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Supply and Demand Mechanics

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NativeTexan
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I am struggling with crafting a relatively realistic supply-and-demand mechanic without becoming overly complex. I don't want for players to have to do a lot of math and I don't want them to have complicated tables to track everything. Here's my scenario:

Players produce goods from production buildings. They have the option of either selling their goods on the open market at a designated price or selling their goods to each other at a negotiated price. The trouble is that there are multiple goods (at least 4 at this point) in the game and each could sell at a different price and have a different quantity that is currently in demand. Do I have some variability for BOTH price and quantity for EVERY good? This seems to create quite a few moving parts (especially considering that this is only 1 of 3 major aspects of the game). Alternately, could I have the economy only hinge on quantity and assumed fixed prices? Alternately, should I assume an unlimited demand but only at a given price? I'm sure that there is a decent abstraction that could solve this or some other elegant simplicity, but I can't seem to find it.

Ideally, both price and quantity would be variable for each good and players would face real decisions regarding production capacity, operating costs, and market trends. In reality, this is very much at odds with a core design principal of mine which is simplicity. I loathe complicated games that require excess calculations and laborious planning at the expense of fun. I want players to be challenged to make good strategic choices without the mechanics becoming a mathematical burden. So I need some sort of abstraction, simplification, or heuristic that can approximate a supply-and-demand market without giving way to blind luck/chance (i.e. turning over a card that declares the new price and quantity desired).

I would love some insight in one of three ways:

1) Point me toward games you know of that have interesting / compelling treatment of supply-and-demand
2) Suggest other places on this forum or another where the topic is explored in more depth
3) Offer perspectives and insight regarding how to provide a balance between realism and simplicity

Thank you so much in advance.

simons
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One possible idea

Here’s one thought: Make it that there is a maximum number of each item that can be produced (say, set by the number of game pieces). During the game, all of the un-manufactured goods would be placed on a separate supply/demand board, which has different squares to hold different numbers of goods (each for a different price). For example, say that one good is Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice (FCOJ), and a maximum of 20 can be produced. There are 4 price squares, all of which can hold 5 FCOJ tokens. Lets say the first turn I make 3 units of FCOJ. I remove 3 from the first square, which says that FCOJ is worth $15/unit (to represent their current scarcity). Then, on your turn, you make 3 units of FCOJ. Now you take the last 2 out of the first square, and 1 from the second square. The second square now states that FCOJ is worth $12/unit (since it is now more common). However, if I then sell 2 of my FCOJ for $12 each, then on your next turn you can sell yours for $15 each.

Alternatively, if you wanted an unlimited amount of each good to be produced, you could have a board that just tracked the number of goods in circulation, and showed what the price was (though that might be a little more complicated).

Anyway, it’s an approximation, but it’s pretty simple. No math, no calculations, just look at the board. Is that what you’re looking for, or do you want something more realistic?

Simon

InvisibleJon
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Check out Power Grid

NativeTexan wrote:
I am struggling with crafting a relatively realistic supply-and-demand mechanic without becoming overly complex. I don't want for players to have to do a lot of math and I don't want them to have complicated tables to track everything.

(*snip*)

Ideally, both price and quantity would be variable for each good and players would face real decisions regarding production capacity, operating costs, and market trends.

(*snip*)

I would love some insight in one of three ways:

1) Point me toward games you know of that have interesting / compelling treatment of supply-and-demand

Check out Power Grid. It handles price variation in response to changes in supply/demand of four (or is it five) commodities very well. The primary mechanism is a track that you place the commodity tokens on. The location of the commodities on the track tells you how much the commodity costs. The players don't have to do any math more complex than serial addition.

Power Grid on BGG: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2651
Pictures of the Power Grid Resource Market:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/226530
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/300905

JuggernautJ
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Joined: 02/14/2009
Yeah, what they said...

I was thinking along similar lines as the previous two posters.

"Supply and demand" (very) generally means the more of something there is (relative to the demand) the less it costs.
In simplest terms then, the very first of something would have a higher value than quantities to come later. This seems to work very well with a "track" on the board.
For example, if you were to have 20 units of Frozen O.J. (from concentrate??) you might have a track of 20 spaces with DECREASING cost. The first might be at $20 and proceed down the list to a cost of $1 per "share", after the market has been flooded (sorry) with O.J.

A variation on this might be to have the cost start high, decrease in value and then return to a higher value as the commodity becomes "more in demand" as the game progresses. So the track might start at $20, go down to$10 and then return to $20 at the 20th slot.
Another way to vary the cost in relation to demand would be to use the simple track method mentioned above and add a multiplier based on (for instance) the "phase" of the game in which you are. Perhaps something like, the cost is what the track says x.75 in the early game, x1 in the mid-game and x2 in the late game. By the time you reach the "end game", where everyone is hustling to get those final few precious commodities the cost might be x3 (or greater). Of course, how you determine the phases is another topic altogether...

Lastly, you need not neccessarily have a seperate track for each item. If you were to group your commodities by "value" you might be able to have 2-3 tracks on your board with counters representing the commodity moving up (or, theoretically, down) with the amount of product in circulation.

You said you had "at least" four commodities. For purpose of my example, lets say you wind up with six.
You might designate three items as "low priced" (on the first scale/track), two as medium priced (second track) and one as high priced (track three).
And each of those different tracks could have different values assigned to them. Perhaps one decreases with supply, one track fluctuates (starts high, declines then goes back up again) and one track increases regardless of supply because of demand (when was the last time the cost of diamonds went down?).

If you combined this with a multiplier for the game phase (even if it is as simple as +.5 multiplier every 5 or 10 turns) you might wind up with a variety of commodity pricing that fluctuates (quasi-realistically) as the game progresses yet is still easy to determine and viualize based on looking at the board.

SiddGames
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Natural Supply & Demand

As suggested above, the Power Grid resource track works well.

In a current game I'm working on, I want to control the price range but let natural supply and demand affect it, so I have a price track for each resource. At the end of each round, if all of a resource has been bought, the price goes up 1 box on the track; if there are leftover resources, the price goes down 1 box on the track. So, after a few rounds, I hope that the price of each resource will settle in around it's "real" value as determined by player purchasing, and this value can naturally go up or down over the course of the game without an artificial phase system.

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Joined: 07/22/2008
Container

Check out Container. In this game, players set prices for buying and selling goods amongst themselves. It's an interesting economy and a good game, although it has been accused of being fragile: it only works if all players are reasonably competent.

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Just a few ideas

I have 2 ideas that you could inspire yourself from or mix it up with another mechanic.

The first idea was for a better market in puerto rico.

At the beginning of the game, each commodity had a price set by default. Each time a player sell a good of that type (what ever the amount of good he sell) the price drop after the sale Because the demand has droped. Each time a ship containing that comodity got shiped, the price raised.

So if player sold too much they end up selling very low forcing them to ship to raise the price.

The 2nd idea was for a stock market game

When a player want to sell a stock, he place a pawn of his color in the commodity column at the price he want to sell. It's a way to say: I am willing to sell this at that price. Then other players who want to buy can pick up the pawn and pay the player.

hope it helps

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