Modern Art

Invented by Reiner Knizia.
Copyright 1994, Reiner Knizia.
Translated by John Webley.
Provided by Mike Siggins from The Rules Bank.

Modern Art, the world of art, young talent suddenly explodes onto the scene, new trends come and go, but whose reputation will last?, which will be tomorrow's masterpieces?, Is it Art or Kitsch, that is the question. This game consists of four Auctions or rounds, in each, works by up to 5 Artists will be offered for sale, and auctioned off in various ways. In Modern Art, the players take on the roles of art dealers who simultaneously are art collectors. It is their decision which artworks to sell, and how to sell them. So, successful players must balance two aims, firstly collecting the best artworks for their own collections, forwarding the careers of those artists from whom they have most to gain, and at the same time, raising as much money as possible by successfully auctioning off those works that don't fit their own strategy, and picking up their own fancies as cheaply as possible.

Dreams of fame and riches, but dreams can vanish in an instant, leaving the player with a gallery full of last year's art, unwanted and valueless. Only those with a nose for tomorrow's tastes today, will rise to the top of the Art world.



Before the first game, the coins and chips must be carefully removed from their backing sheet. The board is laid in the centre of the table so as to be visible to all players. It is used to show the five artists and helps with sorting out the results of each round. Each player takes 100,000 in starting capital plus a sight screen which he should put up in front of him so as to prevent the other players from seeing how much money he has at any point. The city names commemorate the great art centres of the world but have no effect on the game. The rest of the money makes up the Bank, and should be given to one of the players who acts as Banker for the game. The 70 art cards are well shuffled and dealt out to the players, With 3 players each receives 10 cards, with 4 players, each gets 9 cards, and with 5 , 8 cards. The rest of the cards are put face down near the board ready for later rounds.

Play and Object of Game

A game of Modern Art consists of four rounds, each round involves several separate sales of cards (representing works of art). After each of the four rounds, there is a general settling up of earnings. Players can make money in two ways. Firstly they earn cash by successfully auctioning off Works of Art from their own stocks. Secondly, at the end of the round, all the cards sold in the round are cashed in, but only those which have sold best have any value. The winner is the player who has most money at the end of the game.

The First round.We will use group of 4 players, Axel, Beatrix, Clemens and Doris, as examples to illustrate the game. All the rounds are played in the same way, so the following applies to all 4 rounds. The youngest player, in this case Axel, starts. He chooses a card from his hand and lays it face up in the middle of the table. This card is now up for auction. As in reality there are various methods of auction. The method used in each case is indicated by the symbol on the card.

A cross indicates "Kreuz und Quer", a free auction. This means that all players can bid, there is no order of bidding and bids can be raised as players wish. For simplicity's sake all bids should be in multiples of 1000. So, for example, if Axel plays a "Krypto" card with a cross symbol on it, then Doris could start with a bid of 14,000, Clemens tops her with 15,000, Doris replies with 17,000, Axel bids 18,000 and Doris then 19,000. Axel, as the auctioneer for this card tries to get a better bid but fails , giving Doris the card for 19,000. She takes the card and places it face up in front of her, then she pays the money to Axel (Diagram 1). Now it is the turn of Beatrix to play a card.

She plays a "Lite Metal" card with a circular arrow symbol on it ("Einmal reihum) "once around". This means that each player in turn, starting with the player to the auctioneer's left, makes a bid. The auction continues back to the auctioneer who has the last bid. In this case, Clemens starts, with a bid of 8,000, Doris passes, Axel bids 12,000 and Beatrix takes the card with a bid of 13,000. Because she has bought her own card she doesn't pay any of the other players, but instead gives the 13,000 to the Bank. (Diagram 2)

Now it is Clemen's turn and he lays down a "Lite Metal" card with the point in a hexagon symbol on it. This is "In die Faust", (In the fist), and means that the card is auctioned using secret bids. In practice, each player decides how much he wants to bid and picks up that amount of coins. All players put their closed fists over the card and when all are ready, they open their hands and reveal their bid.

