Since I am lucky enough that my wife likes to play games with me, I often do not like auctions in games. Mainly because I don’t feel like there is much of a point with only two players. Many times, you are not willing to fight very much for a specific thing so you are letting others have it for nothing. I really think games that have auctions shine with more players. But, there are a couple games out there that do a good job with auctions even for two players. For that reason, a couple of these games are on the list. For a good auction to work, there has to be a real sense of need or desire for an item. It almost has to be the focus of getting what you need to win. If it is just a mechanism thrown in to fill time, it will usually not work well. These games do the best job of making the most with auctions, that’s why they are my Best 3 Games with…Auctions!
3. Pay Dirt by Crash of Games
Pay Dirt was the first auction game that I played that I felt did a great job with two players. In this auction, the most essential things are being auctioned off. Crew members, equipment, workers, and machines are all up for auction in this design by Tory Niemann. All the items are separated into groups. All the crew members are in one area, then the machinery in another and then the equipment. There are usually 3 different items available in each group. The first player picks what group they want to auction off. Not the specific card but the group. This is the first thing I like about this use of the auction….one person might be going for a crew member that gives him more workers, but someone else might be wanting to get a crew member for his ability. I love that you are not tied down to just one single thing to bid on. Once that auction is over, the next player starts the next auction…..BUT can’t choose the same group that was just auctioned off. So, if you just got done with the crew you can’t go back there, you will need to auction off equipment or machinery. Especially in a two player game, this makes each auction that much more valuable. Both players might really be fighting over a machine. This mechanism is the best part of this game. I just wish the rest of it was a better fit for me and my wife.
2. Black Gold by Fantasy Flight Games
I got Black Gold at such a cheap price that I couldn’t be disappointed, right? The game is good but the auction is great, even at two players. In Black Gold, you are trying to sell oil to three large oil tycoons. At the end of each round, you will bet on each company that determines who gets the right to sell to that company. At the beginning of the round, a die roll will either raise or lower the value that each company will buy oil. Making some better than others. Throughout the game, you will gain licensing cards that you will use to bid with. Each card either has a 1 or 2 value. During the auction phase, you can bet on any and all companies. If you have enough cards to win all three auctions….go for it! Many games don’t let you bid higher than what you have……not here. In Wilko Man’s and Steven Kimball’s design…..you can bid as much as you want…..but beware, if you win an auction that you don’t have enough to pay for you will lose half of your cards. This can be crippling! But the satisfaction you get in knowing you just bid someone up a couple more licenses is extremely satisfying. The two player game is also solid. There is a dummy player that also draws cards and half are face up so everyone can see and the other half is face down. So, you can kinda guess on how much they have but still never know. Meaning you are not just going to get something for nothing…you still have to beat the dummy. I really like the auction mechanism in Black Gold, and the rest of the game is pretty good also!
1. Cyclades by Asmodee
Cyclades is a game that I have never played a two player game……BUT I DON’T CARE!! The auction mechanism in this design by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc is so simple yet utterly fantastic. The key is all the money is hidden! I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal but it truly is in this game. The other great thing is that the order in which things will be auctioned changes each round. Buying and moving troops might be first in one round but then last in the next. And the auctions always trigger from top to bottom. So, in this auction you simply place your marker on the spot you want to activate when it is your turn and for how much you are willing to pay to do it. The great thing about this is when someone out bids you, you immediately bid on another action…..not the same one. I absolutely love this about Cyclades. Do I bid on another action that I really don’t want knowing someone is going to out bid me so i can go to the other action I really want? But how much should I bid? Or should I just go for the one I want putting a huge amount on the one that I want? The tug of war on this mechanism is just fantastic! I also love that once someone is out bid, it can cause this avalanche of bids to fall. Player four outbids player one, who then out bids player two who outbids player four who then outbids player three who out bids player one, then player one gives in and just takes Apollo! In my opinion this mechanism makes this game great. Without it I would play it once and move on, but with it…..I will play it any time someone suggests it!