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Voting as a game mechanism

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Anonymous

I have been working on a game design that has voting by the players as one of the most important mechanisms. I was wondering which games allow the players to vote, and how they go about it?

Without boring you with all the technical details, the game takes place in a village somewhere in Europe in 100 BC (this could change obviously). Each player is an important member of the community, trying to make it big through commerce within the village and with the outside. Players make money through fishing, hunting, agriculture, and later through more sophisticated production approaches.

The destiny of the village is decided by the 8 village elders, each of which is a master at a particular craft. Elders are represented by cards. Through their achievements, players will gain the support of elders, which means they place the elder card in front of them. Elders will move around as the game evolve. Each elder provides an advantage to the player who controls him, and the advantage is always related to the elder's craft.

Every round, an event card is drawn; the game describes a particular situation and involves a choice that must be decided through a vote. Each elder is worth one vote, so the player with the most elders has the advantage. For instance, the card might suggest putting a quota on fishing, or impose a levy on the export of jewelry.

One of the things I'm trying to do with this game, is give the feeling that the village is prospering through the players actions and decisions; that the game is both cooperative and competitive. Players are rivals, but they still have to cooperate because no single player can enforce any decision by himself.

hpox
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Voting as a game mechanism

The one I know about is Werewolf aka Mafia, which is a pretty cool party game. Each turn everyone vote to eliminate one person (and reveal his identity) until the hidden werewolves are eliminated or until there's more werewolves than villagers. During the night, the werewolves secretly assassinate one villager.

Another I read about and liked the concept very much is Rette Sich Wer Kann.

But there's also a nice feature on the BGG where you can get a list of games by mechanic: Games which feature a voting mechanic

Scurra
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Voting as a game mechanism

I like voting games, but it is very difficult to implement a "secret vote" in a game.
Open votes are easy - you just hold up a card or put a counter on the option you support. The drawback is that everyone then knows how you voted, which makes double-crossing or bluffing very much harder.

Closed votes are very much harder to handle without some sort of clunky mechanic. For instance, imagine everyone has a "yes" and a "no" vote. The only way you can really handle this secretly is to have two voting boxes, one of which is for the motion being proposed and the other is the "spare" box. To vote players would put their "yes" or "no" marker into the motion box and the other one into the spare box. Then the markers in the motion box would be revealed and counted. Once the result of the motion was clear, then the spare box would be opened, the markers added and everyone could take a "yes" and "no" marker back without anyone knowing precisely how people had voted - unless they all voted "yes" of course!
Now I think this is a rather unwieldy system (albeit one that works!) but I haven't been able to think of a better one - and I've been trying :) And it only works for yes/no choices. Votes where there are more than two options are much harder to resolve - at least not without some clever device for counting and separating (ISTR a German game with a funny box that did something like that - Evergreen?)

Voting games always have a good dynamic - but I think you have to be careful about how much "other stuff" there is in the game, since a voting mechanic always take time to resolve (especially if there is open discussion!) and if the vote has an effect on the direction of the rest of the game (rather than being the be-all-and-end-all of it, like in the Lifeboat game) then it can add a huge amount of Analysis Paralysis too.

Still, I say "go for it!" It sounds interesting and nicely themed.

jwarrend
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Voting as a game mechanism

This sound a bit like Republic of Rome, although probably with enough twists to make your game quite different. Sounds good!

I think Scurra makes a good point about secret votes, however, I don't get the sense from your brief description that you want/need secret votes; do you? It seems to me that the idea should be that your "voting power" is open for all to see based on the elders that you've won.

Republic of Rome is like this -- you have a set number of votes based on the size/strength of your faction. But, there is also a "senate" phase where you can make proposals, etc, to try to persuade people to your side. Not sure if that kind of thing would work in your game.

Also, in case you don't have this already, it seems like different "elders" should carry relatively more or less weight depending on the problem faced. Maybe if the problem relates to a given elder's "sphere of influence", his vote counts twice? That would give a nice effect of needing not just the majority of elders, but the right elders for the problems that the society will face.

Anyway, your game sounds good so far. Good luck!

-Jeff

IngredientX
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Voting as a game mechanism

Your game sounds very intriguing. I hope progress has been satisfying so far!

BoardGameGeek is a great resource for doing research on other games. Here's a link to all the games listed as voting games...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/mechbrowse.php3?id=17

One odd omission from the list: Twilight Imperium, which might be a good game to look at because it is such a dense game. As I understand it, players are representatives in an intergalactic congress, and they actually vote on the rules of the game. Your game sounds fairly ambitious, so it might be worth looking at another ambitious game with an important voting mechanic.

