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Auction mechanic dilemma.

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Reefknot
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Joined: 05/22/2010

I see lots of posts decrying the use of an Auction mechanic as evil, balance cheating, apathetic designing, or worse.
Is the Auction mechanic really that bad?

I have a little card game I'm working on that involves resource management, and I want to use a lowering value auction in the Market phase to create a bit more tension between the players, as well as keeping the phase quick to play.
Lowering values meaning they are bidding the number of resources they will be able to purchase for a set payment. So if a player bids 5, they will be able to buy 5 resources for each card they spend. Players call out their bids, no two players can bid the same, and you cannot re-bid a lower number. The player who bids the lowest gets first choice, second lowest goes next, etc.. (I think its called a reverse English auction, but please correct me if I am wrong.)
The resources are then used in the Manufacture phase to fill orders for a players product.
Currently neither phase as a set player order other than the one created by the auction determining who buys resources next.

Is there another mechanic that could be used and still retain the tension and speed of the phase while also keeping the phases "set order of play" free?

Or am I just being lazy? :P

truekid games
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Joined: 10/29/2008
yes, in general, auctions are

yes, in general, auctions are a poor add-on to patch up weaknesses in a game.

let's take Candyland- no decisions to make, no interaction. now let's give everyone some pool of chips and auction off the cards. boom! decisions and interaction. is it thematic? no. is it an interesting use of mechanic? no.

similarly, whenever you don't want to balance variable powered resources, auctioning them forgoes the need to do any real design balancing, because the group will set the value in the auction.

that's not to say that auctions aren't usable, just that in most of the cases they ARE used, it's for the wrong reasons and/or it's a bland implementation.

hulken
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Joined: 04/18/2009
Yes I totaly agree with you

Yes I totaly agree with you trukid. If you want to use an auction use it becaus it fits the theem not becaus it is an easy way out.

Take a game like Ra, there the auction do not make anny thematic sens what so ever. Ok it is still a ok game (even a very good auction game I would say). But on the other end you have railways of the worls. There you auction of the starting order, and it makes sens becaus first come first serv and thats often the case in the real world (atleast the ideal world annyway). So there a auction makes sens. Also you have the game Cyklades where you try to win the favour of difrent gods, alse here it makes sens. The god would be more likley to pay atention to the one bringing them the most oferings.

But in short the candyland exapel would be a prime example of where to not have an auction...

SiddGames
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Joined: 08/02/2008
Good v Bad

Out of curiosity, what are some popular games that have bad auctions in them? I like auctions quite a bit, but perhaps I've only played games with good auctions. Auction focused games like RA and Modern Art (and High Society, for a lighter example), as well as games that use it for specific things like Manila and Goa.

One of the things I like about auctions isn't the auto-balancing, but the fact that it does force players to make valuations, and as such it introduces uncertainty. Many games benefit from uncertainty (it's almost a requirement for mainstream Euro games like any Spiel des Jahres nominees) and I like that auctions can provide this without using randomness (yes, chaos from the bids/intentions of other players, but not chance such as a card draw or die roll).

SiddGames
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New England

Back to the OP -- your system sounds similar to the game New England. In that game, there are chits numbered 1-10. Players each choose a chit. The players then buy tiles from an open pool in order from high chit to low, but the chit chosen is also the cost that player pays for each tile he buys. I don't know if you'd consider that an auction or not -- to me it is, it just happens to have a limited number of allowed bids.

Reefknot
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Joined: 05/22/2010
New England

Yes, I have heard of the auction system in New England, but have not played it. When I decided on that system i did a quick search of different auction systems already in use and that style seemed to fit the best.

So an Auction mechanic can be used to advantage, but generally, designers tend to use it for the wrong reasons?

My resources have equal value game wise, but there is a limited supply, each player needs a different set of resources from the pool, and they expire (return to the pool) if not used within a set number of game phases.

Is this a reasonable situation to include an Auction mechanic?

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