Ricky Dang
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Hello all,
So I've just ran into a roadblock and I'm stuck on how to solve this problem. My game involves players managing a shop, buying from a wholesaler and selling it to the public for a profit. As of right now, I have 4 types of cards, each with a wholesale value of 1, 2, 3, and 4 gold pieces. You are allowed to resell it for different amounts, but the average amount is ~200% of wholesale, netting you a 100% profit. If you go higher, the difficultly check will also get higher, reducing the chances of the customer actually purchasing the item. To do a 200% wholesale value would have a 80% chance of succeeding and is the standard assumption I use for calculations.

At this point, I'm sure you can see the problem. After the first turn, the player will pretty much only go for high value items, eschewing low value just because there is a limit on how many you can sell per turn (average 1 item per turn), so you would clearly go for the higher value items as they can give you a larger profit compared to the lower ones (1 net profit on a base 1 item versus 4 net profit on a base 4 item). How should I go about resolving this? Some solutions I've thought about:
1. Redo the whole entire marketing system. It could be that the system itself is flawed to begin with and that I should try to go with another system.
2. Give lower cost items abilities. These abilities will perhaps let you manipulate the customer flow or can supplement the income of your sales. I fear this option, however, may actually work to increase the snowball effect.
3. Adjust the ratios/stages of the costs. I can switch up the base cost of items from 1, 2, 3, and 4, instead of something like 10, 12, 14, 18, or the like. This gives me a more fine scale and it the difference of 1 won't be as heavy as my current scale.

I'm not sure if it's even possible to allow the lower cost items to stay viable throughout the game, but I do want to make them at least viable in the first half of the game, rather than instantly phasing them out. Thank you in advance for any help and thoughts. Feel free to ask any questions about it, the game is complex and I've tried to chop away at the irrelevant parts, but I may have accidentally axed something relevant.
 
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Andrew Davis
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Hmm... the issue of limited sales per turn does seem to really hurt the viability of low-cost items in this situation.

Maybe you could create a relationship between item wholesale price and "markup difficulty." I'm thinking something like this:

Failure chance = ((Markup/50)*.05)(sqrt(Price))

Descriptively, you'd be giving a 5% failure rate for every 50% of markup, times the square root of the wholesale price. So more expensive items basically are harder to mark up.

So you'd have a situation like this:

Markup/ 50 100 150 200 250 300
Price
1 5.00% 10.00% 15.00% 20.00% 25.00% 30.00%
2 7.07% 14.14% 21.21% 28.28% 35.36% 42.43%
3 8.66% 17.32% 25.98% 34.64% 43.30% 51.96%
4 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00%

The % chance is the failure rate. So a 4 price item sold at 100% markup still has a 80% chance of selling as per your original example.

Of course, you could make that table result easily available on a card or something so players didn't have to make the calculation. Or just build it into the rolling/card/whatever system so that they don't even really realize it is there (just a table of dice rolling targets they need to hit, for example).

It that would give players a choice on the trade-off: lower price, but able to mark it up more at a lower risk, or higher price with less ability to mark up.

I mean, let's look at the ways you can make a profit of "4."

* You could buy a 4 price good and mark it up 100% (a 20% risk on one roll)
* You could buy two 1 price goods and mark them up 200% each (two rolls of 20% risk each)
* You could buy two 2 price goods and mark them up 100% each (two rolls of 14.14% risk each)

Both the lower price options offer a trade-off: you can hedge your single roll risk by making two rolls, but you get a lower percentage chance of getting the full "4" profit.

As the game went on, there still might be some migration toward higher-priced items, but it might also stay viable to have some lower priced, higher margin items in the mix for your shop too.

An example I could think of is something like this:

* Victory Points are measured in some 3rd good you can buy with gold. So you basically have shop goods, gold, and victory goods/treasure.

* There is a limit to the total pool of treasure available to all players.

* Players face a tradeoff between buying the treasure or keeping their shop economy churning at a low risk rate (by having lots of high gold items in the shop).

* A viable strategy might be to go for high margin, high risk in the shop by buying lower cost items but marking them up a lot, and then buying treasure. The opposite strategy would be trying to build your gold reserve until you can stock expensive goods and make a more reliable high return each turn with your shop. The former strategy would be a rush strategy, hoping to buy up treasure before the expensive shop really got their bankroll humming.

