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The Resource of Influence

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/31/1969

I'm working on a game right now and dealing with the issue of resources. The main resource in the game is influence. Influence, in the sense of political influence or the ability to achieve certain actions.

Common physical resources like wool, grain and so on in board games usually have some entity that produces it (a tile or some resource builder made out of other resources) and the resource produced is not usually ephemeral -- that is, its life time is not dependant on a set number of turns, but it is consumed when used (perhaps to build another resource or allow a certain action to be committed).

With physical resources as well, there is usually no limit to how much resources you can have. For example, as long as you have a gold mine producing gold there is usually no limit to how much gold you can collect; the mine may finish producing gold after a set number of turns but there is still no limit to the overall amount of gold you can collect from one or many mines.

Using the idea of influence, in the sense of political capitol, seems to be qualitatively different from physical resources as I described above. For example, I don't think I've seen a game where influence can be used to create a static entity like a house, but it *can* be used, to gain the contract to build the house. The fundamental difference it seems to be is that a resource like influence allows *access* to actions in contrast to physical resources that allow the actions to be *performed*. To use the above example, a physical resource like wood will allow me to build a house, but not get me the contract. The political influence will allow me to get the contract to build the house, but without wood I can't build it no matter how much political influence I have to get the contract.

Other qualitative differences, I hinted to above have to do with the more ephemeral and limited nature of an influence type resource. In a bidding game, for example, you may get X amount of static resources a turn and choose to use up a given amount on a bid. On the next turn, you get your allotment for the turn plus the amount from the prior turn. This leads to an accumulation aspect. This does not intuitively seem the same for an influence type resource. With influence, you may get an X amount per turn, indicating a consistent ability to exert power, but this influence is not accumulative. I may hold a high office, and exert a consistent amount of influence, but just because I don’t use it one turn, doesn’t mean I gather twice as much influence, for example, on the next turn. Thus, it appears to me with a resource like influence, the limit can be raised or lowered but the influence can only be replenished to the limit. With static resources there is no limit.

Given all that I’ve said, can you guys/girls help me come up with a mechanic or ideas that details:

1) The way an influence resource is generated
2) Establishing a limit

Joined: 12/31/1969
The Resource of Influence

Some way i'm able to think about is "positionning". With pawns representing your Faction, you could position them in certain areas of "influence": police station with a corrupt officer, doctor in an hospital that treats political figures (can put pressure on the right person).

Influence can be a commodity, like a bond, onced used it's over, you have to position yourself in other areas of influence.

Imagine a city, with churches, hospitals, community buildings, police stations, mayor office, strip club...all places could "possibly" generate influence.

You could have a "Influence" meter that would vary with your positioning and your assets ($ can always be VERY influent).


Joined: 04/21/2009
The Resource of Influence

Do a search for a game called "King of the Tabletop" by Tom Wham. You should find it at BoardGameGeek, and I think the rules are posted there in .pdf format. KotT was a simple tabletop "boardgame" (didnt really have a board, just player mats and chits) that included "Prestige" as an asset.

Prestige was based on the amount of territory, money, and other resources a player held and was influential in two ways:

1) A greater Prestige value made it easier to recruit special characters, thus strengthening one's position.

2) Prestige was used in calculating who won. If a player got something like 30 or 50 Prestige points (and had built a Grand Muniment [big castle]), then he won the game.

With a little "tweaking", you could probably do something similar.

Joined: 12/31/1969
The Resource of Influence

Some good ideas have already been posted, but I'll add my 2 cents.

Rather than having something like "prestige points' or another way of tracking influence in discrete numbers, perhaps influence could be measured in a relative way, ie. your influence compared to the other players. One player would have the most influence, another player the second most, etc.

Whenever a player does something "good", he trades places on the influence ladder with the player in front of him. For example, when a player wins an auction, is the victor in a battle, occupies a special place on the board, etc., he gains more influence. Perhaps a player can take an action, which costs money or another resource, to climb on the influence ladder.

