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managing resources -- use bits or a track

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MarkD1733
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In my cooperative game, several natural resources are used in combination to create manufactured goods. For various reasons, I chose to try resource bits (meeples, cubes, tokens, etc) over resource cards (a la Settlers) that a player would take on his turn, and then subsequently turn in some combination thereof to manufacture a particular supply (which I think I want to represent with tokens).

For example:

1 black cube (gunpowder) + 1 gray cube (iron) = 1 gun (token)

In retrospect, I don't see the need for taking all the resources and then trading them in for other bits/tokens which represent the supplies...this feels complicated and klutzy to me. Instead, I am toying with the idea of using a track for each commodity. As other game mechanics "produce" or "consume" the natural resources, they move that resource up or down the track, respectively. If you want to make a gun, you instead would move the black "gunpowder track" and the gray "iron track" each down one space. If you got to zero on a particular resource you can't make the supply. I am thinking this would help with avoiding all the bits that will be in constant motion as players "transact" their production.

Any games out there that do this already? While I was looking at my prototype, I couldn't readily think of any. Any other thoughts as to how to simplify the "engine" mechanics?

X3M
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There are almost no games

There are almost no games which use a track for resources.
At least, not that I know of.
Even though it is a good idea.

The only game that I know of is Formula D

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_V_8sIhbsx0A/SlSrVq4mLXI/AAAAAAAALjI/DS1sJep_wX...

http://hiewandboardgames.blogspot.nl/2009/07/formula-d.html

It is called damage, but you can apply the same for resources.

Soulfinger
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Seems like a great idea.

Seems like a great idea. Definitely good for reducing materials costs. Best comparable implementation I've seen was with pegs for missiles, ammo, and such in Screaming Eagles, and then XP and what-not in Mutant Chronicles -- but as X3M said, not resources per se. Pegs are good for keeping the counters from getting moved around, be it unintentional bumps or those cheaty little nudges.

Jarec
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Eclipse had something

Eclipse had something similar. http://boardgamegeek.com/image/2262815/eclipse
You'd put the cubes from the tracker to board, and the revealed number on the track showed you the amount you'd get the resource.

If a game has many different types of resources, the size of the tracker could get out of hand pretty quickly.
Also physical objects are fun to gather.

LordBrand
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I was going to mention

I was going to mention eclipseeclipse as well. First let me ask this:

On average, how many bits are people getting? If the numbers are small (<10), I think bits are great. People like holding their "stuff". If somebody can collect 20 or 30 iron, a track definitely starts to make sense.

Even if the counts are low, but the type counts are high, a track might be good just to save production costs.

Soulfinger
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Jarec wrote:If a game has

Jarec wrote:
If a game has many different types of resources, the size of the tracker could get out of hand pretty quickly.

I don't know how Eclipse does it, but you could have separate counters for the ones and tens values to reduce the size of the tracker.

jvallerand
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Glass Road, by Uwe Rosenberg,

Glass Road, by Uwe Rosenberg, has that (well, it's dials instead of tracks, but basically the same), and introduces an interesting concept: when you have all the goods required to create a complex resource, you HAVE to do so.

There are two major reasons for using bits instead of tracks: first, handling bits brings a tactile satisfaction to many people; second, resources are usually spent in groups, and having bits allows you to group them physically in front of you when planning your turn. For example, if I'm playing Terra Mystica, and I know I need to build two dwellings and a temple this turn, I'll make a group of 2 cubes and 5 coins, then two other groups of 1 cube and 2 coins each, and see what's left.

The advantage of tracks is that it's easier to compare different "scores": that's why we usually have scoring tracks, or tracks for Area majority games, where relative placement is more important than the number itself.

MarkD1733
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more about using tracks rather than bits...

I have Terra Mystica but not Glass Road or Eclipse. I will research those. I do like how the bits work in TM, but they make sense with that income mechanic. The power cycling mechanic is also an interesting mechanic but I don't see it working in my game.

