Boardgaming in 2019!


I highly disagree. Auctions may be the worst mechanic in boardgaming.


Sounds like you’re…

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…SOLD! on that idea


Right? It’s as if it’s a better design choice to formalize all that haggling about sheep and wood!



The main draw is the island and the marble rolling. I haven’t tried the expansion yet but the main game seems pretty darn basic. Granted this is based off playing it with my 4/7yo girls so adult results may vary!


Yeah, but the details of the resulting game dynamics matter. For example, I place a settlement on the intersection between multiple tiles in Catan, meaning that every one I build gives me a blend of possible beneficial outcomes. That functions pretty differently than buying one of 40-some spaces on a Monopoly board that I happen to land on. I roll dice to earn resources in Machi Koro and Dice City, too. Are all these games basically the same in that regard? Machi Koro doesn’t have early elimination… so it’s worse than Monopoly?

You have to dig down into the dynamics that specific mechanics create to really evaluate them, and those dynamics change dramatically with even slight changes in rules. There are a lot of ways to even execute roll-and-move to get different effects, some of which might irritate the hell out of everyone while another might feel totally fair and interesting!

Again, it’s not anything I ever propose playing (mostly because I’m always more interested in sampling new games), but we had a decent amount of trading in our game. Well, attempts at trading, at least–some deals eventually fell through, but that’s part of the fun: “I have brick, but you’re going to have to sweeten that offer beyond just one stone.” “I can also give you sheep.” “Fuck sheep! I’m drowning in sheep! No deal!”

I think our game lasted about 1 1/2 hours? That was a touch longer than I would have liked, but it actually wrapped up suddenly, when I thought we had at least another twenty minutes.

I think one of the things Catan does well is how smoothly the turns run: Roll the dice. Everyone gets their stuff. Offer trades (usually one or two a turn). Build one thing. Not a lot to get caught up on. This kind of efficiency without sacrificing choices is a hallmark of Euro games that I think a lot of their more recent descendants tend to jettison, making your possibility space on every turn an order of magnitude bigger and slowing everything down.


Auctions are the best! Always interested if a game has an interesting auction system.


I’ll admit I’m surprised to see Tom liking auctions in here. For some reason, I had him pegged as the type who thinks auctions are for lazy game designers who want the players to balance the game themselves (an actual argument I’ve heard more than once).

I like auction games, but I’ll admit there can be a problem in them with players having the experience to value what something is worth, especially for new players. Having everyone at the table having the same level of experience with the system helps somewhat, but isn’t always perfect or even feasible. That said, auction games where everyone has played a bunch, especially with the same group, are among my favorites.

As for Catan, I really, really don’t get the criticism that the game is a total dice-fest with no decisions to make. Next you’ll tell me you think the same about Formula De. Crazy! I’m with Nightgaunt, though. Catan is a fine design that’s stood the test of time, mostly. Sure,I don’t play it too much any more, but now I’m tempted to bring it out again, perhaps with Cities & Knights?


See, guys! I have Don Quixote on my side, so I KNOW I’m not just tilting at windmi— oh wait.

Count me as pro-auction, but nevertheless really bad at them!


This is one of my biggest problems with auctions, both in and out of game. People are crazy fuckers who don’t know what shit is worth.


Okay, now you’ve gone off the rails. Catan is a fine game, still. But Cities and Knights was always terrible. It just adds game time and fiddle to a game that was already slightly too long.


Well, in my defense, I did have a question mark there? Heh.

I probably haven’t played that expansion in 15(?) years? I remember thinking that Seafarers was just pretty much nothing but more-of-the-same that added to the playtime, but I remember liking C&K with its tech-tree booklets and whatnot. Gave it more of a Civ feel.


That’s not a bad argument. I’ve heard worse. But I bet those people never played Mule.

See what you’re done @Nightgaunt. Driven a previously rational person to a game of Settlers of Catan!

Heh, well put! But if that’s your objection to auction mechanics in boardgames, then your objection is with the people with whom you play, and not auction mechanics themselves. It’s like saying you don’t like dice mechanics because you live in a zero-G environment where dice won’t roll. Well, duh, of course you don’t like them because you’re playing somewhere they don’t work.



That’s one of my objections, yes. But to me the problem is so fundamental to human nature that it’d be like designing a color-matching game for dogs. Maybe the mechanic isn’t broken in itself but there’s so few contexts where it would work that relying on them is madness.


The way I see it, auctions in most games depend on how well the players can calculate expected values (which is pretty boring in other contexts). What makes them fun is that most people are very bad at doing this, and usually overbid. I’ve won many games of Chicago Express/American Rails by only winning two or three auctions just because everyone overbid on everything. Also, auction games like Modern Art where overbidding actively helps the seller have some of the best player interaction in board gaming, period.


This is another reason I don’t like auctions. I don’t want to ever do this and am super paranoid about overbidding, which isn’t fun for me in the slightest.


I don’t mean this to sound like an indictment of anyone’s play-styles or preferences, but are you folks who have issues with auctions or with poor auction-players of the opinion that when one player plays a game poorly it degrades your experience of playing that game?


I for one long for the day when we can all join the likes of Clearclaw and not play the games, but simply sit in holodomes watching computers execute perfectly optimal strategies for all games.

Humans sully the experience with their horrible, suboptimal play, and should be removed from all game experiences.


What is this landscape of dread and unease I have opened up by Googling “clearclaw”?


OMG, I know that guy, he’s in the local gaming community. I’ve played games with him.

I don’t do that anymore.


Auctions make games better because they create explicit space for human psychology among the math. Whether it’s bluffing, hidden identity, social deduction, trade, interdependencies, or traitor mechanics, I approve of anything that elevates a game beyond mathematical optimization. I can do that nonsense with a computer. What I can’t do with a computer is human psychology.