I agree with soulbeach that having friends in high places and having a lot of money are good thematic ways of how one could get more influence. I would add to that list: natural charisma and the favor of the common people. You lower the tax rate? The people love you and your influence increases. You win a war? The people celebrate and more power to you.

The effects of having a lot of influence could be many. The player with the influence might win tiebreakers. Perhaps the turn order is determined by the relative ranking of influence. Maybe only players with a certain level of influence may take certain actions. For example, I can imagine that a president cannot get a mandate to start a war if he does not have enough influence.

Joined: 04/21/2009
The Resource of Influence

I suppose it depends on how objectively you want to measure influence. You could go in the other direction and just leave it abstract -- as in the game of Diplomacy -- where the most influential player (not measured by any sort of "resource tracker") ends up influencing the other players to do what he needs them to do. In that case, the most influential player ends up as the winner.

I suppose it is really a matter of style and what you intend "Influence" to do exactly. If it is going to "buy" something else in-game, and you want it measured objectively or quantitatively, then you're probably going to need something to track it. If it is simply a matter of player interaction (subjective/qualitative), you dont need much of anything except for some rules or guidelines for player interaction.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Good Responses

Thanks for the reponses. I think, for my purposes at least, I need to have a quantative way to measure influence.

Influence in my game can be used to influence the chance of gaining access to an action. The more influence a person has opposed to another player the more likely they are going to achieve the action because with more influence you can pull more strings and so on.

An interesting question I came up with, is how does one trade influence? For example, if you represent influence with different color cubes (military red, political blue) then I guess it is simple for players to trade color cubes. But does this really work?

Once you become powerful, it seems to me you have a certain amount of influence over a period of time that can not be accumulated but used and renewed. For example, let's say you are the President of a country. You have a lot of power, but if you have 10 cubes for your turn, and you use up 6, then at some point you are going to renew the amount of cubes you have -- it doesn't make sense that you become *less* powerful if you spend influence. Maybe the key is that *power* is the ability to generate influnce a round, and influence is what you can do in a round. However, influence can't be accumulated.

Can you guys think of any mechanics that emulate power and influence?


Joined: 12/31/1969
The Resource of Influence

If each player had a set amount of influence points (this might be the same for all players or you might have some events or resources that give more) which is refreshed each round.

Each round the players bid for control over objects (resources, pieces, actions, etc). Even if a player does not wish to bid for the object, they can throw their influence points in with another player (if the reciever wants). This might get them limited access to the object or might requier the player that they helped to recprocate some how (giveing them resources, or even influence).

For example:
1) Players bid influence to gain building contracts.
2) On compleation of a contract the player gets back the influence that they bid for it, along with some more influence and/or resources.
3) The longer a player takes to complete a contract the lower their reward on completion (although they still get back their influence they bid)
4) Calling for aid to win a contract is its self a contract that can be bid on by other players.
5) The Player calling for aid lays down the terms of the contract and must pay the reward (resources and influence) and set the times.
6) Players can exchange influence for resources from the bank. The bank has limited resources and the less of a particular resource it has the more influence is needed to exchange for it.

Round sequance:
1) The player who's turn it is, turns over a contract card and then all players can bid for it.
2) The player who's turn it is can now spend influence to get resources (even if they don't have a contract).
3) The player who's turn it is can now spend resources on completion of any contracts that they have.
4) If any contracts are completed they can now get the influence that they bid on it back and any rewards that they are entitled to.

The player who has the most completed contracts wins the game.

BTW this was all off the top of my head so it probably has many holes in it :D.

Joined: 04/21/2009
The Resource of Influence


You asked:
"Can you guys think of any mechanics that emulate power and influence?"

Actually, the answer is probably more simple than you think. Again, if you are looking for something concrete, something physical, to represent power and influence, you would have to simply take a look at whatever your game is going to use to represent _resources_.

In the real world, power and influence is generally measured by the control of some resource or set of resources. These resources are generally: (1) diplomatic (in the form of treaties, or simple diplomatic recognition for example); (2) economic (some commodity, be it physical [ex. oil, iron, money, etc.] or intangible [ex., information technology]; and/or (3) military (which, itself, might be physical [ex. a regiment of troops] or intangible [such as morale]). There are probably others, but I think most fall into one of these broad categories.

