Report on some initial playtesting of the auction game

My friends Ruth and Femke helped me playtest the auction game (previously here and here) last night.

Initial verdict: I still think there’s something there as a concept, but it definitely Needs Work.

We played 2.5 variants of it (about halfway through the second game we switched variants).

The first version we played was more or less as I described it in the last post. Rather than a random ending we played with a small, fixed, number of tiles (12) just to get a feel for the game.

It turned out to be almost completely non-interactive. There was very little incentive to auction your tiles, so no one did.

We decided to switch this around in the second game. Rather than having you get tiles, we played concurrently: A tile came up, everyone bid on it, everyone got to move, everyone collected money.

This also turned out not to work very well – the problem was there was a really large early mover advantage because you don’t start collecting money until you’ve won an auction.

About halfway through we changed the rules because they were obviously not working. We placed one tile per player face up and then auctioned them in order, then collected money. This definitely worked better.

General observations I would make:

  •  the game is definitely currently lacking something. That something might just be “finely tuned enough rules that the game flows better”, but I don’t think so.
  • there are too many colours. Right now most tiles are a bit useless. I think a palette of 3 or 4 colours would play much better as it would allow for a larger variance in tile utility
  • The game currently suffers from massive rich-get-richer problems.

Here are the changes I think I need to make immediately:

  • Sort out the colour palette. Unfortunately this means that the pre-printed tiles I got are almost completely useless. Wahey! Stupid way to prototype this game I think. I’m going to buy a giant order of these blank hex tiles and colour them with sharpies. I might try just reducing it to black and white to start with and then grow it upwards.
  • Sort out the auction mechanic to be better balanced. A thing I was thinking of is to change the rules as follows: You take it in turns. At the start of your turn you may either auction one of your pieces or put a randomly chosen piece up for auction. The money for the auction goes to you either way. This gives an advantage to people who haven’t managed to win auctions yet.
  • Come up with a better end condition.


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