Friday, May 20, 2011

Bluff Auction Game - Rules

Bluff Auction Game
by Seth Jaffee
A game of bidding and bluffing for 2-5 players

An old, eccentric archeologist has died and his private collection, rich with artifacts of various types from various Cultures and Eras, is being auctioned off. These artifacts have not yet been assessed, but as a museum curator, you don't want to wait for that, so you do your own research and you bid based on what you think the item's value is. Once all bids are in, the artifact will be assessed, and any bid that's higher than the actual value will not be approved by your board of directors! So the highest bid that is not greater than the actual value will win the artifact.

1 Auction board with spaces for 6 auction tracks (and score track)
45 Artifact tiles (9 each in 5 colors)
9 Special tiles (for purple auction)
25 player markers (5 each in 5 player colors) for bidding and scoring
1 Start Player Marker
40 Color Blob Dice (6 sided dice, with black/red/yellow/blue/green/purple sides)
5 Player screens
5 Player boards

Separate the Artifact tiles by color, shufle each stack face down and place it next to the auction block of that color.
Sort the Special tiles into groups 1-4. Shuffle each group face down and stack them by the purple auction block with group 4 on the bottom and group 1 on top (groups 1 and 2 have 3 tiles, group 3 as 2 tiles, and group 4 is a single tile)
Give each player a player shield, a player board and the player markers in their chosen color. Each player should put 1 marker on the 0 space on the score track.
Players start with a number of dice behind their player shield and a number of bid tokens depending on player count. A number of community dice will also be used for some player counts:
2 players: 4 bid markers, 4 dice, 0 community dice
3 players: 3 bid markers, 3 dice, 1 community die
4 players: 2 bid markers, 2 dice, 2 community dice
5 players: 2 bid markers, 2 dice, 3 community dice
Each player takes 6 more dice and places them in the Exhibit circles as pictured. In a 5 player game the last circle is not used, there will only be 5 dice per player.
Randomly choose a Start player and hand them the Start player marker.
You are ready to begin!

This game is played in 9 rounds. In each round players will take turns bidding on artifact tiles or passing. Passing does not preclude you from bidding again later, but when all players pass in succession, the round ends and auctions are resolved.

1. Turn the top tile of each stack face up and place it in the auction block of that color.
2. Players roll dice behind their screens.
3. Any player with Tools in their Museum may choose to use them to re-roll some of their dice.
4. When all players are done using tools, bidding commences with the Start player.
  * You may bid on any auction, but you must outbid the highest bidder on that auction.
  * You may place a bid from your hand or move a bid that has been overbid by another player.
  * High bids on each auction are locked in and cannot be moved.
  * You MAY bid on an auction where you already have a token, but you cannot directly overbid yourself. [Not sure I like this]
  * You may choose to Pass, even if your bids are not the highest bids on their respective auctions.
  * You MUST Pass if all of your bids are the highest bids on their respective auctions.
  * You CANNOT Pass if you have bid tokens that you haven't placed yet.
5. When all players have passed in succession, the round ends and the auctions are resolved:
  * First players reveal all Purple dice behind their screen (keeping the rest of the dice secret). Whoever has bid the highest on the Purple track without going over wins the auction and takes the tile off of the Purple auction block and places it on the Museum board (see Acquiring tiles below)
  * Purple is wild, and will also count for each of the other auctions.
  * Resolve the remaining auctions in the same manner one at a time, revealing dice of that color and counting Purple dice as well.
  * If all players have overbid, remove the tile from the game.
  * Don't forget to take into account tile powers (see Tile powers below) 

