Board game design, In-game economics

Introduction

You only miss something once it becomes scarce
You only miss something once it becomes scarce
In a number of previous posts I’ve been discussing “in-game economics”, using ideas from economics to gain further insight into what makes board-games “tick”.

In this post I’ll delve into the idea of “scarcity” (of in-game resources) and what this means for your games.

Quick recap: Value

In this post I wrote about the value of in-game resources. The basic idea was that the value of a resource (for more on in-game resources, please read this post) could be expressed in how much it helps a player to win the game. Especially when “winning” is based on a numerical value (e.g. “victory points”) this can give a common “currency” in which the value of all resources can be expressed.

If all resources are plentiful, this idea works marvels. But what if resources are not plentiful?

An example of scarcity

Imagine a game of Catan in which the sixes and eights are on forests, while meadows have only the 2, 12, 3s and 11s. There most likely will be a great surplus of wood, while sheep will be in very short supply.

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Board game design, In-game economics

Introduction

Time waits for no-one. Except in board-games, where your turn can be as long as you want
Time waits for no-one. Except in board-games, where your turn can be as long as you want
One thought leads to the next: I was writing about the cost and value of resources in board-games, which led to feed-back loops in board-games. One idea that popped up there was that there is a “time-value” to getting resources. In this post I want to explore that idea further.

What is time-value?

Either I give you 10 Euro right now, or I’ll give you 10 Euro in a year. Which do you prefer?

Under normal circumstances you would prefer the money right now. Because maybe I’ll forget in a year or have gone completely bankrupt by then. And spending money now is way more fun than knowing that you can spend it later.

Thus, people generally have a preference for getting things sooner rather than later. With a technical term this is called the “time-value” of something (or even more technical, the “time-discount”).

Time in board-games

Time in board-games works somewhat differently than in real life: In a game of Chess it’s not uncommon to think for many minutes of real-time, in which nothing happens within the game. Then in a second you move your rook and the board has suddenly changed.

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Board game design, In-game economics

Introduction

Once upon a time I was interested in balancing the game I’m working on (Voluntarios) using excel sheets. Finding nothing I got to writing. And writing. And writing. The result was a series on in-game economics, of which this post is the next installment.

The other posts in the series are:

The general idea of a feedback loop

Sing it back, bring it back. Sing it back to me!
Sing it back, bring it back. Sing it back to me!
The general idea of a feedback loop is a system that has both inputs and outputs and where the output of the system is also (part of) the input. Thus the output loops back to again form the input.

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Board game design, In-game economics

Introduction

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.

Resources

More resources. I need more!
More resources. I need more!

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!

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