Tod Hostetler
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In the current iteration of my game, the players Heroes start with limited or no Hero Powers, but they have the opportunity to buy them with gold (given certain rules) during the course of the game, if they accomplish certain objectives.

I'm considering a system where players can participate in a bidding system before the game actually starts, to try and start the game with certain Hero Powers already attached to them.

Like, if the Super Speed card shows up randomly as a potential pre-purchase in the initial pre-game bidding round, and Super Speed is considered a very powerful card in my game, then players might be encouraged to secretly bid on it. The highest bidder wins the Power, but starts the game with a score deficit equal to what he bid. The idea is, that if you (the player) really think that Super Speed is an over-powered Power to start with, you have the opportunity to prove it. Can you win the game with that Power and a 20 point deficit? 40? 60? What's it worth to you?

I landed on this idea on my own but then immediately thought of Ars Victor (great game btw), where you can make any army you like but the more points you use, the deeper in the hole you are score-wise. My game doesn't play at all like Ars Victor, but I'm really interested in looking at any other games that use a similar mechanic, and especially with a blind bid system to see who starts with what special abilities.

Any thoughts? Point me toward games using similar mechanics? I'm not ashamed about stealing great ideas.
 
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Michael Weber
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In World in Flames you bid Victory Points for the nation you would like to play, highest bidder wins, but starts with a VP deficit.
 
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Dave VanderArk
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Merchants of the Middle Ages is an older Euro where every player has a special ability. In the advanced rules, players bid on these, paying for their starting "powers" from their starting cash.
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Ken Howard

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The Lord of the Rings trading card game let you bid corruption tokens to go first. You put the corruption tokens on Frodo and if he ever got 10 during the game, he was corrupted and you lost.
Don't know if this helps, but I liked the mechanics.
 
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Eric Brosius
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Another example is Empires in Arms.
 
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Gauntlet of Fools, in a sense.
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I'd be concerned it would detach a player from his character in your case. Is it one superhero per player?
 
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Lucas Smith
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Less experienced players won't be able to aestimate the value of the powers in advance (how much to bid), so they will start the game with a disadvantage. Maybe create 2 variants: a random based beginner variant and an auction based expert variant (this is the one you developed above). Once familiar with the game, people can switch to the expert variant.
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Martin Brandt
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smithlucas wrote:
Less experienced players won't be able to aestimate the value of the powers in advance (how much to bid), so they will start the game with a disadvantage. Maybe create 2 variants: a random based beginner variant and an auction based expert variant (this is the one you developed above). Once familiar with the game, people can switch to the expert variant.


I agree, what would prevent the new player from being at a large disadvantage in this system?
 
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MartinBrandt wrote:
smithlucas wrote:
Less experienced players won't be able to aestimate the value of the powers in advance (how much to bid), so they will start the game with a disadvantage. Maybe create 2 variants: a random based beginner variant and an auction based expert variant (this is the one you developed above). Once familiar with the game, people can switch to the expert variant.


I agree, what would prevent the new player from being at a large disadvantage in this system?

Well, what I wrote above (random distribution)

Additional ideas:
- a guide to read before the game
- a handicap system
- give a "suggested distribution of powers" (like the prebuilt decks in Dominion)
- it depends on the overall complexity of your game, maybe it is easy enough to be obvious from the beginning (I don't think that though.)

 
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Alison Mandible
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Mage Knight Board Game includes optional rules for bidding on heroes before the game starts.
 
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Not at the start of the game as such, but at the start of every round in Cyclades players bid for the favour of the available Gods. Each God provides the player with a different benefit during that round.
 
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modernlife wrote:
Not at the start of the game as such, but at the start of every round in Cyclades players bid for the favour of the available Gods. Each God provides the player with a different benefit during that round.


Playing with Cyclades: Titans you get special stuff basing on first bidding.
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Xavier Raabe
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Almost the exact same idea as the bidding system in Rumble, but you're wagering your one in-game resource instead of your score. Same theme too.
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Jeremy Lennert
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MartinBrandt wrote:
I agree, what would prevent the new player from being at a large disadvantage in this system?

New players are at a disadvantage in many game systems; this is not usually fatal to a design by itself.

Though assuming that experienced players know the true value of powers, as long as you have at least 2 experienced players, neither of them should be able to obtain a power for dramatically less than its value (since the other will outbid them), and obtaining a power at a cost precisely equal to its value is no advantage, so as long as the new players avoid drastic overbidding their disadvantage may not be that large.

However, this premise kind of assumes that the value of a particular power doesn't depend on what other powers you or your opponents have, which probably isn't a safe assumption. If the value of a power depends on how the other powers get distributed, then the bids are not independent, and strategic bidding becomes a complex problem in itself.
 
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    Am I the only one thinking that bidding on powers would result in someone potentially being disappointed with their superhero prior to the game starting? Purchasing powers gives you ownership, auctioning leaves you with a mishmash of whatever you get. It sounds very dis-empowering to me.

    I realize this is a subjective opinion, but if you end up with a flying/water breathing/earthquake guy you may not be all that interested to play out the round, because he's not your guy. He's just a bag of parts. A superhero should be someone you emotionally invest in.

             S.


