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Rocco Privetera
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Hi ho, Ninja Dice designer Rocco here, and I'm working on a little economic/trading game. It's my first attempt at working on something from an economic perspective so I'm trying to wrap my head around some concepts and looking for folks who enjoy that sort of thing to weigh in.

The idea started from a theme about Nanban - trading in/or between Japan in the late 1500's. At the time, the Chinese Emperor had halted direct trad with Japan, but Japan desired Chinese Silk and China wanted Japanese Silver. When the Europeans showed up to be the middlemen, the Nanban trade started- going back and forth to cycle Silver, Silk, Gold, and other trade goods.

I have a very simple idea I was curious to try based on this theme: where basically players traded between a few ports, but having a push-your-luck factor where they need to finish trading and get to open sea before Typhoon season gets bad, i.e., you can keep staying and making trades but you run the risk of the more violent storm season destroying your boat. "uh oh, is that rain? We're out!"

My lack of economic design chops raises a few questions. I was trying to keep the whole design space down to a couple of decks of cards, plus a few cubes, if that helps.

1. Articles. First and foremost, are there any good articles on designing from an economical perspective anyone recommends to check out?

2. Modeling supply/demand. Right now, I had a system where cards would show the good - say a Silver card that says "I cost 1 Silk". A few cards down, once these are purchased, are more Silver that say "I cost 2 Silk". On my first alpha playtest, players complained about the 200% (later 300%) rise in cost. But given the very small scale I'm working on, I don't have a lot of granularity. That is, I want players to start with 8-10 cards for their starting trade goods. I can't have them start with 100 so I can increase the cost of something by 10%. Any ideas?

3. Randomness: Is it typically bad form to have a lot of randomness in these kinds of games? To most economic players want to have everything splayed out? I'm not as keen on 100% info, which may be my own limitation.

4. Trading between players. I can use human AI (i.e. the players) to help with some of the supply/demand issues, like, if I had 10 Silk in the game that cost 1 Silver each and they were all purchased, and someone wanted to buy Silk, they'd have to buy it from a player who could charge more. BUT it seems like a lot of economic game players prefer to not have to interact that much with other players (beyond say a player sniping a good they wanted off the board). Again, typically, is that how this usually goes?

5. Set collection vs paying for stuff. I've been toying with a mechanic where you get goods and some of them provide bonuses in sets. Set collection typically is from cards you are given (everyone draws from a deck, say) but in my original model people are buying cards. Is typically this kind of thing one or the other - i.e., you buy goods and they end up being worth something, or you get cards and use cardplay/trading to get sets worth something, but not both?

Anyway - this is a lot. Thanks for any help or comments you choose to leave!
 
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Geordie Young
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Here's a general answer/idea that I hope might help you. Sorry for not specifically addressing your game's current mechanics, but it seems like they're flexible at this point in the design process.

Randomness:
In life, Random things happen (disasters, war, new competitors in the market, less demand because a new study came out to say that X ingredient is harmful to you, etc) that drive the price of specific goods up or down. Painted in this light, I think any player would be open to some degree of randomness. I would steer clear of making anything potentially back-breaking by random chance, but make it consequential enough so that players would want to diversify their "holdings" to some degree (so all their eggs aren't in one basket, so to speak).

It's possible that this type of Randomness could help you solve (either directly or by inspiration?) your supply and demand issues as well. If you can reflect a change in demand, then you can adjust the price for a good accordingly. I hope this makes sense in your game, but if not, I tried!


Good luck!
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Robin Armstrong
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My initial thought for the supply demand thing: increase the values shown on the cards. In other words, start with "10 cost 10 silk", and increase to "10 cost 11 silk". Dunno if that would work with your current system, but maybe it can be adapted?
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Gil Hova
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Rocconteur wrote:
1. Articles. First and foremost, are there any good articles on designing from an economical perspective anyone recommends to check out?


I love this article from Seth Jaffee about balancing and units: https://sedjtroll.blogspot.com/2014/01/balancing-game-elemen...

Quote:
2. Modeling supply/demand. Right now, I had a system where cards would show the good - say a Silver card that says "I cost 1 Silk". A few cards down, once these are purchased, are more Silver that say "I cost 2 Silk". On my first alpha playtest, players complained about the 200% (later 300%) rise in cost. But given the very small scale I'm working on, I don't have a lot of granularity. That is, I want players to start with 8-10 cards for their starting trade goods. I can't have them start with 100 so I can increase the cost of something by 10%. Any ideas?


You've got two levers here. One is the cost, of course, but the other is the amount of Silk available to players.

Since it sounds like your game is heavily abstracted, you can always set something up where you don't have to actually spend the resource in order to use it. Then 3 Silk has a different meaning; you're not spending 3 Silk from your hand, you just need the ability to produce 3 Silk.

That said, I haven't played this game yet; I'll have a better idea then.

Quote:
3. Randomness: Is it typically bad form to have a lot of randomness in these kinds of games? To most economic players want to have everything splayed out? I'm not as keen on 100% info, which may be my own limitation.


Depends on the kind of randomness: input or output? Input randomness happens before the players make their decisions, like when they get their cards. Output randomness happens afterwards, like a to-hit roll.

