In a previous post I wrote about “resources” as part of a series on in-game economics. Of course something isn’t just written and then “done”. The piece got me thinking further, so I thought I’d share a bit more with you.
In this post I want to go into the “temporal” aspect of resources.
Resources are transient
One important insight I had was that all resources (in board-games) are transient, meaning that at some point they will be gone.
For things like wood and stone, which you “spend” to build say a building, this is pretty clear. Once you’ve used a given wood card or token, you cannot use it again until you somehow produce more wood.
There are however many resources within games which seem to be permanent: A city you build in Catan, the spaces on the board of Monopoly. And within the game they most certainly can be.
But that’s the thing: Games end!
And that means that everything within your board-game has a limited lifetime.
The lifetime value of a resource
If you buy a house, you can fully expect to be able to use for the rest of your life. And it’s not unlikely that your children and perhaps your children’s children will get to enjoy that nice piece of bricks and mortar as well.
Houses are ridiculously expensive! Staying in hotels for years on end is cheaper than buying one. But a house is still less expensive than staying in hotels for the rest of your life!
The thing to take away is that a resource needs to “repay” itself within its own lifetime.
And as time (turns, rounds) is fairly limited in a board-game, the pay-back time needs to be relatively short as well.
Players influencing time
This means that if players have some influence on when the game ends, this can become quite a significant resource in itself.
There is the simple influence, where ending the game now stops my opponent from doing more next turn.
But it also creates a more subtle influence: If the game could be ending soon-ish, then I’m not going to invest in something expensive that needs multiple turns to pay itself back.
On the other hand, as a game is limited in time, it might not be a bad idea to give up a “permanent” resource for some short-term gain.
You wouldn’t give away your house for a vacation. But if the world was ending in 2 weeks, it might actually not be such a bad trade?
Many games make a very clear distinction between “spending resources” (wood, stone) and “permanent resources” (buildings, constructions, etc.). Why not have something in between? Something that stays for a while and then is gone? Or something that can be sacrificed (foregoing the long-term benefits) for something now.
This can also make for very interesting choices, especially if it’s not entirely clear when the game is going to end: Hang on to it and get the benefits for however long the game lasts, or blow it up and reap the rewards immediately. In the end it only matter how much you have in the end (of the game)!
Thoughts and questions for board-game design
All good things (including board-games) must come to an end! That has an influence on the amount of time any resource can provide value. In your board-game, is there a balance between how long something sticks around and how much it gives? How does that change over the course of playing? Are all your resources worth their cost throughout the entire game, or are some only worthwhile in the beginning?
Can you give players influence over when the game ends? Would that add depth or just complexity?
Finally, would it be interesting to add resources that are around for a while, but eventually go away, either because of a player choice or because of a mechanic?
Time can be an unexpected resource for your players and that can make for new and interesting game-play. My tip: Use (your) time well!
I’m very open to your ideas and thoughts, let me know if you agree and where you think I completely missed the point! Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter!
Hi, I’m Bastiaan. The goal of this blog is to learn about game design. That’s hopefully for you as the reader, but just as much for me as the writer.
Help me to learn? Leave a comment or connect with me on Twitter?