Blind auctions for country assignment

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Blind auctions for country assignment

Postby Pedros » 29 Jun 2011, 19:35

I hope this doesn't need saying, but just in case, this is a purely personal view not an official one!

As a general rule we have three different ways of allocating countries in games, whether on main site or amongst Forum Games. I want to publicise a fourth which, I believe, is in many ways much more satisfactory. I have used it now three times on the site, with many positive comments and no negative ones at all.

Amongst the usual methods, "First come first served" always seems to me to be the worst of the lot. It's a complete matter of chance who gets the first option, depending even on whether the starting gun is fired whilst I'm awake or asleep! It's simply unfair.

Simple preferences is better, but I've no idea how the main site, or any GMs, work out how to process the preferences and most of the comments I've ever seen about it are from people saying they never get one of their top preferences, ever.

Random is at least fair, but can be unsatisfactory (in over 60 main site games I can only remember drawing Germany once - and Germany's a country I like to play!)

So the Blind Auction is a fourth, and to my mind much better, system. It isn't my invention - it was devised by Dirk Knemeyer and published at http://dipwiki.com/index.php?title=Blin ... n_Bidding; I've played one game GMd by Dirk using the system, and he's used it regularly in other games (and it's now been used quite a few times now here by several GMs). The detailed rules come at the end of this post, but first the basic principles.

Firstly, it's an auction but it's blind - just like Dip, all bids go in at once and are adjudicated together.

Secondly, it's blind - ie there is no discussion (let alone negotiation) about who bids what. Being caught discussing it brings immediate expulsion. And this means that if you're announcing a new game and you're thinking of a Blind Auction, you need to put that in the very first post. Once players start saying "Any chance of being Cuba" or whoever, either you have to exclude them or it isn't a Blind Auction.

Thirdly it allows each player to choose whether to put all their eggs in one basket - bidding almost everything on say Turkey - or spreading them around over several countries to (hopefully) ensure that they finish up with a country they are at least happy with. Or they can split their bids equally, meaning that so far as they are concerned the result is pretty well random.

It isn't difficult to implement, and I hope some more GMs will introduce it into their games.

What follows is the second version of the rules, after our London Nights auction revealed some gaps!

The rules:-
Dirk Knemeyer wrote:Blind Auction Bidding
By Dirk Knemeyer with Pete Dale and Tim Crosby
v. 1.3, November 1, 2011

This bidding variant reflects my personal enjoyment of and desire for determinism in attempting to secure a particular starting power. While Blind Auction Bidding technically gives every player an equal chance at each and every power, the system is designed to accommodate very different strategies: go all-or-nothing for the power you most want to play? Go for a few powers in a balanced way, to make it likely you can play one of a select few? Or avoid that one power you simply do NOT want to play by bidding for all of the others in a conservative way that should help you avoid the one you despise? The choice is up to you.


PROCEDURE
1. Each player has 100 points to spend on bids for all of the powers in your game

2. You must spend at least one point on every power in your game and no more than 80 on any one specific power

3. You must only bid in whole numbers, no fractions or decimals are allowed

4. You must spend all 100 of your points and will be asked by the GM to re-submit if your total is less or more than 100

5. Your bids will be evaluated from the highest points allocated to the lowest, regardless of the order you put them in. However, in cases where you bid the same amount on more than one power, whichever is listed first is considered your "highest" bid, all the way down to the bottom-most being considered your "lowest" bid, and this ranking will affect the order in which your bids are evaluated (see para. 8)

6. Players not interested in bidding may express "no preference". In this case they will receive 100/x rounded down to the nearest whole number, where x = number of powers in the game, on each power, with their order from "highest" to "lowest" randomly generated (See para. 8)

7. Players may change their bids up until the moment the GM has received the bid from the last player, after which bids may not be changed

8. The GM will then review the bids of all players and identify the most points spent on any power or powers. Where a player has more than one bid of that value for powers not already allocated to any player, only his highest ranking bid of that value will be considered

9. If only one player has the high bid on any of the highest bid powers, that player is assigned that power for the game and both the player and power are removed from the bidding. This process is then repeated for the next highest number of points bid on any power

10. In the event of a tie bid, where two or more players have bid the same high amount on the same power, the GM will randomly determine which player receives the disputed power

11. The process continues until every player in the game has won a power

12. Players are forbidden to discuss their bidding, strategy, or even if they are simply choosing "no preference", with any of the other players in the game. By design this process is intended to be completely blind and force the player to deeply consider risk and reward


EXAMPLE
In a game of Standard Diplomacy, Joe very badly wants to play Russia. To have the maximum chance at securing Russia, Joe assigns his 100 points as follows:

Russia - 80 Austria - 4 England - 4 France - 3 Germany - 3 Italy - 3 Turkey - 3

As long as no other player submits this precise bid, Joe will get Russia. If one or more other players submit this precise bid, Joe will have a chance to get Russia, but he also has a chance to get stuck with a leftover power at the very end.


