Thursday, November 11, 2004


Bidding Based Game Madness - last night's session consisted of a longish 5-player game of Traders of Genoa, 1.75 rounds of Modern Art, a meat lasagna, and some x-tra crispy garlic bread.

mmmmmm, garlic.

The Tili playing = Shemp winning hypothesis recieved some supporting evidence, but is still far from a foolproof predictor of results.

mmmmmmm, results.

Well, actually, results will follow shortly; first, a commentary on Traders of Genoa. I continue to be confounded by the ceaslessly shifting character of ToG. It seems to me each time we play has a vastly different 'feel' to it - they are all enjoyable, but pacing and results vary a lot. I have a feeling that this is intrinsic to the mechanics of the game - the part of the board that any given turn takes place in is random, and the fact that everyone's conflicting agendas are in play means that the course of a turn is chaotic without being random. I think that this game definitely hits the sweet spot of "Variable, but not too Random". For further reference to this point, see Kozure's post about The Perfect Game. I also think that, as the social interaction is a vital and large component of this game (The Perfect Game Point 7), the shifting players and their shifting moods lead to a fairly wide variation in the "feel" of each session.

This was Tili's first time playing ToG, and she was definitely the most accomplished first time player that has showed up in our corner of the universe - I don't remember dollar values, but each played earned far more than in times previous. Collectively, our game ending scores broke the bank, so it seems that we are learning the game. I was able to pull it out in the end, following a strategery* of accumulating priviledges and delivering messages (coupled with total stinginess) to get a final count of 840 Florins. I believe that Easy place second in this one, as he was an order filling machine.

We had planned on playing Domaine, but there wasn't enough time to do that, so instead we pulled out the Modern Art deck and Chips - Easy gave us a heads-up about the distribution of cards (less esteemed artists have the greater number of works available), and we were ready to go. (Not too much was different from the last time that we played. We all seemed to absorb the lesson that it is usually better to take someone else's money for a painting that you are selling, rather than try to purchase it yourself, and had a fun first round, where I managed to pull out a victory.

The second game was slightly truncated due to a general sleepyness, and resulted in an Easy victory for Easy. This was thanks in part to a critical math failure on my part, choosing a profit of 40 G's over a profit of 60 G's, and giving the 60 G's to Easy. I believe that the margin of victory was less than 20, but I'm not positive. If that's true, though, I messed up on the Double Fixed Price auction of Krypto's work big-time.

Overall: a fun night of bidding games.

Next Week: Conquest-o-rama! Domaine followed by Tigris and Euphrates. Back-up quick game is still under consideration. We should try to play Domain by the proper rules, this time, eh?


  1. Nice link to the lasagna.

    I think you nailed it Re: Traders of Genoa. I like the game, and always look forward to playing it, but the actual experience has it's definite highs and lows. It was a little strange playing two bidding/ negotiation games back to back, but it was interesting to see how different they felt. In ToG, you have pretty solid grasp of what something is worth to you, and there's very little other players can do to change that. In contrast, Modern Art is an exercise in second guessing GroupThink... You can sway popular opinion, you can affect supply and demand, but you can't actually determine value. You have to guess, and gamble. Of course, last night was the first time I've experienced a nearly complete drought of double auction cards (I got a total of one in both games) and I realised how much I depended on them before. They seem to be the best way to pull a fast one on the group and quickly change the value of the paintings on the table. Without them, you are limited in the impact you can make... Not sure if it's that black and white, but for now it seems to me that the double auctions give you a huge leg up.

    Looking forward to next week!

  2. The double auction cards ARE very useful, no doubt about it. Another thing that occurred to me is that having, say, three of a certain card in front of you is not necessarily a great advantage. Imagine that player 1 has two works by Yoko, while player number 2 has one work by Yoko, and the other three players are Yoko-free. Player 2 decides to auction off another Yoko. In this scenario, should player 1 win the aution, they have three Yokos, and have almost entirely removed anyone else's incentive to end the round. Player one now needs to sit through the rounds of players 3, 4, & 5, and watch as other artists number of paintings sold increase. Whereas, if player one had let player 3 or 4 (or 5 to a lesser extent) buy the Yoko, each of those players would then have a greater incentive to lay a Yoko down, end the round, and earn player 1 some money.

    This wouldn't hold in every case, but seems to be a consideration to me.

  3. I enjoy these games, mostly for the company than any other element. Bidding and making money in games has never been my strong suit. I never want to be the one who doesn't like a game just because he isn't good at it, though; these are very well made games. Modern Art is pretty elegantly self-contained - offhand, it's pretty much perfect for what it attempts to be.

    Traders of Genoa has only one very minor down-time element, which occurs only really when you bid early in a turn and then basically are sitting the rest of the turn out.

    I'm not entirely sure what portion of my lack of success in Traders of Genoa is due to bad rolls and what portion lies in bad strategy. It seemed (at least to me) that despite my marked efforts to spend less on bidding to go to certain places, I still missed out on Cathedral markers, messages and small jobs.

    My final score was 627 florins, well behind the leader's 820 - two large orders, five small orders, or seven messages. Now, I gave this some thought... if I consistently overbid/pay by 5 florins during every player's round, for each of the seven phases, I would be short 175 florins. I don't think I overbid by quite that amount... but food for thought.

