I can never be sure which Jeopardy categories are going to go well for me, but it seems as though there’s always at least one I know won’t go well: World Capitals. Legal Terms. The Old Testament. And in a way, that’s a central part of trivia games—they cast a wide net, so everyone is bound to have some blind spots. Virtuoso, on the other hand, concerns itself with a very specific subset of trivia, and, thus, a specific subset of players. This is the board game for anyone who pumps their fist when Trebek reads off a "Classical Music" category at the beginning of a round.
The board game was developed as a graduate project by Caleb Heisey, a graphic design student at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. It’s essentially a Trivial Pursuit-style affair. Players answer classical music trivia questions to proceed around an orchestra pit-shaped game board. But there are a few unique touches.
There’s the "audition," a rapid-fire lightning around, which the designer says is based on the real-life experience of moving up "chairs" in an orchestra. And then there are the dice, which are based on musical time signatures and beats per minute instead of the typical dots. Heisey’s not kidding when he says the game’s intended for those with "a firm understanding of basic music theory."
But even those who don’t know their Bach from their Brahms will have to admit that the game is a beautiful one. The graphic design student’s chops are evident in the game cards and in-box rules listing, and Heisey says he enlisted the help of some experts to make sure all the details were just right. "I have been in constant contact with a violin maker as well as a Japanese woodworker living in Philadelphia about [the game’s] materials," he explains. He borrowed from the visual language of pianos and violins throughout for a unified feel.
Heisey’s aware that Virtuoso isn’t likely to be the next Cranium, but he says he’s had a huge response from music buffs since he posted the project on his site. If anything, he sees Virtuoso making sense as a collector’s item, or even an educational tool, with classrooms stocking the game to get youngsters engaged in music theory. And hey, if the allure of timeless musical masterpieces isn’t enough, a board game is at least worth a shot.