Posts about Corner Lot

To be or not to be a cutlery, that is the question!

A few weeks ago I reviewed Corner Lot with Tom Lehmann. Tom asked abot the $2 raises. One of the reasons, asides from accelerating the cashflow management challenge, is that $2 raises greatly increases the rate of subsequent $1-off events1, or if you wish, Power Grid moments2. Tom ever so gently suggested that the $2 raises were an unjustified complexity as such $1-off moments were in fact something of a false decision 3.

After some thought I’ve concluded that he’s quite right, and yet not. The core notion is of the $1-off decision is that at the time of (fund) allocation a player is able to reasonably predict that spending $1 more or less now will control whether or not they’ll be $1-off for a later item. Tom is right, that’s a tall order and in the case of Corner Lot or Power Grid, or any sufficiently dynamic system, this is bogus. In Corner Lot such an estimation requires predicting not only the cards in the future markers, but the exact results of player bids – certainly not a reasonable question at the $1 precision level. The players simply have no way to predict that accurately. Instead the $1-off moments are effectively random events which simply happen to the players, randomly specifying that a given player does or does not have enough money for something. At this level the $1-off events, and their creation, are clearly uninteresting and the decision at the point the $1-off event was incepted (when the money was allocated) doesn’t really exist.

But that is not the whole story. When a $1-off event occurs, the subject player must decide how to respond and, if necessary, to recover. There are frequently real decisions at this point: The player can’t afford what they need or want, so how to marshal their capital to still support their victory? There’s usually a real decision there and that’s where the decision is. The decision isn’t at the time the $1-off event is created, not at its inception, but rather the decision is post-facto in the recovery from the random event. Additionally, this clearly identifies the real design question: Is the additional rules complexity of requiring a minimum $2 raise justified by the additional interesting decisions created by recovering from the higher rate of $1-off events? I’m tempted to say it is, but I’m clearly also biased. Hey play-testers, what do you think?

One of the other results of the conversation with Tom is that I’m going to be forking Corner Lot. I’m pleased with the current game and enjoy playing it, but auctions are out of fashion with the German publishers and the required componentry (chips, markers etc) make the more attractive lower price points difficult to realise. As a result I’m going to fork the design and create a different game, one still based on the same reservation bidding concept, but with considerable less arithmetic and with no explicit auctions (ie no round-robin auctions to resolve multi-bid cards). I’ve no idea on the game yet, or much idea about the theme (Ariel Seoane has suggested musical group bookings for a concert), but I’m working on it. Currently the numbers are just not working out…

  1. Occasions when players are $1 short of being able to afford a desired item). 

  2. Power Grid seems to be famous for $1-off events. 

  3. Assuming I interpreted his comments correctly. 

Oooo my pretty precious!

As those who follow my Twitter feed know, Corner Lot did rather well at the Kublacon design competition, coming in the top 3 and quite likely being second. Julie, the organiser of the competition said that if it had player aids it would have won.

Several changes:

  • Player aids! Yep, there are now neat little player aids which contain the most frequently requested information (the 4 bonus categories and the 3 actions)
  • Spiffy new art without conflicting colour pairs (all credit goes to Ariel Seoane here)
  • An advanced variant which simply ups some costs and cash drains and thus significantly changes the timing and pacing of the Empty Lot cards1

New rules. Playtesters will find that the file at the same magic URL has the new card images and rules.

  1. The increased cost of the Empty Lot cards is not cast in stone, the other two values likely are 

Trimming corners

New rules for Corner Lot. The only substantive change is to the starting capital for different player counts.

Change Log:

  • Starting capital adjusted slightly for different player counts
  • Several small language tweaks around bonus scoring, market layout, etc.
  • Added poker chip colour section (to match the sets I’ll be sending out)

Sticker shock remembrance

A possible clean-ish address for the problem of remembering the value assigned to a wild card: 20 small chits, 4 in each suit’s colour, double sided with each side bearing a revenue value (3/4/5/6/7/8/9/12). When a player buys a wild card they place the matching chit on the card with the appropriate side up so as to record the revenue they assigned to the card.

Unfortunately it means not only an extra component, but an extra component-type. Oh well. I guess I can’t hope for an Adlung-Spiele small-box presentation.

Need help with that?

