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# Whats wrong with this auction mechanic?

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ChowYunBrent
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Joined: 07/11/2012

Hi I'm working on a game at the moment where players undercut each other for the rights to build contracts that earn points and other abilities.

I have been trying to develop a system where players have a good chance of getting contracts and where no player can be 'shut out' completely. At the moment, this is what I have.

A number of contract cards are dealt at the start of the auction depending on how many players there are. So 2 players have 3 contract cards, 3 players have 4 and 4 players choose from 5 contract cards.

Each contract has a max bid value, so if a contract is listed with a value of 10, players can earn no more than 10 credits from that contract.

Underneath the spaces for each card is a column with numbers from 1-15. These numbers indicate for how much less than the maximum bid value they are willing to accept the contract for. So in the above example, if a player then puts her token on '6' then she is willing to accept the contract for 6 less than the maximum of 10, so 4 credits.

Now each player has 2 of these bid tokens which she can use to place her bids. Players take it in turns one after another to place a bid token on any of the spaces underneath the contract cards. This continues until all players have placed their tokens.

Bids are then resolved left to right with the lowest bidder winning the auction, unless she chooses not to in which case the winner is the next lowest bidder.

Now the twist, in the interest of fairness any unsuccessful bid tokens can be rebid on any of the remaining spaces of the contracts yet to be auctioned. The idea behind this is so that players who are undercut on one contact can have the option to undercut someone else on a different contract.

Can anyone spot anything wrong with this mechanism? I wanted auctions to be exciting, but fair, yet in play testing the auctions often become mechanical and dull, I can't work out why? Any ideas?

Sorry about the length of the post.

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
We actually had a large

We actually had a large discussion about how "Evil" auctions are, I'll try to find the thread. Here it is:

Are auctions Evil?
http://www.bgdf.com/node/4934

I wrote some articles about it. Auction is always something that haunt me:

Using mechanics that reflects reality, the problem with auctions
http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/index.php?n=DesignArticle.Article20100112...

Leadpipe
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Joined: 08/09/2008
Not necessarily the mechanic

My only question about your mechanic is whether it is confusing for the players to bid using the discount amount (rather than the amount they would pay).

There is a piece aside from the bidding mechanic that tends to determine how interesting an auction is. What are the factors in determining the value of the item they are bidding on? Are the items of different values to different players because they have variables means of making use of these items? Are the means of monetizing these items easily calculable and reduced to a simple math exercise when they determine their auction bid?

In order to make an auction interesting, the correct bid has to be non-obvious. There has to be a risk / reward trade-off, so that I can reasonably outbid a (competent) opponent and have at least a chance to make this pay off. It may not be the mechanic that is the issue.

Leadpipe

ChowYunBrent
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Joined: 07/11/2012
Yes this is something im

Yes this is something im starting to think about. I spent a lot of the time balancing the contracts so that their rewards were balanced with their costs. One of the downsides of this is that it makes each contract, pretty much universally desirable to every player, hence the bidding becomes pretty stale.

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Agree that the value of

Agree that the value of something needs to be different for each player. Having large difference between player will make it easier to evaluate and to know that a certain player needs to have this.

Personally, I can handle more easily auctions when you have a set of predefined bid rather than open bid. For example, in RA, each player has 3 values, so if a player has value 3, 18 and 40, it is much more easier to evaluate that what is he bidding for is worth 3 or 18 but not 40.

Another way you could implement that is use cards as money and allow players to make combinations of cards. If a player has a bill of 1, 5 and 8, he could say that it is worth, 1, 5, 6 (5+1), 8, 9 (8+1) but not 13 (5+8). So restricting how the bid is done prevent the need to calculate the exact value of the thing being bought and makes the game much more easily. "You're Bluffing" use such kind of mechanic.

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