In this case, Clemens has 11,000 in his hand, Doris, 12,000, Axel 12,000 too and Beatrix nothing. The highest bids have come from Doris and Axel. Where two or more players tie with the highest bid, the card goes to the one who is first in line, starting with the auctioneer and moving clockwise. Thus in this example, Clemens is auctioneer, but isn't one of the highest bidders, so Doris as next in line gets the card. Had Axel tied with Beatrix, he would have got the card, but Doris wins, so she pays 12,000 to Clemens and takes the card laying it down face up in front of her (diagram 3)

Doris plays the next card and it is a "Yoko" card with a dollar symbol on it. This means "Preis Ansagen", (Give a price). Here the Auctioneer sets a price for the card. Each player in turn is offered the card at this price and may accept or decline. If all players decline then the Auctioneer must buy the card at the price they have set. (Notice that the auctioneer may not set a price higher than their cash holding). In this case Doris sets the price at 14,000. Axel isn't interested at that price so he passes, but Beatrix accepts the card, pays 14,000 to Doris, and puts the card down face up in front of her (diagram 4).

"=" "Noch eine Karte" (Extra card)

It is Axel's turn again and he lays down a Lite Metal card with the "=" symbol on it. He then lays down another card by it, another Lite Metal but this time with a cross symbol "Kreuz und Quer".

Cards with the "=" symbol cannot be played alone but must be played in conjunction with another card of the same artist, in this case Lite Metal, but with a different symbol. If the player who played the "=" card cannot or will not play another card in conjunction, the next player to his left must add a card to the "=" card, and then auctions off the two cards in the normal way, as per the symbol on the second card. If no player can or will "follow suit", then the player who originally played the card gets the card back and puts it face up in front of him without paying anything. Whoever adds the second card to the "=" card auctions off both cards as one lot and is then followed in turn by the player to his left, players who have not added a card effectively lose a turn. Note that the player who adds the second card and auctions both cards receives all of the proceeds from their sale. The proceeds are not split between the initial player and the player of the second card as some translations have stated.

So, Axel has laid two "Lite Metal" cards, one with an equals sign and one with a cross symbol. He now auctions both cards as one lot, using the symbol from the second card to decide the type of auction, in this case "Kreuz und Quer", a free auction with no fixed prices or order.

Clemens bids 26,000, Beatrix 27,000 and so it goes on until Clemens makes the highest bid with 33,000. Clemens takes both cards, lays then both down face up in front of him and pays Axel 33,000. (Diagram 5). Notice that the price reflects the fact that two cards have been auctioned rather than one.Our example players have now used all the available types of card, but the round isn't over until there are 5 cards of one type on the table. Let's see how it continues.

Beatrix thinks that what Axel can do, she can do better so she too lays down an "=" card, from "Christin P", along with another "Christin P" with an "In die Faust" (In the fist) symbol. Both cards are therefore auctioned off as one lot, using a secret bid system ie players put as much money as they wish to bid into their fist and all reveal simultaneously how much they have bid. Beatrix shows 22,000, Clemens, 22,000, Doris, 33,000 and Axel 16,000. Doris therefore takes the two cards and pays Beatrix 33,000, not best pleased at having paid so much when a bid of 23,000 would have been enough but then, that is the problem with secret bids. (Diagram 6)

Clemens now takes his turn and he plays another "Lite Metal" card. Since this is the 5th Lite Metal card on the table, the round ends immediately. The 5th card is not auctioned off, nor is it sold at the end of the round. It's only function is to increase the number of cards of that type on the table to 5, and so to end the round. (Diagram 7)

Settling Up

The first thing to decide is which artist's works have sold best in this round. All cards on the table, including the last one played are counted towards the totals. In first place with 5 cards is "Lite Metal, so a 30,000 marker is placed on the board under "Lite Metal" , in the uppermost of the 4 auction rows. Next comes "Christin P" with two cards so the 20,000 marker is put in the "Christin P" column. There is one card of both "Yoko" and "Krypto" on the table, in the case of draws, the type which lies furthest to the left on the board wins, so since "Yoko" is further to the left than "Krypto", a 10,000 marker is placed under "Yoko". The "Krypto" card is valueless, so Doris has been unlucky. At the end of every round, the works of at least two artists are valueless, in this case "Krypto" and "Karl Gitter". Now that the value of each card has been established, the players sell off their cards. The "Krypto" card is valueless, as is the last "Lite Metal" card played. They can be laid to one side.