A game like Dominion has a system that works somewhat like this, where you face a decision between building economic power and gaining VP, if you want an example.


Sorry about the chart. Can't figure out how to make it format properly.
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Jeremy Lennert
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I'm not clear on your design goals. You're tracking inventory in two ways: number of items, and value of items. Why are you using two variables instead of one? What is that additional complexity intended to add to your game? If you have a specific reason in mind for it, that should suggest a direction for balancing it; if not, maybe it's better just to cut it.

I imagine there's more to the game than you wrote into those couple paragraphs, but so far it sounds like players can pretty easily solve for the option that gives the highest expected profit per turn. Generally, in order for a game to be interesting (from a strategic perspective), the players need to have a vague idea what the best strategy is, but not know exactly. If your game is solvable, then you may need more interactions to muddy the waters.
 
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Levi Mote
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You could add market preference. What do the customers want / need?
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Lars Praestegaard
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I immediately think of Powergrids supply and demand mechanic on resources, that really works very well. Players buy coal, garbage or nuclear for their powerplant, and prices evolves as players buy them. If everybody buys coal, the supply will run out and prices will be higher.

How about updating your market mechanic so that values of the different items changes over the course of the game. If all players focuses on the same item, that item will quickly become worthless.
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Alexander Lauck
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+1 for supply&demand. The more "4"s the Players sell, the lower the chance to sell another one. Same with 1, 2, 3 but the higher the value, the lower the demand
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ad best
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Hamburgum has a mechanic as more people enter a section of the business the price drops. to much competiion. In your case it could be number of customers or chance of sale.
 
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Jon M
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Alternatively make the lower cost items better at spreading risk. ie you can sell one high cost with one chance of success or 4 lower cost with four separate chances of success. The average pay out could be the same but the higher cost item is an all or nothing compared to the spread of the lower cost.
 
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W Scott Grant
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What comes to my mind is the age-old question: Would you rather sell a million tubes of toothpaste per year or one luxury yaght per year?

I suggest scaling your "products" in the same manner. You should be able to sell more of the cheap, consumable stuff, but less of the more expensive stuff.

Also, allow price competition into the scenario. Allow players to set their price points secretly so that those who set a lower sale price (and lower profit margin) will sell more.
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Oliver Edleston
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Allow selling in bulk? So a player can only sell one type of item in a turn. For example:

Player 1 has -
3 novelty cups $1each
1 incredible hat $3
1 awesome pair of boots $4

In his turn he could sell either the boots, the hat, or all 3 of the novelty cups.

This encourages your players to try and create sets of items to allow bigger sales.

This idea would further allow you to have a variety of customers with specific demands simulated through use of a deck of cards. A supply of demading customers are face up on the table and if any player can meet the demands they can then sell the wanted items at a premium. So for (another) example:

Player 1 has the cards listed above. The top 2 cards of the "Demanding Customer" deck are flipped over, they are:

2 incredible hats $15
3 novelty cups $20

Player 1 could then immediately sell his 3 novelty cups and get $20, replacing the associated customer with a new Demanding Customer. Leaving the demanding customers face up at all times until a player can meet the demand then encourages your players to also battle with each other over the available supply items. In the above scenario all players would seek to buy any available incredible hats, even if only to stop Player 1 selling them for a guaranteed $15. Allow players to bid on purchase prices and you'd have quite an interactive and competitive game going!
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Ricky Dang
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Wow, thank you for your thoughts. There's a lot of ideas in here that did not occur to me. I'm going to take some time to digest each one and then perhaps create multiple variants and see which ones work.

I'm leaning right now towards reducing efficiency for higher cost items, or as Andrew puts it, making it riskier to see off higher cost items.

Bulk selling could be useful, I might give lower cost items a passive text that lets them sell in sets.

Supply and demand already has been implemented into the game (not sure if like Power Grid, since I've never played it). Customers are put into decks, which represent different time of the day (morning, noon, afternoon, evening). Each time section has a different demand (for example, food is more prominent in the evening as customers likes a good, heavy dinner). The makeups of these decks can change over the course of the game. I think this is more in tune with Levi's thoughts. I'm not sure if I can implement something like Power Grid though. Power Grid is a pretty heavy game and I'm trying my best to keep it simple with the option of being deep.

