Many game design connoisseurs would argue that the auction is the single most important mechanic in board gaming. Not only are there a number of predominantly pure-auction games, but the influence of auctions on other mechanics is tremendous. Let’s first take a look at what is an auction game:
An auction is the bidding of money or resources with the intention of winning an available item or action made available to all players. The winner of the auction will be the one who bid the most during that round.
The auction/bidding game mechanic can be a lot of fun when your friends are on board, but it’s also possible for someone to sabotage the game and throw things out of whack, so this is a good style of game when everyone is on the same page.
Auction Mechanics in Different Types of Games
Here’s how the auction mechanic fits into some other popular styles of games, or how it can intertwine with other mechanics.
Area Control: In area control games, you’ll generally place figures onto a map in hopes of having a majority of the figures in that area, and thus allowing you to control the area. With area control, you are basically playing an auction, where the figures are the currency and the location you are placing your figures on is the item up for auction. The person who put the most figures in that area wins that auction.
Worker Placement: In worker placement games, there is a set of spaces on the board that allow you to take different actions, however, typically, only one person can take that action space and all spaces that do not get used in that round receive some sort of bonus (i.e. become more valuable). This is where the auction comes in. Players determine the value of these spaces and prioritize them based off their needs. They then place their bid (a worker) on the location when they feel it has become viable enough for them to pay the cost. This is called a reverse auction or dutch auction.
There are many other examples of how auctions can be used for non-auction games, but here are some examples of unique pure auction games.
Unique Pure Auction Games:
Here are some auction games that can serve as a great introduction to the genre, that are generally well-received and liked by their players.
Each round, property cards equal to the number of players are revealed. Each property is better or worse than each other and this is notated by a number. Everyone takes turns outbidding each other. If you refuse to bid higher than the current bid, you pay half of your bid and receive the lowest valued item remaining. However, the last person pays the full bid and gets the highest valued item.
Each round, you auction a number of provinces equal to the number of players. Players take turns bidding 0,1,3,6,10, etc. by placing their meeple on it. However, if you are ever outbid for a region, you cannot bid on that same province next turn. As soon as all properties have a meeple on it, the auction is finished and you pay the price you bid on that province.
Each turn you can either draw a tile from the bag and place it up for auction or you can initiate an auction. Starting with the player to your left, each player bids only once per round using a uniquely numbered sun tile and the winner (the one who bid the highest sun tile) takes all the tiles that were up for auction and also takes the sun tile that won the previous auction. This tile goes face down in front of you and when you no longer have any face up sun tiles, you cannot participate in any more auctions this round.