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Economic structure of games

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lewpuls
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A month or two ago I started a thread on BGG about fundamental structures of games (someone posted the original here as well). The brief version of my conclusions is listed below. Now I'm going to try to go through each of the nine elements and list many of the alternatives that are available to designers for that element. The first is Economy.

Brief listing of nine structural systems of games (but not sports)
1. Theme/History/Story.
2. Objective/victory conditions.
3. “Data storage”. (Information Management)
4. Sequencing.
5. Movement/Placement.
6. Information availability.
7. Conflict resolution/interaction of game entities.
8. "Economy" (resource acquisition).
9. Player Interaction rules.

Economy/resource acquisition (there can be combinations of these methods)

(Unfortunately, the indentation I used has been lost in the final version, and I'm not going to fight with it. E.g., the lines for Tic-tac-toe and Go should be indented.)

None (or same piece over and over)
Tic-Tac-Toe
Go

Pool of pieces/cards (possibly including those that have been eliminated) to choose from
Dominoes
Block games (wargames)
MANY cardgames
CCG--player can customize his pool (he puts his deck together)

Resource economy. Something gives the player resources (territory, buildings, "resource centers")
Increase Points in Britannia-like games
Resource points in Axis & Allies
Risk: ownership of regions provides extra armies
Monopoly: passing Go; also getting money from players as rent
Diplomacy: supply centers
Die Macher: funds
(many games are resource management problems, in the end)

Prerequisites to using resources
Buildings (as in Warcraft II and many RTS video games)
“Industrial centers”
Cities or supply centers (certain fixed locations)

Special resources/actions
Collect and turn in set of cards (Risk)
Special cards ("Event Cards") e.g. "Take card from opponent's hand" card
Promote a pawn (chess)
"King" a piece (checkers)
"Lands" in Magic the Gathering

Supply lines (unit must have unblocked access to a resource location)
Mostly in wargames, and often not in those
Seas of Gold trading

Pay maintenance to continue to have the piece (rather rare)
Seas of Gold etc.

Limitations on number of pieces
You can't promote a piece unless it is "dead" (chess)
Cannot have more pieces than the piece mix provided in the game (quite common)

Epigone
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Re: Economic structure of games

lewpuls wrote:

You can't promote a piece unless it is "dead" (chess)

Quick nitpick: If you are saying you cannot promote a pawn to a queen if your own queen is still on the board, this is false. You may have 3 queens, 7 knights, etc. on the board. You could replace it with Shogi (Japanese Chess), though, where the only pieces you may drop are those your opponent has lost.

Fitting kind of into 'prerequisites' and kind of into 'special actions' might be Homeworlds, an Icehouse game where the more colors you have in one location, the more types of actions you may perform there.

jwarrend
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Economic structure of games

This thread would actually be pretty helpful to johant, who was asking a similar question last week.

I'm not sure that the structure of a game's economy can really be expressed solely in terms of the means by which players acquire resources. Far more important, I think, are how resources are used in the game; that, to me, is the essence of a game's economy: the process of converting inputs to outputs. Another important consideration is that in a game's economy, time can be a commodity -- how many turns will the player get during the game, when will they occur (esp. relative to other players), how much can he do on his turn, etc.

Viewed through this lens, the question becomes: what are some things that players are actually spending their resources on?

Positional advantage -- Can be spatial, as in gaining control of territories (eg El Grande) or more abstractly, by improved rank in some category (eg, buying shares of stock to gain majority status in Acquire)

Temporal advantage -- For example, bidding for turn order in Samurai Swords or New England

Enhanced abilities -- eg, buying more units; buying "upgrades".

Direct resource-to-VP conversion -- eg, buying buildings in Puerto Rico or claiming a route in Ticket to Ride.

Indirect resource-to-VP conversion -- eg, buying a Jester or Landscape in Princes of Florence, or a Ticket in Ticket to Ride, to increase future VP potential.

I'm sure are plenty more; the point is simply that to look at the structure of a game's economy, I claim you have to look at it holistically. Looking at how the "inputs" to the economy are acquired is just half the equation (and, I claim, the less important half).

-Jeff

lewpuls
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Economic structure of games

I see the point, Jeff. I am trying to categorize, or divide up, the game into understandable, addressable parts, and "holistic" approaches go back toward looking at the game as a whole. How players allocate/use resources is sometimes--often--the entire point of playing the game, or a large part of it. It becomes so inextricably tied to everything else that the allocation/use becomes too complex to analyze usefully, .for the inexperienced designer.

No doubt, the designer must think about how players are going to use the resources as he decides how they acquire the resources.

Lew

jwarrend
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Economic structure of games

lewpuls wrote:
I see the point, Jeff. I am trying to categorize, or divide up, the game into understandable, addressable parts, and "holistic" approaches go back toward looking at the game as a whole. How players allocate/use resources is sometimes--often--the entire point of playing the game, or a large part of it. It becomes so inextricably tied to everything else that the allocation/use becomes too complex to analyze usefully, .for the inexperienced designer.

Good point Lew, I didn't realize you were aiming more at the inexperienced designer, and indeed, as I mentioned, that approach is validated by a post we had this week from a newer designer who was just asking the very basic question of what methods games have used to give players resources.

-Jeff

johant
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Economic structure of games

Quote:
".....a newer designer who was just asking the very basic question of what methods games have used to give players resources. "

Thats me for sure

Very interesting, im looking forward to read more about this.

The problem with the topic i started was that it didnt adress resource mechanics in general, it turned out to discuss one mechanic, and that wasnt really what i had in mind.

//Johan

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