Anyhow, the more resources one commands, the more powerful and influential one becomes. This ties into your first question:

" does one trade influence?"

Very simply! If your game uses tanks, oil wells, alliances, then you "trade" them for something your fellow players/opponents want in order to improve your position individually or, if the game is cooperative, to improve your position collectively.

Take a simple game of chess. Generally, the more pieces a player has on the board, the better his position: the more power and influence he has to work towards a checkmate. (You can argue that one queen is better than two rooks or whatnot, but more is generally better.)

Anyhow, in chess, the pieces are a physical resource representing a player's power and influence. *Where* those pieces are can also represent power and influence: ex., a knight in the middle of the board has more potential power and influence than he does in his starting position.

Finally, your gamesmanship can be said to be a source of power and influence. Do you have a "poker face"? How long does it take to make your move? Do you try to intimidate your opponent by looking at him in a certain way or making some sort of approving or disapproving gesture when he makes his moves?

Now, you really cant "trade" (in the cooperative sense) in the game of chess, because chess is totally a zero-sum game: there will be exactly one winner and exactly one loser (except in the unlikely event of a draw).

But, take a game like Axis and Allies and suppose, for the moment, that the rules permitted outright trading or "gifts" of units, etc. The German player might then ask the Japanese player for money (represented by "IPCs", if I recall correctly) in exchange for giving him a free hand in the conquest of Siberia and South Asia. Or, the British player might ask for ships from the US in exchange for the UK withdrawing from Canada. (I realise that is historically and politically absurd; I'm just using it as a theoretical example.)

So, to get back to your original question, I would suggest you decide on what your resources are and how you will represent them: that will allow you to determine -- at least on a superficial level -- the relative levels of power and influence each player has. By manifesting them in some tangible manner, and by incorporating rules for the transfer of these assets, you will then be able to trade them.

I hope that helps.


Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
The Resource of Influence

I think one of the factors that make quantifying influence so difficult is the many different types of influence that exist. The nature and durability of this influence is very different. Consider these examples:

Political: This is the case of a politician, who is granted a base of influence by virtue of their office. This may be defined as restricted to a certain area of policy, and the figure may have little influence elsewhere. Such influence is difficult to raise or lower, and remains pretty static from turn to turn.

Intimidation: This is influence by implication of violence or enmity. Such influence can extend far in excess of a player's ability to act, and, in game terms, can also allow entities (such as rulers of countries) to act outside the law. Intimidation relies on a concept of reputation, or some form of hidden information.

Threat: This is the open show of force that is intended to be used unless conditions are met. In game terms, massing troops on borders, or running military wargames may all contribute points toward this form of influence. This gives military power a new dimension, and allows the "projection of force" through political means. It is different from Intimidation in that it can be outlawed and also relies on a display of power.

Religion: Religious influence is very powerful, and, once achieved, very difficult to take away. Religious influence also crosses political boundaries, allowing religious figures to influence a select cross-section of any country.

Personal: Personal influence is won through ongoing successful conquest, no matter what the form. It can be a skilled warrior, rising to power on a tide of blood, or a shrewd investor, whose actions and preditions cause others to follow their lead. Such influence is only as powerful as the sustained success of the individual, and sharp rises are often followed by sudden drops. Personal influence is tough to hold on to.

I think that, in game terms, considering the source of the influence you want to model is important. If Influence is going to be a quantifyable thing (expressed in points, perhaps), then the way in which this Influence is gained, increased, used, and lost are important, and every source of influence has a different layout of these factors. Combining more than one type of influence in a game is especially interesting, making players walk a two-stranded tightrope of conflicting interests.

The modern example of using religious terrorism as a tactic, for example, can be seen as gaining influence through a combination of intimidation and religious authority. Clearly, such a tactic relies on religious influence to offset the moral questionability of terrorist actions. When such religious authority fades, the users of the tactic of terrorism pay a political price in lowered support or active resistance. So religious influence keeps people in support (or at least not resisting), while the threat of violence and sudden death projects influence through intimidation.

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