Five Designs of Dutch Auctions

Merchants of AmsterdamAuctions have faded a bit from the euro-scene. They were a prime euro-mechanic during the genre’s youth, but pure auction games like High Society (1995) and For Sale (1997) soon turned into auction hybrids like Amun-Re (2003). Then auctions became just another mechanic — a part of more complex games like Age of Steam (2002) — and even that has mostly disappeared in the modern day.

There’s one prime exception: a style of auction that has survived well into the present day. It’s called the Dutch Auction, and I think it’s survived better than standard auctions because it can be so tightly integrated into a game that you might not even realize it’s an auction at all.

In a Dutch Auction, prices on an item drop until someone decides to purchase it. That’s its power: there’s only one bid, none of this round-after-round silliness that can go on forever. If done well, it can look like a purchase — not an auction at all; the price just happens to drop as part of the normal flow of turns. And that’s how some of the best Dutch Auction games of recent years have done it.

I’ve listed five of them below, arranged in ascending order of elegance.. By chance it’s also a climb toward in the modern day. This isn’t unusual in designs: I think it shows how the use of the mechanic has matured over time.

Continue reading

A Deckbuilding Look at DC Comics

DC: Super Power CardThe newest deckbuilders increasingly mix deckbuilding with other game mechanics to create more complex designs, so it was interesting to finally get to play Cryptozoic’s DC Comics, recently expanded by Heroes Unite (2014), which is a very classic deckbuilding design.

The Game

The DC Comics Deck-Building Game (2012) is a pure deckbuilding game that’s the most similar in feel to Ascension (2010) with a twist of Thunderstone (2009). As in Ascension there are a huge number of varied cards in the game, with just a few random cards available for purchase each round. As in Thunderstone, that’s supplemented by a monster (super villain) that you can kill (jail) if you a lot of money (power) to spend — and those monster/super-villains also act as the timer for the game.

Continue reading