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Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King» Forums » Variants

Subject: True auction variant rss

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Scott Whittaker
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I love this game, but after playing it several times it often seems to me that having a lot of money does not compensate for a lack of tiles.

Several games have had rounds when a player has both of their tiles purchased and even if they had money to make them expensive, a player doing well often has enough money to buy a tile if they really want it. And receiving extra money as a catch-up hasn't helped quite enough as the players often overprice their own tiles in desperation and spend their cash advantage on tiles that are often too little too late.

I would like to try a true auction variant where the money placed behind tiles is a starting bid. The active player nominates a tile (including one of their own) and starts the bid at the price behind the tile. Bids go round the table until everyone passes and the highest bidder wins the tile. The winner cannot participate in any further bids. If the active player did not win the bid, they get to start a new one on another tile, otherwise the next bidder is the next clockwise player who has not already won a tile bid.

After every player has bought a tile (or declined to buy one) the money behind the remaining tiles is paid to the bank and the tile owners keep their tiles as usual.

The money catch-up for players behind in scoring is kept, and this time the extra money is much more useful since they can often afford to outbid the other players at the table for the tiles they want regardless of where they are in the turn order.

I haven't had a chance to try this variant yet, but plan to the next time I get to play this awesome game.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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I really like the sound of this variant but aren't you afraid that the playing time will increase significantly from this?
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Ben Bateson
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For a start, you might as well skip the ‘money behind the screens’ phase. Why would you ever put more than 1 money there if it’s only a starting bid?

Secondly, this gives a massive advantage to whoever accumulates the most money. You wouldn’t play for the benefit of your own tableau but simply to deprive the other players of what they need by outbidding them. This would become a very negative variant very quickly.
 
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Ryan Feathers
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Well you'd want to set prices on your tiles because your tiles might not come up for auction--as far as I can tell each player only gets to win one tile during the auction phase, so really there will only be a handful of auctions. In a 4 player game for example you'll have the opening 4 player auction, then a 3 player auction, then a 2 player auction, and then the remaining player can buy whatever tile they desire at list price, and the remaining 4 tiles will be like they always have--money to the bank and the price setters keep those tiles.

If I'm understanding the rules correctly, that is an interesting variant that won't add that much time--the additional time for those auctions is probably only a few minutes per round, so maybe 15 more minutes total during the game?

There would be quite a bit of strategy behind what tiles you want to nominate. Putting up the one you want the most is risky as others have plenty of coins leftover and may outbid you--but if you put up a tile few want they may all pass and you'll be out of the auction phase with that tile.

I'll have to think on it a bit more, and possibly try it, but on first reflection this seems like it could work pretty dang well.
 
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Ben Bateson
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Ranior wrote:
Well you'd want to set prices on your tiles because your tiles might not come up for auction


Hmm, let me see... if my tile DOES come up for auction, I only want a starting bid on there, so I’ll value it at 1.

If my tile DOES NOT come up for auction, I will want to buy it as cheap as possible. I think I’ll value it at 1.

If we are auctioning stuff, I want to have as much money in hand as possible. In order to do that, I will value my tiles at - let’s see, now - yup, 1.
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Ryan Feathers
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ousgg wrote:
Ranior wrote:
Well you'd want to set prices on your tiles because your tiles might not come up for auction


Hmm, let me see... if my tile DOES come up for auction, I only want a starting bid on there, so I’ll value it at 1.

If my tile DOES NOT come up for auction, I will want to buy it as cheap as possible. I think I’ll value it at 1.

If we are auctioning stuff, I want to have as much money in hand as possible. In order to do that, I will value my tiles at - let’s see, now - yup, 1.


Sorry I didn't explain myself well there. The main reason you'll want to still set prices on your tiles is for the last person to put a tile up for "auction" in the auction phase--they still get to put a tile up for auction, but no one else is still eligible to bid. So you'll get the tile for list price.

If everyone sets all their tiles at a price of 1, the last player remaining in the auction phase will get a tile for only 1 coin. Additionally if you put a price of only 1 on a tile and somebody does nominate it early, what if nobody else really wants that tile and instead wishes to save their bid opportunities for a tile they really do want? Then you've just given a tile away for 1 when you could have gotten more had you set a minimum price on it.