Best of luck!

doho123
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Voting as a game mechanism

A new game just out called King Me has a neat voting mechanic. You only have XX amount of NO votes to use during the game, so, eventually, you will most likely be voting YES on things that you don't want to vote yes on.

Also, Jyhad (or otherwise renamed as Vampire, the Eternal Struggle), a CCG had a fairly big voting dynamic to it (depending on which clan of vampires you played with).

FastLearner
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Voting as a game mechanism

doho123 wrote:
A new game just out called King Me has a neat voting mechanic. You only have XX amount of NO votes to use during the game, so, eventually, you will most likely be voting YES on things that you don't want to vote yes on.

That's one thing about this "business": if you have a clever idea that's working well in playtest, apparently you should get the danged thing to publishers as soon as possible!

Another idea of "mine" appears in a new game! :)

-- Matthew

jwarrend
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Voting as a game mechanism

FastLearner wrote:

That's one thing about this "business": if you have a clever idea that's working well in playtest, apparently you should get the danged thing to publishers as soon as possible!

Another idea of "mine" appears in a new game! :)

You have my sympathy! The same thing just happened to my GDW game, with "Maya" coming out and having some overt similarities.

The game design market is clearly expanding, and more good games are coming out faster and faster. This must be a good thing, on the one hand, but on the other, my approach of "slowly develop a game over a few years, no rush" clearly won't work from a publishing standpoint. I clearly need to decide whether I want to push for publication, or just continue developing games at a leisurely pace.

The advantage of the diversified market, I guess, is that the majority of games won't ever make it onto our tables, so even if we get "scooped", no one in our group need ever know that the cool mechanic we developed appears in a published game somewhere else!

FastLearner
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Voting as a game mechanism

jwarrend wrote:
FastLearner wrote:

That's one thing about this "business": if you have a clever idea that's working well in playtest, apparently you should get the danged thing to publishers as soon as possible!

Another idea of "mine" appears in a new game! :)

You have my sympathy! The same thing just happened to my GDW game, with "Maya" coming out and having some overt similarities.
Aye, I'd heard about that and I played Maya for the first time last weekend. I think there's still plenty of room to use your idea, though, but there's no question that you got "scooped," too. :)

Quote:
The game design market is clearly expanding, and more good games are coming out faster and faster. This must be a good thing, on the one hand, but on the other, my approach of "slowly develop a game over a few years, no rush" clearly won't work from a publishing standpoint. I clearly need to decide whether I want to push for publication, or just continue developing games at a leisurely pace.

Aye, indeed. With my goal of publication I certainly have come to the conclusion that I can't sit on good ideas -- I've got to develop them and get them out the door. My poor part-time playtesting crews are going to have to suffer through a lot more now. :)

Quote:
The advantage of the diversified market, I guess, is that the majority of games won't ever make it onto our tables, so even if we get "scooped", no one in our group need ever know that the cool mechanic we developed appears in a published game somewhere else!

Heh! :)

I'm either fortunate or unfortunate, depending on your perspective, but between about 4 guys in my game groups I think I see almost every single new game that comes out. I have, for example, played the vast bulk of the Essen releases now. In the last few months I've played (in addition to my prototypes and other non-Essen games) Anno 1503, Attika, Industria, Finstere Flure, Santiago, Maya, Alexandros, Logistica, Feurio, Secrets of the Tombs, Princes of the Renaissance, Kogge, Fantasy Pub, die Sieben Siegel, die Fugger, Pingvinas, Age of Steam expansions, and Nuggets. And I've watched about half that many more of the new Essen releases being played. And I've read about the rest in detail.

So... if you and your friends obsess about these games, you can (fortunately or unfortunately) pretty much keep on top of it. They've already ordered more of the Essens plus some of the upcoming Nuremburg releases. :)

However, too, my hope is that my games will have enough new ideas put together to still feel fresh and fun.

-- Matthew

Anonymous
Voting as a game mechanism

The board will represent the village (with buildings and empty spaces for future construction) and the surrounding area (forest, fields, hills, sea). There are 4 other villages/cities, one at each corner (drawn much smaller in scale) that the players can import their products to and import from. 2 of these are neighbouring villages. The other 2 are far away cities, one accross the sea, the other over mountains; the cities are inaccessible initially, until the players acquire a boat or a caravan.

The players start each with a different job (fisherman, hunter, herder, farmer) with ownership of a production area (water, forest, field). This will allow them to produce food that they can sell for cash. As the game progresses, players acquire more production areas, diversify and start making more sophisticated products. Each production area requires a worker. Workers make up the population of the village, though not all of them are employed.

