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Hit Z Road» Forums » Variants

Subject: Alternative auction format rss

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Kevin B. Smith
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Disclaimer: I haven't played the game. EDIT: Also, I'm not calling the game "broken" or "bad" or anything like that. The rules as written are probably great for many people. I'm not aiming to "fix" them. Rather, I'm thinking there might be a tweak that would make the game more enjoyable for ME (and perhaps some others).

Based on the rules explanation in Tom Vasel's review, the auction format looks very unpleasant to me. Although the available paths have widely different values, the structure of the auction seems like it will usually end up with the player(s) taking the really crappy paths paying almost as much as those who get the really good path(s). It seems like it would feel similar to an all-pay auction, and I almost never enjoy those.

In Marnaudo's review, he expresses different concerns, and he suggests a houserule of blind bidding. A couple commenters agree that might be an improvement.

I want to suggest a different variant. If it turned out to work, then I think it could turn this game into one I might buy. If it is of interest to someone who has access to the game, maybe they'll try it and post their results here. So...here it is:

The basic auction structure is: One player places a bid on a path of their choice. Each other player can bid, going once around. If nobody outbids the player who chose this path, they get it for their bid. Then the player earliest in turn order who doesn't yet have a path then bids on a path of their choice, and so on. As soon as someone has a path, they are out of the auction. The player who is forced to take the last path gets it for free.

Again, without having played the game, I think this would result in the spread of prices paid aligning more closely with spread of values on offer. If there is one awesome path and 3 crappy ones, the awesome one will go for a high price, 2 will go for low prices, and 1 will be free. If 3 are good and 1 bad, the bad one will go for zero, and the good ones should all go for "reasonable" prices.

It seems like this auction format would also work well even with just 2 players. And it seems like it should reduce the "rich get richer" effect that some people have expressed concerns about.

Can anyone think of why this wouldn't work? Does anyone want to give it a try?
 
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Geert Vinaskov
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I think any form of bidding will work, and possible can be more "fun" than the standard method. I must admit that while I think this is a great game, the bidding is a bit bland.

But...

Altering the auction may alter the degree of "deadliness". A major draw for me is just that: it is entirely possible to not survive, and the final turns of the game are often hard.

Your suggestion would:
1) leave the players with more resources. Making the game a lot easier.
2) It would have a balancing effect, yes, but I personally don't think there's much of a rich-get-richer problem. Remember that there are also 4 "goals" and 9 "emblems/special abilities", so different players tend to go for different strategies (and value different paths differently).

Quote:
it will usually end up with the player(s) taking the really crappy paths paying almost as much as those who get the really good path(s)

I've found this is not the case most of the times. Auctions are swingy, and sometimes your scenario happens, yes. Most of the times, the auction is "fair". Players have less freedom in the amount they're bidding, since they desperately need these resources to survive, so the "driving up prices" that you'll see in other auction games doesn't happen much in this game.

My conclusion: If you're altering the auction, don't forget to give players less starting resources or something. The game is very nicely balanced (to be hard).

Source: Demo'd this game at a convention, and played a few times with my group. That's 6 plays or so, but mostly with players new to the game.
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James Clarke
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peakhope wrote:
The basic auction structure is: One player places a bid on a path of their choice. Each other player can bid, going once around. If nobody outbids the player who chose this path, they get it for their bid. Then the player earliest in turn order who doesn't yet have a path then bids on a path of their choice, and so on. As soon as someone has a path, they are out of the auction. The player who is forced to take the last path gets it for free.


This is very similar to the auction mechanic in Colosseum. It works fine in that game, so definitely worth a try.

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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Zombies don't kill people, auctions kill people. If everyone bid 0 and picked a random path, they would be better off. By cooperating to let players pick the most favourable paths, everyone would probably arrive safely. This game combines the prisoner's dilemma with a dollar auction, but disguises it as a race for survival.

If you want a theme to the auction, you are spending resources to race to the best path; when someone sees you getting ahead, they spend even more resources because they don't want what they've already spent go to waste.... (But wait, that's what you are actually doing.)
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Kevin B. Smith
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Geert Vinaskov wrote:
Altering the auction may alter the degree of "deadliness". A major draw for me is just that: it is entirely possible to not survive, and the final turns of the game are often hard.

That's a good point. I tend to enjoy cooperative games that are on the easier side. A win rate below 50% tends to get depressing, and winning as much as 90% of the time is fine, as long as there is a credible threat of losing, so there is tension during the game. I wonder if that same preference would apply here.

mlvanbie wrote:
This game combines the prisoner's dilemma with a dollar auction, but disguises it as a race for survival.

Yeah, that's how it looks, having not played it. I'm not into that sort of thing, so I would prefer more of a straight up auction+resource management game. It's entirely possible that that means I should ignore this game and move on to others. But maybe this one tweak would turn it into "my kind of game".
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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peakhope wrote:
mlvanbie wrote:
This game combines the prisoner's dilemma with a dollar auction, but disguises it as a race for survival.

Yeah, that's how it looks, having not played it. I'm not into that sort of thing, so I would prefer more of a straight up auction+resource management game. It's entirely possible that that means I should ignore this game and move on to others. But maybe this one tweak would turn it into "my kind of game".


The good news is that your opponents may be set to 'betray all the time' and the best way to win a dollar auction is to stay out of it. So you can take last pick until things get really nasty and then start using your resources in the auction when your opponents can't afford to compete.

If you really want to break the design, I suggest using both keys so that additional resources get depleted each turn. You'll be keeping the push-your-luck and resource management aspects of the game, but you will remove one aspect of the fun for the other players.
 