With that being said, you are correct that the rest of the incentives of this variant are to price everything as low as possible, so perhaps that still would be the dominant strategy, which would make this variant truly horrible.

I'm happy with the game as is though. Part of learning to be good at this game is learning how to leverage a cash advantage into more points than your opponents. I believe the game offers enough ways to do that such that variants like this aren't needed. Still, I think this variant will work better than you seem to think it will.
 
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Scott Whittaker
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Yes, Ryan has the right idea, you will be selling to the highest bidder, but the number of bidders decreases with every tile bought and the last bidder picks up whatever they want for list price.

But even if group-think leads players to put 1 on everything, it should still work just fine as a pure auction.

Yes, someone with a lot of money will be able to outbid everyone else and get the tile they want the most. Now they have less money and the player who sold the tile has more when it's their turn to bid.

Those falling behind in scoring will get an extra boost of cash to help them get what they need, making the catch-up mechanism stronger, but spending that money to get the tiles you want naturally redistributes the wealth.

In theory it should balance out well, but it would take several games to see how well it works. Also different gaming group dynamics could lead to different results - my group mainly just tries to get the best tiles they can for their setup, while other groups may more aggressively do "hate drafting" by buying tiles other players need ahead of their own. And the ability to bid on your own tiles makes for another interesting dynamic.

Like I said, I love this game, I'm not approaching it from the point of view of trying to fix something that I think is broken. Instead I look at this as a potentially fun variant that might appeal to some gamers more than others, or at least an interesting take to vary things up from time to time.

Let me know if you try it out and what you think!
 
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Ryucoo
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Quote:
Several games have had rounds when a player has both of their tiles purchased and even if they had money to make them expensive, a player doing well often has enough money to buy a tile if they really want it. And receiving extra money as a catch-up hasn't helped quite enough as the players often overprice their own tiles in desperation and spend their cash advantage on tiles that are often too little too late.


I’m afraid this sounds like player error, rather than an issue with the game. The cash they receive from a previous round should be used to secure tiles they need, whether in their row or somebody else’s. It’s simply impossible for a player to earn overpriced fees on BOTH Their tiles and have less money available than their opponents next round, unless they are playing very poorly. I’d suggest playing the game more, learning more about the speculation side of it, and understanding how to balance the price of your tiles and your prospective bids, with your own closed economy – before trying to come up with a variant which will not be able to match the consideration and playtesting of the original game design.

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the extra money is much more useful since they can often afford to outbid the other players at the table for the tiles they want regardless of where they are in the turn order.


I would argue you would be stepping on the balance of the game – turn order does not create any problems that you describe. There are always twice as many tiles available as players, including your ‘own’. If you are tail-end in turn order, you are more likely to have sold your tiles and thus you will have more money available for bids. If you are top-end, you are less likely to have sold your tiles and will have less money for bids. An understanding of this is part of the strategy in the game - to estimate what money to set aside for bids – the further back in turn order, the less you will feasibly need, meaning the more expensive you can price your own tiles. This balance, and how you manipulate it, is part of the design.

 
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Scott Whittaker
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I finally got to try this variant a couple of days ago. Based on the one game we played (with 3 people who had not played the game before, and 2 people who had) I have the following observations:

* The rules explanation of the auction took a bit longer than simple pricing
* The first 2-3 rounds took a couple of minutes longer as players faced a bit of AP deciding what to price their tiles at, and whether or not to increase a bid on a tile
* This variant does not fix the issue of a player with fewer tiles generally underperforming as their tiles can still be bought, but it does close the gap slightly as they can generally afford to buy the tile they want the most
* Apart from the first round or two (where money was tight), nobody priced all their tiles at 1
* The ability to buy your own tiles was neat

Overall the gameplay didn't really change that much. The auction adds a little to the length of the game, but feels a bit more interactive. It can be funny when a player bids on a tile they don't really want to make it more expensive for the bidder, only for the bidder to let them have it and pick another tile. It adds a level of meta-gaming that some player will like, and perhaps others not so much.

It seemed that the scores were a little closer, but with only one game I can't draw any conclusions about balance compared to the normal game. I can't claim that it is better than the original, but I didn't see any obvious flaws either.

I will definitely play this variant again, but I will also play the regular version too.
 
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