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Yehuda Berlinger
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Jerusalem
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This is a Knizia auction/area control game with a nice but mostly irrelevant 16th century Amsterdam theme. It's not bad in some respects, but the auction system sucks. Really.

The game uses the Dutch auction (naturally), which means that the price starts high and gradually falls until someone is willing to pay the price. Why is this so bad?

First of all, it uses a mechanical spring-loaded component which is almost guaranteed to break fairly quickly. Second, the thing is loud. It doesn't just silently spin until it dings at the end; it makes an awful stream of clatter which my wife immediately banned from the house.

Third, it's terribly boring to sit and watch a clock tick down. I guess it's supposed to be tense, but that gets old after the first auction. And we're not talking 1 or 3 auctions per game. We're talking an auction on every player's turn! That means the vast part of the game is simply waiting for the damn thing to spin down to a reasonable price.

Fourth, it's just not an exciting auction type. It starts, there's one bid, and it's done. Only one person gets a chance to do anything.

So, one dutch auction in a game could work, but not every turn. Moving on ...

We considered alternatives to the auction given. We ended up having the first player count down from some reasonable starting point, but this gave the person counting down an unfair advantage to be first to call a certain number. We also had no way of resolving auction ties (with the clock, the first person to slap it wins, which should result in fewer ties).

David pointed out that the auction is actually similar to blind bidding, since each person simply chooses what bid they want to make before the auction starts. Our group isn't too keen on blind bidding, though (I kind of like it). It could probably be played with either turn or free-for-all auctions, as well.

The rest of the game is somewhat better, but still has some problems. For one thing, at different points in the game, certain cards are simply much better than others. If you draw them when you want to, you're lucky. If you don't, you're unlucky. That's the problem with many card games, but not all card games. There should be a more equitable distribution of cards so that all players can get roughly the same opportunities. Otherwise, the game simply devolves to chance.

The game has a decent progression. The beginning is investment, with payoffs on your investments coming later in the game. That seems to work. And there are just enough areas and types to make the choices of where to place what interesting.

Nadine didn't like that the time track moves forward at random times, especially that it disrupted people's turns. The cards themselves were repetitive; not actually that bad if the game moves quickly, but nothing really special.

It took all I could just to get everyone to agree to finish to the third scoring year, and then they all happily quit. Oh well.
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Ziegreich
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I responded quite differently to the reviewer, who is, of course, perfectly entitled to his views.

The much maligned clock in my game is fine and works after a good many plays. It is quite tense while wait to make a bid, wondering if anyone else will beat you to it. It is the thing that makes this pretty standard area control game different. It is not the most thematic game, but I suppose par for the course for a Knizia. I happen to like the Dutch thing.

I do agree that the clock is too noisy, especially for a games club environment. I have tried to upload (without success, last time I looked) images for a deck of cards that has all the prices on it. Players can then simply take turns to flip through the deck one card at a time from high to low till someone lifts a finger, yells STOP or give whatever signal works and wins the bid.

While it's not my favourite game, or even my favourite Knizia game, I intend to hang onto this one. Apart from the auction system and the theme, I enjoy it that the game has a very particular and predictable shape, as the years tick by.







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Alfred
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Maybe a project for rainy days?... You could build a sand timer marked with price levels. It is silent and depletes Dutch auction style. First one to grab the timer before it empties wins the auction.
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Christoph Ruepprich
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The timer is indeed very annoying. I wrote a little computer program that emulates the count down clock, and reads the input from five "clickers" plugged into the computer.


This way, everyone has the same chance of stopping the timer. When a player clicks his button, the clock stops and displays the winner's name on the screen.

This little gizmo makes the auction fun and tense.
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Jim Millard
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flieger wrote:
The timer is indeed very annoying. I wrote a little computer program that emulates the count down clock, and reads the input from five "clickers" plugged into the computer.


This way, everyone has the same chance of stopping the timer. When a player clicks his button, the clock stops and displays the winner's name on the screen.

This little gizmo makes the auction fun and tense.


So tell us: how did you do it? Program code? Clickers used?

 
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John Sugden
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Blind Bidding also works. I have a set of 5 different colored d20s I dropped in the box for these purposes. We usually start off with the machine and then switch to the dice when people think it has gotten old.

1.) You need to check to see if anyone wants to double. I have the active player ask if anyone wants to double and counts to 3. If a player does want to double, they drop their d20 in a shot glass by the count of 3. If multiple players which to double, the player with the die at the bottom of the glass is the double player.

2.) Every player grabs their die and sets it to a number between 1 and 20 and covers it with their hand (or a cup). Reveal all at once. For numbers 5-20, multiply this number by 10 to get their bid. Highest bid wins. If you put down a 1-4, it means you are not bidding on that card.
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Luis Padron
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I, too, eagerly await a reply to that question. It looks pretty neat.
 
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