These kinds of games can usually use some input randomness to spice things up. But be very careful about output randomness here! You want to incentivize players to make clever decisions, and output randomness can wash this all away and make those moments meaningless.

Quote:
4. Trading between players. I can use human AI (i.e. the players) to help with some of the supply/demand issues, like, if I had 10 Silk in the game that cost 1 Silver each and they were all purchased, and someone wanted to buy Silk, they'd have to buy it from a player who could charge more. BUT it seems like a lot of economic game players prefer to not have to interact that much with other players (beyond say a player sniping a good they wanted off the board). Again, typically, is that how this usually goes?


Depends. An economic game is not necessarily a trading game.

I'm of the belief that if you have trading between players in your game, then it is a trading game, and a good part of your game's core engagement should reflect that. Having a bit of trading in your game usually backfires.

You can have an economic game without player trading, as long as you have a release valve for unlucky draws (like 3 of any resource can become one other resource or something).

This really depends on the kind of game you want to make, and the kind of players you want to play it. It's a big decision; many people who like one kind of game won't like the other.

Quote:
5. Set collection vs paying for stuff. I've been toying with a mechanic where you get goods and some of them provide bonuses in sets. Set collection typically is from cards you are given (everyone draws from a deck, say) but in my original model people are buying cards. Is typically this kind of thing one or the other - i.e., you buy goods and they end up being worth something, or you get cards and use cardplay/trading to get sets worth something, but not both?


Yes, but be sure to look past the mechanism and see what behavior you're trying to incentivize. Set collection means you're telling the players to spend multiple turns trying to achieve a goal. So you'll want the whole game to reinforce that. If you have a mechanism that, say, forces players to pass their entire hand to the left, you lose that incentivization and the experience you're working towards.

Can't wait to try this game!
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Rocco Privetera
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"10 cost 10 silk" is probably what I should be doing (or something like that), but I'm really trying to see if I can do this with as small a set of components as possible. Having to keep a pile of resource counters for each resource makes that difficult.

I guess I could do it with some kind of real tight amount of resource objects maybe (like a ten, five, four 1s, etc) but I'm not even sure of the game yet

Thanks!
 
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Rocco Privetera
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IngredientX wrote:

Yes, but be sure to look past the mechanism and see what behavior you're trying to incentivize. Set collection means you're telling the players to spend multiple turns trying to achieve a goal. So you'll want the whole game to reinforce that. If you have a mechanism that, say, forces players to pass their entire hand to the left, you lose that incentivization and the experience you're working towards.

Can't wait to try this game!


Thanks for the all the help! I've got a lot from this.

This last quote especially. So my central engagement in this game can be summed up as "players are trying to improve the value of the limited space on a ship via trading, in a push-your-luck gamble to trade as long as possible but leaving before the escalating storm season wipes them out."

So given that, that seems to reinforce anything that makes a player value time-based objectives vs not-dying-objectives. So the constant "if I stay just one more turn to possibly get that last Laqcuer card it'll be worth soo many points..." might feel more immediate then just cycling your engine through one more turn. Maybe. I'll probably try both and see.
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TTDG
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I like the idea of a push your luck to stay longer to trade. But, in some games you can buy sell everything in 1 round, so that would not work for you. Maybe selling is some combination of per item, per quantity for each chunk of time. This then would represent the cost of finding buyers and sellers.

I am a fan of the original Merchant of Venus (MOV). It simulated growing demand for products by placing bonus demand tokens out. If you could sell there, your first sale got the 1st bonus, and then a demand token goes away. IIRC, stuff sold and the demand tokens, went into a cup, and then stuff is drawn out of the cup to be placed where it could be produced (or bonuses). This then may replenish supply, because it is also possible for someone to buy up all of the supply somewhere leaving nothing for anyone else to buy there.

MOV also had dynamic trade routes, cargo ships versus fast ships, and more going on. You may need to deal with issues of cargo capacity and speed as well.

Now, knowing a little about sailing, I wonder at your wording. Open sea is not where I want to be in a storm. That is better than being near land, or in a bad harbor, but a good harbor is preferred. So if there truly is a 'no one sails' stormy season, I'd think people would want to be in their home harbor 1st, or a good harbor 2nd.

This then could get you into interesting choices. Is the bad harbor okay to sell in if it is faster to get to or has a separate demand pool? Or does the player want to go to the more conservative good harbor, but maybe with less demand, more competition on selling, and maybe farther sailing time. And of course, various combinations if you model multiple ports.

With more than a couple of ports though, then I wonder if the player will be restricted to a single ship, or if they will be running a shipping empire to either specialize or spread their risk around some?

MOV ends up being a race to the money goal game, so efficiency is an issue. Upgrading a ship for either more cargo or more speed is a question of opportunity and cost analysis. Can they make it pay and fit their use of said ship to how that ship is designed? But, while I have seen multiple strategies win in MOV, there are luck rolls for movement. That part is not really where I like my luck, or at least not the gap between 1 and 6 level of luck.

There are probably more lessons to learn from other pickup and deliver economic games.
 
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