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Bidding System (Leaving Earth rework Phase B)

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gabrielcohn
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Joined: 11/25/2010

Hey all-
So, based on some of the advice from a few weeks ago I reworked Leaving Earth a bit and have given it a few test runs. Mostly play is smooth and enjoyable. However, it is perhaps a bit too low stress. Here's why...

The game is based on bidding (blind) for actions. The highest bidder gets the most powerful version of the action. In a five player game, everyone gets to perform an action except the last place bidder (in most categories). However, with the goal of "increasing the amount of control players feel over their situation" I instituted a rule whereby with a minimum bid of $4 you get a minimal version of the action (about equivalent to the 4th place bidder) even if you were last place! And the result was...

(A) Players DID feel more control. If they really wanted to do something, they bid at least 4. If not, they sat out the action (which is a reasonable option).

(B) Bids were DRIVEN TO THE MIDDLE. Most bids were in the $4-$6 range. Occasionally if someone really wanted to be first they would bid 8 or 9, but not much. I felt this was a bit of loss in the tension of the game. In the old version (without a guarantee that 4 would get you anything) there was much more tension over what was "enough" to bid. This tension also encouraged people to strategically sit out actions on occasion (you get a minor bonus for a zero bid). And, bids at the high end could get kinda wild for a really desirable action at the right time and situation. So, the new version encouraged a kind of mediocrity.

So, finally, here are a few ideas I have to preserve result A somewhat, but reduce B a bit. PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK...

(IDEA #1) Someone last night suggested this: Instead of a "minimum of $4" gets you an action, make it "if you're within $2 of the 4th place person" (in a 5pl game). This sounds good in theory, encouraging people to think again about what is "enough," however, I worry that it will drive bids even lower--that lots of people will just bid $1 or $2 because they figure if at least one other person makes a low bid, then they will be within $2 of the 4th place person. So, eventually, winning bids will be like $5 and everyone else will hover around $2. Unfun! Please tell me if you think I'm wrong, but after sleeping on it, I'm pretty sure it won't work.

(IDEA #2) COMMAND TOKENS: At the beginning of the game everyone gets 2 or 3 or 4 "command tokens." These tokens may be used if you made a losing bid that was at least $3 or $4 (or some level--or maybe not--maybe they just let you act w/o paying! you are a fleet commander after all...). If you use a command token, then rather than a losing bid, you do get to take the action. This way, it will retain the sense that "when it's really important, I can make sure I get something," but won't always drive bids to the middle so much.

At this point I'm pretty sure I will institute IDEA #2, but please tell me if you have other ideas you think might work. Thanks!

Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011
Agreed

gabrielcohn wrote:
At this point I'm pretty sure I will institute IDEA #2, but please tell me if you have other ideas you think might work. Thanks!

I'm quite sure that idea #1 can't work. Coupling it with the 4th place will most probably preserve low bids. Moreover, it doesn't really give control to player since you can never be sure.

Command tokens should work. So should any other limited alternative and sure way to get the action. I'm citing myself:

Maaartin wrote:
Maybe provide additional means how to get the action. Maybe allow the players to simply buy it (either for fixed prices or in another, open auction) in addition to the hidden bidding. Make this possibility more limited and/or more expensive than your hidden bidding, so the hidden bidding remains the main source of actions. Maybe give each player a couple of tokens they can use to get an action without bidding.

You could also let each player do some limited form of the action in case they pay some fixed fraction of the winning amount after the auction. This could be used in combination with the tokens: There are only very few tokens while this payment gives you less but can be used more often. Together it feels like more control. This limited action must be weak enough in order not to demotivate the players from bidding high, the fraction could be 50% or whatever.

rtwombly
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Joined: 01/17/2009
Similar to Maartin's

Similar to Maartin's suggestion, you could simply allow the low bidder to take a low-bid action if they pay $1 more than the low bidder. So if the bid comes in $6, $4, $4, $3, and $2, the $2 bidder would have to pay $4 to take the action, while the $3 saves $1 for reading the bid correctly.

Your command token idea sounds similar to the Kingsburg expansion - I forget the name - where you can spend tokens to add soldiers during the battle phase, or save them up for VPs later, or TTR Europe's stations. Certainly could work if properly balanced with the core gameplay.

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