A few playtesters have requested player aids or cheat-sheets for Corner Lot. I may be too close to the game to see the wood for the trees: If there were to be a player aid, what would you like to see on it and how would that help you? Would a player aid have been useful to you? If you have played the game already, would it still be useful to you> Would it make teaching the game easier?

Only one of the 40+ players I’ve taught the game to locally requested a player aid, but didn’t have a clear statement of why they wanted one, how it would be useful or what data they thought should be on it (more likely a product of my bad questioning than their fault). My perhaps unflattering impression was that the player aid would provide comfort by re-assuring the player that they hadn’t forgotten any of the core game structures rather than providing data they’d forgotten. Does that about right? What do you think of the need and value for a player aid for Corner Lot?

Teaching Corner Lot

Reading between the lines, it seems that some of your players have had difficulty grokking some aspects of Corner Lot, especially the value and size of the bonuses, or how the stack will unroll etc. Below is a rough transcript (from memory) of the spiel I use when teaching the game. It has worked well for me. I wrote this originally in reaction to a session report. In case I forgot anything, I’ll update this version as needed.

This is a set collecting game. We’re going to be buying cards in a weird auction and collecting revenues for the cards we get. At the end of the game we’ll get bonuses for having certain patterns of cards. The player with the largest net worth wins.

There are 5 suits of cards with 8 cards per suit. (Lay out 8 cards, one of each value) Property cards have a cost and a revenue. The cost is the baseline of how much they cost to acquire and the revenue is roughly what they’ll pay you every round for owning them. With one exception the cost is always the revenue minus two times five. And the exception is…? (Wait for someone to point at the 40/12) Correct!

The deck will be shuffled and five cards will be laid face up to the side. (Lay 5 cards off to the side) These are out of the game and yes, you get to see them. Then 7 cards are laid in a sorted row as so. (Does this) This is the current market: the cards up for auction first. Then another 7 cards are set out, and make the future market: the cards auctioned in the second round. Later they’ll move down to become the current market, a new set of 7 will be dealt to be the new future market and so forth. As there are 40 cards in the deck, 5 are out, leaving 35, the game has 5 rounds of 7-card lots.

Okay, we’ll also pick a start player. They’ll get the first turn, then the player to their left and so on. Always purely rotational. That never changes.

On your turn you may bid, buy or pass. That’s it, just bid, buy or pass. Bidding! You may bid on any card in the current market that isn’t the cheapest/bottom card and that you haven’t bid on already. Just to keep the bids straight, make your bids by putting your chips on the corner of the card nearest you. So you get this corner, you get this corner you get this corner etc. (points) The minimum bid is the cost of the card plus $2, or $2 more than the highest bid on the card, whichever is more. Instead of bidding you can just buy the cheapest/bottom card for face value: this number on the card. Pay your money, take the card. And of course, you can pass. If you pass you’re not out: you can come back in later.

So why bid ahead and pay that $2 premium? Because the high cards are worth a lot more than their face value and the low cards, are well, not so good. (Quickly throws some chips on the various cards, some cards with a single bid, some two, some three, usually the penultimate card with none) Just pretend these chips are the bids by various players. When someone buys the bottom card we then look at the next card up. If it has just a single bid on it, then that player gets the card instantly for his bid. (Shows this) Then we do it again. Ahh, the next card has two bids! Those two players then go clockwise bidding for the card until only one person is left and they win the card for their bid and the losers get their money back. The minimum raise is $2. This next card has 3 bids on it: same thing happens, round robin etc, And this keeps on going, the stack keeps unrolling until there are either no cards left or you get to a card with no bids on it. Then it stops. Often all 7 cards in the market will go all at once! The key thing is that by bidding ahead you are securing the right to bid later. If you didn’t bid ahead on a card, you’ll have no chance to bid on it when the stack unrolls if someone else has bid on it. You are bidding for the right to bid!

Now all this unrolling and bidding and cards going places etc happens during the turn of the player who bought the bottom card. Once it is all done, the next player gets his turn.

Now of course with this card here (points to the penultimate card with no bids), say you (points) have the next turn, you can just buy that card for face value, you can bid on this last card if you haven’t already, or you can pass. It might be a good deal. Or not.

Okay, once all the cards in the current market are gone we get revenues! You get paid for every card you have. But you don’t get the full revenue! If the wild card for that suit hasn’t been bought, then every card in that suit pays $2 less. (I’ll talk about the wild cards and how to get them later) So this 5/3 card only pays $1 and this 25/7 only pays $5 and so forth. The key thing here is that cards pay back at roughly 22%. So you don’t get your money back quickly!

