Posts about Corner Lot (old posts, page 1)

Regimental thuggery

We’ve played a slew more games of Corner Lot in the last days, all remarkably well received. The big concern is that the game is clearly a 3 or 4 player game and does not scale well to larger players. As such I’ve been pursuing avenues to increase player count flexibility. Most recently we’ve been trying the following changes:

  • Starting capital is increased to $600 divided among players
  • 5 Wildcards are placed beside the tableau
  • Each wildcard has a cost of $20
  • A player may purchase an available wildcard for cost on their turn as a normal action
  • When a player buys a wildcard they must assign it a revenue value ($3, $4, $5, $6, $7, $8, $9, or $12)
  • Unbought wildcards reduce the revenue of all cards of that suit by $2 at revenue time
  • Players must pay $5 for each wildcard they own to the bank at revenue time (deducted from revenues)
  • Purchased wildcards accumulate their revenues on the wildcard at revenue time
  • The owning player receives this money during end-game scoring
  • Melds with wildcards score bonuses in the normal way
  • Wildcard duplicates of cards already held score both bonuses as if they were an additional suit of that value and an additional card of that suit

This has worked well and has improved the game for all the players. I’ve found it a surprisingly strong improvement.

However, all is not rosy. Players tend to specialise in suits as the game rewards them heavily for that, leading to low contention rates for property cards once into the mid-game. In general each player will pursue bonuses in two suits, making competition for cards generally tepid outside of bid ordering details. The tendency is for there to be a round to a round and half of bidding for each lot before the trigger is pulled. If there were more contention for cards the trigger-pulling decision would be more difficult and interesting.

Two proposals have been made by the players:

  1. Add support for scoring bonuses for straights (not just straight flushes). This would need to be explicitly limited in some way else a player with the 5/6/7 of three suits could construct an ungodly large number of possible three-card bonus straights!
  2. All players, once per game to insert one of their purchased cards into the currently auctioned lot in return for the card’s revenue - A possibly slightly more interesting form of this instead adds a 6th round to the game in which players may (must?) put one card up for auction (in return for its revenue).

I’m tempted by the straights and in particular for allowing players to score bonuses for rainbow straights (3 or more cards in revenue sequence with each suit occuring not more than once). The notion of putting cards back up for auction is interesting but a little less compelling at the moment as almost every case would involve another player scoring more for the card than the contributor Hurm. Unless the winning bids on the property cards in that last round were paid back to the contributing player? I have numbers to crunch.

I’ll get updated rules including the wildcards posted Real Soon Now.

Elbowing cove detours

We’ve been playing Corner Lot quite a bit lately. It is popular and playing more quickly than I’d expected. Our games have been averaging under 45 minutes when I’d predicted a game length of around 75-90 based on decision complexity. I am…surprised.

So far we’ve played with 3 and 4 players with both working well. I think 4 players is marginally more interesting than 3, but it is a tough call. The common consensus is that 5 players is right out due to multi-player chaos effects. I’d like to soften that 5 player edge somewhat and have been working through a number of ideas around extending the suits, adding suits and adding some form of wildcard property card to the mix. The suit extension concepts ran afoul of the game’s basic arithmetic and sank there; however the wildcard concepts are being more interesting. The current idea:

  • 5 wildcards (one in each suit) that are set out beside the markets during setup
  • $20(?) cost and no stated revenue ($?) on the wildcards
  • Players may buy a wildcard from the display as their turn
  • The card must be assigned a value when it is taken – this is marked by putting that much cash (from the bank) on the card.
  • At the end of each round:
  • Each player has to pay $2 to the bank for each suit in which they have properties cards whose wildcard has not yet been taken
  • Each player that has taken a wildcard has to pay $5 to the bank for the card
  • The bank pays the card’s revenue to the card
    • The revenues accumulate on the card and are not available to the owning player
  • During the bonus phase:
  • The player retrieves the accumulated revenues on their wildcards
  • Melds score as normally, counting the wildcard as if it were the claimed card
  • If the wildcard duplicates a card that the player also has, then it counts as being of a different suit for the N-of-a-type bonus.

