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Population Growth Mechanic

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DarkDream
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Joined: 12/31/1969

The last mechanic I need to handle in my semi-cooperative space 4x game is population growth.

Currently, each player has one home planet that has every population slot filled with a population counter (which represents a population of people). Each population slot indicates what resource is produced if there is a population counter present. Every planet has a limited number of population slots which represents the size of the planet and the abundance of resources on that planet.

So, for example, a small planet can have two population slots where one slot is to produce money (to buy things) and the other slot to produce production (to build things). If two population counters are on these two slots then the planet can produce both money and production.

Now when colonizing an uninhabited planet with a colonizer ship, the ship is destroyed and 1 population counter is placed in an available slot.

In the game, I want players to be able to increase the number of population counters in a colony or even on a home planet in the event some of the population counters die off.

But how to do this in a simple way that produces interesting decisions has been challenging so far.

As this is a 4x game that has a lot going on, I want the overall mechanic to be fairly simple yet satisfying.

Here are some of the ideas I have so far:

1. Every planet which has at least one population counter can produce only one more population counter for that turn.
2. A colony cannot increase population itself and a population convoy (like a colonizer ship) must depart from the home planet to the colony to add a population counter. Maybe if the colony reaches its maximum number of population counters, it then can act as a home planet and create population counters for other planets.
3. Add a food population slot on some planets. For every food population slot occupied, it allows for the population growth on one planet (or maybe one population counter). This may involve some tracking and a little book keeping unfortunately.
4. Have a food population slot on some planets and if the slot is occupied it will produce a food resource (tokens or something) which can be spent to buy a population counter. Right now I have three main resources: money, production and research. I would have to add another resource of food.

With adding the food resource, I want to avoid some type of food upkeep mechanic whereby players must have X amount of food for Y population counters to avoid starvation and so on.

Which of these ideas sound sensible to you? Do you have any other ideas?

Thanks,

--DarkDream

Supafrieke
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1) I don't know how fast you

1) I don't know how fast you want your populations to grow, or how many money/production/research slots you have per planet, but allowing every planet to add on every turn sounds like a lot.

2) I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish with this rule.

3) I would simply include "food" as a part of the production counter system and instead of producing a spaceship or mining facility (or whatever production is used for), you may instead produce a population counter and add it to a planet.

4) Reads very similar to #3.

5) Similar to #1, but with limits... for greater interactivity, you could actually have specific worlds that produce a population counter every turn and you have to load it onto a ship and send it out to the frontier to start or add to a colony. Constant streams of population flowing out to your planets.

gilamonster
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Joined: 08/21/2015
Interesting sounding game! It

Hi DarkDream. That's an interesting sounding game! It sounds a little like a 4X sci-fi computer game I started writing a few years ago and never quite finished. (one day...)

Supafrieke wrote:

1) I don't know how fast you want your populations to grow, or how many money/production/research slots you have per planet, but allowing every planet to add on every turn sounds like a lot.

Perhaps, although it depends on the time-scale associated with a turn in your game (one month, one year or one decade/generation?). Fast population growth would at least make for a relatively quick start (but there are alternative methods - see below).

Supafrieke wrote:

2) I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish with this rule.
Again I agree; this will tend to restrict the way the game is played a lot (unless that is what you want for some reason?). It seems also somewhat unrealistic, as it implies that the people can't breed and most colonies are not self-sustaining.

Oh, it might be worth starting colonies with more than one population counter by default, as it will speed up the game. In my game, I had to do this, because the population had to consume certain resources to survive(food, power and various minerals or gasses, depending on the planet type), but the plants that produced them required population units for the workforce to run them. So one population unit alone would die miserably of cold or starvation if there weren't stockpiled resources to see them through. For a boardgame I'd keep the economy simpler with just food though.

Supafrieke wrote:

3) I would simply include "food" as a part of the production counter system and instead of producing a spaceship or mining facility (or whatever production is used for), you may instead produce a population counter and add it to a planet.

4) Reads very similar to #3.

5) Similar to #1, but with limits... for greater interactivity, you could actually have specific worlds that produce a population counter every turn and you have to load it onto a ship and send it out to the frontier to start or add to a colony. Constant streams of population flowing out to your planets.

I think food (or at least surplus food, since you don't want to have starvation) should be a storable resource (ie you want resource cubes or something to represent it, and it should be carried over between turns - high tech refrigeration/preservatives and all that.). Then you should give each planet a food cost to expand its population - either the same for all planets, maybe becoming more expensive for larger populations, or some planets could be more expensive because of the difficulty of colonizing them (gas giants, frozen rocky worlds, etc). In addition, you should be able to freely move population between worlds, except of course that you lose ownership of a world if population is at zero. The number of transport ships you have might also be a controlling factor. Food should also be transportable between worlds, perhaps at a cost (either in food itself, or whatever currency you have). That gives the players lots of possible ways to tweak the running of their empire in relatively simple ways.

Jerry
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As mentioned above, I would

As mentioned above, I would keep food as part of production resource. You don't want to complicate things too much.

You could have population automatically grow a certain amount every so often. Then, if you want some fluctuation, you could have certain actions, like building a ship or building, use up population.

