2015 Support Drive – Ending in:
806 supporters - GeekGold Bonus for All 2015 Supporters: 8.06 + 0.59 = 8.65
Played this twice last week. One (competitive) group wondered why not win an auction for loading master and then charge HUGE fees. This way you either make a bunch of $$ or keep others from getting any deliveries. They though this would 'break' the game.
The second time I played (different group) we were much 'friendlier', (they thought my loading fee of $300 for 1/$500 for two was excessive)
As any negotiation and auction game, a lot of the balance is in the hands of the players. However, deals are binding, so one can negotiate future arrangements as part of what is going on. If only one player charges huge fees, he can be seen in a negative light by the others who will then charge him (and only him) huge fees for loading.
However, a wagon's movement and ultimate arrival in a timely fashion often depends on several players using their movement chits to move that particular wagon...if you, as the Wagonmaster, try to mimic U.S. airline companies and start charging outrageous fees, well, you'll be the only one moving that wagon along...and it will take time...meanwhile, your opponents will likely be moving and maneuvering the other two wagons for their profit while your creeps towards its destination.
As with all good negociation games, one has to balance greed with diplomacy, current profit for future benefit, etc.
I also suggest that you play 'wide open' in the negociation phase, offering, besides mere money, a vote (or two) on a commodity, or a movement chit of a certain value to nudge a particular wagon along faster, etc. Trade anything and everything allowed by the rules!
I do not think that huge fees break this game in any way. If you charge huge loading fees that no one else is willing to pay, you wont make back any of the money spent of the auction for the cart. If one player is able to win a large number of auctions, and only charges amounts that players aren't willing to pay. Then it sounds like the others need to bid more to be loading master.
Early auctions go for somewhere in the $1800 range. If you can make a profit, even $100, you're good. Getting people to pay you to load is fine as long as you're pricing it so they're only making $100 or so. $500 is probably low. Letting other people make more money off your wagon is just a mistake.
Think about it this way: an initial wagon will make a minimum of $1800. So you should be willing to spend $1700, meaning 3 goods at $100 and a bid of $1400. You don't want to let other people make a better return than you, right? So you have to price a load at an expected profit of around 6% - meaning $500 is too low. The bid's a bit higher than that since the price can adjust upwards but not down from $600.
The game is just blind auctions for the expected value of a wagon with some additional chrome, and serious randomness in the courier deck, as far as we could tell.