Thematically wildcards are empty lots that detract from the business and thus revenues of the other properties in the area. On purchase they empty lot is (slowly) developed and thus begins to accumulate revenues.

Knocking off the corners

We played several games of Corner Lot last night, all in comfortably less than hour. It was quite the hit. However a few small changes also resulted:

  • The starting capital has been set at $480/players. This was where I’d started actually but I wasn’t quite sure it was right. It is right, or at least close enough to right for more than government work.
  • No more emergency fund raising. The rule simply isn’t needed and has been excised.
  • The partially hidden variant has been normalised as the basic form of the game and the other variants discarded.
  • The $10 cards are being put back to being $12 cards. Again, this is where I’d started with the initial design, but then I vacillated and dropped it back down to $10. I’m not entirely convinced the $10s should be $12s, but it sure looks like it.

The rules have been updated.

On the stoop selling cigars

I’ve renamed Corner Property to Corner Lot as being a little more colloquial.

I’ve made a first draught of the rules. I’ve made the cards required for play (thanks go to Ariel Seoane for helping with the art) and hope to play at tomorrow’s gamenight at SB-Boardgamers.

Cornering capital

  • The average cost of a card is $latex (5+10+15+20+25+30+35+40) / 8 = \$22.5$.
  • The average cost of a set of 7 auctioned cards is $157.50
  • The average turn-to-turn-ROI of a card is 29% (52/180)
  • In each set of 7 auctioned cards an average of (22.5*7) = $157.50 will be spent in card cost across the players (assuming no rounds in which everyone passes and assuming no duplicate card values in the set)
  • If only one card is purchased per round at face value (likely to be one or two), then a minimum of $12 was spent in bid reservations, giving an average total expenditure per round of $169.50
  • Assuming that bidding pressure forces an average over-cost payment of 30% per card, that means the total per-round expenditure is $220.35
  • An average player will spend 1/N of that (N is number of players) in acquiring cards.
  • Mapping out the turns:
  • if a player spends $X on cards in a given round
    • At the end of the round they will earn 29% of $X
  • if the player spends $X on the second round
    • Their starting capital will need to have been at least 171% of $X
    • They will earn 58% of $X in revenue
  • If they spend $X on the third round
    • Their starting capital will need to have been at least 213% of $X
    • They will earn 87% of $X
  • If they again spend $X on the fourth round
    • Their starting capital will need to have been at least 226% of $X
    • They will earn 116% of $X
    • They are now profitable; their per-round expenditures of $X are exceeded by their revenue income
  • Thus the total capital required among the players at the start of the game is $latex (4*220.35 * 2.26) = \$1,991.96$

The above doesn’t account for the probabilities of multiple cards of the same value in a lot, thus increasing over-payment, or the potential of players passing and thus driving prices down. It also ignores the fact that cards pay out 6 times per game, thus making the big cards even more valuable than they already are. And there are some other nice fat holes in the logic. Still, $500 per player in a 4 player game seems a reasonable sum.


An idle thought to enliven the mix:

  • When passing a player may instead tap some or all their cards for cash and receive Q% (50%?) of their revenue in cash. Such tapped cards do not pay again at the end of the round.

Consolidating corners

Quick changes that seem useful:

  • Project name (yep, it is no longer just a notion): Corner Property
  • Theme around property./market collection
  • Reduce the suit sizes to 8 cards and the game to 5 rounds
  • Lose the chips
  • Variants:
  • Deal our 5 cards and display them as what will not be in play
  • Deal out a 7x7 grid of cards and: - Resolve them in columnar order - Low cash player picks which column to resolve at the start of the round

Vague possibilities: - Turn-order players in order of cash or income

Still have to determine starting capital.

