Sealed Auction Gunboat Variant

By David East.


I’ve always thought that the Gunboat scenario is the most interesting.  Perhaps that’s just because I don’t get on with people, but I’d like to think it’s because the strategic challenges are more interesting.  Some ordinary games end early because teams just don’t work out well, or because by effective early co-ordination one side can develop too big a lead to make it worthwhile for the other side to stick it out for a year or more waiting for gradual but certain defeat.

Also, the team work in ordinary games allows specialization of individual nations, so the Cloud Lord, for example, can just develop agents knowing that others will bring on the other skills required.  In Gunboat you can’t rely on others to do the bits you don’t want for you, so you have to be thinking about your endgame character requirements early on.  This includes a greater role for mages as information gathering resources, whereas normally they are only used for curse squads, adding a new dimension to the game, and since you have two or more nations there is still scope for a degree of specialization, tactical combinations and mutual assistance.

However, I think that after a while the nation combinations can become a bit stale.  Why do the Dunlendings have to be with North Gondor and so on?  I want to propose an alternative whereby players bid for the combinations that they want, to mix things up a bit.  With just one or two exceptions, this means that any combinations are possible, leading to far more and far more varied ways in which the game can develop.

I’ve set out the rules for this below.  Essentially, players bid for the nations they want, but since we can’t all be in a room together it’s a blind or sealed bid auction.  That has a couple of important implications.

Firstly, as you’ll appreciate, in a blind auction like this you may end up with none of the nations that you wanted, so I think there’s an implied responsibility to give it your best shot anyway if that happens.  It’s a bit like voting in an election, it implies you’ll accept the outcome even if you don’t like it.

Secondly, the neutrals could end up on either side.  However, I’ve made it a condition that the Corsairs and Harad can’t be on the same side, as I think that would be unbalanced.  It follows that Rhudaur and Dunland must also be on opposite sides.

Thirdly, what I hope is that interesting combinations might arise.  You could end up playing the Witch King trying to fend off Arthedain and Cardolan under the same control.  That probably won’t go well unless you managed to get Rhudaur on your side, but there may be compensations elsewhere (Corsairs combining with the Quiet Avenger, for example, to decimate Harad early on).  Who knows how it will go?  I have added that at game start everyone is advised what the opposing pairings are, so at least you can respond to the new strategic imperative.

I’ve proposed a sealed auction system for allocating nations.  We can all trust Clint and the team to run it fairly, including the dice rolls they may have to make to split ties.

Everyone gets 100 points, and submits bids by a specified date using these rules.

  1. You must bid for at least two nations, but there is no maximum number of nations to bid for
  2. You cannot bid the same amount for two different nations (otherwise Clint won’t know how to sort out ties should they arise)
  3. Bids must be at least 1 point, and therefore a maximum of 99. Whole numbers only!
  4. You have to bid for FP (and neutral) or DS (and neutral) nations, not both (obviously)
  5. You can bid for neutral nations in the same way, and they will be pre-aligned at the start using the allocation rules
  6. You can bid for Corsairs and Harad, or Dunland and Rhudaur, although I’m not sure why you would want to since the allocation rules below will sort that out and you may have wasted some bidding points.

Once all the bids are received Clint and the team follow the decision rules below to allocate nations

  1. The highest single bid is granted, and the relevant nation awarded to that player (so if the most anyone bid for any single nation was say 90 because they badly wanted that particular nation then they would get it. Obviously the most that player could have bid for another nation was 10, so they might need to be very lucky to get that one, but we’d just have to see how that played out)
  2. If two or more players have an equal highest bid then Clint rolls a dice or some other random process to select the order of allocation if they have bid for the same nation (or for Corsairs/Harad or Dunlendings/Rhudaur)
  3. If a neutral nation is awarded then the other neutral in that pair is automatically placed in the opposing allegiance. This means that if (for example) the Corsairs are awarded to the FP at this point in the proceedings then any FP players who bid for Harad have that bid discarded.  Points wasted!
  4. You simply repeat steps 1-3 until all nations are allocated
  5. If some nations are left unallocated with no bids then Clint and team draw names out of a hat or equivalent to allocate them
  6. Clint advises all players of the nation pairings and off we go

I don’t know what tactics you should adopt in bidding.  There might be a premium on bidding for strong pairs where neither nation is individually that strong.  For example 51/49 Arthedain & Cardolan might secure you a really good pairing, but if someone else happens to stick in a bit more for say Arthedain you could be stuck with a weak pair like Cardolan and the Northmen – neither nation is trong and they don’t work well together..  Neutrals might be unpopular, since you are twice as likely to be outbid by a team mate – if you bid for the Corsairs a team mate might bid more for them, or a team mate might bid more for Harad and either way you miss out.  Perhaps this is fair, since it means you have to bid a lot for a powerful nation, and so take your chances with the second. 

I think it would refresh a format, and is easily manageable, but players would have to commit to it.  There is obviously a chance that you end up with two nations that you wanted nothing to do with and which don’t work together well.  If that happens perhaps just think of it as a challenge, and try to envisage what the new pairings in the rest of your team will mean, and give it a go.


Message from ME Games:

Think you might like to give a sealed bid Gunboat game a try? Then Get in Touch to register your interest, and if we have enough players, we’ll give it a go.