Instant Game Night Reviews: Canvas
“Is Canvas a good game to bring to game night?”
Year Published 2021
Designer Jeff Chin, Andrew Nerger
Artist Luan Huynh
Publisher Road To Infamy Games
Age Range 14+
Playing Time 30 Minutes
Canvas is a set collection game where players take on the role of painters competing in a grand art show. Over the course of the game, players will be creating three unique paintings by layering art cards and will earn "Best in Show" ribbons (points) based in the icons that are visible in their finished product.
Below you will find a brief summary of the game play along with our thoughts on whether or not Canvas is a good game to bring to your next game night get-together.
Please note: We do not intend this review to be a thorough explanation of the rules of a game or how to play. Rather, our reviews are aimed to provide you a basic overview of the game play along with our thoughts on how suitable a particular game is to bring to a game night with family or friends. If this is your first time reading an Instant Game Night review, please click here to read about our review format and rating system.
Players begin each game by placing a set of 4 scoring cards on the game mat. These scoring cards can be selected randomly or the rule book lists several suggested pairings depending upon the type of challenge your looking for. Each scoring card corresponds to a certain color of ribbon, which players will earn each time they meet the requirements. The requirements can be having your painting display all five colors or displaying 2 of a certain icon. There are a variety of scoring cards with many different requirements to make each game play a unique challenge.
In addition to the scoring cards, players will also take 3 sleeved background cards along with 4 inspiration tokens. The game play can then commence.
Players will take turns performing exactly one of two possible actions:
Take an art card: On the game mat there will be 4 art cards on display. Players may choose the far left art card (furthest from the deck box) for free. However, if they would like to select a card further to the right, they may do so by placing one of their inspiration tokens on each card from left to right until they come to the card they wish to select. In either case, once the player has selected a card, the remaining cards slide to the left and a new card is drawn from the deck box. If a player selects an art card which already have inspiration tokens placed on it, that player also takes those tokens into their supply along with the art card. Players may have a maximum of 5 art cards in their hand, at which point they will no longer be able to take more art cards.
Complete a painting: Once a player has at least 3 art cards in their hands they may instead choose to complete a painting. To do this, the player will take exactly three art cards from their hand and "layer" them on top of one of their background cards in any way they desire. This will result in the creation of a unique piece of artwork with a fun title and various visible icons. Once the player has decided how to layer their cards, they place them inside the sleeve and show the other players their finished masterpiece. After completing a painting, a player will receive ribbons according to which requirements their painting met. It is possible for a player to earn all 5 colors of ribbons with one painting and it is equally possible to earn multiple ribbons of the same color. The player should openly show others which ribbons they are collecting and why.
Players will continue taking turns, selecting art cards and completing paintings, until they have completed and scored three paintings. At this point, that player is out of the game until final scoring. Once all players have completed three paintings, the game ends.
To complete final scoring, players will count up the number of ribbons they have earned of each color and score the appropriate amount of points. The grey ribbons are always worth 2 points.
At the end of final scoring, the player with the most points is the winner. In the event of a tie, the player with the most inspiration tokens will be the winner.
Canvas is a beautiful game with simple mechanics that exudes a most relaxing vibe. Nothing about Canvas feels high stakes or stressful. You truly feel like a painter perfecting their masterpiece. You feel a tangible sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you complete a painting with just the right combination of icons. But even when you don't quite get the perfect combination of icons, you can still admire the unique piece of art you have created.
This game presents a low barrier to entry, beautiful artwork, and a theme that feels almost therapeutic. Canvas is a light game with enough strategic thought and strategy to appeal to a wide range of gamers. But mostly, it is just simple fun in a unique package that we would feel comfortable bringing out at just about any game night!
Our rating system:
G rabs your attention
E asy to play & teach
N ewbie friendly
G ood rulebook
H olds attention
! our experience
Canvas Rating Breakdown
Grabs Your Attention
Canvas has a great table presence with the unique clear art cards, ribbons, and inspiration tokens. And if like us you sprung for the mini wooden easels, this just adds the icing on the eye catching cake that is Canvas.
We were surprised at just how agile Canvas is. The game is so simple to set up and tear down, and what surprised us the most is how quickly the game flows. With only two possible actions to choose from, and only 4 art cards on display, the number of choices is limited and really helps to keep the game flowing. Of course it is possible to get analysis paralysis while layering cards for your painting, but by and large the gameplay is extremely smooth and quick.
We dare say there is no other board game quite like Canvas. The clear art cards that you layer to create unique works of art is such a novel concept and it is one that makes Canvas a game that is hard to forget once you've played.
Easy to Teach and Play
For reasons mentioned above,, Canvas is absolutely a breeze to teach and play. There are only two possible actions throughout the whole game and only four icons to keep track of. Even the most inexperienced board gamer will have no problem picking up the concepts of Canvas.
Canvas is very newbie friendly in that you only have two possible actions on any given turn. The icons can take a round or two to get used to but overall from gameplay to scoring, Canvas is extremely friendly to board game newbies.
We find Canvas to be fairly interactive between players, although at times it can feel a bit like multi-player solitaire when everyone is going through and selecting art cards. You really aren't paying much attention to what other players are doing aside from when they are taking the card that you really wanted! That is, until someone completes a painting. Usually in a game all players don't stop to appreciate another player's achievements, but in Canvas we find that every time a painting is completed, everyone stops what they are doing to admire the piece of art that was just created. And for this, we give Canvas half-credit for being interactive.
Good Rule Book
The rule book for Canvas is fairly short and succinct. We particularly like that it includes a lot of photos and scoring examples from the various icons, as this is the only bit of the game that can be a bit confusing. We thought the rule book did a good job of explaining the basic setup and game flow. The rulebook also has some fun extras, such as two unique solo modes, achievements you can unlock, and 9 different suggested scenarios of varying levels of scoring difficulty. These are great extra touches!
Canvas is a relatively short game with quick player turns. Because of this we don't foresee any issues with holding players' attention throughout the course of the game. When you aren't taking your turn, you are planning your next move and what type of icon and/or color you need to complete your next painting .We find Canvas fully engaging from start to finish!
We are torn on this one. While Canvas has beautiful artwork and an amazing concept of layering cards to create artwork, we don't find the theme to be very strong at all. The components certainly help (ribbons and art palates) and the game itself is very relaxing. But at the end of the day , we did not feel like master painters competing in an art festival. We don't think this hurts the overall experience of playing the game much at all, but it does have to be taken into account in the final rating of the game.
Finally it's time to tell you about our personal experiences with Canvas. So far we have only played solo and with 2 players, however, we have been blown away by the experience each time. This is a great game to play with a smaller more intimate group of players. We feel that if you played with 5 players you might find it frustrating to not be able to plan ahead, as most if not all of the art cards on display will have changed by the time your next turn comes around. But either way, the game is so quick and smooth that it will play well at any player count, including solo.
This game is a beautiful package and a high quality production. We do worry a bit about the long term durability of the clear art cards and whether fingerprints and stains will become an issue, but only time will tell. What we do know is that Canvas will always have a place on our shelf and we can guarantee it will make an appearance at quite a lot of our game nights with family, friends, and casual gamers! Score: 1/1