Axel hasn't got any cards to sell, so his cash stays at 152,000, Beatrix receives 30,000 for her "Lite Metal plus 10,000 for her "Yoko" giving her a total of 144,000. Clemen's total is 139,000, (79,000 cash plus 60,000 for 2 "Lite Metal". Doris has 3 cards to sell but only totals 122,000 ("Lite Metal", 30,000, "2 times "Christin P at 20,000 is 40,000 plus 52,000 cash).Once all players have taken the cash for their pictures, the cards played in the first round are returned to the box, they play no further part in the game.

The Second and subsequent rounds

While the first round is being played, the players draw no extra cards. Now however, before the second round, and again before the third round, they do get to draw new cards, the number depends on the number of players.

Number of cards     1st round 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round 

3 Players              10         6         6         0

4 Players               9         4         4         0 

5 Players               8         3         3         0 

No new cards are drawn before the fourth round. Play in subsequent rounds commences with the player to the left of the player who last played in the previous round.

The second, third and fourth rounds are played in exactly the same way as the first. But the game isn't simply a repetition of the first round. The value of cards can continue to rise cumulatively through the game. As we have seen in the first round, the exact value of each card is only really decided at the end of the round. In the same way, the true value of a card, ie whether it's value will increase or plummet, can only really be determined at the end of each round. So we need to look at how the values at the end of the second, third and fourth rounds are reckoned.

There are three points that need to be taken into consideration. 1) The results of the individual round is reckoned exactly as per the first round, a 30,000 marker is placed under the name of the most successful artist, (the one with 5 cards on the table,), in the relevant row for that round. a 20,000 marker goes under the second most successful artist's sign and 10,000 under the third most successful. The other two artist's works have no value. 2) Now it can be seen from the board, which if any of the successful artists have also been successful in previous rounds, ie whether any markers are already in that column. 3) If any of the successful artists from this round do have markers from previous rounds then the value of the artist's works is the sum of all the markers.

Settling up after the second and third rounds

We can skip the actual play of the cards in the second round so as to go straight on to the summing up. Let's assume that at the end of the second round, there are 5 Karl Gitter cards on the table, 4 Christin P, 3 Yoko, 1 Krypto and 1 Lite Metal. Obviously the last card played was the 5th Karl Gitter. So, now we can work it all out with reference to the three points from above

1) Which artists have been most successful? Well, there are 5 Karl Gitters on the table, so that is obviously in first place, and the 30,000 marker is placed in the Karl Gitter column on the board, in the row for the 2nd round (Auktion). 2nd is Christin P so the 20,000 marker goes in the Christin P column and 3rd is Yoko so the 10,000 marker goes down under Yoko. 2) Which of these three have been successful in a previous round? well, Christin P was 2nd in the first round 2, so there is already a 20,000 marker in that column, and Yoko was 3rd and has a 10,000 marker against it.3) What then are the final prices as shown by the sums of the markers? Karl Gitter = 30,000 + 0 = 30,000 per card on the table, (except the 5th played which is not sold). Christin P = 20,000 + 20,000 = 40,000 per card on the table Yoko = 10,000 + 10,000 = 20,000 per card on the table.

