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[GDS] Feedback Request - Auctions and Alms #5

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bhazzard
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Joined: 01/25/2011

What a great GDS to have submitted my first entry! Below I've pasted my entry for Auctions and Alms.

What did you like about it? What did you not like about it? What would make it more fun? What would make it more unique, and less like your average auction euro? How can I make the theme feel more integral and less "pasted on"?

Auctions and Alms

by Brian Hazzard

Judgement day is near and the great Unnamed God will soon reward the devoted and punish the unfaithful. In Auctions And Alms, each player is a high priest for a faction of worshippers of the great Unnamed God. In each of three rounds, players will be competing to best use their follower's offerings to make the best possible sacrifice in order to gain the Unnamed God's favor.

Components

 - There are 16 custom 6-sided "offering" dice: four sides with a monetary value of 1-4, and two sides with one of the 4 sacrifice types (human, animal, grain, artifacts).

 - There are also 18 half-sized cards: 16 "sacrifice" cards will have one of the 4 sacrifice types AND an offering of 1-4 value, and 2 "wrath" cards showing a lightning bolt.

Set Up

At the beginning of the game each player takes 3 dice randomly from a bag. 1 die is set aside to be used as the starting auction die. Any remaining dice will not be used in game play.

How To Play

The game is played in 3 eras.

Era Setup

 - The sacrifice and wrath cards are shuffled together

 - Each player rolls their dice, representing his follower's offerings for the round

 - The auction dice are also rolled and placed next to the card deck

 - All dice must remain with the same side up for the entirety of the era

  • For the first era, the eldest player will go first

Turns

 - The player may either start an auction OR flip a card from the deck

 - Wrath Cards: If a wrath card is flipped, the current auction lot is destroyed by the Unnamed God and discarded for the rest of the current round. Place the wrath card face up beside the draw pile.

Auctions

 - When a player starts an auction, the next player may bid or pass

 - To bid, select one or multiple dice as a bid, without altering which side is showing

 - This continues with each player until the player that started the auction either bids or passes

 - For the purposes of bidding, a die showing a sacrifice is worth the value of the lowest card of that sacrifice type in the auction lot. If none are in the lot, it is worth 0

 - The player with the highest bid takes the auction lot, and exchanges his bid for the auction dice, making sure that none of the dice's showing sides are altered

Era End Conditions

An era is over when all 16 cards have been auctioned, or when all players have at least 3 cards, or when the second wrath card is drawn.

Era Scoring

 - 1 devotion point is awarded for each sacrifice type to the player who has the highest quantity of that sacrifice type, including cards and dice showing a sacrifice side. Dice showing a monetary value are worth nothing here. In the case of a tie, no point is awarded.

 - Players will also keep tally of their quantities of each sacrifice type, This will be used in final scoring.

Repeat the steps for "Era Setup" to "Era Scoring" for three eras.

Judgement Day

Once three Eras have been completed and scored, the great Unnamed God will pass judgement on the players.

2 devotion points are awarded for each resource to the player who has the highest cumulative quantity of that resource. In the case of a tie, no points are awarded.

How To Win

Each player's devotion points are summed. The player with the most points wins, and will be spared. The losing players are all violently destroyed by the Unnamed God.

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Auctions and Alms

During the first round voting in the Feb GDS, I voted primarily based on two considerations, in addition to my general impression of the rules:
1) Did the entry meet the requirements?
2) Did the theme interest me?

For this particular entry, I read down to the bit about human sacrifices and then discarded it on the basis of theme. You could easily substitute wine, gold, or plushies in place of humans, in order to avoid the risk of alienating some of your potential audience. I felt it was also on the borderline for the competition requirement of a game "composed primarily of dice", in that this game seemed to be primarily an auction game using cards, with the dice simply used as a substitute for money.

I have re-read the game today and offer the following critiques.

Good
- I like auction games, and this was perhaps the only auction game amongst the 38 entries, so it scores points in my books for originality.
- I like the scoring system which gives points in each Era, and then bonus points at the end. If these are balanced correctly, it presents a valid choice between short term gains or long term gains, which is a good mechanism (as long as the short term gains don't lead directly on to long term gains, in which case the choice is moot).

Suggestions for improvement
- I was left feeling confused about exactly how the auction worked. The effect of Wrath cards indicates that an auction lot can have multiple cards, but my understanding of the auction rules (as written) was that everybody bids once and the winner takes the lot. So there could never be more than 1 card in the auction lot. (Obviously I'm misreading something, because otherwise the Wrath cards could never destroy anything.)
- I was also not sure how the payment works. My understanding is that the winner puts his "payment" into the middle and takes the die from the middle, while none of the other players who bid are affected. This indicates that the winner of the auction did not lose any dice, he just substituted one. So let's say there is a 4 die in the middle, and one player also has a 4 die. He bids 4 (and wins), substituting his 4 for the 4 in the middle. Net result is that he gains points for no cost, and can do the same thing again next round. (Again, I think I'm misreading something, because I don't think this is how it was intended to play.)
- Rolling the dice to determine your starting resources in an auction game is inherently unbalanced, and I think it removes much of the skill of an auction game. If I rolled several 4 dice I'm probably going to win lots of auctions this era without any skill at all. I wonder whether you could counter this by allowing a third option on the player's turn, namely "gather offerings" which lets him roll an extra die (or perhaps reroll an existing die).
- With regards to the theme feeling "pasted on", I think perhaps this is reflected in the resources that the players have, namely money. It seems like this game is representing the high priest collecting a bunch of money from his faithful flock, and then goes down to the local market to buy up a bunch of animals, grain, etc. If the theme is to feel more integral, I think it needs to represent "presenting" the offerings to the Unnamed God, rather than "buying" them from the market. But that may involve a complete reversal of the game (and would in fact be a completely new game), for example:
* The dice faces represent different types of offerings, plus Wrath and Sundial
* The players have a hand of Offering cards with offering type and value
* On your turn you may petition the Unnamed God to find out what type of offering it wants (roll 1 die and add it to the middle)
* Make a secret bid by placing an Offering card face down
* If there are 2 Wraths in the middle all offerings are burned up; no points for anyone.
* If there are 2 Sundials in the middle the auction is over and the player who has offered the most things the Unnamed God wants is rewarded; the player with the least is punished; all the others get nothing; reshuffle all the played Offering cards and deal them out evenly.
* Players keep their unplayed Offering cards for the next round.
(As I said, this would be an entirely different game, and it's probably quite broken because it's just off the top of my head. But it's an example of how the "presenting offerings" mechanic could be made more integral to the theme.)

Well done on your entry in the competition. I wish you all the best.

Regards,
kos

bhazzard
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Joined: 01/25/2011
Thanks

I appreciate your response. I'm happy with the game for a first time submission, but in the end I feel that it is mostly just a jumble of auction mechanics from Ra and Medici forced into using dice, and with a pasted on theme.

I'll probably shelve this one for a while, but if I were actively working on it, I would probably try to make the theme feel more integrated into the core mechanics. I also would work on making the dice feel less fiddly. I really like the idea of finding a creative way to use dice in an auction game.

I think that them representing follower's offering makes thematic sense, but as you said is unbalanced. I wouldn't want to use a yahtzee mechanic, just because it doesn't really make thematic sense, so I would be open to suggestions for making this more balanced.

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