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Crafting vs Purchasing

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mwlgames's picture
Joined: 08/12/2017

Hello, I’m new to board gaming and even newer to game design. I’m working on a game that requires players to collect a set of items to craft/upgrade their character's equipment at a centralized location on the board. I’ve heard mixed reviews for this mechanic, that it feels like simply purchasing rather than crafting. I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on crafting vs purchasing items. Which games have a good or bad crafting system or how should crafting equipment and weapons work?

Joined: 04/08/2012
Here are a few ideas

In my game, I have created a blacksmith deck. When players aquire or obtain world treasure / loot or coins placed underneath monsters and creatures or in the surrounding area, players can hold onto these loot and coins to exchange or craft or upgrade new armour or forge new weapons at the blacksmith.

When players have spent their loot or coins , these items are placed in the discard pile.

Another idea. Barter and or trade. Allow players to barter or goods, items , accessories and materials to obtain a new weapon for their character or armor or whatever the player has in hand.

and so forth.

How about running a small errand for the blacksmith or store clerk to purchase the item in question?


BHFuturist's picture
Joined: 11/01/2008
Interesting question

I am not sure how your game goes about the "action/activity" of crafting.

There are a number of games that have crafting and upgrading mechanics that as you have pointed out are just an exchange of one component for another. This exchange of components is what makes it feel more like buying than crafting.

For example:

In Settlers of Catan players collect various resource cards that are "turned in" in exchange for a small wooden building. The act of returning the cards and taking a playing piece feels like buying and the rules might even call it "buying".

You can't distance the action of "crafting" from the action of "buying" without changing the mechanics used by the players.

If it is a normal exchange of one game component for another it will almost always feel like you as the player are just buying the crafted item.

If I knew more about the mechanics and components you have in your game it might be easier to suggest possible solutions. because what you are after is a "feeling" you may just need to test using components in different ways and try to create that feeling. Then test it on a few people to see if they get the feeling you are going for.

One way I plan to build crafting into one of my games is to have a set collection of resource cards and the images of the final items will be half on the edge of the square cards. players would have to collect and match up the images to build the items. The graphic design is far from finished or I would post a picture.

Remember a few key elements to crafting... it takes time, it takes skill. it takes no time to buy, and no skill either...

I hope this helps in some way.


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I think...

The reason you don't see "crafting" is that it requires 3 components instead of only 1. What I mean by this is:

  • You need more than 1 item to "craft", so a minimum of 2 items.
  • Next you need the item itself which is +1 items.

That totals three (3) components for one (1) item. And that is the bare minimum. You also need more components which logically can form one or several items.

Basically you're creating a whole "system" which in "purchasing" is not required. That's why I think MOST game allow players to "purchase" items but not "craft" them. Crafting takes too much "effort" that unless it is one of the primary mechanics -- most games would be overwhelmed.

Like say your game was a Bazaar in which you collected items you would "craft" to make items and SELL them for some type of Victory Points. This could work... But again it depends on the game. In this example the "crafting" mechanic is CORE to the game.

Another example could be Guilds. You could have three (3) different guilds: Fighter, Magician and Thief. Each Guild prepares characters to embark on Fantastic Journeys. YOUR GOAL is to "equip" these adventurers. Again then like the Bazaar example, you can "combine" elements into more complex items which will earn you more Gold for your coffers.

I think you get the idea: crafting is a CORE mechanic to the game.

Just my thoughts on the matter...

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Crafting is the Game

This is an exciting topic for me, personally. :D

A few thoughts on this.

Most games that feature crafting seem to use the following mechanic:
- You want to purchase a widget that costs $100.
- The merchant selling the widget doesn't accept $100 bills.
- In fact, the merchant is very picky. They will accept ONLY a certain combination of bills: three $20 bills, two $10 bills, one $5 bill, and fifteen $1 bills.
- If you have a $50, you need to visit the money changer who will give you five $10 bills in exchange, but will charge you $5 to do it.
- And so on...

Of course, most games disguise this. $20 bills are "Stone." $10 bills are "Wood." $5 are "Reeds." etc.

[Please note: I thoroughly enjoy Agricola, though it's severely guilty of this. :) ]

I'd like to see a version of Knizia's Decathlon adapted as a crafting mechanic. There was a variation called Heptathlon which I personally think improved on this formula. Here's a link to the original.

For the crafting variant: The player has an assortment of raw materials to choose from. They select from the available mini-games what they would like to craft from their parts (each one making a different good), then their success in the mini-game provides the results: the quality of the good they've created, and the price they fetch for it at the market. Using those gains, they purchase more raw materials or upgrade their equipment, allowing for advantages during some of the mini-games.

The same thing could be done with cards. Each "perfect" example of a good has a target number, suit, colour, etc. The player must produce a set of cards as close as possible to that perfect set. The result indicates their success with the task.

Players don't have direct conflict, but instead they compete with one another to make the most money. The first player to meet a series of crafting objectives is the winner. You can make it more competitive by allowing players to win "tricks" to claim sets before other players.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I don't think that is what he wants

@let-off studios: I don't think he wants to design a Game about "crafting". I think the OP was about why there aren't more games that use "crafting" instead of "purchasing".

And to your credit, you EXPLAIN (IMHO) why there isn't more "crafting" in games: mainly it is because it requires a fairly elaborate system to allow for crafting. And such a system is not worthwhile to develop UNLESS it is the "core" mechanic of the game.

So meanwhile we get that it is possible and some games do this (like Agricola) -- I'd be hard pressed to find OTHER games which use this mechanic as a secondary mechanic to the game.

I think the reason is that it's too complicated to do BOTH a "game" and a "game + crafting"... Requires too much and yields dubious results.

Although I could be wrong! Just my thoughts.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
For some reason...

It made me think of "Columbia":

Yeah I know it's a "The Game Crafter" game -- but it's actually pretty impressive. I was thinking that there was a SET COLLECTION mechanic -- but watching Bower's Game Corner review, I didn't see that as part of the game.

Anyways a SOPHISTICATE "set collection" mechanic is at the HEART of any game that uses "crafting". Obviously this is in a "card"-scenario but you could also be collecting wooden components too.

It's kinda my "go-to" reflex to see if there are any "Card Games" that feature such a mechanic. Another game where you "Build a Tower" is "Tower":

While not exactly "Item crafting", you are "building" a Tower and it relies on resources and money to do so...

Anyhow those are about as close as I can find to "set collection - towards item crafting"...

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011

Yep! I agree on all counts.

questccg wrote: EXPLAIN (IMHO) why there isn't more "crafting" in games: mainly it is because it requires a fairly elaborate system to allow for crafting. And such a system is not worthwhile to develop UNLESS it is the "core" mechanic of the game.
I attempted to point out that "crafting" is criticized as being purchasing because the crafting/construction process is streamlined into resource expenditure, and not a major component of the design.

You bring up a great point I neglected, however: set collection. In even the Catan example, certain sets can provide for only certain structures, and not others. Even utilizing the Trading Post(s) requires a specific set, at least to maximize your returns.

One could make an argument, based on semantics, that Minecraft is primarily a set-collection game, with geographic obstacles thrown in. Also like Catan, random map generation reinforces this. Reliance on set collection could also be a factor in describing its massive popularity and broad appeal (again, as well as that of Catan).

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