Trade-off, the land-use simulation game, allows participants to experience a wide range of community development situations in a relatively short period of time. Trade-off players will think about land-use and resource problems they have probably never considered before.
In Trade-off, 3 to 7 players act as Planning Commissioners, serving to regulate the actions of the 4-8 players who represent the Agricultural/Forestry, Industrial, Residential, and Commercial Center/Tourism Developers. The Developers aim to build their respective projects by purchasing and improving land on a grid map of a river valley. Meanwhile, the Commission, along with a Banker and Recorder, must maintain the area's environment and settle disputes between developers.
Time is measured in Trade-off with a Monopoly-type track running around the board. A full run of the track represents an in-game year. At each space on the track, events occur that affect the Developers, such as stock market fluctuations or environmental damage.
The game ends when the players agree to finish. At that time, the Developers assess the extent of their accomplishments, while weighing them against the environmental damage they potentially caused. Trade-off is primarily a classroom aid, and so discussion of actual land development is encouraged. No "winning" Development team is chosen officially, but players may use the map and each player's wealth to make a decision regarding victory.