
So what kind of things can you expect to do on the Junk Art World Tour?
Well, the recommended first 3 cities to use a Philadelphia, Paris and Monaco (that’s a pretty nice little tour in my book) and each of them has a different win condition:
In Monaco, you’re each dealt 10 Junk Art cards. You all need to form them into a pile and nominate someone to do a countdown and start the game. Once you have started you need to flip your top Junk Art card, find the corresponding piece of junk and build something with it. Once the first card is drawn you no longer have to wait for the other players and the first one to build something out of all 10 of their junk pieces is the winner. In Monaco, everyone gets to score fans depending on how large their structure was when the winner finished and there’s a bonus fan up for grabs for the person which built the tallest structure.
In Philadelphia, you’re all dealt 3 Junk Art cards and you have to choose one and pass the others off in a draft. When you have your “final” 3 Junk Art cards you need to construct something out of them on your base. Once you have done so, you do another draft and follow the same steps. The first player to drop 2 pieces from their sculpture is eliminated and then the rest of the artists continue to duke it out until there’s one artist left standing.
Paris turns the whole game on it’s head. Instead of having a base each, you have a communal base in the middle of all of the players. Also each Junk Artist receives 3 Junk Art cards. Instead of using your cards for your own Junk Art structure you have to give a card to the next player in the turn order, and they have to build it on whatever the structure looks like currently. Great if you’re the first player to try it, but much more troublesome the further you go on. The first person to lose 3 pieces off of their Junk Art structure loses and the surviving artists get 3 fans each.
You can find a full list of the cities in the game as well as the win and play conditions in the rule book, which can be found here.
One for the collection, or one for the Junk Pile?
There is something tremendously captivating about Junk Art. OK, it’s a game for all of the family and even little ones can play (assuming you’re not fussed about them playing by the rules and then smashing their work of art to pieces of course), but every single person I have introduced to it has really liked it. But why?
There’s a sense of achievement to getting these structures completed and having them look good. Especially in cities such as Monaco where you’re all racing to complete your sculptures before anyone else to net the biggest amount of fans, it can bring out the bad in people… but that in itself speaks volumes for Junk Art. We all really got into it!
The idea of the World Tour is also a great one. They recommend that you start off with 3 stops and if you are playing with children, then that probably is the sweet spot as it saves them getting bored. However, for me I find that 5 or 6 rounds is much better. Even with that many stops on the tour, Junk Art still only lasts around 45-60 minutes- and that flies by! If you’re drawing your World Tour stops at random, it adds another facet to the game that just keeps everything fresh and exciting. Even if you don’t want to play any of the World Tour stages then you can just lark about and try and build something that looks awesome, or compete to build the tallest structure, or even make a drinking game out of who loses pieces first. Also, after a few drinks you could also try and find out which is more wobbly; the player or the sculpture.
Although I really really wanted to play it, Junk Art has been a really nice surprise for me. As we all know, expectancy can really ruin a game and it’s really refreshing for this not to have happened when I have actually managed to get my grubby little hands on it.
Who is Junk Art for?
I don’t believe I have ever said this about any game I have reviewed, but….. Everybody. Anybody and everybody can play Junk Art. Old or young, it doesn’t really matter. It is good old fashioned fun to play.
Obviously, if you’re looking for a heavily thematic game, this could be it but there’s not much more to it than being a Junk Artist and trying to make your sculptures look cool. However, I think Junk Art would make a fantastic Gateway Game.
The only downside that I can really put forward for Junk Art is the price point. It’s certainly not the cheapest of games to go for, but you’re definitely paying for the quality. Wood in games is not cheap and Pretzel Games tend to splash out on it a lot and sadly that has to be made up somewhere. If you know this from the outset though, it takes a bit of the sting out of your wallet come checkout time.
I love Junk Art and if you think it might be for you (it really is) then you can pick up a copy here:
If you’re wondering what (likely wooden) wonders are on the cards next from Pretzel Games then check out their site here:
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.