The Art of the Auction – A Reiner Staple

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Dr. Reiner Knizia loves the auction mechanic. They are littered everywhere in his games, which is good because he is really good at developing a game around them. Below I will run through some of his more prominent auction games, focusing on the actual auction mechanic used as opposed to the game itself. They are all down here at IBGC to be tried should any of them intrigue you


High Society – This 20 minute beauty has a standard auction. That is, offer a bid and then go around the table raising the offer, or passing. If you pass you cannot bid again. Player who bids the highest gets the property.

The tweak in this game is that you bid with money cards that are fixed in value. $1(million), $2, $3, $5, $8….$20, $25. You cannot bid $16 unless you have the exact mix of cards to make that bid and if you win an auction those cards are lost, leaving you with fewer options to bid with (i.e. if you have a $1, $4 and $20 left and someone bids $7, the lowest bid you can make is $20). Extra evil twist…at the end of the game person with the least money automatically loses 🙁


RA – In this game players are given 3 or 4 fixed bidding tiles ranging from 1-16, e.g. 2, 7 and 16. You try to win Egyptian stuff with them (Reiner likes Egyptian stuff) . An auction is once around, so you get one shot at winning and if someone raises you, tough, no Egyptian stuff for you son. However part of your winning haul will be the tile that won the last auction, which will be part  your ‘hand’ for the next round. Part of the valuation you will make in the hauls worth is how good that tile is. Win Egyptian stuff that also includes bidding tiles that are 1’s and 2’s and you won’t be winning much more Egyptian stuff next round.


Dream Factory – This is another standard auction, but this twist is that it exists in a closed economy (no money enters or leaves the game from the original amount). You are making movies and trying to win the stars and directors, but other players will put those stars up for auction and win the money you offered, so if you get in a bidding war with someone over an actor you need you are making another player very rich and able to outbid everyone in a later auction.


Amun-Re – More Egytian stuff up for auction (Reiner REALLY loves his Egyptian games). This one uses a pyramid auction with fixed amounts that you are allowed to bid (0, 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21….). The brutal part of this game is that the number of provinces you are bidding on is equal to the number of players playing, so you will each win exactly one province a round. If someone outbids you, you must bid immediately on a different province. To bid on the original province again, you have to hope that someone outbids you on the new province you just bid on so that you can move your offer again. Once every province has a single bid on it, the auction is over.

Taj Mahal – on the surface this doesn’t seem like an auction, but it very much is. There are 5 things to win and players play cards to try and win 0-5 of them. They can play cards 1 or 2 at a time and each cards is a bid for one or two of the items on offer. If at the start of your turn you are leading the bids for any of the items on offer, you may drop out and take them. However, whatever you bid you lose, even if you win nothing at all…very mean indeed (I’ve seen people go very strange colours in the face playing this game. In fact I think I once bid a tonne of cards and got nothing and possibly had a slight stroke I was so upset).


Modern Art – ALL THE AUCTIONS. In this game you try to win art by doing once around auctions, standard auctions, a secret one time bid auction (put your bid in your hand and everyone reveals at the same time) and name a price auction (as in I set the price and you each get a chance to take the offer. First to accept it, gets it). Truly an auction overload!


Medici – This one involves a once around auction. You each get one chance to make an offer on a set of goods, whoever bids highest gets it, in this case however, you are bidding with your points which you need to win the game. This is one of the worst games in existence IMO, but its one of Jack’s favorite ever….try it to find out which camp you are in (if its Jack’s camp then you are wrong!)

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