Modern Art

Modern Art

RRP: £29.99
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Modern Art, Reiner Knizia’s classic high stakes art auction game, gets a modern makeover. The player controls a world class museum, with the chance to make a pretty penny by buying and selling masterpieces of modern art. Over the course of four rounds, each player will get a chance to auction off paintings. The more popular the artist, the more money you can make on a sale. There …
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Category Tags , SKU ZBG-CMNMDA001 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Simple Rules that can be taught and picked up quickly
  • Hidden resources make it difficult to tell who is winning so keeps everyone engaged
  • Different types of auctions help to prevent the game from becoming too repetitive
  • Clever scoring system means that there is more tactical depth than first appearances might lead you to believe
  • Lots of opportunities for player interaction

Might Not Like

  • If you don’t like Auction games, then this probably won’t change your mind
  • The random nature of the card distribution can be frustrating, especially in the last couple of rounds
  • Needs at least four players to shineThe Artwork is obviously very subjective. If you are into Botticelli, or even Bob Ross, then the modern works may be a bit of a turn-off
  • Ultimately the game stands or falls on the player interaction and everyone getting into the spirit of the game
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Description

Modern Art, Reiner Knizia’s classic high stakes art auction game, gets a modern makeover.
The player controls a world class museum, with the chance to make a pretty penny by buying and selling masterpieces of modern art. Over the course of four rounds, each player will get a chance to auction off paintings. The more popular the artist, the more money you can make on a sale. There are five different types of auctions to compete in, each requiring you to have a different skill set. The winner will be the one who has earned the most money for their museum. Having good taste is only half the battle. You need to approach each sale with a cutthroat attitude if you want to walk away the winner.
Player Count: 3-5
Time: 45 minutes
Age: 10+

Hammer Time

The term “classic” gets thrown around liberally in board gaming and it’s easy to be cynical in these days of re-released, overproduced deluxe editions and definitive collections. But “Modern Art“, from prolific designer Reiner Knizia, is definitely a contender for the title, both due to its age- it was released three decades ago- and how highly it is regarded by people within the hobby.

But old and influential doesn’t always translate to fun, as anyone who has ever read Nitchze will tell you. So is Modern Art still worth playing and does it hold up to the newer gaming kids on the block? Read on if you want to find out my feelings on the matter. Although full disclosure, I don’t know much about games. But I know what I like.

Overview: A Load Of Pollocks

Modern Art is an Auction card game for 3-5 players where players will try to outbid each other for cards representing the paintings of different artists in order to eventually sell them on for the most money. The game is played over four rounds. In the first, Players start with 10 random cards from a large deck of cards, each representing a work of art by one of five (real-life) Artists. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of any of them (I certainly hadn’t) as half of the rulebook is dedicated to biographical information on each one. Cool if you are interested but totally ok to ignore too if you prefer to get on with the game. The deck contains different amounts of paintings for each artist and is never fully used so there is always an element of uncertainty as to how many works will be available for each artist during the course of the game, something which is key to how the art will be valued later.

In each round players take turns to be the auctioneer, offering up one of the cards in their hand to the highest bidder. Everyone then bids using their secret stash of cash to win the auction, or abstain if they prefer, with the Auctioneer receiving the money from the winning player. The game continues like this over the four rounds and at the end, whoever reveals they have the most money is the winner.

So far so simple. There is some variety in gameplay as there are five different types of auction used so players could be bidding openly, in secret or in strict turn order, for example, depending on what Auction symbol is shown on each card. There are even double auctions where two pieces of art by the same artist can be won, however, the rules for each type are very straightforward. But as with most Reiner Knizia games, there is a twist to the scoring. In Modern Art, this comes with how each Artist’s paintings are valued at the end of the round and the majority of strategic decisions come from how players can influence this. It ensures that winning auctions and winning the game is by no means the same thing. In fact, a player who wins the most auctions may still be the overall loser at the end.

Bidding Your Money Goodbye

In each of the four rounds of Modern Art, players will offer up paintings in turn and bid on their cards until one artist has had five pieces of art put up for sale. At this point, the round ends with the fifth work of art unsold and the Artists are then ranked according to the number of their paintings offered for auction this round. The three most popular are then allocated prices for their individual paintings, with players receiving thirty, twenty or ten dollars for their paintings respectively. Although simplistic, this feels thematic, with the “hottest” artists’ work being valued highest.

The two artists who have sold the least are not valued and their paintings will be worth nothing this round. Players receive money from the bank depending on how many of the top three artists’ paintings they won. For example, a player who had won 3 paintings by the top artist would receive $90. A player who won one of the second-place artist’s works and two of the third would receive $40. Crucially, the amount paid for paintings during the auctions is irrelevant at this point so it is only at the end of the round that everyone finds out whether they have made a profit or taken a heavy loss. Hence Players need to balance how much they spend on paintings to ensure the artist remains popular and drive the price up at the end of the round, against how much they bid to secure the paintings from their rivals.