Thematically, I can see having all the bits in their "production zones" on the gameboard, but they are communal. Also, right now, its simply a conversion thing -- 1 coal + 1 wood + 1 currency = 1 gunpowder. As a those resources are produced each turn, someone should be making something...players should not stockpile resources, per se. They cannot afford to. So I think transactions could be so fast that the tactile satisfaction won't pay off...I actually think it might become annoying. However, I plan to have chits for the supplies which are produced from the resources. Those can be stockpiled to some degree because there are more options as they, in turn, combine with other resources to advance troops. But, this stuff isn't expected to build up like unclaimed resources in Agricola or anything. Being cooperative, if it is being used, it is for the good of the team. There is little reason to wait to use any resource--it is to be used quickly to keep up with the challenge mechanism (battles to be fought).

There are currently 6 basic resources--coal, iron, timber, leather, horses, and exports (which translates in the game directly to currency). The "rank" of production/plentifulness is based on history...timber was more plentiful than iron...there are therefore more spaces for timber capacity. The currency is really a reflection of all other goods exported that were not directly used for the "homefront operations." My thought is to rank them in descending order each with a maximum number of spaces: currency 10, timber 9, leather 8, horses 7, iron 6, coal 5. Hopefully, you can envision more or less a bar chart type of graphic that can track that production/consumption with only 6 markers instead of a bunch of bits. Chits/tokens track the manufactured supplies which should be allocated elsewhere on the board.

Further thoughts? Thanks to everyone's contribution!

JewellGames
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Here is the resource tracker

Here is the resource tracker from Tiny Epic Galaxies which is on kickstarter right now at a measly 272000 raised so far ;).

X3M
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If players spend resources

If players spend resources right away.
How about splitting up the tracker in 3 parts.
A left side, a right side and a bottom side.

On the left side, you can customize the resources that you get every turn.
On the right what you produce with these resources.
And on the bottom what you are not going to spend.

Let's say you indeed get 1 coal, 1 wood, but 2 currency.

You customize your conversion:
1 coal + 1 wood + 1 currency = 1 gunpowder.
Thus on the left, you put 1 of each together as if they are spend immediately. And the one extra currency will be in the bottom tracker.
On the right you get yourself your gunpowder.

Now, if you are not going to spend the last currency, and not to spend your gunpowder. You will be getting these in your hand. Or stockpile tracker if you want 2 trackers.

The bonus with this method is, you know what you will get. You don't have to take all the resources all the time and then give a big part back.

ruy343
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Design Thoughts

What I've been noticing is this:

If the tracks wouldn't move on their own, then it'll feel like a burden to those who aren't heavy gamers.

What I mean is that if you're constantly having to worry about the track placement, and it's changing all the time, you might consider going back to tokens. People who don't like heavy games (Twilight Struggle for instance) won't like managing sliding tracks: they'd rather be collecting things which gives a physical representation of how they're doing well. I think that the reason tracks aren't often used is that few people are willing to put forward the brainpower to maintain them.

So, unless it's a "gamer's game", you might want to reconsider. I've tried a few designs with tracks, and usually, unless it's something that needs to be public information, people don't like them much. Heck, most people don't even like the tracks on the game Power Grid, and the track in Ticket to Ride is rarely used mid-game, since people prefer to add up their scores at the end of the game anyway.

MarkD1733
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great insights...they are very helpful

Thanks for all the ideas and challenges to the design. I appreciate the various viewpoints. Here is more on the idea.

Okay...cooperative play. Each player gets to place workers on the resources and supplies indicating what they want produced. I am thinking each person gets 3 workers to place. There are 6 resources (1 resource translates directly into currency) and 5 supplies. They can place them wherever they want to produce. Resources don't require currency to produce, but supplies do. For each worker, the production goes up 1 space (or adds 1 unit if we use bits). I am thinking the currency gets "produced" a round later as it reflects revenue from exports, and is therefore delayed. Each supply produced has some currency component to reflect the purchase.