The game spans a few years, and every round is a season, broken up in phases. After the production phase, players get the opportunity to sell their products within the village (marketplace phase) and through exportation, the latter being more profitable. The rule here, is that the villagers (workers) must be fed before the players can sell to the outside. Players must sell food to the villagers at a fixed price, until each worker has had food. All players must contribute the same amount, but if a player did not produce enough food, then the others must cover for him. The marketplace also allows the players to do trade with each other (through an auction mechanism).

Workers who have not been fed leave (die?), lowering the pool of potential workers. If all workers have been fed, the population increases. This sets an interesting situation, where the players' production must keep up with the growth of the population.

After the marketplace, is the time for export. In turn, each player can sell as many items as desired to a single village or city. Each city/village has different needs, so the price varies from place to place, as well as the specific demand for any given item. Next to the village/city is a list of needed item, with the price and the maximum than can be sold in one round (for example, a city might buy up to 4 units of meat, 3 units of gold, etc...). The first player gets a clear advantage, but he won't be starting the next round. Unsold production must be put in storage facilities, or is lost.

More sophisticated production is more profitable, but requires the transformation of basic material. This basic material can be produced by the player, bought in the marketplace, or imported. Event cards give a sense of reality to the game: unexpected events like plague, war, locust, etc...

The voting mechanism (through the elders) is a way for the players to influence the "rules" of the game. Players will support decisions that favor their type of business, or hinder other. Each elder is owned by the player that most represents the elder's interest. Some interests are general: an elder might favor the player with the most real estate, or with the most money. Others are more specific: there will be an elder for each of the 4 basic crafts (fisherman, hunter, herder, farmer), and they will favor the stronger player in that area. At least one elder will favor the underdog (just to make sure no player has all 8). I'm trying to think of a way to make sure each player has at least one elder.

Every spring, the elders will elect a village chief (the player with the most elder control, though it cannot be the same 2 years in a row). The chief has several powers and responsibilities. He acts as a tie-breaker during any regular vote. I will also define some limitations to his actions during his mandate.

There is a lot more to it, but these are the basics of the top of my head. The only thing missing is a victory condition. Maybe victory points, which would be awarded everytime a player makes a sale, wins a vote, becomes chief, etc... it would be interesting to reward actions that are not necessarily the most profitable ones in the short term. The game could end after a specific number of rounds, or when the village achieves a certain size.

SVan
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Voting as a game mechanism

Sounds like a great design, and it sounds like you have it well thought out. I like the idea of the elders and the voting system.

I think if you want to eliminate a person from having too many elders, then make them expensive to get, money wise or whatever way you get them. Make each player work hard to get an elder. On the other hand, you don't want the elders to be too touch to get, otherwise a player cannot switch strategy in the middle of the game by getting control of another elder, or even worse, the elders will stay in the same place for turn after turn, and the game will be at a stalemate.

Another suggestion is to make the elders controlled by a player that has a lot of them cheaper to buy, because it is more difficult for that player to keep up the influence he has over those elders.

Hope this helps.

-Steve

Torrent
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Voting as a game mechanism

I agree with SVan, sounds like a well-thought out plan. I like it. I have a game in notes of barbarian tribes trying to curry favor with a pantheon of gods for VP's, not votes; but similar idea.

The one thing I do notice is that with 8 elders it seems like you could get a dead-lock. 4 vote for and 4 vote against. Also is there a condition where certain elders are unclaimed?

If you do go for VP's, the underdog is probably easiest as just the player with the least of them. Or perhaps 7 elders are up for grabs, the 8th only comes into play when a player has no votes. In all cases ties in the relative field of interest for an elder need to be considered.

Sounds like a good game, luck to you.

SVan
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Voting as a game mechanism

I think Jean said whoever has the most elders gets the tiebreaking vote, but didn't say anything about what happens if more than one player has the most elders (tied.) Maybe one elder's ability could be to break ties, besides giving the one vote. That elder would probably be a popular one to go after I am sure.

-Steve

Anonymous
Voting as a game mechanism

Initially, each player would have control over one elder, the one who fits that player's job. The other elders will get assigned as the players fulfill the minimum requirement. For exemple, the banker elder might go to the player with the most gold, but only if the player has at least 20 gold. Until anyone has accumulated that amount, he remains unclaimed (and does not vote). After an elder has been claimed, it never returns to the unclaimed pile.

Elders will change hands, but only once a year. For instance, at the beginning of Summer, the famer elder will go to the player who controls the most fields, while the hunter elder will switch in the Fall. The elder will only move if another player has MORE of the appropriate resource than the current owner.