EXAMPLE
Jane has played Austria, Germany and Italy each three times in Standard Diplomacy but has only played each of the other four powers either never or once. If Jane knows one thing, it's that she doesn't want to get stuck with one of her three old standbys. So, Jane decides to bid her 100 points like this:

England - 25 France - 24 Russia - 24 Turkey - 24 Austria - 1 Germany - 1 Italy - 1

Jane is a little worried because she figures that a lot of other players will only bid one on the rarely popular Austria or Italy, but she is optimistic that with 24 or 25 points on four different powers one of them will slip through the cracks to her.


EXAMPLE
Jerry doesn't want to play Italy in his upcoming game of Standard Diplomacy. Bottom line. No way, no how. He can bid one on Italy but a lot of other people will probably do that, too. He thinks he needs to get creative. England and Russia are the two most popular powers so he is going to just give them one point, too. That gives him 97 points to spend on four powers. Thinking about which of them he likes best he decides to bid his 100 points like this:

Turkey - 51 France - 16 Austria - 15 Germany - 15 England - 1 Italy - 1 Russia - 1


EXAMPLE
Harvey doesn't care who he plays in the new game of Standard Diplomacy. What's up with this crazy bidding anyway? "No preference," he writes to the GM. So the GM assigns his points based on the prescribed formula:

100 points, divided by 7 powers in Standard Diplomacy and rounded down to the nearest whole number, is 14. The GM randomly determines the order of those powers, making Harvey's bids:

Austria - 14 Germany - 14 England - 14 Italy - 14 Russia - 14 France - 14 Turkey - 14

He is thus most likely to get Austria, least likely to get Turkey.


If you have questions or comments on Blind Auction Bidding please email me, dirk (at) knemeyer.com


The exact numbers could be varied without breaching the basic idea. For instance, in War in the Americas 2 (which has 10 countries) I increased the personal totals to 200 giving more flexibility and also allowing the 'No preference' figure to be 20.
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Adjudicating Blind auctions

Postby Pedros » 03 Jul 2011, 21:19

It's simple really. (I use a spreadsheet to make it easier - players and their bids in one direction, countries in the other.)

Look for the highest bid; it gets its choice. If more than one tie then any with only one tiop bid for the country are in, any tied ones have to be randomised by whatever means you use.

Cross out the successful players and the countries they won, then do it again. And again until everything's sorted.

That's it. When I've done it I've taken a screenshot of the spreadsheet including one-by-one adjudications and posted it with the results.

Very glad to see that two games are using it already!
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Blind auctions for country assignment - tricky question

Postby Pedros » 28 Oct 2011, 14:18

The game London Nights threw up a complicated situation not currently covered by the rules. As GM I made a decision based on whether or not the players involved had declared preferences between the countries concerned, or no preference. It seemed the fairest way available to me, but whether or not it's the best I'm not sure. So, comments and suggestions not just welcome but needed, especially from those who've been through the process themselves either in London Nights or any other game.

The table of bids was as follows:-

Untitled.gif
Untitled.gif (10.37 KiB) Viewed 4022 times

The first three decisions (in 1. and 2. above) were standard, but I was then left with four factions (powers) and four players who had each bid 20 for one or more of them. I considered trying to list all the possible permutations and drawing randomoly between them - but I wasn't at all sure I'd list them all accurately anyway! My solution was to notice that two players had expressed no preference between the four, whereas the other two had bid 20 for each of them and less for the others. I therefore drew lots between the two with preference, and lots again between the others for the remaining two countries.

I will be forwarding this PM to Dirk Knemeyer who devised the system, and also drawing the attention of all the GMs I can think of who have used it, both here and elsewhere.
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Re: Tricky question

Postby Pedros » 29 Oct 2011, 17:26

I now have the definitive answer to the problem I outlined in the last post. The problem Dirk and I are having is getting a form of words for the rules which makes it clear how it's to operate! It took several e-mails backwards and forwards before I was sure I understood it!

It appears that Dirk had foreseen the problem and had the answer from the start, but hadn't included a couple of key points in the rules. These make quite a difference!

Where a player enters the same value bid for more than one power, the order in which they are listed is important - the first-mentioned takes priority in the assessment. In the example I quoted above, WarSmith had two bids of 20; in fact by the time they became important one of them (City Boys) was out of the auction. But if the two had been for, say, Goers and Royals instead of City Boys and Royals, then Goers (listed first) would have brn his active bid at that stage, and the Royals would have had to wait its turn (which might never come).

What of ninjaruler, who's no preference gave him seven bids of 20?! In that case, his seven bids would have been ranked randomly. At this stage in the auction, if his Goers bid was his highest-ranked surviving bid then there would have been a tie and a coin would still need to be tossed. But if not, then WarSmith would have Goers and ninjaruler would have his highest ranked bid, whichever that was. In fact, the GM doesn't need to work out the random order until it becomes an issue, when it needs to be decided for those bids which remain live. (The same applies to Kian who expressed no preference for the remaining six after his unsuccessful 110 bid).