So we all get our money, a new future market is dealt and we do it all again. We do that 5 times and the game is over and we figure out how much I won by. Or not. Again. Bahh!

At the end of the game you get bonuses for the cards you have. There are four bonuses. For 3 or more cards in the same suit you get the number of cards you have of that suit times the highest revenue card you have in that suit, Then, 3 or more cards in the same suit in adjacent numerical order (and 12 comes after 9 as there is no 10 or 11) pays the number of cards in the run times the highest revenue card (so 4/5/6 or 7/8/9/12 for instance), 3 or more cards of the same value pays the number of cards time the revenue, and 3 or more cards of adjacent values but with each card of a different suit and each suit only occurring once pays the number of cards times the highest revenue. Sort of a “rainbow” run. It is always 3 or more cards and always times the highest revenue card in the set.

Each card can pay all four bonuses, but it can’t pay any bonus more than once. So 5/6/7 in suit will pay two bonuses, one for the suit and one for the run! But you you can’t take four 7s and say you have lots of sets of triple 7s as you mix and match them, and you can’t take two 5s, a single 6 and two 7s and say you have two rainbow runs.

So these bonuses are where the real money is in the game. And what you really want is for all of your cards to pay out multiple bonuses in different directions. Something like a 5/6/7 in 3 suits will pay every which way, for the suits, the suited run, the triples, and the three rainbows, see? See why the big cards are so much more valuable? (Get an answer) There’s lots of money there.

So we do all that and the player with the most money wins! It takes about 45 minutes.

Oh, the wilds! Okay, remember the bid, buy or pass business? You can just buy a wild card. It costs $20. It is just like buying the bottom card but it doesn’t start the stack unrolling. When you buy a wildcard you have to instantly say what it is. It is a 7! This is a 12! Whatever, just one of the card values: 3/4/5/6/7/8/9/12. But! But! When it comes to revenue time, the revenue for the wild card goes straight to the card and just piles up there. You don’t get it until the end of the game. Also, you have to pay the bank $5 for each wild card you own. You do get your revenue income first, so you can pay from that, but if you still can’t pay the $5, you have to put the wild card back and you lose all the money that piled up on it!

Now for the bonuses the wilds are just like any other card. They have a suit and they have a value. You can have the wild be a duplicate of another card you have, so you could have a blue 40/12 and have a wild blue 40/12 too. That’s fine.

And of course, once someone buys a wild, all the cards in that suit will now pay their full revenue.

There’s also a trick in passing. If everyone passes in a round, $5 is put on the bottom card. It is now $5 cheaper! However the first person to pass doesn’t get first dibs at the card at the new price. The turn marker moves forward and the next player does. Of course if everyone one passes again, it gets $5 cheaper again and the turn marker moves forward etc. If it ever gets to $free the next player has to take the card. Such a problem!

So we do all this: bidding, buying cards, moving cards about, vast amounts of money leap out of the bank and go to me, little small bits go to you guys, all that stuff. We do 5 rounds, then we pay out the bonuses, count up the money, and see that I won yet again. Hey gee, I’m the banker too!

Any questions?

Beating ploughshares into velocipedes

I’ve posted new rules for Corner Lot. The only substantive change is the requirement that all bid raises by by at least $2. There’s also an explicit statement that players may not increase their bid on a card prior to tis resolution, as there were as questions on that (this limit prevents the game from deadlocking as players dollar-up their prior bids in order to manipulate turn order).

I’m also working on new card art in order to resolve the colour problem some of you are having. With luck it will be ready in a few days. Meanwhile, please review and play by the new rules and post any thoughts, reactions and playtest reports as a comment to this post.

So ya wanna sniff?

This morning’s surprise was a playtesting request for Corner Lot. Colour me surprised (Oh, so that’s what colour surprise is! Ewwww.). I’ll get a playtest kit (ie a PDF of the required cards) put together later today for requesters1.

Producing the game is pretty trivial as it is just 45 cards. The only other component’s you’ll actually need are poker chips. We don’t bother with the player markers here as I have players place their bids on the corner of the property card closest to them, thus self-identifying the bids as their’s.

Please comment on this post to request playtest kits. Playtesters, please also append your comments questions, thoughts etc to this post as comments.

  1. Already done. Later is now.