The resources are not individual...they are produced by demand. It's not like the players own the workers or are placing orders for resources. They are ordering the supplies (guns, gunpowder, etc), and those make sense to me to be able to use bits for them so players can physically take them and hold them and use them. On the flip side, they could have the supplies tracks on their player boards, but leave the resources on the main board. These supplies combine with troops to advance their troop "technology." In addition, except for officers, any troop or worker can be converted into a spy which provides a key benefit to winning battles. Spies require currency in addition to a worker or troop. So as you can see, there is lots of converting going on, and I want to make that as efficient as possible. As far as the currency goes, that is also shared...a common "war chest." If I made 3 or 4 parallel tracks, each numbered 1-10, I could track large numbers more easily than if I had some physical currency to count in hand. Would you agree?

This is a late night reply for me...sorry if this reads all scatterbrained.

MarkD1733
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ruy343 wrote:What I've been

ruy343 wrote:
What I've been noticing is this:

If the tracks wouldn't move on their own, then it'll feel like a burden to those who aren't heavy gamers.

I can make the production work in phases so that all the resource "track movement" is done all at once, then place workers, then track currency, then fill orders (get supply chits or move player board tracks), etc so it wouldn't necessarily be chaotic. But it could be more complicated. Not sure.

ruy343 wrote:
What I mean is that if you're constantly having to worry about the track placement, and it's changing all the time, you might consider going back to tokens.

They are not changing all the time if I add phases.

ruy343 wrote:
People who don't like heavy games (Twilight Struggle for instance) won't like managing sliding tracks: they'd rather be collecting things which gives a physical representation of how they're doing well. I think that the reason tracks aren't often used is that few people are willing to put forward the brainpower to maintain them.

You may be right on this. I will try with bits too and compare playtest team's feedback.

The resource levels are public knowledge. The supplies are not...but being cooperative play, they can certainly share that knowledge...or, heck, share the supplies if in the same region for that matter. They have to coordinate, but not necessarily make consensus decisions.

MarkD1733
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X3M wrote:If players spend

X3M wrote:
If players spend resources right away.
How about splitting up the tracker in 3 parts.
A left side, a right side and a bottom side.

On the left side, you can customize the resources that you get every turn.
On the right what you produce with these resources.
And on the bottom what you are not going to spend.

Let's say you indeed get 1 coal, 1 wood, but 2 currency.

You customize your conversion:
1 coal + 1 wood + 1 currency = 1 gunpowder.
Thus on the left, you put 1 of each together as if they are spend immediately. And the one extra currency will be in the bottom tracker.
On the right you get yourself your gunpowder.

Now, if you are not going to spend the last currency, and not to spend your gunpowder. You will be getting these in your hand. Or stockpile tracker if you want 2 trackers.

The bonus with this method is, you know what you will get. You don't have to take all the resources all the time and then give a big part back.

I think this is more along the path I want. I will need to get my head around this idea visually. To increase the challenge of this game concept, the end result of all this conversion economics is sets of troops deployed to various battles on the board. The idea is to place said troops on one or more "battle cards." I don't want to deploy supplies to battle cards, except for cannons. Then the number of troops dictate the number of dice rolled to try and win the battle. Cannons simply provide a potential bonus value to certain die rolls.

Zag24
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X3M's idea, maybe

I think this might be the same thing X3M described, but I didn't quite understand his description of it

For each resource, there are three tracks: Producing each turn, Spending each turn, Stockpile.

Players learn (or always have available) technologies, such as "Gun: 1 iron + 1 gunpowder = 1 Rifle" When they activate this technology, they increase Spending for iron and gunpowder by one, and increase Producing for Rifle up by one. If you are producing more than spending, you increase the stockpile, which will allow you to spend more than you produce, later.

