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Trading Post, a real-time economic trading game for 30 5th graders

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hotsoup
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Joined: 08/28/2009

I'm designing this for my classroom, where we're studying the wild west. I've had them playtest it a couple times, and modified it based on their feedback. Here's where it's at right now.

Shuffle a container of 8 different colors of 1cm cubes, about 100 cubes per color. Separate from these, maintain a bag of light green cubes, which represent 1 dollar each, and a bag of dark green cubes, which represent 5 dollars each.

Divide the group into 6 groups of 4 students each. Each group is a fur shop. Each fur shop should be physically separate from the other fur shops and cannot leave its area. There should be 6 students left over. These are the traders.

Each player starts the game with 5 dollars in ones. Each fur shop pools its money, but each trader is only out for themselves.

Each fur shop begins with a generous handful of random cubes (they should all start with about the same amount). The traders do not begin the game with any cubes.

Each fur shop is competing against the other fur shops for the most money, and each trader is competing against the other traders for most money.

Fur shops make money by collecting a set of 15 same-colored cubes. Once they return this set to the box of cubes, (the moderator should bring the box to them; they cannot leave their area) the shop receives 5 more dollars and 15 new random cubes. Since shops are not permitted direct contact with other shops, they must use the traders to help them.

Traders make money by roaming from shop to shop as they please, setting up deals, trying to buy low and sell high, or demanding compensation for their services. Traders cannot turn in sets of cubes.

Once the time has expired, determine the winning shop and the winning trader by how much money they have.

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In the most recent iteration, some interesting dynamics started appearing. I heard one group telling a trader, "Here we'll pay you extra. You work for us now, understand?" It was great.

The game has a nice asymmetry to it. The different motivations of the two types of groups produces interesting interactions. Receiving random cubes after a set is turned in keeps the rarity of different colors in flux, since large amounts of one color get dumped out of the game at a time.

I realize that the multiple people at one shop are superfluous, and the game could probably be played with 12 people around a table, but the fact that the members of a shop can argue over what to do and who to trade with is actually really fun. Also, the process of having the traders physically walk from place to place is thematic, and adds a level of secrecy to the dealmaking.

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