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Subject: Updating and revising Goblin Market rss

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P.D. Magnus
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I designed Goblin Market years ago, and I was rethinking it recently. At Spielbany last weekend, we tested some revised rules. Results were promising.

I'll explain the new rules and discuss the justification for them below.

goo New Rules goo

There are three changes. Except as noted, the game follows the old rules.

Auction Size: The first four auctions of the game are single card auctions, and every subsequent auction is for two cards. Every card in the deck eventually appears in an auction.

Sisterhood Money: Consider the last digit of the winning high bid, players earn two coins for each card of the rank below, that rank, and the rank above.

Scoring: At the end of the game, consider your holdings in all six suits.

For the suit you have the most of, each card is worth +1
For the suit you have the second-most of, each card is worth +2
For the suit you have the third-most of, each card is worth +3
For the suit you have the fourth-most of, each card is worth -1
For the suit you have the fifth-most of, each card is worth -2
For the suit you have the six-most of, each card is worth -3

This works best with suit chips. When you obtain cards, take chips corresponding to those suits. Then you can put yours stacks of chips in order from most to least, pushing them around if one stack outgrows the one next to it.

goo Why do this? goo

With the old rules, about a third of the cards were thrown out. You could be hosed if you committed to suits that just happened to be set aside. Now all the cards are ultimately in play.

bacon With the old rules, the game ended too early. Some people used a double deck to fix this. Not throwing out cards increases game length by about 50% with just a single deck, and this felt about right.

bacon The new rule for auction sizes is designed to drive the arc of the game.

The initial single-card auctions allow for players to orient toward particular suits without grabbing too many of them at once. A player who gets a card or two wants more cards with those suits. A player who doesn't get cards still learns which suits are likely to be contested, and they know what's left for them to gobble up later.

Then the game switches to two-card auctions, with the terrible possibility of ending up in second place and stuck with a card that hurts you. That's the interesting meat of the game.

The old rule for sisterhood money accomplished what it was supposed to do but was too complicated. Paying out 3, 2, and 1 coins for cards at various ranks was a pain, and it was easy to get the direction of the payout backwards. The new rule puts the same amount of money into the economy but is less fiddly.

I initially decided to revisit Goblin Market because of the scoring rule, which was too granular.

Ties used to be annoyingly common.

Worse, a lot of cards would be indifferent to you. If a card had one suit that was going to be good for you and another that was going to be bad for you, it didn't matter whether you took that card or not. Now most cards will change your score a little bit.

goo How did it go? goo

We played two four-player games.

The results were promising enough that I wouldn't go back to the old rules. I haven't played enough to say these are final.

I also need to try these at different player counts.

Feedback is welcome.
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YaVerOt YaVerOt
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I don't have/use suit chips, but my substitute I found works better if they're put on the card during action, so the winner claims both the cards and "chips" instead of forgetting. (Since I'm banking/running the game. It is a task someone else gladly takes.)

You chose 4 single card auctions, and tested at four players; should this be player count single card auctions?

I'm not certain I like the predictability of auction size (singles, then doubles, no 3 card auctions which is where the fun all-or-one choice came up), I may also try out going through the deck traditionally, then having the sizing cards come up in pairs when the main deck runs through.

I'll post something on results I get.
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P.D. Magnus
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yaverot wrote:

You chose 4 single card auctions, and tested at four players; should this be player count single card auctions?


Nope. There needs to be an even number of cards left over when you switch to two-card auctions.

Quote:

I'm not certain I like the predictability of auction size (singles, then doubles, no 3 card auctions which is where the fun all-or-one choice came up), I may also try out going through the deck traditionally, then having the sizing cards come up in pairs when the main deck runs through.


I think front-loading the one-card auctions, rather than dropping them in a random 1/6 times, improves the structure of the game.

I had been thinking that three-card auctions weren’t worth the extra bookkeeping, since the tension of all-or-nothing isn’t that different than the one-or-both of two-card auctions. But an alternative would be to have the 4 one-card auctions and then alternate two- and three-card auctions.
 
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Joyce W.
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I just saw this, via your "Much played games of 2018" blog post. Hmm. Since I'm quite fond of classic Goblin Market, I'm not sure about this. The simpler income could be a plus for me, but the more-complex scoring probably isn't (the current scoring seems complex enough for most that I've taught it to, though one Coloretto-fan found it a bit underwhelming). Also, I'm dubious about having the auctions be so same-y in size; I like the mix of auctions that classic Goblin Market has, where sometimes a third bidder can nip in and get a card for super-cheap though the top two bidders spend a lot. And I kind of like the risk that I'll choose suits that all get sucked out of the game, and have to switch horses part-way through. To populate a few(?) more auctions under more-or-less the classic rules, it occurs to me that one could shuffle the discards and go through them in the usual way. Anyway, will probably give it a try with a couple of my Goblin Market regulars.
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P.D. Magnus
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The rule for scoring that I describe here has worked pretty well.

The rule for auction size has changed, though. I’ll post the current work-in-progress rule when I get a chance.

EDIT: I've written a blog post, My recent plays of Goblin Market
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Joyce W.
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Talking about it with my husband last night, he suggested that one simple way to use all the (basic-deck) cards but still have more-various auction sizes would be to roll a D6 to determine the size. If a 1 comes up, one card is auctioned, if a 6 comes up, three cards are auctioned, otherwise two cards are auctioned. It also occurred to me that the first auction could be a pre-determined size, and then the first card laid out for each auction could determine the size of the next auction.

Anyway, my main problem may be that as a gamer who prefers the lighter side, I never really like it when a game I'm fond of gets unexpectedly heavier. I know I can stick to the old rules (and I'm guessing I will, or some hybrid of old, new, and only-in-St.-Louis), but there's an appeal to playing (more-or-less) the same game that everyone else plays when they play Goblin Market, and I'd be a bit sad to lose that, so I kind of wish this were being treated as an entirely new Decktet auction game.
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P.D. Magnus
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The changes to the deck, goblin money, and sisterhood money (that I describe in the blog post) all improve the game while actually making it a bit simpler. So I don't foresee retaining the old rules for that stuff.

Although I like the new scoring rule, I realize that some players may not like the extra layer of complexity. I may end up calling the old scoring rule "basic scoring" and the new rule "advanced scoring", or something like that.
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Joyce W.
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I like that idea of retaining both scoring modes. And, actually, I dragged my reluctant husband and the current geek-of-the-week into a three-player game with mostly the new rules last night ... and we kind of liked it. My husband crushed us with a net three stacks of 6 chips.

Our divergence from the revised rules (blush) was to use the basic deck, and roll a D6 to determine each auction size but the last (and use pawns/courts in the old, goblin-income way). By the end we had worked out that if you have the high bidder roll the die for the next auction, then the die also functions as a first-bidder marker. Maybe next time we'll try the new extended deck rules. Baby steps.
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