In Modern Art the players represent gallery owners fighting over the most valuable paintings.
Each player receives a screen behind which they can hide their money. Everyone starts the game with $100k in ‘cash’, and a bunch of paintings, which are represented by cards. On a given turn, you place a painting (sometimes two) out for auction: other players will have a chance to buy the painting from you, or you may purchase the painting for yourself, in which case the cost goes into the ‘bank’. Then it’s the next player’s turn to do the same, and this process continues until the fifth painting of the same artist is revealed – at which point the round ends instantly.
But how much should you charge and/or bid for paintings? Well, that’s where it gets trickier. There are only five painters of the paintings, and only the three most popular painters will be worth anything when the round ends. The most popular paintings will be worth $30k in the first round, but potentially far more in subsequent rounds, as the value of popular artists will increase over the game. But – because you don’t know what the other players are going to auction – it’s hard to be certain whether a painting will be worth the most, or maybe nothing at all!
The whole game is fraught with risk-taking decisions – for as well as the buying/selling above, different paintings are auctioned in different ways: there’s an open auction (where everyone raises whenever they feel like it); a once-around-the-table auction, a sealed auction, and a fixed-price auction that will go to the first person (working clockwise around the table) who accepts the price.
The game plays over five rounds and the richest player after the fifth round wins.
It’s a quarter of a century old but Modern Art – outside of the graphics – doesn’t feel remotely dated. A clever game that encourages some multi-tasking sneakiness.
It's possible to see your painting collection go from most-valuable to worthless over the course of a round.
Everyone is involved in the auctions, so minimal fidgeting forecast.
There's no heavy load here in terms of rules; but like many of this designer's games, there is some depth to the decision-making.
Your starting hand and topped-up artworks are random, but what gives Modern Art it's variability is the fact a lot of it is played in the mind: if you have a group minded to, you can incorporate table-talk and bluffing and make the game even more combative.