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Are auctions evil?

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benjaminvictord...
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Joined: 08/05/2008
ericphillips wrote:Really,

ericphillips wrote:
Really, this is personal opinion. Auctions are not the problem. If you don't like them, don't play them and don't include them in your game. But otherwise, this discussion is silly.

Agreed.

As a personal counter-opinion, here is a sampling of some of my favorite games which include auctions that work quite well:

Taj Mahal
Ra
El Grande
Homesteaders
Santiago
Princes of Florence
Tribune

Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011
interesting...

truekid games wrote:
I offered 2000 as counter evidence, which you immediately trivialized? a 2000 PERCENT increase over your proffered sampling, and it's not enough?
You gave me much larger sampling (2070 out of 52500) leading to a similar frequency, 4% is really no "overuse", trivialized or not. The numbers larienna provided later are convincing.

truekid games wrote:
It doesn't actually sound like you're looking for input, it sounds like you're looking to argue.
Honestly, I'm not (if I was I would have used your "this almost didn't deserve a reply" as a nice starting point, but I chose not to comment). You're confusing argument with discussion. My responses were advocating auctions, but isn't it just logical to describe advantages of something I like?

benjaminvictordraper@gmail.com wrote:
It depends what you mean by "variable seat order".
Did I wrote this? :D I actually meant variable turn order (determined by bidding, some permutation table, or whatever).

benjaminvictordraper@gmail.com wrote:
Without knowing your game, it's hard to comment, but here's a thought: If items are worth similar amounts to each player, find a way of making items worth different amounts based on the time in the game.
The items are worth a very variable amount of money in the time, because of varying amount of money in the game and also for other reasons. The auction gets used for determining who gets what (here no fixed price would help). Sometimes there's only a single thing to obtain, sometimes there are more, but they can't be distributed evenly.

IMHO the auction works very well in my game, it's just a-thematic (but there's no strong theme there yet, anyway). Sure, I can't use action in all my future games, that's why I'm looking for alternatives.

larienna wrote:
How many times do you replay a game? My gaming group is stuck with the cult of the new, I happen to play a game I already played at most 3 times in a year. This means that in this case, players will ALWAYS be a NEWBIE. This is why the newbie MUST have a chance to win.

I'm quite surprised there is a gaming group like this. If I knew I could play a game only 3 times a year, I wouldn't bother to learn it. I love learning new good games, but I also love learning the strategy well, which is just impossible this way. There are people who spend their whole lives playing a single game (chess or go), well that's the other extreme. For me, a game where a newbie may beat an experienced player is trash (still, it may be fun, but it's nothing I'd try to design).

ericphillips
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I play a lot of Federation

I play a lot of Federation Commander (the easier version of Star Fleet Battles), and didn't even think of the auction mechanic in that game that we use quite often: the tractor auction.

If you have ever seen Star Trek you know one ship can drag another by using it "tractor" beam. In this game, if you try to grab another ship you announce you are activating the tractor and pay one energy. Now the opponent can apply negative tractor. If he bids one energy the tractor will not affect him, but then the first ship can bid another. This goes on until one side relents but both sides must pay what they ended up bidding, win or lose. Its a great way to get another ship to burn off power! And it works quite easily and well during play.

I get to play a scenario about once a week and really enjoy it. I think you can't appreciate a game until you have tried it a few times and gotten past the noob level. Larienna: maybe you should look for some new people to play with. Just sayin'.

larienna
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Good Gaming groups are hard

Good Gaming groups are hard to find. I imagine that my group buy a lot of game and always want to play something new. So it get stuck with the "Cult of the new". I overheard somebody that he will manage to play his 6th game of twilight imperium 3. I know the game is long, but if you love a game, I think he would have had a chance to play more often. In general, I rarely play a game twice unless I own it. Even the games I bring are hard to hit the table because I need to compete against all the other games the people have brought. It's even worst to try playing a game I designed.

Quote:
Really, this is personal opinion. Auctions are not the problem. If you don't like them, don't play them and don't include them in your game. But otherwise, this discussion is silly.

One of the problem is that they are overused.

As for Medici, that game was very annoying. One of my friend played with experienced people and it's even worst because people calculate how much they are going to gain to know the maximum price, so the game stall and takes a lot of time. Playing a game on a computer could be very boring, because it could calculate your max bid. It would be as boring as playing black jack and not taking any card when you have 17>. There would be almost no decision to take. So what makes the game work is the fact that most people cannot calculate the exact value of a hand ... but some will.