This way, a planet will not always be able to fulfill all it's slots, and players will have to choose which production slots they want to have population in.

DarkDream
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Great Ideas

Supafrieke wrote:
1) I don't know how fast you want your populations to grow, or how many money/production/research slots you have per planet, but allowing every planet to add on every turn sounds like a lot.

For game purposes (let's put the question of realism aside for now), I am envisioning that every turn there is the opportunity for a population counter to be added due to growth.

On average there are around 3-4 slots on each planet.

If I were to go this route, I would at least limit a planet to only gain one population per turn. It would be possible to do further limits, like only X amount of planets can gain a population.

Every turn, each player has around 4-5 action tokens which can be spent to activate a population to produce a resource. I am thinking that an action token can be spent on producing a population counter instead of spending it on resource production. How does that sound?

Supafrieke wrote:

2) I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish with this rule.

I was trying to limit the population growth issue which I intuitively felt and as you pointed out for 1.
Supafrieke wrote:

3) I would simply include "food" as a part of the production counter system and instead of producing a spaceship or mining facility (or whatever production is used for), you may instead produce a population counter and add it to a planet.

Yes. This is definitely a viable option and I will seriously consider this.
Supafrieke wrote:

5) Similar to #1, but with limits... for greater interactivity, you could actually have specific worlds that produce a population counter every turn and you have to load it onto a ship and send it out to the frontier to start or add to a colony. Constant streams of population flowing out to your planets.

In a similar vein, maybe you could have a population slot on some planets. Those planets that have this population slot occupied by a populsyion counter can produce a new population counter as you outlined.

How does that sound?

gilamonster wrote:

Supafrieke wrote:

2) I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish with this rule.
Again I agree; this will tend to restrict the way the game is played a lot (unless that is what you want for some reason?). It seems also somewhat unrealistic, as it implies that the people can't breed and most colonies are not self-sustaining.

Yes. That is a good point against it. I was perhaps thinking you could only produce extra population counters if you have a large population to begin with. Another problem, is that you could have a small planet, say with two population slots, which could fill up in no time and be a great population exporter relative to a far larger planet with more slots which would take a huge amount of time to fill up and begin to export population counters which does not seem quite right.

gilamonster wrote:

For a boardgame I'd keep the economy simpler with just food though.

I think food (or at least surplus food, since you don't want to have starvation) should be a storable resource (ie you want resource cubes or something to represent it, and it should be carried over between turns - high tech refrigeration/preservatives and all that.). Then you should give each planet a food cost to expand its population - either the same for all planets, maybe becoming more expensive for larger populations, or some planets could be more expensive because of the difficulty of colonizing them (gas giants, frozen rocky worlds, etc). In addition, you should be able to freely move population between worlds, except of course that you lose ownership of a world if population is at zero. The number of transport ships you have might also be a controlling factor. Food should also be transportable between worlds, perhaps at a cost (either in food itself, or whatever currency you have). That gives the players lots of possible ways to tweak the running of their empire in relatively simple ways.

Yes. This sounds like option 4 which is elaborated a little. I want to avoid having another resource, but if I do include it, these are some good ideas.

Thanks,

--DarkDream

FreedomPortal
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As an old time computer 4X gamer

I like the idea of Food for population control. (I've grow up playing 4X space computer game likes Master of Orion). So it make sense if some planet can grow food better while some has no chance at all.

My take on the population growth would be adding another token type. I'll call this 'child' for now. Each of the population token placed on every planet will generate 1 child token per turn if there are enough food and free slot. (Optional - Surplus food can give bonus child token). So, the child tokens don't produce anything but once you have enough number of child token, you can trade it for a population token for free.

Then it's easier to control how fast you want your population to grow by adjust the number of child token needed to trade for a population token. You can even make the number different for each alien race.

radioactivemouse
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I think...

You have a game that's trying to do everything when all it's doing it making your game too complicated.

You have to always think of scope when creating a game. If you're creating a 4x game where you're colonizing planets, keeping them fed may be a bit too much micro-management.

I say keep it simple. Just have the planets grow by 1 "unit" every click and have a limit of "units" depending on the planet size. That way, you still have your population growth and you can focus your players on the strategies of managing planets, exploring, and keeping them defended (or growing them to attack).

If the game just focused on 1 planet, by all means, managing food with population makes far more sense. But your players are exploring the galaxy AND thinking of food on every planet?

Too much, imo, too much.

X3M
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I agree with

I agree with radionactivemouse on this one.

You already have growth in the form of creating colonies.

If you have an upper limit on colonies and on a total of population. You can at least work out an average per planet. And create the growth based on those numbers.

You also should keep in mind, how many rounds do I want this to take?

I think, it might be a lower growth rate than you think. And it will be something along the lines of having like 3 population on 6 planets. For you to decide, on which planet you want the growth.

Then I would do something along these lines:
Smaller planets are limited to a growth of 1, medium planets have 2 and big have 3 as a maximum.
If you really want a small planet to grow faster, you simply pick a population token from another planet, and you send them to this planet with yet another colony ship.
The maximum population should also be something like 4, 8 and 12.

There is notching wrong with linear, is my opinion.

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