A game of auctions for auctions

1830 uses a remarkable auction format for distributing the private companies at the start of the game. In somewhat abstract terms:

  1. A number of properties are arranged in order of approximate ascending value
  2. On their turn a player may do one of the following: - Bid on a properly for whichever is the larger of the face value of the property plus $5 or the largest bid on the property plus $5 - Buy the cheapest property for face value if it doesn’t have a bid on it - Pass
  3. If all players pass the face value of the lowest property is reduced by $5
  4. If the cheapest available contains only a single bid, then the property is instantly awarded to that bidder for that price
  5. If the cheapest available property contains multiple bids there is an auction among those players to resolve who gets the property - The player who has already placed the largest bid is considered to be winning the property for that price - Players in rotation may either raise their bid to more than the current highest bid or drop out of the auction - When only one bidder is left they win the property for their bid price - Losing bidders retain their losing bids
  6. The process of resolving the cheapest value property continues until either the cheapest available property hasn’t been bid on, or there are no more available properties.
  7. The turn then passes to the next player to the left who proceeds by bidding, buying or passing.
  8. This continues until all properties have been acquired

In essence bids on properties reserve the ability for that player to compete for the property later. They pay a premium for that privilege. As several properties are worth considerably more than their face values, there is competition both to acquire those properties and to force the eventual purchaser to pay reasonably for it.

1830’s private auction is often cited for being excessively complex and opaque. It is the primary point of differentiation in the early game and new players have a very hard time with it as each of the private companies has special powers, but also various pairs of private companies can synergistically work together. It should be no surprise that I’ve long admired the private auction and wanted to base a game around it just that portion of the game, much like Günter Cornett and Michael Uhlemann’s Greentown is a rendition of the 18xx route-tracing game, and Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling’s Cavum is a rendition of the 18xx track building game.


  • 55 cards, 5 each with values of 5/$3, 10/$4, 15/$5, 20/$6, 25/$7, 30/$8, 35/$9, 40/$10 and 50/$15.
  • The first value is the default cost of the card. The second value is the revenue of the card.
  • 55 chips, 11 in each of 5 colours
  • Poker chips
  • A bag


  1. Give each player money(a function of player count).
  2. Randomly select a dealer for the first round

Pattern of play

  1. Shuffle the card deck
  2. Deal out 7 cards
  3. Arrange the cards in order by increasing value (the value before the slash)
  4. Put 2 chips of each colour into the bag
  5. Randomly draw 7 chips and randomly put one on each card
  6. Stating with the dealer the players conduct an 1830-type auction for the cards - If there are multiple cards of the same value:
    • the base cost of each card of the same value is $2 more than the card below it in order of the same value
    • Bids must be which ever is the larger of $2 higher than the cost of the card or $1 higher than the largest bid on the card
  7. Keep the chips on the cards as they are taken, that indicates the suit of the card (cards are unsuited)
  8. The round ends when all cards have been purchased
  9. At the end of the round each player receives money equal to the dollar values on each of the cards they own.
  10. Repeat from dealing out 7 cards, adding chips to those left in the bag from the last round
  11. End after seven rounds (5 cards won’t be used)
  12. Pay the players double money at the end of the last round


  • Cash is points
  • Cash in each set of three or more cards of the same value held by a player for the number of cards held of that value multiplied by the revenue of the card
  • Cash in each sequence of three or more cards of the same suit (same colour chip) with sequential revenue values for the number of cards cards in the sequence multiplied by the revenue of the largest card in the sequence (50/$15 cards can’t be scored in this way)
  • A card may participate in scoring sets in both directions
  • Player with the most money win.
  • Three is no tie-breaker (of course)

Option: Lose the chips and suit the cards with 5 suits.

My sense is that the game is too long, the deck needs to be smaller, there need to be fewer rounds etc. It needs a diet. I haven’t investigated that yet.