We play a board game and at the end of it one person does a fist pump while the others hang their heads. One winner and multiple losers.
The difference can be one lousy point (on a total of two hundred) and still there is a watershed between glorious victory and humiliating defeat.
As a board game designer this fascinates me: Why is “the winner” so important?
No-winner game: Sim-City
There is a whole swath of computer “games” that can’t be won, with Sim-City being the first that comes to mind. I spent hours staring at my screen, trying to get enough money to be able to create more space for houses so that I could get more money…
Technically such a “game” would be better qualified as a “simulation”, but it’s not my intention to get into semantics here.
And though you can’t win Sim-City, I generally did have an idea of what I wanted to do: Get the biggest city. Or create a city without any pollution. Or see how quickly I could completely raze what I built up using tornados. What I wanted to do became my goal for that particular session. I wouldn’t “win” the game. But I could most certainly achieve something.
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.
This blog is to learn about game design. And writing about it most certainly helps. But doing it helps even more!
In fact, I’ve been “doing” it for a few months now. The most progress I’ve made with “Voluntarios”, a game where you try to do as much good as possible by working in a voluntary organization.
The game has been under development for a few months now and in that time has gone through numerous iterations. And though it works, there is always space for improvement!
One of the lessons of game design I’ve already learned is that you can’t do it all on your own. I’ve been staring myself blind at Voluntarios and it’s gotten to be very difficult to look at it with a fresh eye. So I need some help!
A foray into “balancing a board-game using excel” turned into an exploration of “in-game economics”. This is the second post in the series. The first is about “resources” and the ideas presented there are used in this post; reading it before continuing here might be a good idea.
In this post I want to take the concept of “resources” one step further and look at how resources relate to each other, taking a look at cost and value within the economics of board-games.
Let’s start by taking a look at real world economics.
Real world economics
Most people won’t be able to tell you exactly what “economics” is, but most will have an idea that it has something (or a lot!) to do with money.
In modern times they would be right. But money did not always make the world go round.
During the agricultural revolution life was fairly simple. You sowed your fields, harvested what came up, raised some animals and ate most of what you produced. If you had some left you could barter that with your neighbors: My grain for your sheep (is this starting to sound like Catan yet?). People traded resources.
Being unable to find anything on “using spreadsheets to balance a board-game”, I decided to dig into the subject myself. I started writing and quickly found that it spawned a whole lot of other subjects that were important to get to a final conclusion. These all loosely fell under the heading of “in-game economics”. Why not go into all of that? The result is a series of posts on the subject, of which this is the first.
We all have some idea of what “resources” mean in a game setting. They are the wood and stone and sheep and other “raw materials” that allow you to get to the more important stuff.
And as a first approximation that is correct. But there are many more resources in a board game. In this blog post I’d like to delve into the concept of “resources”, to get a better understanding of what they are and what they can do.
First order resources – raw materials
”I’ll give you a sheep and a wood for your two stone!”
Nowhere does the idea of resources become more clear than in a game of Catan: With some lucky dice throwing you get stuff which you can then use to build something that helps you to win the game!