Developer: Skotos Tech
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.00
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆
Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Reiner Knizia may not be a commonly-known name in the US – YET – but his games and ideas all but dominate the hobby of boardgaming worldwide. One of Dr. Knizia’s most famous creations is a game simply called Modern Art. This winner of multiple awards has players competing to bid on different artist’s work and thereby increase the value of the work they own. It’s an intense, intellectually-demanding game that requires a good insight into human nature as well as the ability to interact with others on an almost constant basis. So, when I saw that the Modern Art Card Game had made the transition to the iPad and iPhone via a new universal app, I was puzzled. How could a game like Modern Art, that requires so much human interaction, translate to the iOS world? The answer is, it doesn’t need to.

Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art: The Card Game is a very different type of game from the traditional Modern Art that many gamers may already be familiar with. Yes, the theme is the same, and the idea of increasing the value of artists is marginally unchanged, but the game mechanics have been streamlined tremendously. This is a card game, first and foremost, and it shows most notably in the speed of gameplay as well as the reduced number of tactical decisions. Bidding and auctions have been removed entirely, replaced instead with a much simpler mechanic. Each card represents a work of art by one of five artists, and each player takes turns playing one card face-up (some cards grant “extra powers” like the ability to play more than one card in a turn). At the end of a round, the artist with the most works played is ranked first, and players with that artists’ works in play receive a significant point bonus. The same goes for the artists in the numbers two and three positions as well. After three rounds, the player with the most points accumulated wins the game. I’m not ashamed to say that my computerized opponents continue to take me to school in this game. As is the case with many of Knizia’s games, winning takes significant time and practice.

I have to admit that when I started playing Modern Art: The Card Game I was completely and totally confused. There is no tutorial mode. Instead, the developers have included a one screen synopsis of gameplay and rules. This is utilitarian, I suppose, but it doesn’t really teach the game as thoroughly as it needs to be taught. In all honesty, Knizia’s game is amazingly simple, but so abstract it is sometimes bewildering. The spartan design choices don’t help this learning curve, unfortunately.

This spare design is a consistent theme throughout the game. The card art is present and accounted for, but the game lacks any real visual flair or style. Every element does what it is supposed to do, of course, but not much more. There are a few basic sound effects, but not many. Perhaps most discouraging is the lack of online multiplayer (or even local multiplayer). The AI is good, no doubt, but Euro games are famous for their social aspects. Sadly, they are not to be found here.

Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art: The Card Game is a good, but not great, adaptation of the real thing. Eurogamers will enjoy it for what it is, but others may long for more.

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