Acquiring tiles:
When you acquire a tile by winning an auction, you have the opportunity to Exhibit a set of Artifacts and score them. Alternatively, you may place the Artifact face up on your Museum board in one of the 6 circles (5 circles available in a 5 player game). If all of those spaces are full, then you MUST either Exhibit a set or discard a tile.
  * A "set" consists of 3 or more tiles that share at least 1 attribute: Culture (color), Era (Ancient, Medieval, Modern), or Type (Tool, Weapon, Art).
  * When Exhibiting a set, stack those tiles face down on one of your Exhibit spaces, claiming the die on that space for use in future rounds.
  * Score points based on the number of tiles in the set. Score 1/3/6/10/15/21/28/36 for a set of 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8 tiles (it's difficult to get an 8 tile set, but not impossible! It involves one of the special tiles which allows you to hold extra tiles on your board).
  * Note that Exhibiting a set removes the Artifacts from play, so their powers no longer apply (see Tile powers below)
  * There is nothing special about a set that matches more than 1 attribute (3 Ancient Tools for example).

Tile powers:
While in play, each artifact and special tile has a power that you can use:
Tools: Re-roll any number of dice before bidding begins.
Weapons: Virtual die that you can count when resolving an auction of that color (other players do not count it)
Art: If in your museum at the end of the game, score a bonus set of star icons (1/3/6/10... points for 1/2/3/4... star icons)
Special tiles:
  * Stage I: Wild Attribute (Type, Era, Culture) -
  * Stage I: 2 Virtual Purple Dice (1-shot) - After dice are revealed for an auction, you may discard this tile to count 2 virtual purple dice (opponents do not count them)
  * Stage I: 2 Dice - Roll 2 additional dice each round
  * Stage II: Extra Bid Token - place an additional bid token each round.
  * Stage II: Outbid by 2 - Opponents must outbid you by at least 2
  * Stage II: Extra Museum Room - You may hold 2 additional tiles in your Museum
  * Stage III: Virtual Purple Die - Virtual purple die that you can count when resolving each auction (other players do not count it)
  * Stage III: Overbid with Tie - You may overbid an opponent with a tie bid. You may only have one tied bid at a time [Not sure I like this]
  *Stage IV: 4 points

Game end:
After the 9th round of auctions, the game is over. Face up tiles remaining on players' Museum boards may be scored as normal. In addition, all Star icons on Art tiles are scored as if they were a set.

The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner!
In case of a tie, the tied player with the fewest Exhibit spaces filled is the winner.


Andrew said...

Reading the rules has clarified a few things for me, and consequently I have a couple of comments, anyway.

What happens when I have the "overbid on same number" and you have the "must overbid by 2" tile, and I want to overbid you?

Community dice, I have realized, have almost no effect on the game. Consider what happens if we roll three community dice and they all come up purple. Aside from making a bid of three available, where previously we would have been unable to bid zero, and possibly some analogous effects making weapons unhelpful near the top of the tracks, I'm not seeing any difference between this situation and that in which no community dice were rolled. Similarly for other rolls.

Seth Jaffee said...

As Andrew has alleged here, and another friend Sean asserted to me last night, the Community Dice have no real effect on the game. I understand their point, but somehow I'm not sure it's true. They certainly FEEL like they have an effect, so even if that effect is merely psychological, they seem to have SOME effect on the game.

However, if anyone has a better idea how to alleviate the problem that appears to exist when players have 'too little' information, I'm all ears. Maybe it's more a product of 2 dice simply not being enough.

I'm considering awarding 2 dice when a set is Exhibited (3 times max) rather than 1 die 6 times), so that it's more worth Exhibiting an early set. Otherwise I fear it may not be worth it to give up the abilities of the tiles AND the additional points you could get by waiting until the set is bigger. I'd like to see a strategy wherein you cash sets early and often in order to get more dice, and use those dice to win more auctions overall be a valid strategy, competitive with a "cash sets only when forced to" strategy.

It may be a perception thing. Maybe getting 1 die early (when everyone else has 2) really is good enough to improve your chances of winning tiles.

Anonymous said...

In thinking about it more, I think it is partly because two dice is not much information to go on. For this reason, the edge effects might even be meaningful early in the game.

I'll have a more firm feeling about this after I've played, I think.

Awarding two dice seems like it could be interesting, but does it give too much advantage for being the first to cash a set?