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Kevin B. Smith
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mlvanbie wrote:
If you really want to break the design, I suggest using both keys so that additional resources get depleted each turn. You'll be keeping the push-your-luck and resource management aspects of the game, but you will remove one aspect of the fun for the other players.

I would be playing this with other people who prefer friendlier games, so presumably the variant would increase their fun as well.
 
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Alex Fiedler
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Another simple idea when using the standard auction board :

Any player that stays on the 0 bidding space, gains 1 resource of their choice.

This acts a little like a catchup mechanic and addresses the poor get poorer issue outlined in some reviews.
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Patrick C.
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peakhope wrote:
mlvanbie wrote:
If you really want to break the design, I suggest using both keys so that additional resources get depleted each turn. You'll be keeping the push-your-luck and resource management aspects of the game, but you will remove one aspect of the fun for the other players.

I would be playing this with other people who prefer friendlier games, so presumably the variant would increase their fun as well.


I think you want a different game. The cut throat nature is inherent to the theme as designed. This isn't a deep game. Seems to me you'd be better off looking for a filler that better suited your needs.
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Tomas Inguanzo
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mlvanbie wrote:
By cooperating to let players pick the most favourable paths, everyone would probably arrive safely. This game combines the prisoner's dilemma with a dollar auction, but disguises it as a race for survival.


Not quite. Arriving safely =/= winning. In the optimal solution to the prisoners dilemma both parties win. In HZR victory goes to the survivor with the most points. In a resource rich game, players will be bidding for the right to fight the most zombies. I think the balance between safety and points is the heart of the game.
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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With friendly cooperation, Hit Z Road ceases to be a game ... much as if people conspired to have one person bid a single cent in a dollar and then shared the dollar. Or even if the two remaining bidders realized that they needed to stop bidding against each other and split the dollar. Cooperation -- it's great right up until you want to win, at which point players defect and the auctions go crazy.

I didn't mean to imply that anyone would play Hit Z Road cooperatively, merely that it would be better for your survivors if you did so.
 
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Tomas Inguanzo
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mlvanbie wrote:
With friendly cooperation, Hit Z Road ceases to be a game


Very Zen.
 
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Kevin B. Smith
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My theory (without having played the game) is still that the current auction format is likely to result in less fair correlations between bids and results than other multi-item auction formats (such as Homesteaders or my proposal). One person has said that doesn't seem to be true, but I haven't heard why it wouldn't be.

In a 3-player game, let's say there is one great option (worth 10) and two terrible options (worth 1). With the official auction format, it seems like one (or two) players will have competed for the good choice, but failed, ending up paying a lot to get one of the 1-value routes. Or, if everyone bids low, two players will pay roughly fair price for the crappy routes, but one will pay far less than the good route is worth. That doesn't sound fun or fair to me.

I would rather have each player pay roughly what their route is worth. In most other auction games/formats, paying roughly the actual value (as estimated by the players) works fine. What is special about this game that would make it fail if all the players got roughly what they paid for?


 
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Tomas Inguanzo
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peakhope wrote:
My theory (without having played the game) is still that the current auction format is likely to result in less fair correlations between bids and results than other multi-item auction formats (such as Homesteaders or my proposal). One person has said that doesn't seem to be true, but I haven't heard why it wouldn't be.

In a 3-player game, let's say there is one great option (worth 10) and two terrible options (worth 1). With the official auction format, it seems like one (or two) players will have competed for the good choice, but failed, ending up paying a lot to get one of the 1-value routes. Or, if everyone bids low, two players will pay roughly fair price for the crappy routes, but one will pay far less than the good route is worth. That doesn't sound fun or fair to me.


It's not a bug, it's a feature. Each auction is like playing chicken. Before committing to a bidding war you have to ask yourself, is your opponent a crasher or a swerver. I've not yet played HZR but Age of Steam has a similar auction structure, and it is more fun than you make it sound.
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Kevin B. Smith
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hrhtomas wrote:
It's not a bug, it's a feature. Each auction is like playing chicken. Before committing to a bidding war you have to ask yourself, is your opponent a crasher or a swerver. I've not yet played HZR but Age of Steam has a similar auction structure, and it is more fun than you make it sound.

Ok, so I get that some people enjoy that auction structure. For them, it is more fun than I make it sound. (For others, it's less fun than I made it sound.)

My question remains: Is there something unique about this game where it is objectively better because it uses this particular auction format rather than another?

For example, I think Power Grid would still work with a once-around auction, although obviously it would require players to take a different approach. Or a blind bid. The choice of auction format there seems relatively arbitrary. EDIT: Not wrong, but not The One Possible Way, either.

Is that the case with Hit Z Road too, or was this format very precisely chosen to interact with other mechanisms to achieve a specific outcome?
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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When I run from zombies, I only need to be faster than you. If you start to get ahead of me, I'd better put on a burst of speed because running fast made me too worn out to fight the zombies hand to hand. If only I had saved some bullets....

The whole point of the auction is to incite players to waste resources.
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Kevin B. Smith
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mlvanbie wrote:
The whole point of the auction is to incite players to waste resources.

Thanks for putting forward a plausible argument for why the auction format is so closely tied to the mechanisms in the game. I'm not persuaded (yet?), but I appreciate the effort, and acknowledge that there might be something there.

I can see how it is a good fit thematically.
 
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Geert Vinaskov
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peakhope wrote:
In a 3-player game, let's say there is one great option (worth 10) and two terrible options (worth 1).

Hmmm. There are four options in a three player game, Also, different players receive different abilities during the game. An option can be both a 10 and a 1, depending on the player.
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