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Design Me: Auction/Bidding

Welcome to another Design Me exercise day on Boards and Barley. As a former competitive athlete I know the importance of practice. As a soccer player it is important to practice with your team so that you can learn how you work together on the field. But it is also important to practice and exercise on your own so you make sure your body is in the best shape possible so that you can be successful when it’s game day!

I feel like exercise and practice are important for the brain as well. That’s why I’ve been writing these Design Me articles. The idea for these articles is to exercise my brain so that I can perform as well as I can when actually designing games with the intent of pitching them some day.

I’ve been using a cool new online tool called Boardgamizer. It is perfect for coming up with a topic for these Design Me articles. The way it works is that it spits out a mechanic or two, a theme, and a victory condition. Then you can take that and see if you can come up with a game design around those things. Here’s the result I got for today:


Such a cool tool for inspiration!

So today we are going to exercise our brain and come up with a bidding/auction game with a holy theme where the goal is to place all your pieces. Piece of cake!

In The Beginning

How would you build the Earth?

The idea behind “In The Beginning” is that you are playing a role in building the earth. There are mountains, rivers, forests, deserts, and other terrain that need to be placed onto the bare Earth. The winner will be the player who can put out all of their pieces first.

The pieces that players must place are sets of different terrain tiles. Each round a set of terrain cards will be available for auctioning. Players will then obtain terrain cards from the auction. These terrain cards can then be played according to a small set of rules, which will then allow that player to place some of the terrain tiles from their supply.

Each player begins with the same number and types of terrain tiles. For example, each player might have 2 desert tiles, 3 forest tiles, 4 river tiles, 5 ocean tiles, and 6 mountain tiles and so on. The desert tiles would be the most difficult to place while the mountain tiles would be the easiest to place.


  • 1 Board showing a bare earth covered in a hex grid
  • 27 Bidding tokens in each player color numbered 1 to 27
  • 1 Blank bidding token in each player color
  • Deck of terrain cards – 20 of each terrain type
  • Hexagonal Terrain Tiles – 20 per player
  • Guide sheets for terrain interactions
  • Rulebook

How To Play:

In each round there will be a number of piles equal to the number of players plus 2 placed next to the board. The number of cards in the piles will vary as the game goes on. During the first three rounds the piles will each have 2 cards. During rounds 4-6 the piles will have three cards. And during rounds 7-9 the piles will have 4 cards.

Players will be bidding on these piles of cards simultaneously by using bidding tokens. Each player has a set of bidding tokens numbered 1 to 27. They may place only one token at each pile face down. Players MUST bid on at least one pile. Players may bid a total of 35 bidding points in any given round. For example, a player may bid on one pile with their “27” token. Then they would only have 8 bidding points left. They could place any combination of bidding tokens totaling 8 points onto remaining bidding piles. All players will place their bids face down. Players may “bluff” by placing their blank token at a bidding pile.

After a round of bidding with the bids revealed.

After a round of bidding with the bids revealed.

Once all bids are placed they are flipped face up. Whichever player has the highest bid at a pile wins those cards. Their bidding token is then discarded for the rest of the game. If a player loses an auction by less than 5 bidding points they can draw a card from the deck. Their bidding tokens are also discarded. If a player loses an auction by more than 5 bidding points they will keep their bidding token but do not get to draw a card.

So in the example image above here are the results:

  • Pile #1: Yellow wins, discards their bidding token and takes the cards. Red loses, but is only 5 away from the winning bid, so Red discards their bidding token and draws a card from the deck. Blue is not within 5 of the winning bid so they keep their bidding token but do not get a card.
  • Pile #2: Red wins, discards their bidding token and takes the cards.
  • Pile #3: Blue wins, discards their bidding token and takes the cards. Yellow loses, but is within 5 away from the winning bid, so Yellow discards their bidding token and draws a card from the deck.
  • Pile #4: Red wins, discards their bidding token and takes the cards. Blue loses, and is not within 5 of the winning bid, so Blue keeps their bidding token but does not draw a card.
  • Pile #5: Blue wins, discards their bidding token and takes the cards.

These bidding piles are important because of the cards that they are offering. Because placement of tiles is what wins the game players will be looking to make combinations of cards that allow them to place as many tiles on each turn as possible. So once players obtain cards they can turn them in, in player order, to place their terrain tiles on the board.

Placing terrain tiles follows a logical order. For example, you wouldn’t put a desert next to a forest. Well, you could, but it would cost you an extra card. At the start of the game one mountain tile is placed as a starting tile on the board. Any other tile can be placed next to Mountain. But after that there are a series of logical rules for placing the other terrain types.

These rules are things like, if you place X terrain by Y terrain then it costs one extra card, or 1 fewer card, or “you must place three”. So there would be a series of these types of rules. So players will want to build the right combinations of sets of cards in their hand so that they can play more terrain tiles than their opponents.

This exercise could turn into a full game design if I put in the effort to create the terrain placement ruleset, which I just might do.

Your Designer Perspective:

So what are your thoughts about this game design? Are there any glaring holes in the design? Is anything obviously broken?

What would you have come up with for the design based on the Boardgamizer criteria? I imagine there are an infinite number of ways to go with those criteria. So make sure you are exercising your game designer mind! And have a great weekend!


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