Hidden away in the conscious of each person’s mind is an innate desire: to steal famous paintings from their friends, and give them phony lookalikes in return, right?
Dodgy Dealers gives you that chance. Even though this is all done through harmless card play, one might feel that exhilarating rush of pulling off a heist and securing victory. Side note: I’m not condoning art gallery robbery.
How to be a Hustler
Ah, yes. The elusive Contract Cards.
In Dodgy Dealers, players shuffle up and dish out a hand of five paintings from master artists, like Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Each artist has six paintings in the deck, each of which has three cards: two fakes, and the real painting.
Each player is given a contract card for one of the in-game artists. The player has the goal of obtaining four authentic paintings for their designated artist. Upon retrieval of the fourth, the game ends and you score points.
On a player’s turn, they have their own personal, face-down gallery in front of them. They may blind draw from the black market deck, take one of the face-up paintings from black market row, or look through the shipping or storage decks and draw a card (these consisting of discards from previous rounds). Upon drawing from anywhere, the player must discard one face-down painting from their gallery.
After each player has completed this phase, players may discuss trades on a one-to-one ratio (painting cards or contract cards). Players are encouraged to lie, be sneaky, reveal cards traded to the table, etc. After trades are concluded, if players chose not to draw previously, they may heist a painting from another player’s gallery. Once done, that player goes into hiding, withdrawing their gallery, and essentially skipping their next turn.
As mentioned, the game ends once a player has collected four authentic paintings from their contracted artist. Fake paintings are worth minus points, and authentic paintings from non-contracted artists are worth a few points each.
An example of all available authentic cards from Van Gogh.
It’s All about the Art
Now, I’m not totally enthralled by masterpiece paintings on cards. Why? Cards are tiny. Most times, the beauty of art is in the details, and you miss a lot of that on a tiny canvas. Card design is representative of paintings wrapped in shipping paper.
I would be remiss to mention the cool effect of the graphic design though. These painting cards are intended to simulate someone ripping off a brown paper strip to check the authenticity of the painting underneath. This is cool. In addition, the given contract cards are graphically wrapped up in an envelope with lots of scribbling underneath. One scribble in the mess is the name of the artist you are seeking paintings of.
So even though some of the artwork is obscured, the thematic graphic design is on point.
Give Me a Fake and I Swear I’ll Join a Different Game Group
An example of a player’s gallery.
Dodgy Dealers is mostly a social game. Players will bicker back-and-forth about how they picked a fake card on a heist. I laughed many times at the absurd trades I made with players. Through conversation, we would decide on trading a Monet for a Van Gogh, both with the guise of it potentially being authentic. Of course, I traded a fake, and when I received my “promised” card, it was also a fake. It’s these pointless trades that bring fun and excitement to the game.
I recognize games are inherently social. While Dodgy Dealers isn’t a social deduction game at heart, it definitely employs lots of “take that” mechanisms. You might discard the authentic Van Gogh your friend was trying to find, hoping it will get cycled through the discard piles, and eventually discarded from the game. Crummy of you, but it’s fun, right?
Another thing you can do is rearrange your gallery. This can only be done after trading and heists, and you have to remember to do it when you can. If you forget to do so, other players might take advantage and heist you. They do this because they know specifically which card to steal. It’s infuriating, but it’s easy to forget because you get caught up in table talk and playfully dishing out insults.
Who will Love Dodgy Dealers?
Exclusive look at the Leonardo DaVinci expansion pack!
From this regard, I find Dodgy Dealers to be a good game for friends who want to play something a step up from Cards Against Humanity, or Apples to Apples. It’s not complicated. It’s easy to teach. It also quickly develops a ridiculous meta between its players. For example: Wes never trades with anyone, or Steve heists every turn. The game becomes what you make it.
Dodgy Dealers isn’t necessarily the sort of game I personally would enjoy playing over and over again, but I think it has merits. It plays to a specific audience. I think it encourages lots of laughter and plenty of surprises as you lose out on trades, or pull a fake painting in a heist.
The Kickstarter will also unlock multiple expansion packs based on the reach of the pledge level. At the moment, these simply unlock additional artist decks to increase the variety in artwork and also allow for higher player counts (1 expansion pack = 1 player). I’m not sure the addition of more paintings and contract cards really do enough to boost the re-playability of the game, but I appreciate the catering to a higher player count. From my experience, Dodgy Dealers plays incredibly quickly at three players, and feels drawn out at five. I think this is because convincing and arguing trades take a lot of negotiating with more people at the table.
If you have a 3-8 man group, and you love trickery and laughter, Dodgy Dealers might be for you. It is a fun, light game for people who like quick gameplay, and don’t care for the strategic slogs. If you want a game with lots of complexity, this wouldn’t be on my list for you.
A copy of Dodgy Dealers and its expansion was provided by the publisher for a fair and honest review.
Chris enjoys the simple things in life, like teaching his wife the newest review game, looking up Ketogenic recipes, and playing 10 hour long indie games on Steam. If he's not thinking about the oil drum components from Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, playing Player Unknown: Battlegrounds with his college buddies, or dwelling on the release of Daredevil Season Three, he's probably shooting or editing video, because that's what he does for a living.
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