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Thematically, I think getting a weird combination of powers that you don't necessarily want actually makes more sense for a superhero than for most other things. Most people and organizations choose what skills or assets to acquire, but super powers are traditionally acquired involuntarily.
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Tod Hostetler
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Thanks ALL!!! for the suggestions and the comments. I'm taking them all to heart.

It's not actually a Superhero game, sorry I used 'Super Speed' as my example, I just thought it would be an easy concept for people to wrap their heads around without boring them with details of my game design.

I'm almost certain to use this as an 'advanced mode' to make the game more fun for repeat play. Likely, the rules will suggest a predetermined power set for the first time learning experience.

@Sagrilarus, no, each player has 3 Heroes. A Scout, a Knight, and a Wizard. Each class has 3 abilities, each of those abilities has 3 ranks.

Thanks modernlife for mentioning Cyclades. You're right, it doesn't address my specific question but from your description it sounds like something I would also want to look into.

PS: Funny enough, some of these comments make me want to think about a Superhero game as my next effort. Hmmm....
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David Gibbs
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It may be worth taking a look at how Small World does things.
 
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One problem I see with bidding is that, even if you are an experienced player, if you're playing with a different group, you may be at a disadvantage, since different groups can end up with different equilibrium points. If your regular group usually spends around 20 points to buy powers, but the group you're playing with spends on average 50 points, you may find yourself with a lot of surplus points, but not a single power worth talking about. Or you can go on the other direction, and overspend compared to the rest of the current group, to the point that even with your awesome powers you have no chance of closing the initial gap in points.

Repeating what Antistone said, this isn't a fatal flaw, but something to keep in mind. Perhaps you could have auctions at several points in your game instead of a big auction at the beginning, so players have a chance to adjust their strategy.
 
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David Gibbs
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A multiple-times-around with raising auction, or even open-outcry, will avoid the problem of over-bidding compared to a group. Well, unless someone opens or raises by an extreme amount -- but that's just asking for trouble.
 
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rubinelli wrote:
If your regular group usually spends around 20 points to buy powers, but the group you're playing with spends on average 50 points, you may find yourself with a lot of surplus points, but not a single power worth talking about. Or you can go on the other direction, and overspend compared to the rest of the current group, to the point that even with your awesome powers you have no chance of closing the initial gap in points.

You seem to be assuming that the appropriate amount to spend on powers can be arbitrarily set by the group, rather than being controlled by game design. If the goal of the game is to score points, and the powers let you score more points than you otherwise could, then (it seems to me) the powers are worth the amount of extra points they allow you to score, and if you buy them for more than that amount you should be worse off than a player with no powers.

If you know the powers are worth 20 points, but for some reason the other players bid around 50 points, then you'll end up with no powers, but you'll also win.
 
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Tod Hostetler
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I still really like the notion of letting 'market forces' ie 'economics 101' ie 'how much is it worth to you' take a role in helping to balance my game out.

dagibbs, or anyone knowledgable, would mind elucidating further on the concepts of "A multiple-times-around with raising auction, or even open-outcry"? I don't know these concepts but am keen to learn.

rubinelli, thanks for highlighting the dangers of limitless bids. I think I was only thinking about balancing the game with my own group of players, totally forgot to think about how one group's dynamic might interface with another's. I'll be sure to keep that in mind going forward.

Each player has 3 Heroes, each of the Heroes can learn 3 Abilities, each of the Abilities has 3 Ranks. My main hope is that each player has the opportunity of starting the game with roughly 1-2 Ranks. But also that by seeing what Ability Ranks have been bid on heavily by [player], would give [another player] an insight into how he plans to play the game.

I think I'll try 3 rounds of bidding. First round, you may bid 0-20. Second round you may bid 0-10. Third round you may bid 0-5. This means that even someone that totally maxes out their bids on the initial game will start with a maximum 35 deficit (seems roughly appropriate and challenging given the other game rules).

We'll try it out anyways. Thanks again to everyone for ALL the input.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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I assume dagibbs is describing an English Auction, which you've probably seen in movies. It basically means that the bidding goes back and forth until no one wants to raise it anymore, which has the practical effect that the winner only pays one bid increment more than the second-highest bidder was willing to pay (in contrast to a sealed auction, where each participant submits a single bid without seeing what anyone else is bidding).
 
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David Gibbs
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Modern Art is a good game to look to for types of auctions, actually.

Open Outcry: the auction you see in movies, where people are shouting out bids whenever they want, as long as each is higher than the last.

Multiple times around with raises: instead of anyone saying a new bid value at any time, each player in order (often clockwise around the table) has a chance to raise the previous bid, or drop out. Once all players but one have dropped out, the winner takes it at the highest bid. (Or, rarely, at the 2nd highest bid, or the average of the two highest bids.)

vs once-around: the bidding passes once around the table... each player either raises or drops out. Last player has final say. Clear advantage to being last player.

Sealed bid auction: all players secretly name a price. All prices are revealed, highest price wins. If tie, tied players secretly get to raise their bid, highest raise wins for total. Repeat as necessary.

The first two cases generally lead to a "discovery" of the correct value of something -- at least for one of the players. The 2nd two put a lot more pressure on the players to guess/calculate the right value up front.



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