Shrodinger's Wine: Revisiting the Counterfeit Wine Theme

Wine Bottles

Several months ago, I posted this little idea for a game about the counterfeit wine market. To recap: There's a big business in wine collecting, for various vintages and vineyards. There is also a big business in forging wine bottles, artificially aging the labels and even faking the corks. The counterfeits are so good that a real bottle and a good fake are worth the same amount until the bottle is opened. Sounds like a game to me!

So yes, I originally had this rather complicated auction mechanic in mind, but I think this could be much simpler. The cards are still double-sided, with the back side showing a value range. For example, $1 – $15. The front of the bottle shows the true value, for example $2.

Cafe Riva White Wine Labels
Thematically, this could be depicted as a front and back wine label.

Each player is dealt a hand of cards. Let's say seven cards for now. Cards are always dealt and held so as to never reveal the true values to the other players. So players vaguely know each other player's true values, but not for certain.

To start a round, each player takes one card from his or her hand and places it face-down in the middle of the table. This represents the lot of wine bottles that is up for auction in this round. Players are competing to get the first choice of bottles from the lot.

Wine Auction

Each player takes turns. On your turn, you may bid or pass.

  • Bid: Reveal one or more cards from your hand face-up, exposing the true value of the card(s). If you've bid in a previous turn this round, your new cards are added to your previous cards for a new total. Your total bid must be higher than the previous bid, otherwise you must pass.
  • Pass: You choose not to bid or not continue bidding this round.

Continue taking turns until all but one player has passed.

Starting with the highest bid and descending, each player taking turns. On your turn, you may take one card from the lot. If you did not bid at all this round, then you may not take any cards, which itself might let you dodge a counterfeit! When you take a card, you can look at it and do one of two things with it.

  • Archive: Put the card face-down in your collection.
  • Sell: Put the card in your hand.

This ends the round. Discard any unclaimed bottles. At the end of a round, deal one card to each player's hand from the deck. Continue playing one round per player. The player with the highest value collection at the end of the game is the winner!

The tension here is that the most valuable bottles are valuable in two orthogonal strategies. Do you put the high value bottle into the lot, thereby weakening your bidding position? Or do you keep it so you get first pick at a potentially less valuable lot?

And even after the auction, there is a bit of double-think as you watch your opponents. Did your opponent just put that bottle into his hand because it's worthless? If so, you should avoid taking that bottle if it comes up for auction. But maybe he kept it because it's very valuable, in which case it could be dangerous to get into a bidding war with him next round.

As with any light, minigame of this sort, a lot will come down to balancing the cards against each other. It'll take some mathy refinements, but I think this is a pretty solid little system.