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timed "inflation" vs choosing when to "inflate"

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MarkD1733's picture
Joined: 07/05/2014

In my game, one mechanic is economic inflation...the cost for resources goes up. My first idea was to simply have that mechanism occur periodically 3 or 4 times. For those of you familiar with Pandemic, this would be akin to the Epidemic cards. But then I wondered if the players should choose when inflation occurs. The thematic tie-in is that the players are cooperating to fight a war, and they will run out of money to fight the war. Do you think that it would be better to let the inflation show up as a surprise, or should they then need to decide when to print more money which causes the inflation. I think either way, there is good strategic choice to be made.

Thanks in advance for your ideas and opinions.


Joined: 03/02/2014
If it really makes for

If it really makes for decision tension, then giving them some control works well. However, if you can predict reasonably accurately how much ordinance you're going to need each turn, then the right approach is pretty obvious: Don't print money until you have to, and always print the minimum you can get away with.

Hmmm, this next idea makes less sense for a co-op game than a competitive one, but maybe it will spark something with you.
1. As players buy armaments, the price gets higher (i.e. supply and demand), so the players who buy sooner get the same items cheaper.
2. Each player has his own currency, which loses value if he prints more money.

So a player will have a tension between printing more money to buy his arms right now, when they're cheap, and conserving his cash so it retains its value.

debiant's picture
Joined: 05/03/2015
Well, depending on how deep

Well, depending on how deep you want to go, you could have inflation based on how many of the goods are available for sale. For instance, all goods could start at a fixed price of 1 coin each and as more are purchased they become more expensive. This could make for an interesting economic manipulation mechanism or it could needlessly complicate an otherwise simple game depending on how the game plays.

Noimage's picture
Joined: 04/01/2015
RE: Zag24

Would the currency then have an exchange rate based on inflation prices if two players had to interact with both their money whether there is trading, loaning, etc?

Joined: 03/02/2014
Noimage wrote:Would the

Noimage wrote:
Would the currency then have an exchange rate based on inflation prices if two players had to interact with both their money whether there is trading, loaning, etc?

I was thinking that prices are in an independent currency that doesn't have inflation. They go up according to supply and demand. Then individual players have a currency that does suffer from inflation relative to the stable currency.

For a board game, it's probably too much arithmetic getting in the way of having fun. It could possibly work for a computer game, though.

Feel free to steal the idea if you're interested and you think you can make it work. I don't plan to do anything with it.

JohnMichaelThomas's picture
Joined: 05/30/2015
Pre-set inflation conditions?

Another possibility is to have some set conditions that cause the inflation to happen. For example, when X total troops have been purchased (by all players or each individual player) or when X total currency has been printed (by all players or each individual player). This makes for some strategic decisions, especially if a single player's actions can push it over the line and cause inflation for other players.

The main challenge I see to this (since I'm considering something similar for one of my games) is that you need an easy way to keep track of the current game state and make it clear when you hit the inflation point. I'm considering a game stage track with a counter, but I'm sure there are other ways to do this as well. I like the stage track because it opens the door to have other conditions which push the stage marker back instead of forward, increasing the strategic options.

Joined: 07/03/2013
On Inflation in Board Games

I used to think that such a thing wasn't possible, but then I played Power Grid. On the bottom of the board, there's a track where you put spare resources from right to left, with price rising from left to right. As you buy resources, the price of each resource goes up, depending on the demand. However, some resources can decrease in price with time in-game because each round, more get put back on the track for use, and if no player develops a way to use them (or the only reactors that have come up are lame in comparison to others), then the price goes down as more get added. This is made the more nuanced with the game taking place in three "phases", where the after-round refresh rates for certain resources are changed depending on how far into the game you are (to represent a change in technology in the power plant world)

This idea could be expanded upon for a limited-resources war. If there are a limited number of horses, for example, then purchasing a lancer (the cost of which includes a horse) would go up. At the end of each round, you could have more horses get added to your supply, potentially making a cavalry purchase later on cheaper (because you've saved up some horses). However, if you keep buying horses, and using them up in combat, buying more will likely be very expensive, because of your inflation track.

You could go even further and allow players to construct buildings/units that change the refresh rates for certain unit types if individual unit types were more advantageous for a given player.

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

One brilliant way I saw this implemented, somewhat in line with JohnMichaelThomas above, is in "WAR! Age of Imperialism." I'll explain briefly, as I think this is an ingenious system:

  • There's an extensive tech tree, and investment in it is integral to performing well in the game.
  • There are spots for "Inflation 1" and "Inflation 2" and so on, and the first player to invest technology points into that tech triggers an initial negative effect for all players.
  • Some advanced technologies are not available for a player to invest in unless they first invest in Inflation. In other words, players cannot gain the most advanced technologies until they experience Inflation, otherwise they plateau.

The most insidious thing about this Inflation mechanic is that - for the first time it's triggered - there's a negative effect against all players. There may be some [astute] players who may have enough resources, but they hold off until it's tactically the "best time" to invest in it, packing the most punch in the Inflation effect against their opponents. If someone's plateaued in their tech development, they still experience this negative effect.

I've not played the tabletop version - only the computer adaptation - but my assumption is that the game (and the mechanic) plays the same in the analog version. In any case, I'm absolutely fascinated by "WAR!" because of its tech tree almost to the exclusion of the rest of the game (as the theme is rather off-putting to me). It's the first thing I think of when I remember this game. I think it would be well worth your time to examine it.

MarkD1733's picture
Joined: 07/05/2014
great concept to consider

All that feedback was really good. I definitely agree that the inflation trigger needs to be very clear and the new economic state has to be simple or at least easy to contend with mathematically. I am thinking that the inflation simply triggers when the team reaches "zero" in the "war chest." The government then prints a whole new batch of money, but it is obviously devalued...hence the inflation. Let's say 2x after the first inflation, 3x after the second inflation, etc. This definitely escalates the tension to meet all the demands that will otherwise basically be constant throughout the war. Buying a soldier at 3x the cost toward the latter half of the war and trying to replenish troops for battles which are equally challenging as in the beginning should provide some tough choices.

Because this is a cooperative game, do the players already have enough of a "choice" when the inflation occurs in the sense that they are choosing how quickly to spend the resources they have/start with? Or should there be a definitive decision to trigger the inflation?" At this point in the design, there is a "pay up" or "feed your family" phase built into the game that continually stresses and dwindles the available finances. Is it sufficient to say that when the money gets to zero...inflation occurs?

Also, do you think it is just as easy to represent the inflation mechanic as a 2x, 3x, etc modifier on the costs, OR should it be a shorter reset point...for example, war chest goes to ZERO, rest the war finances to a point 3/4 of the full track...then next inflation it resets to 1/2 the track, etc.?

Thanks again for the input...keep it coming.

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