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Trading Mechanic

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Tbone's picture
Joined: 02/18/2013

The current game I'm working on has been steam rolling ahead. I haven't worked on a game consecutively for this long as it keeps getting better the more I play test.

I have hit a snag though...

There are four main ways of obtaining victory (civilization) points: Expansion, Trade, Discovery, and Conquest. Balancing these has been a chore but trade is the one that I have changed the most.

What makes this difficult is trade involves one player giving away something that another player would potentially want, gaining resources and civilization points through a successful trade. This is tricky because once the game comes to a close, who wants to trade with someone and give them civilization points? No one. Even if you might have a nasty combo in the next turn you are giving the other player instant victory points where you might not get anything out of the deal. You could say this is a great catch up mechanic as a player with the lowest amount of civilization points could climb to the top through good trade. But again, you'll be giving away cards that may give the other player the victory. There is just too much uncertainty.

Either way, trade is hard to use and it is quite situational and I want to make it more versatile. Here are my current ideas:

-Allow the buyer a chance at gaining victory points but at low probability
-Allow the seller to either trash resources to gain civilization points or gain resources through the trade instead of just gaining them outright.
-Keep trade as a mechanic but choose another way to gain civilization points (Taxes, policies, etc.)

I would appreciate your ideas!
Thank you.

Joined: 08/21/2015
Various possibilities I can

Various possibilities I can think of offhand:

1) Both players engaging in a trade are guaranteed victory points (though this may also decrease the desirability of trading in different cases)
2) Allow trade with "the bank" or an NPC - maybe just a deck of cards requesting varying numbers of one or more type of goods in exchange for VPs.
3) Make victory points themselves a tradable comodity.
4) Remove victory points awarded for trading, but have a fixed "master trader" VP bonus and card/token which goes to the player who has made the most trades (a lot like the "longest road" in Catan).

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Exchange Rates

There are a lot of ways to go about doing this. Instead of thinking of what the player gains by having a lot of resources, why not think of penalties they player accrues by reaching the ceiling?

- A hard limit on the number of resources: either a combined total or per-resource quantity that cannot be exceeded. This is in Catan which has already been mentioned. This seems easiest to manage, and I'd recommend it if trade isn't a major aspect of the game.
- Players lose resources to thematic bogeymen like inefficiency, expiration, graft, theft, or spoilage.
- They need to spend other resources on storage space. They have to buy warehouses or containment units to hold all this stuff or they lose it at the end of their turn/phase. This is a more forgiving version of the Catan solution proposed above.
- The leader in resource quantity of certain types suffers the effect of "chance cards" or events that affect production/quantity leaders unless they have other infrastructure improvements (civilization level, standing army/defense structures, etc.), drawn every turn/phase.
- The players with the least of certain resources can demand tribute or charity, allowing players to dump resources on them in exchange for victory points (from the bank, not the receiver). The receiver can place different values of VP on different resources they receive, making this a worthwhile, strategic choice even if they don't necessarily need the resources right away.

Other solutions to try, most of which have been seen in other games:
- The player with the most of a given resource at the end of a turn/phase earns points, but only if they offer these resources as tribute to other players.
- Only the player with the most resources of a given type will earn points for them.
- Extra resources can be dumped into wonders, artifacts, or other resource sinks.
- Other players can hire mercenaries or pirates to attack only production/quantity leaders, and have a chance to gain a portion of any pilfered goods.
- It becomes more expensive to harvest resources unless the player's civilization has advanced to a certain point.
- Inflation affects all players once a player has achieved a certain level of civilization advancement, and all improvements cost more.

LOTS of stuff to try here, and I'm sure there are more options out there.

Joined: 03/02/2014
My first question is whether

My first question is whether or not your concerns have come about because of playtesting, or if you're just anticipating trouble. If the former, then definitely you need to address it. However, I'm suspecting that it's the latter and that you'll find that there really is little need to worry.

There are two ways trading happens in games. First, when it is just an open market, and there are times when any two players may negotiate whatever they want. I think that this approach tends to bog down a game and, as you suggest, people are more reluctant to trade because they fear they are helping the opponent more than themselves.

The second sort is where there are fixed trades allowed, based on something a player owns. 7 Wonders, Catan, and many other games do this. I own the iron mine, and you can buy iron from me for 3 coins per unit. Sure, you are not happy about giving me the coins, since I will use them to buy armies to attack you, or whatever, but you need the iron. As the game designer, you spend a lot of playtesting effort tweaking these numbers, but don't throw out the whole idea unless playtesting shows that it just doesn't work.

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