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Deal-making vs. game flow

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 05/01/2010

I am designing a game in which the players making deals among themselves is a key part of the game experience, but the problem is that negotiations can really slow the game down, sometimes to the annoyance and frustrations of those not involved in the negotiations at the moment.

I had initially conceived of a sort of time-out, where the players would get a collective pause and have the chance to make deals, but the rest of the game's design don't really allow for that because circumstances shift so quickly that deals often need to be made on the spot. Also limiting players to making deals on their moves won't work; because everyone is competing for the same scarce resource, players often have a strong interest in the outcome of deals that take place as a result of other player's turns.

It's otherwise a very traditional game, with players rolling dice to move around a square board.

If anyone has any suggestions for how to handle this, I would be much obliged.


Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Times Up

Much like the problem with some players in SoC asking each other player if they want to trade for each available commodity each turn. Making a turn that should last 5 to 6 times what it should its may just be a matter the players which is the hardest to compensate for.

The game you describe sounds like Monopoly when played by the standard rules which includes auctions and negotiations. With the limited description it is difficult to make an informed suggestion. Considering your audience how long should your game last and how long is it lasting now? Do you need to shorten it up a little or allot?

Here is a blind guess. Timer: Assuming there is an active player, the person that rolled the dice, for each turn of negotiation the active player should have some small upper hand so that if negotiation falls through they win. Set a timer so the other s will have to act quickly. This would not only limit the down time caused but would add tension.

If that’s no good I hope it at least gives you some ideas.

Joined: 05/01/2010
Good idea

I am a bit embarrassed to say that I didn't know that Monopoly involved auctions and negotiations but yes, your analysis is spot on.

A timer may be just the answer. Thanks very much for the suggestion.

Joined: 04/18/2009
Take a closser look at the

Take a closser look at the game cosmic encounter. It uses a nice dealmakermecanik with a timer, if both parts have not come to an agreement they both get penaliced, but get more time. If that time also runs out they both get penalice again and so on. The thing is tho that it is realy realy bad to get penalices so I have never seen a pleyer get it. It works for this game but maby not yours, but may you can come up with somthing simular that will work?

Joined: 08/03/2008
These ideas might be more

These ideas might be more complex than what you're looking for, but there are a couple of ways of dealing with this kind of problem:

One is to restrict what is available for trade. In Bohnanza, all deals must involve the two cards that are drawn off the top of the deck. In Res Publica, the active player announces "I'm looking for an X", or "I'm trying to get rid of a Y", and all offers must take that stated preference into account.

Another idea is to restrict the scope of negotiations. A timer is probably effective but not very elegant (but it may be perfectly appropriate depending on the game). One mechanic I came up with but haven't used yet involved a rigid offer/counteroffer structure. When a player proposes a deal, he sets a stack of 4 tokens (or whatever the game's currency is) between himself and the player to whom he has proposed a deal. At any point when the player accepts the deal, the players split the stack evenly between them. Each time a player makes a counter-offer, one token is removed from the stack. I think this would force the players to converge on an acceptable deal in fewer cycles of back-and-forth.

Joined: 05/01/2010
Thanks to all again for the good ideas

First, I have to say that I've been essentially designing this game by myself for some time so I cannot tell you how happy I am to have the input of experienced designers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

For this game, I am not keen to restrict the types of deals to be made, because the industry that provides the game's theme is one in which there would be wide open deal-making. But restricting the number of offers and counter-offers might work well, because it will both help eliminate the lowball offers and force both parties to stop haggling for minor additional advantages.

If it's a helpful mechanic for anyone, a lot of corporate shareholder agreements have what's called a "Texas shotgun" or "Texas roulette" clause: if any shareholder wants out of the corporation, they name a price for the stock, and then the other shareholder decides whether they want to sell or want to buy at that price. It's simple, elegant, and it forces fairness. It doesn't work for my game, but maybe I can adapt something like that in conjunction with your suggestions.

Joined: 05/08/2010
Perhaps players could be

Perhaps players could be limited to a certain number of offers per round via an offer currency. For example, one offer per player currently in the game. So, in a four player game, each player would have four "offer tokens." The player would play an offer token to open negotiations with a player. These tokens would be out of play until it is that player's turn again. Once it is that player's turn again, they would be back up to four offer tokens.

To sweeten the deal, the players could be allowed to offer up their tokens as part of the deal. For example, I could offer another player one of my offer tokens for the next two rounds in addition to offering game currency for resources. It would be like the NBA draft, but with tokens instead of people/draft picks.

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