Committing resources in a competition against others to determine who can make a specific purchase or trade.
A Bidding instance is a process consisting of several parts: the bidding where players invest resources with the hope to achieve an outcome, the determination of the outcome of these investments, and the distribution of possible rewards.
In Poker and related games, players take turns on bidding on the value of their card hands. Players are part of those that can win as long as they match previous bids or increase the bid each time it's their turn, and players give up the bidding lose what they have bid. The player with the best hand of those left when everybody has stopped increasing the bids wins.
Furnace provides players with four tokens each turn that are used to bid on a number of drawn cards, thereby supporting bidding on multiple rewards simultaneously. While the highest bidder gains the card bid on for the rest of the game, those that had bid less on that card gets a specific resources or possible action as compensation.
In the Game Theory two-player game Dollar Auction, both players lose what they have bid, and this feature is used to show how localized rational behavior can lead to long-term irrational behavior.
Kicking out a player from an open game instance of team-based multiplayer games, e.g., Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, typically requires that a certain number of players have voted for kicking the player out.
Using the pattern
Two main categories for the Bidding Resources are those that are used for other aspects of the game and those specifically dedicated for the Bidding. Examples of other aspects can be those used for any other action dependant on Resources, e.g., Construction or Trading, or those used as Scores. Furnace is an example of a game using dedicated and Renewable Resources to ensure that players can participate in all the Bidding of the game. Having dedicated Resources makes it straightforward to create Action Caps for how much Bidding can be done, e.g., Furnace provides 4 tokens each turn to each players, but by having dedicated Resources that are Non-Renewable Resources on can have global Action Caps on how much Bidding can be done. Las Vegas let players roll Dice on their turn and the results determine how players can bid and shows how Randomness can influence how players can bid; the dice used for bidding are committed until the end of the turn so the game also provides an example of how Action Caps can influence Bidding.
Rewards for successful bidding can be Resources, but other possibilities are the ability to perform certain actions or receiving First Player Tokens and all these can be combined. When bidding Resources are also used for other gameplay aspects, the choice of having the Resources bid be made into the Rewards handed out, as for example is the case with Poker, and creates feedback loops (Positive for those winning as they can participate more in future Bidding and Negative for those the lose) unless countered by other game mechanisms. Using only bid Resources makes the basis for having a Closed Economy but of course requires that no ways of generating more Resources exist elsewhere in the game. Mammut inverts normal Bidding in that each Bidding activity starts with a randomly generated untaken set of Rewards and Bidding is done turn-based by each player with no Reward either taking what he or she thinks is appropriate from the untaken Rewards or by taking all the Rewards of another player and returning at least one Reward to the untaken set.
How Rewards are distributed can vary in Bidding activities. Letting the winning bid gain the whole Reward is a simple option used for example in Poker, but the total Rewards may be split so runners-up gain some part of the Rewards. Furnace provides one type of Reward to the player winning the bid of a card but lets all other players that bid on the card get a temporary effect based upon how much they bid - this makes players place bids on cards with the goal of actually not wanting to win the bid since the temporary effects may be better for them. Tiebreakers are typically used in Bidding to make Reward distributions clearer. Another way to handle Reward distribution is to allow players to bid on several different sets of Rewards. Both Furnace and Las Vegas does this, letting players make one bid on one set of Reward each time it is their turn. By having some part of the offered Rewards be unknown to the players can give the possibility to feel Luck. If some players can have means of gain information regarding these Rewards, it creates Asymmetric Information among the players which can make the Bidding more complex; Mammut is an example of a game with this form of Bidding.
