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Subject: Meta-gaming a sealed board game auction rss

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Trent Hamm
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Huxley
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At the next local board gaming night, one member of the group is intending to auction off most of his gaming collection to raise money to help with moving expenses as he's moving to a new city and a much smaller place to live without storage space for all of these games (he's not giving up the hobby and is keeping some of his favorites).

He has a very impressive collection of games, including about a third of the top 100 on here. He wants the games to remain in the area with his friends from the gaming group and also wants the convenience of getting rid of most of his collection at once.

The format he's decided on is a sealed auction. When people show up at the gaming event, they can submit sealed bids for the game by writing their bid and name on a slip of paper and putting it in an envelope by each box. About two thirds of the way through the night (when the largest number of people are there), he'll go through the envelope for each game and the person with the highest bid gets the game. Easy enough, right?

The question is this: how exactly would you bid in such an auction? Here's my thought.

I'm going to bid small on every game up for auction I don't have. I assume others will be doing this as well, so how do I submit a bid that beats many of the people who are purely bargain hunting.

I'm going to tack on an odd cent number on each bid. My cheap default bids will be on the order of $1.63 or something like that. This way, I beat the chumps who bid $1 or $1.50 and also beat the ones that try to metagame that by bidding $1.01 or $1.51 Price is Right style.

Here's my difficulty, though. How do I bid for games I truly want? Obviously, some of the ones I'm gunning for will likely have multiple other bidders. Should I just swing for the fences and ensure I get it? What percentage of "new" is a reasonable bid? This guy keeps his games in immaculate shape, so I'm not worried about wear.

Also, how do I stay within budget? I have a small wad of cash set aside for this auction as I intend to win a few games and help the guy out. Should my bids merely add up to this amount, or should I go over since it's reasonable to assume that I won't win every auction?

Or perhaps I'm just overthinking the whole thing. Maybe I should just go, help the guy out, and ensure I come home with two or three games that I really want.

What are your thoughts? How would you handle this auction?
 
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Jenks
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I guess it comes down to how much you like/respect the wishes of the guy.

If you want to be completely mercenary about the whole thing, check the eBay prices before hand so you can bid with confidence on the games you don't really want, and then you can bid a bit extra on the games you do want without busting the budget. This means you'll have the hassle of selling the other games on, and they will almost certainly end up out-of-area, but you'll end up with a nice little collection.

The flip side of this is to bid only on the games you actually want, and don't bother with the little side bids, so you can make sure you stay within your budget. And yes, it might be a good idea to stick a few extra cents onto the price, just as long as no one else from your gaming group ever sees the front page of BGG As far as price goes - I suppose if you were going to get the game anyway, then something like 60-70% wouldn't be unreasonable as a starting price, especially if you know the game is well looked after - all you will miss is the fresh cardboard smell as you open it for the first time, so I would throw a bit of money at it to ensure you get those you want.

Either way, happy hunting.
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Kevin J
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I studied this type of auction in an optimization class, and the "right" answer is that you should bid however much the game is worth to you. If you bid less and you lose, you'll regret not bidding more. If you bid too much and win, you'll regret bidding more than the game is worth to you.

Of course, that assumes you can properly monetize a game's worth to you, and doesn't take into consideration the fact that you might not value a particular game as highly once you've already won a handful of games and are running low on cash.
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John Lopez
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One of the advantages of auctions is that the "game theoretical proper play" is to simply bid your perceived value.

If you bid lower you will lose to a bid that you would have been willing to make or beat yourself. This means you miss out on items you actually wanted and could afford.

If you bid higher you will win more often, but pay more than you value the game for and win fewer items (because your budget is exhausted).

Of course the suggestion above of checking e-bay and other pricing ensures you have a safety valve and sane valuation at hand, but if you really want a game (i.e., you value it highly) then you should set your price and bid that, even if it is above the "fair market value".
 
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