The Only Fake Artist in New York

New York? Those shades seem more like Miami to me.

Not too long ago, I wrote about a superb little ditty by the name of Spyfall, a game about asking questions in a vague yet informative manner so that one of the players — the SPY — would slip up and reveal themselves, while also ensuring that the other players wouldn’t jump to the conclusion you were the spy because your information was too wishy-washy. It was a tightrope social deduction game, simple enough that your curmudgeonly aunt could get along with it, but smart enough that the most jaded gamer would find something to love.

And now thanks to A Fake Artist Goes to New York, it’s back. In art form.

Mark my words, you'll see these in a museum someday. A roadside tourist trap museum, granted, but a museum nevertheless.


Describing A Fake Artist Goes to New York is uncannily like describing Spyfall. There’s a Question Master — who we call the “Curator,” since “Question Master” feels like a peccadillo of the game’s translation from Japanese — and everybody else at the table hands him their dry-erase boards, these cuter-than-your-beautiful-newborn-daughter objects that will make you tear up with joy when you see them. On each of these boards the Curator writes out what work of art he plans to commission. A honey badger, perhaps. Then he passes them back to their owners and announces the category. “Mammals,” maybe. Then one stroke at a time, each artist takes their colored pen and adds a single stroke to the group’s masterpiece.

Except one of the artists isn’t an artist at all. He’s a fake artist. Cue dramatic music. No, wait. An Inception horn.

When the art goes wild.

“Art after dark.”

It’s tough enough turning a piece of art, especially one as shoddy as anything I could create, into a labor of corporate effort. A pizza transforms into a scene from Pinocchio, except one from a parallel dimension where Pablo Picasso offed Walt Disney and has since assumed his identity. An ostrich neck, buried in the ground and seeming to you like a very clever visual cue, is perplexingly altered into a stumpy turtle leg. A pineapple starts to look uncannily like a hula dancer.

To be clear, this is the point of the game, because once everybody has made a couple additions to the picture, it’s time to vote the fake artist into the open. Even if the correct culprit is outed, she gets a chance to identify the picture, so being terrible at art can actually be a bit of a perk. If the fake artist guesses the correct subject matter or evades detection, she and the Curator win the round. Otherwise, all of the artists win. Repeat until satisfied.

Saying that this game is effortlessly smart is only half of it. It’s also adorable, quick, and rewards players who might not be as comfortable spinning lies on the fly — a must for success at Spyfall or any number of other social games. Here, you can let your pen do the talking. And I guarantee the after-game talk is memorable, everyone laughing about their artistic decisions and flubs. Recently, my platypus eggs were turned into chunky nub-legs, one of the best clues I’ve ever put together disappearing as the creature began to resemble a Pokemon.

Not pens. So gauche.

“Art-making equipment.”

Another perk is that it’s one of the most portable games I’ve ever played, brought to us from the same publisher behind Deep Sea Adventure, another game that can boast at fitting into your trousers without assuming you’re sporting cargo pants. You can finally say you’ve got a party in your pants and not sound like a total creep. Or, well, you still will, at least until you whip this baby out.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York is a brilliant little game, turning even all-thumbs art-rubes into master forgers, swingers of high society who draw in big confident swishes, persuading everyone around them that they’re definitely drawing a treasure chest even though they just made what looks like a bear outline. Or maybe they’ll slash a straight line through your koala’s otherwise adorable torso. Maybe it’s a spear. Bamboo. Yeah, bamboo.

Posted on August 10, 2015, in Board Game and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’m really digging this recent rush of columns, but boy is it hard to keep up on commenting! This looks fabulous, by the way. I can’t wait to give it a try. Spyfall is one of our favorite party games these days, but you’re spot on that some people just don’t make up compelling lies on the spot, so this might let them get involved in this sort of game without having to be quick on their feet.

  2. Oh my. I love this. I am going to become a silly artist immediately.

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