It isn't as complicated as it sounds, but the feel of it is very different so to those who've already been through the system it will take a bit of re-orientation. If you haven't used it yet, ignore this discussion and just take it as it comes!

I will shortly post an example which runs through the process more clearly.
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Tricky question: an example

Postby Pedros » 29 Oct 2011, 17:48

OK. Hopefully this will help!

Seven players (A, B, ..., G) playing Classic Dip. Their bids are as follows:-

A: Russia 90, Italy 20, England 20, Germany 7, Turkey 6, France 4, Austria 3
B: No preference (20 each - random order Turkey, Italy, Russia, France, Germany, England, Austria)
C: England 110, no preference others (order: Austria, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Russia, France, 5 each)
D: Turkey 110, Others 5 in listed order Austria, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Turkey
E: Russia 86, Germany 20, Austria 20, Italy 11, England 1, Turkey 1, France 1
F: England 110, Germany 25, Russia 1, Austria 1, Turkey 1, France 1, Italy 1
G: Turkey 90, Russia 20, Germany 20, Austria 6, Italy 2, France 1, England 1

So.
1. D gets Turkey (110)
2. C and F (110) toss a coin for England - F wins.
3. A gets Russia (90)

At this stage B, C, E and G are left to divide up France, Austria, Germany and Italy. Highest bid remaining is 20. B's second choice Italy is his highest ranked survivor, E has Germany (listed before Austria), and G also has Germany (Russia already out). So:-

4. B gets Italy, E Germany, G Austria
5. E and G toss for Germany; G wins
6. E still has Austria at 20, so he gets it
7. C is left with France.

Clear?
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Warning to GMs thinking of using Blind Auctions

Postby Pedros » 17 Dec 2011, 19:43

Don't know why this didn't occur to me before, but if you're thinking of using a Blind Auction then you need to say this right at the start. In your very first post. Because a lot of players will start saying "I fancy this or that country". Once that happens, either they're disqualified or else it isn't Blind anymore.

I'm adding this to the first post.
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Re: Warning to GMs thinking of using Blind Auctions

Postby Sanguinem » 26 Feb 2012, 12:07

Pedros wrote:Don't know why this didn't occur to me before, but if you're thinking of using a Blind Auction then you need to say this right at the start. In your very first post. Because a lot of players will start saying "I fancy this or that country". Once that happens, either they're disqualified or else it isn't Blind anymore.

I'm adding this to the first post.




I started the thread, looking for a GM and other players. The decision to use blind auction wasn't made until we already had 10 players, so there was some people requested certain countries beforehand.
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Re: Blind auctions for country assignment

Postby Pedros » 26 Feb 2012, 12:34

This problem has occurred a couple of times - Sanguinem's post relates to Modern 3. I'm copying here my reply posted there - not by any means a definitive answer (nor, probably, a helpful one!) In the other case I came across the GM decided to abandon the auction - which is also a shame!

This has cropped up before. It's a problem, because once players have said anything about preferences the auction ceases to be blind - the point of the Blind bit is that there are no deals about bidding, and no information about what others might bid. For once, you have to make your own judgement in a tricky call.

It doesn't stop the GM running the auction under similar rules, but not blind. You'd need to make a decision about what happens from now on - do you want that sort of negotiation going on? But on the other hand is it fair on all players if some have given an indication when others haven't? Only the GM (possibly with input from the players) can decide that.
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What to do when a player has already indicated a preference?

Postby Pedros » 02 Mar 2012, 15:17

This problem has occurred several times lately, especially when a new GM decides part-way through the sign-up phase that he would like to use the Blind Auction. I have two suggestions for ways to deal with this which doesn't rule out any players, although it still isn't ideal and couldn't be used where more than one or at most two have indicated a preference. And it certainly wouldn't be obligatory - it would be up to the GM to decide whether to use it or not, or whether to rule the player out of the game. I must stress that this is not entirely satisfactory, and that GMs should try to give an early indication that they are intending to use the Blind Auction and that no preference should be stated. Once this is made clear, then the usual strict rule should be enforced rigorously.

The first suggestion is that a player who has given any hint at all of how he/she may be thinking of voting should be listed as "No preference", ie their country would be entirely randomly chosen.

The second, which was suggested by somebody in one of the affected games (not sure which) is that any player in this position should not get a bid, but would be left with whichever country wasn't chosen by the others - with a random decision if there were more than one such player.

Both of these solutions would ruin the auction if more than one or two in this position, and any player who states any preference after the Blind Auction warning should be ejected anyway - these suggestions are simply to cover the case when the decision is announced late on; and experienced GMs on the site shouldn't be in this position anyway!
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Re: Blind auctions for country assignment

Postby asudevil » 02 Mar 2012, 15:25

Nah, its more for people who post a cool map, and ask for opinions on the map, and then decide to GM it, and people who commented on map balance, then would be illegal...Pharoah of nerds/smark (although he just wondered into that GM)/Mkellog...all fall into this category

But I think its cool to have a couple of more GM possibles
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