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Piles of cubes versus Slider?

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Torrent
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Joined: 08/03/2008

I present the following comparison for discussion.

In many games there are resources to be tracked. These resources go from symbolic resources (Sheep, Wood, Stone...) through Points to Money to all kinds of things. In my minimal experience it seems there are two ways to track such things.

1) The one I call Pile of Cubes, although it could be little cardboard bits or cards. This invovles for every one resource you have one tangible object in front of you to represent it.
a) Variant: Sometimes you get a version of this where there is a second( or more) size to represent more. A big cube for 5 little cubes. But basically the same, pile in front of you represents symbolic stuff in the game.

2) A slider or track with a continuum of numbers is presented to track the resource. Either a common track with personal markers, or personal tracks with generic markers. This seems to be most common with VP tracking.

So my basic question for discussion is the following: Are these two fundamentally different and just a matter of cost/theme? Ancillary to this, when should one do 1) over 2)? Is there something less 'fun' about 2) for certain things?

Background/first thoughts.. I like resource gathering/management games and am working on several projects dealing with such. Also Brykovian had a game in the GDW a few weeks ago. His first question was involved with the large number of components. My suggestion was to switch some stuff to sliders to save on bits. I have since been wondering if there are games where the tangibility of the bits means something, enough to warrent the extra stuff.

I claim that for resources that 'exist' in the theme of the game that the first option is preferable to a certain extant. With more metaphoric/esoteric items such as points go to the later. Example, a game about buying and selling Cattle. Cows would be better as little black and white spotted cubes than tracked along a numberline. But the points gained from playing, since the don't technically exist within the game are tracked along a slider.

Final note, I am thinking here about resources. Groups of things/points/money that changes during the game and relatively unpersonable. IE wood,sheep,etc are resources in Settlers, but the settlements and such are not, because they permanently are bonded to the player.

So discuss away.

Andy

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Piles of cubes versus Slider?

This is a question I also recently began thinking about for a game I've been working on. In my game, I have 2 kinds of resources, and previously, we had chits for each resource type. So, during the production round, everyone would figure out how much of each resource they were due and would be given that many chits.

Recently, we went to a system with "sliders", I now have 2 resource production tracks and each player has a pawn on each track which goes up and down.

I like this system better, but there are ups and downs to both. The advantages of the production tracks seem to be, (a) information is now totally open and easily trackable, which is important in this game. So now I can see "Joe has enough to buy X, I should attack him so he loses some resources". (b) the production system is streamlined and public. Rather than the chaos of "I need 13 corn and 11 gold"; "I need 4 corn and 17 gold!", we now go, one resource at a time, and update the tracks for each territory. That gets everyone involved in the process, giving more redunancy and thus better chance of catching errors. It also makes the production step much more peaceful. And it's less math-heavy. You just count someone's holding in a given territory, and increment their position on the appropriate track by that amount. I couldn't see this approach working for a system where you hand out the resources, because it would be much slower. "Give Joe 2 corn. Now give him 2 Gold. Now give him 2 more Gold. Now give Sue 1 Corn. Now 1 Gold to Joe", etc. But it's very quick to do this with the track.

There are some downsides. One is that it's easier to forget to update your position on the track after paying for something, because you don't physically have to transfer resources from your hand. Trades are more of a pain -- "increase him by 2, decrease me by 2" -- more annoying than just handing over the resources. And your info is stored all in one place, which means if someone bumps the table, all your info is lost, which can't happen if everyone has piles of resources in front of them. Also, there's a certain tactile quality to having a pile of resources in front of you, being able to separate it into sub-piles to mathematically work out your different purchases in your head, etc.

So, I think the main advantage of a resource track system is that it makes the information much more public and trackable, which I'm increasingly thinking is a good element of game design. The main disadvantage is that it's a pain for trades and is dangerous is you have clumsy or forgetful players.

Good discussion subject!

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