The 30,000 marker for Lite Metal is not counted at this point, since Lite Metal wasn't one of the three successful types in this round.If however Lite Metal received a marker in a later round then the 30,000 would be added to it. (Diagram 8)

Now the players cash in their cards as they did at the end of the first round. The cards on the table are returned to the box, and new cards are drawn ready for Round 3. Rounds 3 and 4 are carried out in exactly the same way. At the end of Round 4, the player with the largest amount of cash, wins. Any cards left in player's hands at the end of round 4 are worthless.

A few special situations which may occur in the game.

Ending a round with an equals card
Let us suppose that, during a round, 3 "Krypto" cards have already been played. A player now plays a "Krypto" card with an "=" symbol. He, or if he can't, one of the other players, may now play a second Krypto card to go with the first. As soon as this is done, there are 5 "Krypto" cards on the table. The round ends immediately, the two cards are not auctioned and are not sold.
An early end to the game
It can rarely happen that a game never reaches the end of the fourth round, because all the players have already played all their cards without there being 5 of any type on the table. In this case the game ends after the play of the last card, but before that card is auctioned. The card type with most examples on the table is valued at 30,000, the second best 20,000 and so on as usual. The last card played is not sold, but does count towards the number of it's type on the table.
Equal numbers of cards
As already said, if two or more types have equal numbers of representatives on the table, the card type lying furthest to the left on the board wins. ie Lite Metal has precedence over Yoko, Yoko over Christin P and so on. To balance this inequality, there are unequal numbers of the various card types. There are 12 Lite Metal, 13 Yoko, 14 Christin P, 15 Gitter and 16 Krypto. It does not follow therefore that Lite Metal will score more often than Krypto, since it's advantage in position is balanced by its disadvantage in terms of card numbers.
No Bids at Auction
If no one makes a bid at auction the card is taken by the auctioneer without payment.
All cards played
If one or more players run out of cards during a round, they merely miss their turn. Obviously, they may still bid for cards played by other players.

Variant for Three Players

If players find that the three player game is too wild for them, they may choose to try the following variant. The cards are dealt for four players, the fourth hand is laid to one side face down. It represents the hand of a non-playing player, we will call him an art-crazy Japanese businessman.

Every time that a player has auctioned a card or cards, after the auction, they may, if they wish, turn over the topmost card from the fourth hand. They do not have to, the decision is theirs, depending on the tactical situation. The cards so turned over are neither auctioned, nor are they cashed in at the end of the round, their only effect is to increase the number of cards on the table and so the relative positions of the various types of card. If turning over one of these cards causes there to be 5 of that type on the table, then that ends the auction immediately. Once the players' cards have been cashed in, all cards on the table, including those from the Japanese businessman, are removed from play. If the card turned over from the "Japanese" hand is a "=" card, no second card is turned over.

Some Hints on Play

At first play, there is a lot in Modern Art that is new, which card should one play? Which types of auction work best at which points in the game? Perhaps the hardest aspect of the game for beginners is to judge what is the "right" price for the cards. Obviously, there is no set rule for this, but there are a couple of points which should be kept in mind.

The maximum value that a card can attain in the first round is 30,000. Second will be worth 20,000 and third 10,000. If then a card goes for 22,000 at auction, the player buying it must ensure that that type is the first to 5 cards on the table, or he automatically makes a loss on that card. Players should be prepared to drop out of auctions, rather than pay unrealistic prices.

In the second and later rounds, cards that have already got markers against them, become more valuable, but only if they are in the first three again in this round. A type that has been second in the first round, can reach a value of 50,000 in the second, but you should never forget the word "can".

Basically, the rule at auction is to keep in mind both what value the card is capable of reaching, and also what it's chances are of reaching that value.

Many thanks for untiring playtesting, long rule-reading sessions and useful tips go to Karen and Andreas Seyfarth, Barbara Hornung, Karl-Heinz Schmiel, Hannes Wildner, Ludwig Berger, Hildegard Ratgeber, as well as Christel and Andreas Trieb. Especial thanks go to Dieter Hornung whose ideas and suggestions play no small part in this game. The author and publisher wish to thank him especially.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell