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Central Market Mechanics

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gpetersen
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Many games include some kind of central market for buildings, abilities, items, upgrades, etc. I use the term "central market" to refer to a central supply of valuable items that are available for all players to buy.

The simplest type of central market would be one where all items are laid out at the start of the game and can be bought for a fixed price. This is exemplified by Dominion's cards and Puerto Rico's building tiles.

Other games have only a subset of items available for sale in the central market at any one time. This little bit of randomness adds to replayability, but it can take away from the long-term planning aspect of the game if players don't know what will be available in future rounds.

Here are some examples of games with randomized central markets:

1) Spyrium has a 3x3 grid of cards laid out at the start of each round, and players can buy them through a process of placing and removing workers. Cards are drawn from different decks in different rounds so they are guaranteed to come at the appropriate part of the game.

2) Power Grid has a few of its power plants laid out and a series of auctions for the available plants. (I find that Power Grid doesn't do a good enough job clearing out plants that nobody wants.)

3) Smallworld has a row of races, and players buy the one they want by placing coins on all the ones that are lower in order. These coins provide an incentive for players to take weaker races in later turns. New races are drawn at the top of the market, so start out expensive and gradually get cheaper.

4) Ascension, a deck-building game like Dominion, has a small number of cards in its central market that are constantly refreshed. There is little or no possibility of planning ahead because players have no idea what will become available in future rounds. This is randomness taken to an extreme.

In the game I am working on, I need to design a central market for the buildings and ships available for players to buy. Some competing goals I would like to achieve are (1) balance, (2) replayability, and (3) strategy. Balance is easiest to achieve when the prices of items in the central market respond somehow to players' behaviour as in Power Grid's auction and Smallworld's coin-placing mechanic. Replayability can be achieved with some kind of randomness. But if it's too random, it could come at a cost in strategy by making it hard to plan ahead.

What kind of central market mechanics have you used in your designs? Are there any that you find particularly clever or interesting?

FrankM
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Untested ideas

This is an interesting problem, but not one that I've yet had to address in a "real" design. But I do have some thoughts on what you might consider:

First, auction mechanics do a better job of encouraging player interaction than purchase rights based on turn order, regardless of how prices are set.

Second, if player wealth is expected to increase throughout the game, you should come up with a hedonic price for ship/building features so that you have an idea of each item's nominal cost. Then Spyrium's idea of staggered decks allow the nominally cheapest items to appear first. Maybe shuffle in the new subdecks as milestones are reached, so that cheap stuff still arrives once in a while during the late game to help struggling players.

Third, auctions are great at tracing a demand curve, but supply curves are harder to simulate (unless the items are put up for auction by players, which doesn't sound appropriate here). Maybe the number of new cards available for auction depends on how much was spent in the previous round's auctions. Have a port with gold flowing like water? Everyone will hear about it and come hawking their wares. Just be careful about running out of cards.

Fourth, clear out stuff that doesn't sell. Maybe a card sticks around for four turns then goes away.

questccg
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Warning!

gpetersen wrote:
...In the game I am working on, I need to design a central market for the buildings and ships available for players to buy...

Just as a "Heads-up" the "Medieval Merchants" and "Pirate" themes have been DONE, I should say OVERLY DONE... That and "Zombies" seem to be the themes designers should stay away from.

Something like "We don't need yet another Zombie game..." Same goes for "Medieval Merchants".

This was echoed by designers and gamers alike. Yes there are a lot of "Fantasy" and "Sci-Fi" games too... But those are broader categories and encompass more variety. So because of generality, those two categories can support more games seeing as many are different.

Again just a word of caution... Cheers!

gpetersen
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questccg wrote:the "Medieval

questccg wrote:
the "Medieval Merchants" and "Pirate" themes have been DONE, I should say OVERLY DONE

Totally agree. My theme is different enough, I think. It's about the founding of Hong Hong after the First Opium War, so 1842 to about 1866, on the cusp of the modern age. The companies operating at that time, like Jardine Matheson and Co, were more like modern Fortune 500 companies than swashbucklers. So I'm making a game about banking and credit with a nautical theme on the side.

gpetersen
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FrankM wrote:Maybe shuffle in

FrankM wrote:
Maybe shuffle in the new subdecks as milestones are reached, so that cheap stuff still arrives once in a while during the late game to help struggling players.

I like this a lot. I will definitely include it in my next iteration.

Willem Verheij
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How about this: You could

How about this:

You could have one row of basic goods with lower values that are always available for purchase, and the rotating random market could be for everything else.

If for example the resources are gold, food and stone, you could always be able to buy the cards that are worth only one gold, food or stone. How many you can buy depends on game balance of course so I wont get into that.

And the rotating random market could have cards that are worth two or three and could cost less in comparison. They could also have cards that provide a combination of multible resource types like 1 food and 1 stone. Or 2 food and 1 gold. Etc.

That way you can get good deals and luck plays a small part, but you can still get the resources you need at a slightly higher cost in comparison, and in lower quantities.

gpetersen
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Willem Verheij wrote:You

Willem Verheij wrote:
You could have one row of basic goods with lower values that are always available for purchase, and the rotating random market could be for everything else.

That's a good thought. I don't want to have a situation where a really strange draw can break the game.

FrankM
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Do you have...

gpetersen wrote:
I don't want to have a situation where a really strange draw can break the game.

"Excuse me, do you have any bandages?"
"Hmm, not at the moment, but we do have a nice set of sterling silver dinnerware that just came in."
"That's not really going to help, my leg is kind of bleeding right now."
"And this elegant vase from the Ming Dynasty in exquisite condition."
"Still not really helping."
"You are looking a bit pale. Perhaps you would like some fine wine?"
"I'm just going to collapse on your floor here. If that's alright with you."

Iquisitor
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Joined: 03/22/2017
Something that has both IMO

Something that has both IMO is from the Firefly board game where you have market decks and when you start the game you put three cards in the discard. What you do when you go to buy is you look through the discard pile, take up to three to "consider" and then, if you have less than three, draw up to three from the deck. You have replayability with the randomness, and the ability to plan ahead by knowing what is in what market for you to buy.

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