Now you might activate the Soldier technology which is 1 Rifle + 1 Worker = 1 Soldier. (Workers and Soldier might be actual token rather than tracks. I don't see this as a problem.)

The bookkeeping would be a lot easier, because you can easily look at iron and gunpowder as producing the same amount they are spending, and rifle is producing one each turn which you pair with a worker token to create a soldier token. Such a system would allow you to make complex chains of production that would be impractical if you were actually moving tokens around.

You could include a worker placement aspect around the technologies -- for instance the Gun technology also has a requirement of "Foundry" and two workers placed on it to activate it. The tracks for each item could be printed on the technology cards rather than on the board, allowing for a lot more tracks and a weird variety of play modes as people discover different technologies in different orders.

OK, I'm rambling, now. Anyway, I think that the tracks idea is what X3M was saying.

MarkD1733
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that's it!

I think this is exactly it...you guys covered it well and I like how you described it. In fact, "the foundry" is part of the concept... because tradespeople can become soldiers...so players need to balance the need for workers to produce things like guns vs soldiers to fight. The tracks plus bits feels like they would give variety during gameplay, and your description captured how it works pretty clearly. Thanks, everyone!

X3M
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Well, my way of explaining

Well, my way of explaining has always been my biggest problem.

Zag24 did do a good job re-explaining :).

Although I did mean it a bit differently.

Here is a new idea:
Perhaps you can use something like flowcharts cards. Instead of using cubes, you get the choice of a card that shows your flowchart of production.

Only the end result given on that chart card is what you really get in your stockpile.

If you want to change production. You have to look at the start of the flow chart and simply switch cards.

A down side is that you need to make several possible cards to add to your game.
Up sides are:
- It will reduce your cubes (perhaps to zero when done right) and your handling.
- You can design good looking cards which make your game better looking.

MarkD1733
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it's all good...

Let me ask one more question...currently each player has his own player power(s). Should they be exclusive powers...like ONLY PLAYER 1 MAKES ABC? Or should it be more of a DISCOUNT Power...everyone can make ABC, but they use 2 things instead of Player 1 who only needs one.

ruy343
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Pandemic

I would look no farther than the masterworks by Matt Leacock to give advice for that one. In games like Pandemic, there are many things that can be done better by a specific role. For example, the Operations expert doesn't have to spend a matching city card to build a research station, and the medic can treat as though they up to 3 cubes at a time instead of one. Those roles are improvements on what can be normally done.

However, the Archivist can take cards from the discard pile with restrictions. That role can do something that no one else can, but it's carefully weighed so that it's not overpowered.

In short, you can do both. Analyze every aspect of the game that there is to interact with, and see what can be done to make that a role. In Pandemic, it's treatment rate, moving for other players, helping with logistics, trading cards, requiring less to cure, pulling cards from discard pile, and previewing the nastiness that's coming.

However, it's far easier to make something unbalanced when it's something that other player's can't do at all. Just be careful to balance test it.

LordBrand
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I'm sure it goes without

I'm sure it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways: If it's something that only one person can do, and you have more "roles" than you have players, make certain that something isn't a lynch-pin for winning the game.

Example: In Pandemic, playing on 6-epidemic hard mode, certain roles feel REQUIRED to win, rather than a cool feature of differentiation. On the easier modes, they are pretty interchangeable, and add a nice element of randomness to the game.

Just consider your own game, and how pivotal those special powers will be.

Zag24
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Dissenting opinion

I disagree that the different roles is a good idea in a cooperative game. I think it is part of what contributes to the alpha player issue. The knowledgeable player knows what the best approach is -- the doctor should do this, the scientist should do this, the military guy should do this, and we'll manage that outbreak. (Sorry, I don't know Pandemic well enough to know if they are actual roles, but you get the idea.) If anyone deviates from the script, it will fail, and it IS the best approach, but it left all the other players as minions to the alpha.

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