[Last issue, we gave a close look to the first five games in the new line of bookshelf games published by Gryphon Games. In this issue, Chris Kovac looks at number 9 in the series: Masters Gallery.]
MASTERS GALLERY/MODERN ART: THE CARD GAME (Gryphon Games, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up; 20-30 minutes; $15.95/$24.95)
Modern Art the Card Game is based on the popular art auction game by Reiner Knizia: Modern Art (featured in the Fall 1996 Gamers Alliance Report). This card game version is also designed by Knizia and produced by Gryphon Games as part of their new family game line (game number six) which includes some older reissues like For Sale and Money as well as Roll Through the Ages. The game comes in a cheaper basic version called Modern Art: The Card Game and a higher end version call Masters Gallery which this review is based on. (Both games play the same.)
This is a game about hand management and playing off the other players to get the most valuable paintings sold before the end of the game. The game comes in a hardcover book size box with a deck of cards (5 artist masterpiece cards and 95 painting cards), an English only color rule set and some scoring markers. At the start of the game you lay down in the centre of the table, the five artist cards in sequence (the number tells you how many cards of that artist are in the deck). On these cards, you will put the scoring disks. Artists with the lower numbers beat those with higher numbers if ties occur. You set aside the scoring and award tokens.
Each player is dealt an initial hand of 13 cards. In subsequent rounds, players will get a declining number of cards (number depends on the number of players). After an initial seed card is dealt off the top of the deck face up beside the artist cards, the first player will then take his turn.
During a turn, a player plays a card from his hand face up in front of him then resolves any special actions (symbols on some of the cards) then the next player take his turn. These special actions usually involve laying down extra cards or picking up another card from the deck. If at any time six masterpiece cards of the same artist are showing face up (including the initial seed card), the round ends.
Any face down cards are turned face up and scored. The artist with the most art showing is worth three points, the second two points and the third one point. You can then optionally lay down one card from your hand for each artist you have showing in front of you. After that you add up your score based on the artists you have showing in front of you. Finally you discard the cards face up in front of you and the seed card, deal the new replacement cards to the players and then deal a new seed card. The player to the left of the player who closed a round then is the start player and a new round commences.
Scoring is similar to that in Modern Art in that it is cumulative over the rounds so certain art becomes more valuable than others over the course of the game. After four rounds, the person with the highest cumulative score wins.
Managing your cards throughout the game is the key to winning. You have to figure out when to bring out various works while keeping an eye on what other players are playing. Bring out too many works by one artist and you might not have any to score later when they are worth more, bring out to few and you do not have enough time to play them before the game ends.
The cards are good quality and the use of real artists' work (Vermeer, Degas, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh) is a nice touch. The only criticisms of the game are the rather thin cardstock used for the cards which means they will wear out quicker and some of the symbols on the cards rely on subtle shades of color which might be confusing for some players. I think this game captures the essence of selling art without all of the messy auctions of Modern Art. A good game with simple clear rules which is playable by both gamers and family gamers. - - - - - - - - - - - - Chris Kovac
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FINCA FITS GAME CLASSICS: BIG BOSS
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