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Feasibility of mechanics in Excel

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Hey everyone,

Im currently designing a hybrid pen and paper/board game for me and my friends to play. I wanted to ask has anybody used Microsoft Excel as an effective game tool?

My game will involve changing market prices for commodities, simple population movements and growth for "provinces" (determined by a formula I am working out) and things like that. I thought to myself that I could use several Excel spreadsheets as an integral part of the game to work out everything mathematical. For example I could make one sheet called "World Market" and program it to simulate price flucuations for commodities when there is in increase in demand and lack of supply or whatever. (A2 (commodity) = B2 (commodity base price) - 10 units to be sold) or something similar...please note that equation probably makes no sense, just wanted to give an example :-p

Basically I want to know who has used Excel as a "computer" for working out things in a game and how feasible/user friendly can it be?


Nestalawe's picture
Joined: 08/07/2008
Feasibility of mechanics in Excel

Hey SR,

I have played a lot of pbem (play-by-email) games, a few of which were designed around using Excel spreadsheets.

Each playetrs turn report would be sent out as an Excel workbook, which would hold sheets for different things such as your economy/provinces, military, maps, research, news, etc etc. It worked quite well. The players filled in what they wanted to buy/recruit, where they wanted to move, etc etc, and then sent the spreadsheet back to the GM.

Only thing is I am not sure how much work the GM had to put in, getting between 6-10 reports back to process by hand - not a quick turnaround.

But it can definately be done, and is a good solution. The main thing you should worry about is how much time it would take to get data in/out. It may be quick to begin with when everyone only has one or two province and a couple of armies. But what about mid-game when they have ten prvinces and twenty armies, etc etc... Thats when hand-run pbem games like that failed, and I most games I played fell through because of the increasing workload on the GM.

Good luck!


Feasibility of mechanics in Excel

Thanks Nestalawe :D

I havnt decided how the game is going to be played yet, perhaps through email or my friends and I could just play it in person. I plan to have a board and limited "tokens" on it to express certain critical aspects of the game but the behind the scenes stuff, such as provincial development, population, tax rates, commodities etc... will all be handled by Excel and any other program I can use, not to mention the good old pen and paper :D

I am purposely creating a complex game, but one that will be interesting and easy to run. My friends and I love these sorts of games, very imperialistic and into severe micromanagement so I'll see how it goes :p
I want to create a real world game, perhaps beginning in 1800, focusing on the American colonies to build the basis of the game. The rest of the world will be included but I will use the whole American experience to build the initial game and then spread it to the rest of the world. I want to include such things as:

State level divisions of the nation and some sub-state entities such as division of states into three chief counties and cities.

National governments with the ability to create and enact all sorts of laws that will be regulated by all the other players.

State and national level development of militaries, infrastructure, resource harvesting etc...

Business... create a card system that allows the creation of and dissolution of businesses based on certain economic factors. Businesses will run factories and what not and can be taxed.

These are just a few will be a complex "game"...more of a social experiment than anything, something that will never be marketable but almost like a Paradox Entertainment computer game, but pen and paper. I'll post more details and continue fleshing out the game in my journal.

Cheers :D

Joined: 12/31/1969
Feasibility of mechanics in Excel

Hi there!

I find that Excel is perfect for creating charts and balancing stuff. If you are proficient with named cells and referencing those cells from another sheet, then you can do some pretty neat things.
First, set up a sheet full of constants and formulas.
Next, on a new sheet, design the layout that makes the most sense for your game. Since you are going to have a complex simulation, you'll probably use a half dozen sheets - or more! The key is not to cram too much on a sheet.
Now, as you are building charts, use the named cells from the first sheet.
During play-testing, you may decide that a particular factor is too out of balance. Simply change the value of the appropriate constant (or tweak the formula) and the results instantly propagate throughout your other sheets.

If you're not proficient in Excel, this is a great way to learn, because you'll have so much fun trying to get your game charts to work, you won't become as frustrated as you would doing the quarter sales figures for your boss!

F1 is your friend, whether you're a pro or a beginner: Microsoft has chosen some arcane and non-intuitive names for many of the formulas you're going to want to use. Need to figure out pre-paid interest?

(Can you guess which names are mine and which one is Microsoft's)

I have designed board games as well as PC games with the help of Excel and it is fun!

hmmm... I re-read your post and I didn't notice that you might be planning to have Excel running while you're playing! that would be cool. But then, your game is not a hybrid pen/paper/board, it's PC/pen/paper/board. The opportunities are awesome when the PC takes care of the drudgery. However, Excel wouldn't be my first choice for a helper application. One thing that it would do well is change your stock market prices / supply / demand type charts simply by pressing F9. Other than that, I wouldn't know what to use it for.

Good luck with your game - I'd love to hear more about it!


Feasibility of mechanics in Excel

Thanks Challengers :-D

Yeah I would like to have Excel running while I play, make it an integral part of the game that can be updated at the end of each "turn"...if I decide to play it in real time, not PBEM. Im really focusing on this game, as you can probably tell, Im into really complex and involving strategy games, I love being able to immerse myself in a whole nation and run everything about it...I find it so fun!

I'll write in my journal soon about my basic ideas for the game and the whole concept of it as well as muck around in Excel, using the advice you've given me :-D. The possibilities seem endless, Ill find other items I can use to assist myself in the development and running of this game but right now Im deciding basic things, like resource lists and the like :-D



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