TOP 10 GAME MECHANISMS: 4-3

Are you sick of these top ten mechanism articles yet? I sure hope not. With only two more weeks to go I think we all can hang in there just a little bit longer. This week I am showcasing my number 3 and 4 mechanisms and the games I recommend for each. Like always, remember to check Game Grid’s demo/rental library before buying any of this just off my recommendation. Although I do feel pretty confident that these are games you’re going to truly enjoy.

 

#4 – Auction/Bidding

Most of us are familiar with both auctions and bidding. Players will have a certain amount of money and they will be taking turns offering higher and higher sums of it to acquire a “thing” that will be even more profitable than the money itself. This “thing” will depend on the game but the principal remains the same. Be too stingy and you’ll miss out on getting what you want. But be too liberal with your money and you’ll find yourself strapped for cash for the rest of the game.

While you would never catch me gambling away my own hard earned cash, it can be quite fun to risk it all with that wad of paper money that will be absolutely valueless in 45 minutes from now when the game I’m playing is over. Out of all the board game mechanisms on the list, this is probably the most relatable to experiences people have in the real world. It’s not everyday that I’m required to build a deck while at work, but at least a couple times a week I have to make difficult financial decisions. Because of this, auction and bidding games seem to resonate with people much quicker and bring a level of tension that you’d be hard pressed to find outside of heavier games.

High Society 

Some games are so simple that their true potential aren’t readily apparent from the get-go. High Society at first glance seems like nothing more than a boring old auction game. And while it may be little, and old, it if fact is anything but boring. Players start with a handful of currency cards which each round will be used in auctions for point cards. What makes this game different is that while you will be using your money cards to create your bids, you cannot change the cards used in previous bids, but rather only add more cards to it. Then the cards used to win are lost to you. There are also negative auctions where players bid to not take a bad card, with the first player to pass taking the card and everyone one else paying their highest bid.  Oh and did I mention if whoever spends the most money over the course of the game is immediately eliminated, regardless of how many points they’ve won. 

These small rules may seem inconsequential but they actual make a really big impact. There are few games as tense as High Society. Just deciding which currency cards to bid with can be tricky. Overspending might be your best option if it means using less cards. Also, the negative auctions can really put you in a tight spot. And when all is said and done you have to make sure you don’t overspend in your efforts to accrue the most points. You will second guess every decision you make in the game, something that always has me on the edge of my seat. 

 

The Estates

 

Like High Society, The Estates is a very simple game mechanically, but holds a wealth of depth as you strive to spend your limited cash in the most beneficial way possible. Player assume the role of real estate moguls owning stock in certain builders. A new development has been established and the buildings being built will be chosen and auctioned off. The placement of the building is granted to the player who wins the auction, while the player who scores the building will be solely the player owning the company. But be careful, not every building will score positively at the end of the game.

This game offers players complete freedom. Each turn players will have the option to action off one of upwards of 7 or 8 different options. Do you auction off what benefits you most so that you can win the auction and progress your agenda? Or maybe you offer the piece that you know your opponent is most eager to place in hopes that they pay you well? And man, you will feel like you’re never in control of the board state, leading you to believe that you will most definitely score negative points. There aren’t many games where the winner can still be victorious scoring -2 points.

 

#3 – Route/Network Building

I think when most people here this mechanism they immediately think of Ticket to Ride. Connecting locations, creating a route. And while that is true I think that there is a lot more to explore than merely train themes. I think it is about about spatial relations. The logistics of point A and point B coming together in the most efficient way possible. These games typically have a sense of urgency as well, as players vie for control of these routes as they are being built. 

 

Karuba

In Karuba players are explorers looking for temples filled with all forms of riches. Each round the lead player will flip numbered tiles allowing all players to play the matching tile to their own personal player board. Their goal is to complete rather for specific explorers that connect them to their matching temple. Players will have to  carefully decide which tiles to discard in order to move their explorers forward, because the players who get their explorers to their destination first are going to be rewarded with the most valuable treasure. 

Karuba is a bit abnormal in that players aren’t directly competing for control of the same routes on a shared board, but instead have complete control of their own board. This turns the game into more of a race. But be careful because in your haste you may accidentally prevent an explorer or two from reaching their own destinations with an untimely tile placement or two. The game is very simple and I’ve had loads of success introducing this to gamers and non-games alike. 

 

Brass Birmingham

If Karuba is one end of the Route Building spectrum, then Brass Birmingham is definitely the other. The game is HEAVY. Each turn will leave you second guessing your every move as you strive to be the most profitable entrepreneur in the middle of the industrial revolution. You will be forced each turn to decide whether you wan to build a coal mine, an iron mill, a brewery, or one of the many other industries that could or could not benefit your ambitious goals. Having these industries placed on the board is not enough though. You will need to build canals and railways to gain access to the required resources and to the applicable markets. 

The game plays extremely smooth and is one that I feel most everyone can grasp. Playing well is where most people will falter. Because of the innate need of networks, both individually and collectively will leave you staring down the board from the end of your turn til the start of your next turn. And what moves to make each turn isn’t as cut and dry as in many other games. This is because the players collectively create the game’s economic ebb and flow. One turn an iron mill might be the way to go, until the player before you builds one and replenishes the market. Or despite how badly you need a barrel of beer, maybe you don’t want to build that brewery quite yet because the player across the table will most certainly use your beer before you get a chance to. And while this may grant you points, it won’t be as many points as if you just used it yourself. Ah I LOVE this game!

 

There you have it, four great games I recommend you seek out either to play or to add you your collection. Now go and do.