Art Is Transitory

The value of paintings will vary every time scoring occurs, with the top three artists being the only ones whose work will sell at the end, regardless of how popular they may have been previously (the art world is very fickle!). However, the total value for the top three Artists is still cumulative. Hence if in the third round the most popular Artist’s paintings will be worth $30 plus any amounts awarded for the previous two scoring rounds also. This means that the value placed on the various Artist’s paintings may increase greatly over the course of the game if they continue to be offered up for auction in large numbers. But if another upstart Artist suddenly becomes popular, the balance can shift and your prized collection suddenly becomes pretty worthless.

This means that while individual players have some control over their fate, ultimately it is the group who dictates which painters are valuable; so the game is as often about knowing when to hold on to paintings in your hand or when to sell them on the cheap to secure higher prices for later. And as with all Auction games, it is about playing the other players as well as the cards- trying to entice them into bidding wars on the works of art you offer for sale while scaring them off the pieces you want to keep for yourself… but not being too obvious about it! Players can make a lot of money for the paintings they put up for auction from their hand, but the real profit will be in ensuring the cards you won are worth something in the end.

How The Game Looks: Truth Beauty & Cardboard

Given that this is a game about Modern Art, it is no surprise that the cards are the star of the show here. Each card represents a real-life work of art and how appealing they are to you aesthetically will be a matter of personal taste, but the chances are that anyone with a passing interest in painting will find something they like in here. The other components are good quality and in keeping with the theme.

In an earlier iteration of the game, there was a little wooded mallet that came in the box however this has been replaced by a cardboard version. You can still bang it, and believe me, I do at every opportunity, but it is a little lacking in terms of sheer enjoyment. It probably makes sense to have downgraded this from the wooden version as it is unnecessary for the gameplay, and also potentially very annoying for other players in the wrong (ie my) hands. In any case, the cardboard version, and also the cardboard money chits in the game are all well-made and perfectly functional. The deck of cards is oversized to better see the artwork, but not so large as to make shuffling or dealing difficult. If I were to pick a fault here it is only that the box could have been significantly smaller and didn’t really need an insert, but it is a minor quibble.

Final Thoughts: Auction-Packed Fun

Modern Art, like all Auction games, is heavily reliant on the above-table atmosphere created by the players. The strategy and tactics lie mainly in how players will react and interact with each other over the course of the four rounds, and the most successful player is likely to be the one who understands their opponents and can manipulate the situation to their advantage, rather than in other games where the cards themselves may have specific powers, combos or synergies that one can learn over time. This means that the experience of playing the game will vary wildly depending on who you are with and the level of familiarity players have with auction games generally. To be honest this is one of the game’s strengths, as it ensures that while the more experienced player may have an advantage knowing the rules and different types of auctions, with every new set of players the main variables are altered and their previous strategies may not work. Even a veteran of the game is likely to be thrown off-guard by someone who plays in an erratic or unpredictable way, and this makes up for the at times repetitive game structure. It can also make for some of the game’s high points as players lock horns and form alliances, goad each other or wage mini-vendettas, and it is in these kinds of interactions where the game really sings.

By the same token, however, Modern Art also requires a certain amount of buy-in from the players, or it can fall a little flat. If one person isn’t feeling it or just doesn’t get the concept or simply loses interest it can bring the mood down and the rest of the game can be a slog. But in fairness, this is true of many games where social interaction is the main mechanism (for example social deduction games) and at least with Modern Art it isn’t usually a long game, so while not a filler by any means it should take around the hour mark to play for three players. That is not to say that games can’t last much longer but usually, that’s because when the players are carried away by the theme, the auctions become more chaotic, raucous affairs so there are unlikely to be too many complaints.

One final potential issue for some players is that while Modern Art will play at three players, it is clearly designed for higher player counts to get the full experience. I usually play at three players maximum and honestly, I think there are other games that will give a more consistent experience at that player count. On the rare occasions I have four people to play with? Then it’s a shoe-in for me.

With the right game group, then, Modern Art is every bit the classic that its reputation suggests and for players who enjoy their games with a large helping of bluff, bluster and inter-player sparring it will be a perfect lightweight experience. For me, though, Modern Art needs a higher player count than I can usually muster, and players who relish a more social rather than cerebral experience, to really get the most from the game.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Simple Rules that can be taught and picked up quickly
  • Hidden resources make it difficult to tell who is winning so keeps everyone engaged
  • Different types of auctions help to prevent the game from becoming too repetitive
  • Clever scoring system means that there is more tactical depth than first appearances might lead you to believe
  • Lots of opportunities for player interaction

Might not like

  • If you dont like Auction games, then this probably wont change your mind
  • The random nature of the card distribution can be frustrating, especially in the last couple of rounds
  • Needs at least four players to shineThe Artwork is obviously very subjective. If you are into Botticelli, or even Bob Ross, then the modern works may be a bit of a turn-off
  • Ultimately the game stands or falls on the player interaction and everyone getting into the spirit of the game