Modern art is subject to opinion. And so is everything come to think of it. When I purchased Modern Art the Card Game, I expected it to be a condescend down version of Modern Art. The two games only share a theme and a designer it seems as the two games are totally different. I thought that was important to get out the way straight off to try and pre-warn anyone going into this game with the same notions.
But is Modern Art the Card Game one worthy of its own light? Instead of living in the shadow of its bigger brother? Let’s jump in and find out.
“The Greater The Artist, The Greater The Doubt” Robert Hughes
What is that I hear you say? “Is Dan finally using quotes as subtitles again? It’s been ages since he did that. I love when he does that.” Why yes, I am, and thank you for your kind words that I am totally not subjugating you to metaphorically and that are genuine, completely real words of encouragement that came out of your totally real human mouth. I needed that.
Anyways, the game. The game was not what I was expecting it to be. I think I already made that clear already. I don’t know why I thought it would be a condensed version of Modern Art, as it would essentially be the same game. And in that vein, what would be the point? What Modern Art the Card Game is, is a simple little market manipulation game. There are no bidding mechanisms in the game at all. A stark contrast to the Modern Art board game itself.
There are 5 artist cards that are always displayed during the game. These artist cards are used to house value tokens and award tokens. These tokens in turn will give you a value for what each of the artworks from each artist are worth (in points). The tokens remain in play during each of the four rounds. The award tokens are placed by players which will boost each artwork by the selected artist by 2 points. The value tokens are awarded based on the cards you decide to play. If (collectively) Marina Martins has the most artworks played, their artist card will receive a value token of 3. Then whichever artist has the second and third most will receive a value token of 2 and 1 respectively.
And that is how the market manipulation in the game works. Trying to decide whether to slam down all the cards of one artist to have that artist be worth more points in the future and trying to decide how many cards of that artist to hold back on from playing (as any unplaced cards carry over to following rounds) so that you can actually score bigger for them.
“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” Pablo Picasso
There are things that simply do not work in this game. Each set of artist cards has the same amount of ‘power’ cards distributed amongst them. These power cards allow you to do simple things such as draw an extra card, play an extra card, or place a value token etc. The problem is that these power cards are far and few between. And the powers they give you are not powerful enough to make a difference. There are 95 cards in the deck and only 30 of them do anything. I have played games of this before where no card in my starting hand of 13 were power cards.
The other main gripe I have with this game is the end of round trigger. In each round, a card is revealed from the top of the deck. The round ends when there has been collectively so many cards played of the same artist (colour) that was revealed from the deck. The problem is that you only get so many cards per round (decreases each round). This often means that games simply play out until you have placed all of your cards down to trigger the end of the round instead. This means that any kind of strategy or long-term plan goes out the window as you won’t get a chance to hold onto any cards for subsequent turns. The game as it is intended only actually works one out of ten games played.
There are 5 different artist/colours in the game. And two of them are yellow. WHY!? There are so many colours they could have chosen that are different from each other.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Thomas Merton
One thing that I do like about this game is the choice of artists included. The 5 artists represented in Modern Art the Card Game are all real artists, and each card in the deck is a piece of art that they have done. Each of the artists chosen have vastly different art styles and so they feel very distinct from each other. As much as I absolutely abhor the graffiti-esque pop punk style of TEC; there is no denying how much it contrasts to the black and white, immaculate line-work style of Nicolas Sanchez.
The rulebook even has a page on each of these artists that tell you a little about them. I thought this was a really nice little touch to really give them the credit they deserve. I also like the added touch that every edition of Modern Art and Modern Art the Card game features totally different artists.
The only way I could recommend Modern Art the Card Game is with a slight caveat: if you reduce the end of round trigger. Home rule the game so that you only need maybe 4 cards of the same artist, instead of 6 to trigger the end of the round. I would like to say it was just that my games were unfortunate with the shuffling, but I have even leant the game to fellow gamers who suffered the same issue.
If that is home ruled, then the game would work much better. It would even be fit for an introductory game into the mechanic of market manipulation.
So, all in all, some simple little tweaks would improve the game experience significantly, and let it play out as intended.