Modern Art

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

If this review gives you a feeling of deja vu, that's only to be expected. This is the third version we've featured of the popular Reiner Knizia game Modern Art. We previously reviewed the CMON edition, which was released last year for the US and UK markets, and the appealing small box Oink edition, marketed in Germany. This is the same game but it's the edition published in Taiwan by GeGe Games.

Whereas other editions have featured the work of several different artists, this version focuses entirely on the work of just one artist: the prolific Taiwanese artist Chen Cheng-po (1895-1947), better known in the Far East than in the west.

As in the other versions of Modern Art, players each start the game with a hand of cards representing individual works of art. These are the works each player will be auctioning. Auctions are run in five different ways, with a symbol on each work indicating the type of auction through which that picture must be sold. The different types of auction add variety to the game. For example, some paintings are sold through an open auction, with players calling out bids; others are sold through a hidden auction, where players do not know who else is competing for ownership or how much they are prepared to pay. In every case, the auctioneer is able themselves to bid in the auction. If the auctioneer wins the bid, he has to pay the bank. If another player wins, their cash is paid to the auctioneer.

Important as the auction phase is to play, the strategy in Modern Art goes beyond merely trying to buy and sell individual works for the best price. That’s because there is a key element of hand management and set collection in this game. In other versions of Modern Art, each different artist forms a set : works of art are valued at the end of each round solely by ranking the artists according to the number of their works that were sold in that round. The values for these rankings are cumulative over the four rounds of the game but payments are only made by the bank for the three most popular artists; other works are deemed worthless. In this edition, the key difference is that sets are distinguished by the different styles of painting (still life; landscape; portrait etc). The sets can also be clearly distinguished by the different colour frames, which is handy as there are some paintings that could otherwise fit into more than one category.

As in the other versions of the game, the end of round valuation means that players will be deploying a degree of guile not merely to snag works at a decent price but also to try to push a category/frame colour into a better scoring position by getting more of their works sold in the round. Players’ hands are concealed, so we don’t know what the other players have for auction, and screens also conceal players’ money. Canny players can try to keep a mental note of how much cash each of their opponents has because that can directly affect how much they will be able to bid for a particular work. You’ll also find players making sneaky use of special ‘double auction’ cards that push out two works in the same category.

Like the Oink edition, GeGe's Taiwan edition of Modern Art scores over the CMON version of the game, both in the general appeal of its art and in its production values. Whereas the Oink edition squeezes its content into an implausibly small box, the box for the GeGe edition seems unnecessarily large. Aside from player screens and a board for scoring, it's the cards with the art on that are the main component. The cards in this edition are very high quality, and the money too is satisfying to use. There are no English rules in the box, but these can be readily downloaded.

This is a worthy edition of the game and it has the welcome added bonus of bringing the work of celebrated artist Chen Cheng-po to a wider audience.

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