A Racing Auction Game in Search of a Theme

Racing Auction Trick-Taking Mechanic

Here's a sort of auction, trick-taking, racing mechanic I've been mulling over the past couple days, in an attempt to make a racing game  Each player has two pawns representing their racers. They are placed in a line in a random starting order. Each player begins with a hand of five standard playing cards. The goal of play is to win the auction for leadership position. Whoever is in the leader position wins most points for the turn, but may be subject to unexpected hazards.

The leader begins by bidding an amount in the suit of her choice. She may play one or more cards as long as they're the same suit.

In the example above, the yellow player bid 10 diamonds.

Each player then takes turns counter-clockwise (like a racetrack) for an opportunity to bid a higher amount of the leader's chosen suit. If someone does establish a new high bid, then each player gets another opportunity to out-bid that high bid. This continues until no one wants to out-bid the highest bidder.

In the example above, the green player player declines the opportunity to out-bid the yellow player. The blue player bids a Jack of Diamonds (worth 11 diamonds), thus establishing a new high bid. The red player declines, the yellow player declines, the green player decides to bid this time, bidding a King of Diamonds, setting a new high bid. The blue player declines, the red player decides to drop a whammy of 15 Diamonds. The other players decline to outbid the red player.

The pawns are re-arranged according to bid. Whoever won the bid may move one of her pawns to the front of the line. The second-place bidder moves one of his pawns to second place. The third-place bidder moves a pawn to third place, and so on.

After each turn, each player draws one card from the deck. Thus, you could just suit out a couple turns in order to regain your energy before dropping a big bid. The dilemma is that the leader sets the suit for the auction, so the leader may not give you the opportunity to bid in the category in which you're strongest.

The player in first place earns 3pts, second place earns 2pts, and third place earns 1pt. 

During the course of the race, there are randomized terrain and event cards that are revealed before each turn.

These cards award special bonuses or penalties to players in specific positions. For example, a RICKETY BRIDGE would harm whoever is in last place because all the other runners in front weakened it.

The SHARP TURN would harm the leader because it was an unexpected obstacle, but the straggling runners have plenty of time to dodge it.

The SWINGING PENDULUM would harm every evenly placed racer, so the second-place, fourth-place, sixth-place, etc.

The cards themselves are awarded to players who are further in back of the line, in fourth, fifth or even last place. These are worth points at the end of the game.

The game ends after the fifth turn. Each player tallies points earned from obstacle cards and from being in the top 3 positions during the game. Whoever ends the game with the most points wins!

Playtesters have suggested that the event/terrain cards could list the bids of each pawn (with an optional suit notation) so you could technically play solo. You'd just ignore whatever the card says is the bid for your pawn. You just have to beat the bids of the other AI racers. Thus, you could make this always a four-player game, it's just that some of them are AIs.

I need a theme in which the racers always stay in a tight formation, jockeying for incremental positions, facing random obstacles. Those obstacles would clearly be the main channel for whatever theme I choose, because the terrain of a bike race is much different than triathalon. There is also the question of suits and how they could be incorporated into the theme. Here are some of the themes people have chosen that strike my fancy.

  • Ostrich Racing: Each player is racing an ostrich across the savvanah, dodging obstacles along the way like mud pits, predators, and bad weather. The suits represent different terrains of the race course: Desert, Grass, Mud, Jungle?
  • Turtle Race: The racers stay in a tight formation because they're so slow! The obstacles are humorously minimal, like street curbs, small potholes, and discarded strawberries. Suits are Street, Lawn, Sidewalk, Water?
  • Grand Prix Monkey: A pack of monkeys are whizzing through the Amazon rain forest. Obstacles are mainly in the form of predators and tempting distractions. Suits are Ground (for running on the ground), Trees (for swinging through trees), Shortcuts (for cheeky monkeys) Poop (for throwing poop at opponents).
  • All-Terrain Pulp Race: Flying aces race around the world in amphibious flying machinese, dodging outlandish pulp-themed obstacles like mad scientists, exploding volcanoes, and giant apes. Suits represent different areas of the race: Sea, Air, Land, Space.
  • Kaiju Rally: This is a weird one. While I was thinking about the giant apes, I thought, "Why not make the giant monster the racer?" Obstacles would include defending mecha, armies, other monsters, etc. Like the pulp race, this could traverse sea, air, land and space too.

Right. So that's the general idea anyhow. As with many of my potentially self-published games these days, I'm mainly limited by my own ability to make or commission artwork. Aside from that limitation, I'm most amused by the Monkey and Turtle themes.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.