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Subject: Upside down auction mechanic. rss

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Daniel Howard
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Hello, I'm currently working on an auction mechanic in a card game where players try to undercut each other to secure contracts. I am asking for some tips to help design the mechanism. It's all in early stages so far so excuse my vague descriptions.

Basically, in the game there are various 'contract cards' which the players can complete by satisfying the conditions on the card by using material cards and worker cards. Upon completion of the contract the player earns victory points. All simple stuff.

To complicate things, the contracts, as soon as they are undertaken by a player, come with a cash advance which is given to the player to buy materials and pay wages etc.

I want players to bid against each other in order to secure the contracts at lower prices. Undercut each other. So there are situations where players in order to secure a contract, offer to take a smaller cash advance.

The lowest bid is always succesful (but then they will have to satisfy the contract conditions with less cash and therefore less profit).

I have thought about using secret bidding, but am reluctant to get players to write things down. Any other ideas?

I have thought about more traditional, 'everyone gets an open bid' auction styles, but worry this will be clunky. Any other auction mechanic suggestions that might fit the (vague) scenario I have outlined?

Thanks in advance guys!
 
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J C Lawrence
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If the contracts come out in batches (realistic), then use a reservation auction ala the 1830 private auction.
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B C Z
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In the 'real world', this is done all the time with a 'lowest bidding' mechanic.

You define the work to be done, put out 'request for proposals' and then assess any company's bid on the work.

There are some pretty strict laws in place for some of these contracts, what information is required to be public and what information the bidders CANNOT share. There is often jockeying to combine two or more companies into a single bid (prime and subs) in order to secure the contract.

I'd get over the non-desire to have people write stuff down, as secrecy in these situations drives the competition.

Note, there is a metagame that can be played here, which is that if all of the players collude to NOT undercut each other, they can create a monopoly and charge as they like. You'll need a way to combat that, such as a 'maximum value' that a given contract will be accepted at, and some kind of modifier so it's not known (and everyone just bids the maximum, effecting a tie).

-=-=-

Alternatively, go with the 'Name that Tune' model, where each subsequent bid has to be lower than the previous one until everyone passes.

This also has an issue -- if the choice is 'make $1 profit or don't get a contract' then the $1 profit is a better choice and thus no choice. Some cost to bid (or change a bid) would need to be incurred to prevent players from taking all contracts at $1 profit.

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Ben Friedberg
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how about a series of bidding cards for each player. the bidding cards are played face down with the lowest bidder winning. This could also be handled with bidding dice

Ties could be possibly broken in a couple of ways:

- Player rank (a la Power Grid)
- Stacking the bids so that the LOWEST bid that is LOWEST in the stack (earliest) wins (I like this the best, but it could result in card damage
- Bid rank chips (kinda like the turn order chips in [=galaxy trucker]galaxy trucker[/]) where you must bid and then take a ranked number. This could be interesting since there might be a 'hedged' bid where you could potentially WANT to lose if someone tied you...
- Bouncing (like in worm up) where tied players are eliminated from the bid
- Secondary bids (where tied players bid again with a lower number than their bid)
- Rock Paper Scissors
- Shocking Roulette
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Daniel Howard
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byronczimmer wrote:

Note, there is a metagame that can be played here, which is that if all of the players collude to NOT undercut each other, they can create a monopoly and charge as they like. You'll need a way to combat that, such as a 'maximum value' that a given contract will be accepted at, and some kind of modifier so it's not known (and everyone just bids the maximum, effecting a tie).


Hmmm... I hadn't considered this. Though I had considered a maximum value on the contracts in order to control ridiculous unchallenged profits.

I'm not sure if players colluding would be such a problem? It would not be in their interests, as each player, as long as they are trying to win, would surely desire the contracts and be reluctant to allow them to go to other players. Is there sometihng I am missing?

Additionally, why would the 'maximum' bid value of the contract cards have to remain secret? As long as there is some clear way of resolving a tie, it would (hopefully) be evident to to the bidders that it was in their interest to undercut a player who would win the contract over them in the event of a tie.
 
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Daniel Howard
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I quite like the idea of bidding cards. Sounds like a simple solution.

Some interesting ways of resolving ties there as well. I think that as long as the results of a potential tie are pretty evident, this would encourage more undercutting.
 
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Ben Friedberg
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The one thing to keep in mind with the bidding cards is that you might get into 'For Sale' territory. not necessarily BAD per se, but certainly something that people have played before...
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Blorb Plorbst
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Take a look at Corruption for a similar mechanic that is well done.
 
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James Hutchings
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byronczimmer wrote:
This also has an issue -- if the choice is 'make $1 profit or don't get a contract' then the $1 profit is a better choice and thus no choice. Some cost to bid (or change a bid) would need to be incurred to prevent players from taking all contracts at $1 profit.


I don't think a cost to bid would solve this. I think you'd have the same problem, with '$1 profit' meaning '$1 profit taking the cost to bid into account'.