    Obviously the game-breaker this time was privelege cards. Shemp raked in over 160 florins from privelege cards (based on my recollection) whereas I, the runner up in number of cards (with three), garnered a measy 40. In order make a decent profit on bidding 10 or more for every privelege card, you need to get a minimum of five cards to make the statistical likelihood of a "run" better.

    So, lessons learned: bid even more stingily and don't let anyone get a monopoly on privelege cards.

    Modern Art is tricky. I have yet to determine a good strategy, other than to sell high and buy low. A few times I did feel like my success was determined more by a deal than anything else, but I do feel as if there is a deeper strategy under the surface yet to be discovered.

    At the risk of tipping my hand for future games...


    Fixed bid: Only play fixed bid cards when you are 90% certain of the future value of a card - people aren't likely to pay anything more than they expect it to reach, and with a set price, they're going to balk at anything more than slightly less than market value. Other possible uses of this card is as a "fire sale" - when you need to play during a turn but you need to stall for time. You can then get a relatively easy 1-5 thousand on speculation at low cost to yourself, instead of potentially shooting your own speculation in the foot. Not good for early season or unknown artists - virtually guaranteed a no-seller - once again, as with once around bids below - this can be a good thing if you actually want to end up with the paiting (when you have a glut of that artist, for example).

    Closed bid: This is generally a pretty good money maker when you present a potential "dark horse" artist. Otherwise, it's a shot in the dark. Closed bids are also very good when playing with new players, but this is a pretty underhanded strategy. Better for mid-season play, but not bad if you've got an artist with a track record in previous seasons.

    Once around: This is best played when you're sitting to the right of a player who is really anxious to buy. They'll overbid and everyone else will sit out. It's also a good way to net yourself a cheap painting if you've got a mitt full of cards of a specific artist and you're planning to glut the market and make him the star of the season. Play once around cards early if this is your strategy, otherwise best played as mid-season cards.

    Open Bid: Potentially your biggest money maker - best to play with unknown artists early in the round (if you think that some of the other players may have a lot of that particular artist) or to play later in the round with artists that are likely to make money.

    Double Auction: I've yet to figure out a good strategy with these. So far, I find that they're a good bet if you want to make sure a particular artist is a top seller, and they're best paired with open bid or fixed bids. Once arounds and closed bids don't seem to work as well, but that might be just coincidence. Once again, I'm pretty at sea with the best uses for these.


    Obviously - the strategy for multi-season play is different for a single season. Dimly, I'm catching on that if you can figure out a way to hold on to a certain number of an artist's works in your hand - say, 3 or 4 - for a subsequent season after they've "appreciated", you can stand to make a fair deal of money from sales. Conversly, if you can buy them up yourself for cheap and make them be a top seller later in the seasons, you're also golden. There's a strategy floating around out there for multi-season play, but I don't have a grasp on it yet.

  4. Since we're tipping hands...

    It seems to me that the best use of a double auction is to hold it and play late in the season, in order to devaluate an artist which has been outrageously expensive to a few players. You can get lucky and have a subsequent player bid quite high because they have that artist in their hand and plan on improving their fortunes by changing the pecking order. If you have three of the same artist, and you have two turns, running an auction on the first card and picking it up yourself for cheap, only to return with the double auction later can bring in a good profit.

    I think it's interesting to what degree the opening painting sets the tone for the season. It's pretty obvious that the first artist played is almost always going to place, since there is immediate incentive for the second (and subsequent) player to use the same artist. On the other hand, if the seller takes it him(her)self, it might be wise to go a different way and try to make the first painting a dud (by introducing 3 new artists before it gets around).

    I think that Shemp's point about hoarding artists is a good one. It's also likely much more specific to a 5 player game than to a 3 or 4 player one. Interesting that the strategies can change quite a bit with the addition of just one player.

    Personally, I'd say that the game is better with 4 (though still fun at 5). With 5 players, the game seems more reactionary... you ride the wave and try to make a buck in the process (but you are quite likely to buy a few duds along the way, even if you're careful). The four player game we had felt much more controlled. You could bluff the market, plan a strategy AND make a buck with a lucky deal.

    As for Traders of Genoa? The result is the aggregate of so many small deals that I couldn't possibly point out why I often come in 2nd place but rarely win. The privilege card tactic is not likely to win the next game because of what happened this time (similarly, I'd like to see someone try the mega-developer approach in Princes of Florence again! Good luck!). Sure, there's a winfall there, but otherwise there is very little which can be used to gain a huge lead (especially since the large orders are usually so expensive to finish). I'm guessing the biggest untapped market is messages.

  5. But, I've already USED the priviledge card tactic more than once, and had it work. (see the last time we played, previous to this one). The thing with the priviledge cards is that they are not very valuable unless you have a pile, so it is pretty easy to convince someone to part with them. Take, for instance, the exchange where you were able to complete a large order, and all I asked for was the priviledge card in return. It was to your advantage to assist me in accumulating the priveledge cards. Since situations like this crop up frequently, and everyone is acting in there own self-interest, the Priviledge Card Hoarding is difficult to prevent. It would require a level of co-operation and co-ordination not often seen in our gaming group, other than in "Kill the Leader" situations - this is arguably a KtL situation, but I'm not so sure that it's obvious as the playing is going on.

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