Another aspect for creating Bidding is setting up the rules on how bids can be done. Bidding is often structured according to some form of Turn Taking - this helps players engage in Tactical Planning and make Bluffing function - but it can also be done by letting all players bid whenever they wish. Typically, when there is only one thing to bid on bids need to increase each time (if the bidding activity is solely determined on how much is bid) or need to increase or match the highest bid (if the outcome of the bidding activity is based upon something else, e.g., player's hands in Poker or Texas Hold'em). If several sets of Rewards can be bid on it is typical (see e.g., Furnace and Las Vegas) to only allow bidding on one set each time it is a players turn. Bidding on several sets can either allow players to choose with set to bid upon each time or require that the Bidding on one set is concluded before the next is started; the latter can still be seen as one common Bidding activity if players need to make use of the same Resources for all the sets. As described above, Mammut shows a different type of Bidding process where players have options on "Bidding" on either the untaken set of Rewards or any of the "bids" other players have made. Bluffing can emerge in all types of Bidding since players can make bids they actually don't want to succeed. However, Bluffing can be supported mechanically in the game through making players have Asymmetric Information, for example through letting players hide how much they bid. Null Tokens can be used in these situations to let players pretend to bid when they are not or to let the number of tokens used to do bids not leak as much information as to what the bid actually is.
It is necessary to decide what bids are actually paid after Bidding has changed. Poker and other games where the bids make up the Rewards make all bids committed to being paid even if players change opinions during the Bidding and fold. Dollar Auction provides a one dollar extra to the Reward but otherwise functions equally. Games with specialized Resources typically require them to be paid also, even if they typically then are recycled to the players for another Bidding activity; Furnace and Las Vegas both do this and in addition Furnace provides Rewards for all bids.
A final aspect of Bidding is how to determine who wins what Rewards. A straightforward solution is that whoever bid the most on a set of Rewards receives it, this is done for example in Furnace. As mentioned earlier, Tiebreakers are often used to find a unique ordering of the bids - Lag Vegas is noteworthy here in that all tied bids are not considered making it possible in some circumstances to win a bid even if one has the least bid. Poker and its offsprings such as Texas Hold'em make use of the value of players' Card hands according to a point scale. Here, the Asymmetric Information between players make it uncertain who actually has the best hand until the Bidding is concluded - Texas Hold'em allows more informed speculation of other players' hands by letting some Cards be shared between all the players. The Uncertainty of Information that Asymmetric Information provides typically makes the ability to calculate the odds for various outcome a form of Strategic Knowledge, so some forms of Bidding support the presence of that pattern in this way. The way Mammut works makes players receive Rewards that they themselves has chosen and thereby should be quite satisfied with.
Bidding may spontaneously appear in Multiplayer Games with Loot if players have possibility to decide among themselves how to divide Loot they have acquired. When it does, it makes Bidding a particular form of Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties.
Bidding is a form of Betting, although the Uncertainty of Outcome it provides typically mainly comes from the uncertainty of how much players will bid. It is a Competition among players, most typically a Resource Competition, where winning bids provide Rewards that typically are Resources but can relate to other things, e.g., Area Control. This means that Bidding can support Transfer of Control through a form of Capture or can play the role of being Converters. Bridge shows how Bidding can modulate games regarding Trick Taking and Trumps (rather than being a form of Transfer of Control), and here the Bidding can be seen as a way to determine which player may enforce a Player-Defined Goals on the game. Since Bidding is won by eliminating all other players for wishing to bid or being able to bid, the goal of Bidding can be seen has have an Eliminate goal besides the typical Gain Ownership one. The also allows Bidding to support the Social Role of being a Dominators.
Being an elective action, Bidding provides players with a Freedom of Choice as long as they have enough Resources to be able to raise the bid. That the cost varies means that players can have to deal with Trade-Offs in that the Resources used for bids may not be able to be used for other things and this can cause Internal Conflicts. Handling these aspects typically requires players to engage in Tactical Planning.
Given that Bidding requires several potential bidders, it is a way to provide a shared activity within Multiplayer Games. These activities are Collaborative Actions even if they are not cooperative and can be seen as a form of Negotiation. When players are bidding not because they actually want to win the bid but rather force others to pay more, the Bidding activity for those specific people become a form of Push Your Luck activity relying on Social Skills.
Area Control, Betting, Capture, Competition, Converters, Collaborative Actions, Freedom of Choice, Internal Conflicts, Negotiation, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties, Player-Defined Goals, Push Your Luck, Resource Competition, Rewards, Social Skills, Social Roles, Tactical Planning, Trade-Offs, Transfer of Control, Uncertainty of Outcome
Can Be Instantiated By
Can Be Modulated By
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
An updated version of the pattern Bidding that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design.
- Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.