Maaartin
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Medici

larienna wrote:
As for Medici, that game was very annoying. One of my friend played with experienced people and it's even worst because people calculate how much they are going to gain to know the maximum price, so the game stall and takes a lot of time.
I've never play it, but it's all written in this review. You need "quick, savage, mathematically inclined people who are prepared to commit to learning the game".

larienna wrote:
Playing a game on a computer could be very boring, because it could calculate your max bid. It would be as boring as playing black jack and not taking any card when you have 17>. There would be almost no decision to take. So what makes the game work is the fact that most people cannot calculate the exact value of a hand ... but some will.
I don't think so. I guess, the number of possibilities is too high for a computer to analyze it all (unless a programmer team spend some man years on it). Moreover, with more than two players you need also to account for the others' behavior (instead of just assuming that the opponent plays its best in a two player game).

larienna
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ABout medici NO, it's not

ABout medici

NO, it's not that complicated to program. You just calculate the payout of every player and then you could have something like this:

Player 1: max bid 15
Player 2: max bid 20
player 3: max bid 25

The max bid would be the value you gain from winning the items. So bidding more is actually a negative thing. (You lose money).

So If I am player 2, I know that the max bid I could push is 20, so I can easily outbid player 1, for force him to pay the maximum price, or hope he will miscalculate and make him lose money. I know that I cannot outbid player 3 but could try to raise the value to make him pay more (or gain less).

Once you have the value, it's boring because you know the optimal strategy. When you don't have the values, there is some risk to consider. That could have been interesting if there was some sort of hidden information that force you to estimate how much you could get without really knowing. But since everything is open, you can calculate the value of everything, so it's the player with the most brain power that wins.

benjaminvictord...
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Medici Strategy

larienna wrote:
ABout medici

NO, it's not that complicated to program. You just calculate the payout of every player and then you could have something like this:

Player 1: max bid 15
Player 2: max bid 20
player 3: max bid 25

The max bid would be the value you gain from winning the items. So bidding more is actually a negative thing. (You lose money).

So If I am player 2, I know that the max bid I could push is 20, so I can easily outbid player 1, for force him to pay the maximum price, or hope he will miscalculate and make him lose money. I know that I cannot outbid player 3 but could try to raise the value to make him pay more (or gain less).

Once you have the value, it's boring because you know the optimal strategy. When you don't have the values, there is some risk to consider. That could have been interesting if there was some sort of hidden information that force you to estimate how much you could get without really knowing. But since everything is open, you can calculate the value of everything, so it's the player with the most brain power that wins.

This is hardly the optimal strategy.

At the risk of derailing the thread into a discussion of Medici strategy, you fail to mention a very important rule that make this quite suboptimal strategy:

You only have five slots to fill in a round. No more. This means that you could spend just up to the "optimal" price for a set of goods, but it diminishes your ability to purchase goods later in the same round. In addition, your ability to participate in auctions is limited to auctions you can legally take on to your ship. Thus, by winning a 3-good auction, you have limited yourself to participating in 2-good and 1-good auctions for the remainder of the round. You are then not able to drive up the prices on goods for other players. Feel free to calculate the value of a lot for each player and bid up to your own value; be prepared to lose.

Maaartin
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Medici strategy

larienna wrote:
NO, it's not that complicated to program. You just calculate the payout of every player and then you could have something like this:

  • Player 1: max bid 15
  • Player 2: max bid 20
  • player 3: max bid 25

The max bid would be the value you gain from winning the items. So bidding more is actually a negative thing. (You lose money).

The game would be indeed stupid if it went like this. I'm quite sure it doesn't. Your strategy might work for the very last bidding, where the only relevant thing is the money. During the game it's much more complicated, since you payout depends on the future auctions.

larienna wrote:
Once you have the value, it's boring because you know the optimal strategy.
For each position in chess there's a value saying which player is going to win (e.g. +1 means white wins, -1 means black wins, 0 means draw). Once you have the value, it's pointless to play and the optimal strategy is trivial: just play so that the value doesn't change. The only small remaining problem is how to compute the value.

This way I just wanted to say that computing the maximum bid value may be infeasible. From what I know from the comments on BGG the strategy is non-trivial.

InvisibleJon
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Two short thoughts...

1) In real-world auction / bidding situations, the item being bid on almost invariably goes for more than it is worth, or the contract comes in at a less expensive price than it should truly cost to complete. (I've read psychological studies that support these assertions. No, I don't have links to them right now.)

2) An auction, like any other mechanic, is neither good nor evil. It's simply a tool that we have at our disposal. Like any mechanic, it can be used well or mis-applied; there are scenarios where it excels and others where it is inappropriate. An auction (or any other mechanic) will work best when it does a good job of metaphysically matching up with what it represents in your game world. If you're using an auction to represent a contest of wills (or expenditure of energy in starships, as described earlier), there's a strong metaphysical correlation; the auction should work well. If you're using an auction to represent shifting gears in a car, the two have very little metaphysical correlation; odds are good that it won't work well at all.

Summary: If it doesn't feel right, take a step back and ask yourself what the auction actually represents in your game-world. If what it represents could be represented better by a different game mechanic, consider swapping in a different mechanic or altering the structure of the game make an auction a better fit.

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