I'd suggest having the cost of fulfilling a contract be variable, and/or whether the contract can be fulfilled at all. For example, perhaps other players play cards that represent the difficulties of fulfilling the contract. This might take it into similar territory to various card games where players 'bid' an amount of tricks that they think they can win.
 
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B C Z
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ChowYunBrent wrote:
I'm not sure if players colluding would be such a problem? It would not be in their interests, as each player, as long as they are trying to win, would surely desire the contracts and be reluctant to allow them to go to other players. Is there something I am missing?

Additionally, why would the 'maximum' bid value of the contract cards have to remain secret? As long as there is some clear way of resolving a tie, it would (hopefully) be evident to to the bidders that it was in their interest to undercut a player who would win the contract over them in the event of a tie.


Container, if players collude, breaks rather quickly.


 
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J C Lawrence
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No. Container explicitly relies on active self-interested player collusion. Where it breaks is when players collude against their own self-interest.
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Chris Ferejohn
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Some kind of screen behind which players set a bid (maybe with a couple chits on a "10s digit" and "1s digit" should do the trick i would think. As for preventing collusion, perhaps a "dummy" NPC contractor that has a little bit of randomness to it who bids high (so reasonable bids should still beat him) but puts a reasonable ceiling on how high the bid can be.

Alternately, give the player a way to refuse the bid in a way that confers a minor benefit to him and nothing to the other players (or hurts everyone but him the least).

Alternatively again, live with the collusion since it seems like the player who decides to break the collusion will have an advantage.
 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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Why would you bid $1 profit when you could prevent him from taking it for $1 profit by breaking even on it?

So all contracts break even. What purpose is there to getting any contract? Is there some limit to the number of contracts you can have? If so, then if you're breaking even while someone else gets full profits simply by having no competition, there's a problem with breaking even on a contract.
 
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Daniel Howard
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Jythier wrote:
Why would you bid $1 profit when you could prevent him from taking it for $1 profit by breaking even on it?

So all contracts break even. What purpose is there to getting any contract? Is there some limit to the number of contracts you can have? If so, then if you're breaking even while someone else gets full profits simply by having no competition, there's a problem with breaking even on a contract.


Sorry I don't think I was being clear enough on this. The contracts upon completion earn the player victory points. This is how they win the game. Profit is separate to this as money does not win the game. Monetary profit (where completing the contract cost you less than you received from the cash advance) would be used to hire more workers, or materials or be ale to do the next contract at a cheaper price as you would require less of a cash advance therefore could undercut your opponents.
 
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Daniel Howard
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cferejohn wrote:
Some kind of screen behind which players set a bid (maybe with a couple chits on a "10s digit" and "1s digit" should do the trick i would think. As for preventing collusion, perhaps a "dummy" NPC contractor that has a little bit of randomness to it who bids high (so reasonable bids should still beat him) but puts a reasonable ceiling on how high the bid can be.

Alternately, give the player a way to refuse the bid in a way that confers a minor benefit to him and nothing to the other players (or hurts everyone but him the least).

Alternatively again, live with the collusion since it seems like the player who decides to break the collusion will have an advantage.


I think the screen idea and dummy bidder are interesting ideas but may make the game less elegant than I desire. The benefit of a card system is that it does not require too many additional components, I'm definitely leaning that way at the moment. However your ideas about refusal of bids having some benefit are quite exciting. I guess hit soiled allow additional depth if done correctly. Thanks!
 
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B C Z
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clearclaw wrote:
No. Container explicitly relies on active self-interested player collusion. Where it breaks is when players collude against their own self-interest.


I stand corrected.
 
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You could have an Evo style auction. A grid where each row corresponds to one contract, and has numbers that count down from left to right. Each player has a marker (or multiple markers) and places them on numbers, representing their bid for that item. Other players can undercut them by placing a marker further to the right, dislodging the first player and forcing them to bid somewhere else/drop out.

See also Amun Re, Homesteaders, Cyclades, Vegas Showdown.
 
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Pablo Schulman
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Why write things down? Why don't you use some cards with say prices. Each player have a set of cards and they reveal the one they want to bid at the same time.
 
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Meaker VI
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To prevent players messing up the system, throw some NPC bids in there. That'll work against players driving costs up indefinitely. Then throw in possible cost-overrun or contract oversight cards that would severely penalize players who bid too low (those things happen way too often IRL); they could also be used to award the contract to the second-lowest bidder or to allow the bidders to drop out rather than take the full penalty. I've seen people underbid by hundreds of thousands of dollars because they misread the contract.
 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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I like the idea of Schoko and Co's mechanic.
 
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Daniel Howard
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Ive been playing around with a system similar to The speicherstadt where there is a bidding 'grid'. But allowing players only two bid tokens. Which they receive back if a bid is unsuccessful and can use to re bid on other contracts. I'm finding this allows a relatively even distribution of contracts across players, still favouring those who can afford to work for cheapest.

In experimenting with blind bid systems I found that the guess factor was slightly too high, so even though this system is more akin to real life I felt that it often reduced an important part of the game into mere guess work.
 
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