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, Learning

Introduction

What can I trade for an additional turn?!
What can I trade for an additional turn?!
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.

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Board game design

Introduction

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

Lots of economy!
Lots of economy!
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.

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