Once a year (spring), the player with the most elders becomes chief for a year and gets a pretty token to show for it. He has the power to break a tie on any vote (if we get 4 elders vs. 4). When you are chief, there are certain things you can do that no one else can (still has to be worked out) and there are some disadvantages.

No player can be chief 2 years in a row. Come the new Spring, if the player with the most elders is already chief, then the title goes to the 2nd player. In case there are 2 potential chiefs, then the current chief decides. In the first year, there is no chief, unless one is assigned by default. I think I'll avoid votes in the first year, because players have no elders, therefore no votes...

SVan
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Voting as a game mechanism

I think that ties still need to be worked out, especially when more than one player is tied with the most elders. Even if your game is designed that will be a rare thing, it still will happen and rules should be created for that purpose. Also, at the beginning, you didn't mention who became the chief first, maybe a bidding system could be set up to bid on who becomes chief first, or something unique, or no one gets to be, and another tiebreaker for votes when the chief isn't being used.

Other than that, your game is well thought out and I really like the idea of it. I hope this helps.

-Steve

Anonymous
Voting as a game mechanism

Thanks for the comments everyone. I am at a point right now where I have about 30 pages of notes on this thing. I've reached a point where my design is much more streamlined, but there are still quite a few loose points, like the ties in voting.

I've pretty much worked out the exportation bit, which is a lot simpler than I had initially imagined. Everyone gets one export opportunity a round, to one target village/city. Each target has its own limit on what it will accept, so the starting player has an advantage. The villages can be accessed by anyone, but for the cities, the player needs to own either a boat or a caravan. Initially I had imagined that a player could use another player's transport (for a fee per transported unit). I had also imagined each boat as having limited carrying-capacity at that there could be small and big boats. I've decided to simplify all that, but I might change my mind eventually (maybe as an advanced version?).

One thing that I've thought about is a stronger implementation of supply and demand. Right now, each city has a limited demand for each product. For instance, a given city will buy no more than 5 units of meat per round; which gives the advantage to the first player to export. I thought it could be interesting to have the price vary according to the supply by the players. Not sure this would be too complicated, as it would require tables. For instance, for a given city, if there are 1-5 units of meat sold to it (by all players), then the price would be 4 gold/unit, for 6-10 units, the price would be 3 gold, etc... There would be no limit to the number of units, but the more is exported, the less it is worth. Imagine player A exporting some meat to a city, then player B doing the same, just to drive down the value of player's A meat...

As for import, I could work out a similar method.

Torrent
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Voting as a game mechanism

A thought for you about supply-demand changing prices. I mentioned this to Bryk on his wargame economy See Thread, there is also something similar used in Bohn Hansa pointed out in thread above by Fastlearner. I'm also working with it in an inverse form in one of my pirate games.

Basically you have a row of boxes on the board with numbers in them. As you buy or sell into the market you cover/uncover boxes. The price you pay or the price you get is the one in the uncovered box. Then you just have to figure out the numbers.

I don't know if this is what you mean by tables.. If you wanted the gradiants to be 5, you make your 'row' of boxes a rectangle, 5 wide and however long. Each row has a certain price. I'm not sure what you are using physically for the goods, but cubes seem to work nicely as they can be fitted into the boxes on the 'market'.

I hope this helps. Basically if you want to do changing prices I think it can be done without an enormous pain.

Scurra
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Voting as a game mechanism

I'm trying something a little simpler in a game I'm working on, but there is only one "box" for a resource, rather than a row.
All items have a base value of 6. Say there's a box for "wood". At the start of the game, the box has three units of wood in it, so the price to buy and sell wood is 3. If you buy a unit of wood for three, the next unit of wood will cost four, because there are now only two units of wood left (6-4=2 :)) If you sell a unit of wood to the market for 3, then the price of wood decreases to 2 for the same reason (there are now four units, so the price decreases.) And the market for wood can get flooded (the box has six units in it) and won't buy any more until a player comes along and buys some (because they own a carpentry shop and want cheap wood?)

I'm doing it this way because my game involves producing resource tokens and then trading them in for various features (a bit like Settlers) but the trading is with the market (thus changeable prices), not directly with other players.

However, it does require basic maths (which the "rows of boxes" method doesn't!) which may be a disadvantage. Although I may adopt the rows of boxes method now you've suggested it ;)

Torrent
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Voting as a game mechanism

Scurra wrote:
However, it does require basic maths (which the "rows of boxes" method doesn't!) which may be a disadvantage. Although I may adopt the rows of boxes method now you've suggested it ;)

The other sort of neat thing provided by the row is the ability to have a non-linear curve. If you want the flooded stage to be really cheap, and then the middle stage to cost the same for a while and then the scarce stage to be really steep again, you can just decide on the numbers to put in the boxes.

