A Fake Artist Goes to New York
Time: ~5 minutes per round
Times Played: 25+
A Fake Artist Goes to New York is a social deduction game for parties of five to ten players that has players drawing the design that the Question Master (I have no idea why they’re called a Question Master and not a Gallerist or something more artsy) chooses for them. Due to the nature of this game, it will be image heavy so I’m warning you now.
The remaining players are given a tablet with either the item being drawn written on it or an x. If a player receives the x, they do not know what is being drawn and are tasked with going undetected and/or deciphering what the image is.
Each player is assigned a color and the pad of paper is shared among the group. Once the Question Master chooses the image and passes out the dry erase tabs, they choose any player to begin drawing. The Question Master will provide a context clue (say Zoo) for their clue (Lion) so players will at least have somewhat of an idea of what they’re drawing. Players make one mark (a continuous line of whatever length they’d like) before passing it to the next player. Each player will draw twice.
Once all players have made their drawings, the players will vote on the count of three on who they think the fake artist is. If the majority choose correctly, the fake artist reveals themselves and has the opportunity to guess the topic of the drawing. If the fake artist guesses correctly, the fake artist and the Question Master win. If they guess incorrectly, the real artists win. If the majority choose the wrong fake artist, the real fake artist and the Question Master win.
But I want to be honest. This is not a game about wins and losses. No one really cares. This is about drawing weird shit and seeing how it turns out. It’s one of the best party games I’ve ever played and I feel like that’s saying something. My group and I are big into party games, such as Codenames, Spyfall, Smack Talk Showdown, Cockroach Poker, Secret Hitler, Sheriff of Nottingham, Saboteur, Pictionary, and more and A Fake Artist Goes to New York hangs up there with any of them.
Unlike a Spyfall or Smack Talk Showdown, Fake Artist doesn’t require verbal cues or the ability to think of provoking questions or answers. No player is truly put on the spot as they can confidently add a line to a piece of paper even if they have no idea what they’re drawing. The stress that goes with being the spy is removed and there’s no pressure to perform like a wrestler (which is outside many peoples comfort zones). The same goes for games like Cockroach Poker, Secret Hitler, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Saboteur where players don’t need to bluff or deceive their friends. Unlike Pictionary, the pressure isn’t on them as a single illustrator. They’re adding one mark to a masterpiece being created by the group.
That drawing aspect results in a reduced stress that cannot be offered by any of the games previously mentioned. There is no speaking, no bluffing, no looking into another players eyes as a decision is made. Each artist, real or fake, just needs to put pen to paper. Players can talk and chat and banter about what’s being drawn, what drinks are being served, dinner plans, or what to play next and that ease just eliminates 99.9% of stress from players like a Lysol wipe does to bacteria.
But that’s not what sets Fake Artist apart from the rest of the games. We can all ask and answer questions. We can all attempt to bluff someone. But most of us are poor when it comes to drawing. Even if you are an actual grade A artist, you’re only contributing two lines to the illustration. We have friends that work in the art world or have painted canvasses that hang in peoples homes or are adept at painting miniatures but none of that matters when you’re adding two lines to a shared drawing. This fact lets players blend in regardless of their skill level and being bad, at drawing or interpreting, doesn’t necessarily make you the focal point of the coming witch hunt.
The strategy of this ‘game’ is that players don’t want to reveal too much or too little with each pen stroke. But the real fun begins when someone guesses the topic immediately by happenstance. We had the topic of “sailboat” be issued and the second artist, who happened to be the fake artist, took a guess and drew a boat as the object on the page. After that, it became complete pandemonium as players tried to figure out what they could add to this already completed masterpiece.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not a game that revolves around wins and losses but more about the artworks that are created. Sometimes, the group just clicks and you get a perfect recreation of Jurassic Park…
…other times the group loses all cohesion and you get an Aztec Fertility God (instead of a pregnant woman). The game is just fun due to the drawing and if anything, being bad at drawing makes the game even better as players try to decipher what the hell the image in front of them is.
Like most party games, A Fake Artist Goes to New York will depend entirely on the group playing it. I don’t think it’s as hard and fast a rule when compared to say Spyfall but this is another game where based off the concept alone you’ll know if your group will enjoy it or not. A bad Question Master/clue can also hinder gameplay but since rounds last all of five minutes, it’s not too much of a detriment. The inverse of that is also true where if the clue is too general, the game might be too easy.
I do think the game gets better after the first few plays. Players will spend some time trying to find that sweet spot between too much information and too little. I also think removing the context clue makes the game more fun. The game becomes much more imaginative when players receive their assignment with zero foreshadowing. That variant won’t be for every group but it’s one we won’t ever change. Another variant is when playing with a full nine or ten people is to introduce up to two fake artists. It adds some variety and laughs to the game.
As a game, I think A Fake Artist falls flat. Wins and losses don’t matter and it can be a little too easy to slip through the cracks as the Fake Artist. If you’re found out, I’d venture a guess that the drawing can be guessed around 70% of the time. There’s little to no strategy and the depth and competition is basically non-existent. As an activity however, it shines like the sun through your bedroom window at 6:15 in the morning on a Saturday. Each drawing creates a memory and in looking at the past drawings, I can remember who was what and what jokes were mentioned. Many party games create these moments and experiences that you’ll recall next time the game breaks out but none that I’ve played do it with the regularity of Fake Artist. Smack Talk Showdown for example has us roaring with laughter each time we play but we might only remember one promo per evening we break it out. Same goes for Spyfall and Secret Hitler. But Fake Artist? A memory is created and a story is waiting to be told with each pen stroke.
I have some issues with the components. The dry erase markers and small tabs for clues are great. They far surpass the markers from other dry erase games I’ve played (cough Captain Sonar cough) and the tabs are pretty smudge proof when sliding across the table. They’re also the perfect size for clues as players can’t make anything too outrageous or complicated as space won’t allow it. The paper is a great touch as well as it creates a lasting impression for the game and the give you plenty. I bought our copy used and there has to be around 100 sheets if not more. The box also neatly fits everything that the game has to offer and is the perfect size for transport. The small footprint makes this a game you can take and play pretty much anywhere.
But I have two problems. The first is minor. The pen caps don’t fit in the back of the pen and it’s infuriating. They look like they should and they initially slot in but as soon as you take your finger away, they fall apart. Second, and more importantly, I think the game is overpriced. This is something that can be easily recreated by anyone and with prices upwards of twenty dollars, I just don’t think the quality of the components (which are good) are worth that price tag. I have definitely gotten twenty dollars or more of value from it but should it cost the same as say, Tiny Epic Zombies? That’s where it loses me.
On the other hand, this game comes with excellent components, requires minimum real estate, is easy to teach, accommodates a large group of players, is compact, provides memories, and is more importantly, fun, so I guess for the price point the game is worth its list price.
A Fake Artist Goes to New York will have a soft spot in our heart for a long time as it’s the way we let our close friends know that we’re expecting our first child. The original plan was to give every player except one a tab with an ‘x’, where they would think they were the fake artist, and we gave one player (who we chose beforehand) to receive the clue “I’m Pregnant”. Thinking we were joking, the clue went right over the head of the real artist and they proceeded to draw a half circle to get the group going. What happened next is…well, see for yourself…
A Fake Artist Goes to New York should be a staple of a party game collection. It may not come out every time you’re hosting a group of five to ten people, but you’ll be so happy that you have it when that time arrives.