Thanks for the input! Now, back to the spreadsheets!
 
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Brian Homan
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Ground floor has an interesting mechanism for sales of goods. Players (according to placement order) can move goods from their factory into the retail space, selecting a price point at which the goods will sell. Cheaper goods will always sell first and then the more expensive ones as customers are available to buy. When the pool of customers dries up, everyone has to markdown their goods, but they get to decide by how much, even up to liquidating for immediate cash. Any goods left over are available for sale the following round.

Ground Floor also have a variable number of customers available each round based on economic conditions (boom, stable, recession, depression, etc.). This exact model may not work for your game, as you have your product differentiated into four different categories. You could delineate how many of each of the four goods will sell each round, simulating economic conditions.

For example (scaled for effect, YMMV):
Boom: 2 Luxury, 3 High-End, 2 Mid-level, 1 Low-Level
Stable: 1 Luxury, 2 High-End, 3 Mid-Level, 2 Low-Level
Recession: 0 Luxury, 1 High-End, 3 Mid-Level, 4 Low-Level
Depression: 0 Luxury, 0 High-End, 2 Mid-Level, 6 Low-Level

If you had all players secretly set prices for each level of their goods on hand, then reveal their prices once the # of customers has been determined, each player would then receive income as goods sell from lowest price to highest within their category.

If your game deals with seasonal operations, you could force liquidations of unsold goods at the end of a season, or a fixed price markdown (older goods would need to leave the shelves in favor of newer ones in future rounds).

There's a lot of real-world examples to use, depending on what you are actually selling in your game. There's a lot of good advice in the thread. Try a few options that seem to fit best and see how they work. You'll likely find there's no need to completely re-invent the wheel.
 
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Robert Seater
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Parts Unknown did something like this, although I'm sure you can do better. But it would probably be worth your time to find a cheap copy & try it out for insight.

Similarly, try out Fantasy Business, although that game is more about price fixing and prisoner's dilemma among sellers than it is about the market itself. Still, easy to get a copy and would probably provide insight.
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Rocco Privetera
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The easiest answer I don't see you addressing is the customer/consumer and the supplier (the shop owner is the salesperson). Any kind of sales transaction can be viewed in the quad of Product, Supplier, Seller, Buyer. Imagine the following scenario:

In your shop you have goods ranging from four values, $5, $10, $25, and $50. You sell all of them at 100% markup and only have time to sell one per turn. Obviously you sell the highest priced one, right?

Well, not necessarily. How often do you get new goods? That's a supply-side problem. The $50/lb artisanal cheese is made by a small family farm, so you only get a supply of 1 new unit every 3 turns. The $25 you get every two turns, the $10 one a turn, and the $5 as many as you want a turn. So maybe choosing what to spend time ordering matters.

Secondly, maybe you roll every turn on what kind of customer comes in. Each customer has a wealth level of 1-4. A level 1 Hipster has a rolling chance of 80% (1-5 on a d6), 50% (1-3), 16% and 0% of buying things (based on cost, from lowest to highest). A level 2 Blue Collar person might have 33, 33, 16, 16. Wealth level 4 might be 0, 16, 33, 80. But the chance of a wealth person coming in depends - maybe on the neighborhood, so you have to think, do I spend more on rents in order to raise the chance of getting wealthy patrons more likely to buy? Do I go for a low-rent area, have that demo, but not sell high end items?

Also how many shoppers? If your shoppers are (lets say) cards in a deck you cycle through, if you *don't* sell to the wealthy guy, someone else might build a store to cater to those specific people.
 
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Cameron McKenzie
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Some mechanics that might make the economic choices more interesting:

Bonuses for "specializing" in certain goods (which gives some incentive to be the only one picking up a good, even if it is intrinsically less valuable)

Players have to buy containers of stuff, which may have some stuff they don't want. They can't just pick individual things ala carte.

Players have to auction for things - the players themselves decide how valuable the "inventory" savings of more valuable items is.


As for snowball effects, it is very tricky to do in games where you spend money to make money. Often you can alleviate this by giving poorer players "initiative" of some kind. More forms of player interaction also help, as players will usually try to "block" or "attack" those in the lead, while leaving the rear players alone. This gives them some chance to catch up.
 
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