A little while back Big G Creative released Bob Ross the Art of Chill game. A set collection game that has you gathering art supplies (paints and brushes) to follow along painting some of his iconic paintings. You score points by finishing features of each painting which might include Happy Little Trees, Almighty Mountains, Wondrous Water, Charming Cabins or Fluffy Clouds. The whole game is licensed with original art and done with a wonderful small nod to the artist and his legacy. The graphic design is clean and effective allowing Bob’s art to really be the centerpiece for the whole game.
The Art of Chill just radiates good vibes from its spot varnished double exposure box lid and those good vibes keep coming as you unpack the box. There is a huge stack of Bob Ross paintings that tuck nicely into the supplied easel, a small Bob Ross dice, a graduated rainbow score track, player boards that are little paint pallets and to top everything off there is a little Bob meeple that I may just keep out to use in other games – Clank! In! Space! Perhaps. Another nice production job by Big G Creative who have put out a few other games with stellar production values (How to Rob a Bank and Shifty Eyed Spies are both great examples) except their card stock tends to be quite flimsy. The cards have a nice finish here but are a really thin card stock that detracts a little from the over all production. These cards will not stand up to abuse.
The game plays really smoothly and intuitively making it quick to teach and pick up. On your turn you roll the Bob dice and if you roll a Bob you reveal a card from the Bob deck that will usually have lasting effect until it is replaced by the next card, and you move the Bob meeple along the Track on the easel as he works on his painting. You may also roll one of the non Bob faces that will give you a small bonus for your turn.
Next you have 3 actions you can use and a total of 6 possibilities to choose from for each of your 3 actions. With those actions you are trying to gather the art supplies you need which will give you the paints and brushes you need to paint each feature represented on double use cards you can draft from a small market area. Each card has a type of brush and a paint color. You will place the cards on to your palettes to gather the sets of paint colors you need to finish each feature on the current painting and you will turn those in for points by using a brush from your hand that matches the one indicated with the set. There are also technique cards you can earn that will give you bonus points as you finish features as well.
There is very little to trip over in the rules. The language is very clear and concise. When we played we only ran into one small “grey area” and it was an easy one to parse as it fit the theme one way and made less sense the other.
The thing that was truly hilarious about this game for me though, and will be adjusted by a future house rule for comedy’s sake, is how tense this little game about relaxing gets. There was some serious stress packed into this lighthearted filler. There you are painting Happy Little Trees and Fluffy Clouds, hearing Bob’s soothing voice resonate round your head from fond memories while you are scoring points along the chill track, which advances from an angry red through to a chilled out blue giving you the impression that you are in a worthwhile art therapy session, trying to work through a few issues, but as the play goes on, and you miss some opportunities to score, and paintings get finished before you get your features done, the stress just piles up. Every time Bob finished a painting before everybody else somebody was bound to curse under their breath as they wasted an action washing paint from their palette that they no longer needed. Good times.
This game has huge novelty appeal and some solid, smooth game play to back it up. To be completely honest I don’t see the Art of Chill becoming a regular but it will definitely be placed prominently up on a shelf near the game table with that spot-gloss Bob grinning at the room, and it will get played whenever someone new spots it and inevitably becomes intrigued. I don’t think many people will turn it down. Of course we may well play with our house rule that the scoring track functions in reverse. With this variant you start out with your markers in the chill blue and by the end you are stressed out in the red from the Happy Little Tree paint-off.