Review: Modern Art

The art world is a subject that has not been exploited much by the board game industry. Modern art shines gloriously from this vantage point, embracing the vicious world of art galleries and the painting trade in such a unique way that it seems almost real. Of course, the famous designer Reiner Knizia couldn’t hope for less. Modern art is actually a card game, with cards representing the paintings of five fictional artists: Nex, Bahut, Sadland, Darmoir, and Koriko, each with their own particular style of painting. The predominant mechanic in this game is auctions, which take place in many different ways and determine the popularity of painters. Let’s see the basic rules of the game:

The game lasts four rounds. At the beginning of the game, each player receives a number of cards (representing paintings) depending on the number of players and some money (essential to start any business!).

The amount of 100,000 euros / dollars is given to each player in the form of cardboard coins that are hidden during the game, behind each player’s screen.

Players are gallery owners who buy paintings and then sell them to the bank for a profit at the end of each round. Paintings are sold through auctions and there are five different ways to run an auction:

  • Open Auction – This is a typical auction where players can bid as many times as they want, the amount they want
  • Fixed price auction: The auctioneer announces the price he wants for the painting and asks the players in a clockwise direction if they are willing to give that amount to buy the painting. Whoever does it first gets the paint.
  • One Round Auction: Starting with the player to the left of the auctioneer and continuing clockwise, each player can bid an amount of money to buy the painting. The last to bid is the auctioneer. Each player has only one bidding opportunity.
  • Hidden auction: each player secretly chooses the amount of money he is willing to offer for the painting and hides it in his closed palm. Then all the players open their palms simultaneously, revealing the amount each has bid.
  • Double auction: This type of auction allows players to sell two paintings by the same painter in a single auction. If the player who started this auction is unwilling or unable to sell a second painting, the next clockwise player has the opportunity to offer a second painting, and so on. If another player, except the one who starts the auction, offers a second painting, he becomes an auctioneer and gets all the money from the sale.

In each round, players take turns clockwise, auctioning off a painting from their hand (or two in the case of double auctions). Each card has a special symbol that determines the type of auction that I must use to sell that painting. A player who puts a painting up for auction can also buy his own painting, in which case the money he pays will go directly to the bank. In all other cases, the money paid by the final bidder goes to the player who conducts the auction. When the fifth painting by the same artist is revealed to start an auction, the round ends immediately (without the painting actually going up for sale). The most successful painters are then determined, based on the number of paintings they have sold. The painter who has sold the most paintings for the round has a market value of 30,000, which means that each of his paintings will be sold to the bank for 30,000. The second has a value of 20,000 and the third 10,000. All other painters They get a market value of zero, which means that their paintings are worth nothing. There is a nice and convenient score board that helps keep track of the value of each painter. For each of the three most successful painters in the round, a market value token with the appropriate value (30,20,10) is placed on the scoreboard.

It should be noted that the value of the paintings of the three most successful artists in each round is cumulative. That means that it is the sum of the values ​​of all the previous rounds plus the one that has just finished. However, that is the case only for the top three painters. If a painter, although successful in previous rounds, is not very successful in the current round and falls to fourth place, the painter’s paintings are worthless for this round. It’s kind of sad, but the art world is so cruel! Today a king, tomorrow a beggar.

Once the values ​​have been determined, the players sell their paintings to the bank, then new paintings are distributed to the players and the next round begins. However, they also retain the remaining paintings from previous rounds. The game continues in the same way until four rounds are played, at which point the richest player is determined and announced as the winner.

Let’s go over our usual ranking system to talk about the aspects of a game that really matter:


There are many different editions of this game from Mayfair, Matagot, Pegasus, etc. In my opinion, the latest edition of Matagot is by far the best from a components point of view. The overall graphic design of the game has been really improved.

with beautiful colors and sophisticated graphics in every component, from the illustrious box art, to the player screens (each with a different art theme). The player screens conveniently describe the different types of auctions on the inside (player) side.

Considering that it is a game about art, this update makes the game much more attractive. As for the playing cards (which actually represent squares). Each painter has his own unique artistic style which makes the paintings more recognizable and actually gives the feeling of dealing with real paintings. At some point, you may find yourself favoring the artist whose paintings you like best, a strategy that probably won’t work, but you never know! It would be an interesting idea to present this game with real paintings by real artists. I suppose that would invoke copyright issues, but it would still be nice. Maybe a homemade version? The scoreboard is quite nice, made of hard cardboard and in the same colorful style as the rest of the game. The money is represented by the classic round cardboard coins, nothing special there. Each player’s screen is unique, with a cartoon image showing people inside an art gallery. Very good work! 9/10

How to Play:

Reiner Knizia, is a masterful designer with a doctorate in mathematics and a true understanding of economics. That is an asset that he has taken full advantage of, producing very balanced games. Modern Art It is one of the most distinctive examples of his work, showing how markets really work and could easily be used to teach children the principles of supply and demand. The more popular a painter is, the more people want to buy his work and the higher its value. However, this situation reaches a fever pitch, where supply decreases (because many paintings have already been sold) and the few paintings that appear at auction tend to sell at high prices because the value of the painters carries over to later rounds. In many cases, you will find yourself making more money selling paintings at high prices rather than buying and then selling to the bank. Different types of auction make the game more interesting. One thing to consider is when to choose one type of auction over another based on what you are trying to achieve at that point in the game. A well thought out game with an interesting theme that will likely keep you engaged for a long time, trying to refine your strategies and find the most profitable ways to manage your gallery. Your opponents progress by sabotaging the painters they promote. 8/10

Learning curve:

The rules of the game are quite simple, which makes Modern Art an ideal board game for the whole family. Like all great games, it is easy to learn but difficult to master, a goal that every designer seeks but rarely achieves. 8/10


There aren’t many board games that deal with the art world, which makes the game feel quite refreshing on its own. Reiner Knizia manages to create the atmosphere of buying and selling paintings, although the different types of auction do not seem very realistic. The game components enhance the theme in the best possible way with beautiful art flowing throughout the game. 8/10


Due to its depth of play, this game will make you want to play it over and over again. In addition to being fun, it is also a brain teaser and there are many different strategies to try, so it is not a game you don’t want to play. The length of the game is decent (around 45 – 60 minutes), neither too short nor too long, plus the fact that it can be easily taught to new players, which makes it quite playable. 7/10


Although cheap games are rarely much fun, this is probably one of the most party-friendly through the auction mechanics that always shake things up. If you are the convincing type, you could try to find interesting reasons to convince your friends to buy your paintings. They probably won’t bite, but you can always try. 6/10


  • Great work of art
  • Original theme
  • Easy rules
  • Depth of play


  • The different types of auctions are not very realistic.

Recommended for: Everyone, whether they like art or not. A must for auction game lovers!

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