Friday, September 9, 2016

Modern Art and the art of auctions

Modern Art is not my favorite auction game. That's probably Ra, as far as games where the primary mechanic is having auctions. For Sale and High Society are also high up there. (In fact, I'd even go so far as to say if you only own one auction game, For Sale is one of your best choices)

But Modern Art wasn't just my introduction to auction games. It was a great introduction because it is a crash course on auctions. It is one of the fundamental games on the subject.

Instead of going over the rules in detail, I'll put in a link to the review I wrote back in 2005: Okay, let me get back to talking about the game.

Modern Art pulls off being such a fundamental auction game by using four different methods of auction, not counting the double auction. You got the traditional caller auction, the blind auction, the once around auction and the set price auction.

Really, the only auction it doesn't cover per se is the moat common form of auction in games, going around until everyone but one player has dropped out. 

Modern Art also has a really neat economic system going on, with only the three artists earning any money at the end of each season but the values adding up through out the game. Some folks have argued that that keeps it from being a 'pure' auction game. Considering that Knizia basically sawed the auctions off in order to create Modern Art the Card Game, I can see that.

Still, the auctions and the determination of the value of each system are all tightly knit together to form the economy of the game. In particular, the players are auctioning off the paintings to each other and pocketing the profits themselves. Everyone is invested in the economy of the game.

I'll admit that one of reasons Modern Art isn't at the top of my auction list is because people who overbid can not only knock themselves out of the game but literally hand the game over to someone else. Fortunately, you can teach people what the maximum potential value of a painting is but not everyone is good at listening :P

Modern Art is a very engaging game, involving all the players. It really explores auctions and has a tight economy tying everything together.  It's a really fun game that is great for exploring game mechanics. It really has earned a place in my collection.

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