Anonymous
Voting as a game mechanism

Torrent, thanks for the link, I will look at that other thread when I have the time.

I'm trying to keep the economic system in my game simple. I want to avoid a complete simulation; it might be a turn off for the players.

This is how I would like to implement my exportation system if I do add a supply-demand component to it: during the exportation phase, each player (in turn) is allowed to sell items to one target city. However, they don't get paid until all players have done so. At that point, for each city, we look at the citie's price list, which might look like this (simplified, and the prices are bogus):

---------------------------------------------
ITEMS | 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 15+ |
=========================
Meat | 5 | 3 | 2 | 1 |
---------------------------------------------
Stones| 15 | 12 | 8 | 5 |
---------------------------------------------

(I know this does not display properly but you get the point)

Obviously, there will be more than 2 kinds of products in the table. But not all cities/villages will buy anything, and the prices will also vary.

If Player A sells 4 meat units to that city, and Player B sells 2, then the total is 6, and both players get 3 gold for each unit sold. If Player C also sold 5 units, then the value is only 2 per unit. I change it to say that the first 5 units are sold for 5G, then the next 5 for 3, etc... which keep the advantage to the first player. But I like how the 2nd player can screw the first player's exportation by selling to the same city.

Exportation will have a similar table (though not all products are available in all cities). The more a player buys, the cheaper it gets.

My original plan was only to set a quota: "This CITY will buy no more than 6 meat units (for 5G) and no more than 3 precious stones (for 15G). With that rule, if player A sells 4 meat units to the city, then player B could sell no more than 1 meat units to the same city. it might be better for him to sell to another city, unless he wants to take advantage of the precious stone value at that city. The advantage of this method is simplicity; because a players gets paid right away, there is no need to keep track of who sold what to the city.

I might try it out with both methods to see what works best.

Torrent
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Voting as a game mechanism

Certainly look at the other thread, but it mostly about more complicated economic theory than what you are proposing.

Quote:

Obviously, there will be more than 2 kinds of products in the table. But not all cities/villages will buy anything, and the prices will also vary.

If Player A sells 4 meat units to that city, and Player B sells 2, then the total is 6, and both players get 3 gold for each unit sold. If Player C also sold 5 units, then the value is only 2 per unit. I change it to say that the first 5 units are sold for 5G, then the next 5 for 3, etc... which keep the advantage to the first player. But I like how the 2nd player can screw the first player's exportation by selling to the same city.

Exportation will have a similar table (though not all products are available in all cities). The more a player buys, the cheaper it gets.

Right, each village would have it's own little table. I do like the idea of aggregating the buy-sell orders of all the players. This gives the game something more of a cooperative feel.
I'm assuming you mean Importation will have a similar table. And actually you would want the prices to go higher on the buying end. Higher demand drives prices Up. The reason the prices go down in the Exportation is because you are increasing supply. Higher supply drives prices Down.

You are right though, this method does mean you need to figure out who sold what and they all get paid later. That is the 'price' you have to pay for this system. ;) That is sort of the advantage of having a long row of boxes, you have changing prices and immediate payment, but you lose the 'screw everyone else' and the cooperative feel with that.

Andy

Anonymous
Voting as a game mechanism

Torrent,

You're right: I wrote it out backwards. I meant importation, and more importation by the players will drive prices up.

Scurra
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Voting as a game mechanism

I suppose it might be possible to have a flagging system to keep track of how much of a particular commodity a given player exported or imported during a turn, although this would be hideously complicated if they can export/import to different places on the same turn (I got the impression that they could only use one place a turn.)

[In fact, now I think about it, a flagging system would be ideal for my game :) ]

Seat order would be rather important for an economic system if later players can screw up earlier players quite so easily.

In my game, player order changes every "season" (three turns) and there are eight seasons in the game in total, so I suspect that this effect would even out a little. But I could see it being a serious issue.

Anonymous
Voting as a game mechanism

Scurra,

Indeed, a player can only export to one city a turn. The next player can export to the same city, or a different one. It really matters which city offers you the best price for what you've got.

Just like in your game, I want the order to change every round, to avoid giving anyone too much of an advantage. Early in the game players won't be producing much, so their exports won't reach the quota, and the order doesn't matter. Later on, it will matter a lot.

Another thing I didn't mention: a player can store production units in a warehouse if he can't/won't sell them right now. Units that are neither stored nor sold are lost. If a player feels he won' t be getting a good price for his products this round, then he can store them until he has the trading initiative.

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