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Subject: Reviews from the Berkeley Board Gamers #4: Modern Art rss

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Berkeley Board Gamers
United States
Berkeley
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The Berkeley Board Gamers are a group of gamers who meet as often as 2-3 times a week for game nights held in downtown Berkeley, California. Many of our regulars are also BoardGameGeek members and represent gamers of many different stripes. Some are hardcore euro-snoots, loose-cannon Ameritrashers, elegant abstracters, light card gamers, counter-pushing grognards, social party gamers and everything in between. These reviews are presented as a list of short commentaries from these members who have all have played the game multiple times and with multiple opponents as well as each other in our somewhat tight-knit but still public group.

Other reviews in this series
#1 Dixit
#2 Tales of the Arabian Nights
#3 Snow Tails
#4 Modern Art
#5 Tichu
#6 Small World
#7 Automobile
#8 Prophecy
#9 Mall of Horror
#10 Stephensons Rocket
#11 Piece o' Cake
#12 Imperial 2030

Modern Art

Summary: In Modern Art, each player takes on the role of an Art Dealer working for various galleries from around the world. Each player in turn holds an auction of a new, potenially hot, and hopefully successful, young artist. All the other players in turn attend these auctions trying to buy various pieces to be displayed in our galleries. Based on what we purchase and what we choose to put up for auction we are all trying to manipulate the market to make the artist(s) we support, the most popular and therefore the most profitable.

Reviews:

1. Gabe

Gabe Alvaro
United States
Berkeley
California
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Modern Art is just a great pure auction game. With 4 different types of auctions its hard to beat. Any gamer who strives to represent a wide variety of games in his collection should have this. I would play this with experienced gamers or casual gamers, but beware of both in the same game. The game can be thrown off by crazy bidding, which can turn off some people. Rating: 8/10

2. David F

David F
United States
Emeryville
California
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Whether you think you'll love or hate it, you owe it to yourself to try this game. Modern Art is one of the milestones of board gaming, and it holds up well even to this day. It is a true economic game, where you attempt to manipulate and leverage demand, implicitly cooperate with players (preferably the last-place player), then twist a knife in their back. It might seem upon your first couple of plays that you can't do much and you're just along for the ride, but once you learn to use everything in your toolbox, this becomes a giant exercise in manipulation, of demand, values and alliances. There is no other economic game that matches it for simple elegance.

Be warned that you might really hate this game after your first play due to the strategic subtlety. I, and almost everybody I know who loves this game, wasn't impressed at all after my first play.

10/10 (7 plays)

3. David C.

David Cantrell
United States
Berkeley
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Modern Art is, in my opinion, the essence of a minimalist auction game. The game is easy to teach and the mechanics aren't difficult to understand (with the exception of combining previous placings to the total only if the artist places in the top three that round) and it all fits in well with the simple theme. Every type of basic auction is represented and used, and there's a nice dynamic of hand management and player manipulation to consider on your turns.

The main problems I have with the game is that it may be too simple/subtle so that there aren't any safeguards against some problems. Once player can spoil the game or play kingmaker by bidding horribly. There's also a decent amount of luck involved with the cards that you draw.

Overall I love Modern Art for what it is, a simple pure bidding game. 9/10

4. Paul

Paul
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Berkeley
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One of my favorite Reiner Knizia games. One of the best auction games in my opinion. Trying to manipulate the placings of each artist while still managing your hand for auctions in future seasons is just a tough balancing act. Though it is one of Knizia's first games, it surely withstands the test of time. What puts it over the top for me has to be the theme. How many times have we heard someone say, "Hey, my 5 year old could paint that!" in reference to abstract art these days? Here's a game that embodies the fact that, some things only have value because we assign it value, rather arbitrarily! We all know that the good doctor often has games with pasted on themes as well, but the fact that this theme is rather arbitrarily pasted on actually adds to the game as oppose to detracts from it. In the game we try to assign value to certain things for profit, just like in real life. There is something so delicious about a game that can imitate life so perfectly!

