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How Do We Feel About Feeding Our People?

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Ark1t3kt's picture
Joined: 09/12/2017

The Problem:

Hey all, I'm currently working on a heavy eurogame about colonizing Mars.

I originally had abstracted oxygen, water, and food into a single resource called "basic needs". At the end of a round, players had to pay "basic needs" according to the number of workers they had, otherwise their workers would die.

However, throughout playtesting I have found that this mechanic feels extremely restrictive and basically forces you to focus on "basic needs" production on your first few turns.

I am reluctant to completely scrap the idea, though, because I feel like this would be an important factor when governing a civilization on Mars.


How do you feel about "feed your people" mechanics in games in general?

How important is this mechanic to the theme?

Can you think of a fun mechanic that involves these "basic needs" but isn't so in-your-face?

P.S. To be clear, the game is not about surviving Mars, it is about building a civilization on Mars.

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

I like "feed your people" mechanics in games, generally speaking. When you're trying to develop an empire-builder, it adds a dimension of social welfare that I appreciate, personally. I'd rather see that mechanic included than just rampant military production or exploitation of animals and nature, for example, but maybe that's just me.

This depends on what you're shooting for with your game, so to speak. If you want to add the "human element" to your game, then I do think it is useful and effective. If you want to have a colony on Mars operated by automatons then you wouldn't need to cultivate food, but likely use some other resource.

I immediately thought of Agricola and its Begging tiles that players earn when they've not produced enough food to feed their farmers. In this scenario, players are penalized only up to a certain threshold turn by turn, but at the end of the game the magnitude of their poor planning catches up to them and can cost them the 'victory.'

Is there a way you can abstract this concept of peoples' prosperity in the colony? For example, roughneck miners have a different standard of living compared to a science research facility, and compared to the equivalent of rag-pickers in a third-world country living hand-to-mouth. Some sort of "standard of living" metric that rewards points at the end but throughout the game it's a reflection of different sectors of development?

If there were three different tracks of measurement, like Population, Technology, and Regions for example, the lowest of these three represents the standard of living score. It can affect the game in a variety of ways, but ultimately higher standard of living demonstrates effective breadth of development instead of specialization in one area.


There's a lot to think about, for sure. Best of success to you with this. :)

Joined: 12/22/2015
basic needs

For humans on Mars the basics (food,water,air,temperature) could fall into ranges:

Starving/dehydrated/freezing/gasping for air
all efforts go to survival
Hungry/thirsty/uncomfortable/high altitude air
some new effort can divert from survival to advancement
adequate but nothing to brag about
new efforts can go mostly to advancement
Comfort levels met and some people might gain weight - some "cash crops"
comfort begins to equate with advancement in popular culture
Luxurious where indulgence acts as a drain on productive effort
Advances that reduce short term comfort or growth in comfort are opposed

Ark1t3kt's picture
Joined: 09/12/2017
Thanks for the awesome

Thanks for the awesome feedback you guys!

Yes, Agricola's begging tile mechanic definitely fits here.

I love your ideas involving abstracting the quality of life in your colony, perhaps I could tie this concept to an overall morale/happiness mechanic that could have some over-arcing effect on gameplay. Maybe a happier population is more efficient? Or perhaps your morale track works similarly to the popularity track in Scythe - by adding to or subtracting from your final score.

There could be other factors that affect the morale track as well, such as implementing authoritarian policies, or over-working your people.

Joined: 01/27/2017
Begging in Spaaaaaaaace

New civilization(s) on Mars could use up some of their trade bandwidth with Earth to meet "basic needs." Earth could have effectively inexhaustible supply, and it's not even particularly expensive, but it is still something to be avoided because:

1. It uses up space that could be better used for higher-value goods.
2. It's... embarrassing. These are supposed to be independent civilizations, and here they are still tethered to Mother Earth. Should definitely reduce political standing with Earth, and may directly affect political capital and/or population happiness.

It should be balanced so that a player is torn between striking an unfavorable deal with another Martian player or getting the stuff from Earth. Basically, Earth as a supplier-of-last-resort puts a limit on how exploitative one player can be of another.

Ark1t3kt's picture
Joined: 09/12/2017
Fascinating Idea!

Fascinating Idea!

I love the idea of using Earth as a last resort. Perhaps trading with Earth costs you VP's, or lowers your colony's overall morale?

(I do have a mechanic involving exporting valuable resources back to Earth for points. Perhaps there is a way of tying this into that?)

Daggaz's picture
Joined: 12/19/2016
The first thing that springs

The first thing that springs to mind is to just address the problem at the only point where you feel it is a problem: the beginning of the game. Solution: increase the starting resources of each player. This makes sense thematically, as clearly anybody who is sent to colonise Mars is going to bring food, water and oxygen, and plenty of it.

Apropos theme, I think splitting the resources up feels better and would allow for more mechanics (oxygen supply at critical levels but you are ok on freeze-dried rations), but maybe your game is crowded enough already. In that case, maybe renaming it to "essential needs" or even more abstractly "survival" adds a higher sense of tension than "basic needs." Maybe actually "critical resources" is best..

I am working on a strategy-adventure game where the players explore a map and build villages, which in turn produce food (and other resources). Food is needed to fuel almost all actions, so it is the base currency of the game. Villages produce just enough food to pop a limited number of units per turn, and it is possible to increase food production slightly so you can get some actions as well, but producing more units will cost you actions and taking more actions will cost you units. Under this setup, it was still necessary to give the players a startup buffer of both units and starting actions (food) in order to avoid precisely the scenario you are describing with your game, where players camp and just save up each turn until they have enough currency to actually start playing the game.

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