5. Jeffery

Jeffery Bowling
United States
San Francisco
California
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Modern Art is one of those games that after 30+ plays I am still not sure I like it. This game to me defines what group think is in a game. Depending on how people play the optimal strategy can be very different. But perhaps my biggest issue from preventing me from loving this game is that one poor bid by someone can give the game away. And since I generally play this game with at least one beginner player, it seems all too often that this game is decided by one bad bid.

6. Deniz

D E
United States
San Francisco
California
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Modern Art is a great valuation game. Unlike some of Knizia's other games, I feel the theme is perfect, as it's an auction game where the pieces have no inherent value other than what people assign them. The groupthink aspect is interesting, and it's fun to try and manipulate it, but sometimes I feel that you are very limited by your hand, if you are "left out" of the group mindset. There is almost no way to force what you want into the market, unless you start early in a season. Even then the accumulation from previous seasons could trump you in the eyes of the other players. I tend to enjoy the game any time I play however, and although newer players can upset the dynamics a bit (over- or under-valuing consistently), it's easy to learn and generally avoids becoming stale over time.

7. Donna

Donna Silverman
United States
Waltham
Massachusetts
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Modern Art is a classic for good reasons and those reasons are both its strengths and weaknesses. It's approachable, light, newbie-friendly, humorous and situational based on group dynamics. Modern Art is a relatively easy game to explain and the mechanics are usually grasped quickly by new players. In its heart is a good economic model and a good auction game. However, with just one player who doesn't really care or understand the dynamics, the game can easily lead to situations of kingmaking or random moves. Because of this, I am very lukewarm about the game. I am willing to play it if requested but I would pretty much never pull it off my shelf and suggest it over other games.

8. Ralph

Ralph Colby
United States
California
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Modern Art definitely has very well designed mechanics. As everyone else has said, it's probably the best auction game out there. Sadly, It's just not that fun to me. I know that if I played this more I'd understand the strategy more and maybe even like it, but I just have no motivation to do so. I'm a flavor goob and I need a game with more story. Other games with steep learning curves, even though I may hate them at first, can keep me interested enough to learn the strategy. Modern Art just doesn't do that for me.

9. Dylan

Dylan Gould
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San Francisco
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Modern Art is cerebral and yet somehow tumultuous at the same time, and all this springs from an elegant set of rules by Dr. Reiner Knizia. Each season you must sell paintings, and you'll likely choose to buy some as well, as their values swing wildly depending on which artist's painting is introduced next. Valuing any painting up for auction is interesting enough, and usually maddeningly conditional, but I think the really fascinating part is valuing the incentives placed on the other players by your winning a particular painting. When I started getting into Eurogames, about three years ago, I loved Ra for providing interesting choices between a very small number of options. Modern Art blows this up at every turn; it's dense with decisions and unabashedly unforgiving, so now it has all but replaced Ra in my repertoire.

10. Shanthi

Shanthi Gonzales
United States
San Francisco
California
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Modern Art is deceptively simple in its mechanics. It is interesting because so much depends on who is at the table and their relative risk-taking tendencies. While generally a risk-taker in life, I have learned to be more conservative when playing this game, and it seems to work. I agree with what others said about newbies throwing off the game, though, but that just makes it more interesting. I am coming to love this game, which is interesting because I normally like games that have multiple strategies you can employ to win. I do wish they would come out with a new version with different paintings because I am a little tired of these ones.

11. Tony

Tony Chen
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In a typical auction game, the game auctions off stuff to the players. In Modern Art, the same players bidding on the paintings are also the ones selling them. Moreover, the value of a painting that a player has won in an auction depends on what other players and himself try to sell and auction off. This simple dynamic turns the auction from a simple excercise on evaluation into a whole other beast with layers upon layers of subtlety.

There are many different ways to make money--buyer strategy, seller strategy, sabotage strategy--and finding the right balance between them, and the correct time and method to implement each needs some creative thinking and clever manipulation. Many actions carry "hidden" costs and/or benefits that only an experienced eye can discern.

Modern Art is not a game for everyone, but for those who can appreciate its subtlety--and in a way Modern Art is the cleverest game ever designed--the experience is a treat like no other.
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