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Subject: Need a trading system for my homebrew pirate game rss

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Hello everyone,

Over the past year, I've been working on a pirate/privateer game. It originally started as a cross between the "pirates of the spanish main" and "plunder" but grew out of both. While they were good inspirations and contributed much to the current version, they do cause framing issues in the creative process, where I find it difficult to break out of their basic ideas. Let me also say that this is a hobby, not for production, so I have been using art/components/rules from anything that fits. It's just a homebrew. In the game, you can either trade goods to make money, explore islands for treasure for small amounts of money (to get players going in the beginning) or attack ships and take their cargo for money. Money allows you to buy new ships, upgrades, etc. but it isn't the determinant of victory. Still, most of the game, players look for money to improve their conditions.

What I am looking for right now is a trading system. In Plunder, from where I originally picked up the trading system, there are ports that belong to various nations. Some of these are small ports where the three types of goods (lumber, cloth, spice) are cheap and there are large ports where they are expensive. The idea is to buy from the cheap ports and take them to the expensive ports, making money from the difference.

While this works, it is basically a pick-up and deliver system and there's neither excitement or strategy. If a small port ends up close to a large port in the random map, you have people moving back and forth quickly and nothing else much happens. The three commodities don't offer much richness, as what you should buy is very clear based on how much money you have and what has the largest profit margin with the closest large ports. There's no satisfaction from completing a trade nor is there a plan/strategy. While trade is not going to be the focus of the game, it can still be better than this.

I will list what the game has in terms of relevant elements, then what I am looking for. Hopefully some of you will have suggestions.

* There are three commodities. Lumber is cheapest, then cloth, then spices. Currently the prices are between 1 for lumber at the cheapest port to 11 for spices at the most expensive port. I could change the scale of the prices.

* There are 6 ports, belonging to three nations, 2 ports each. The following are the current markers for the ports.


* There are 5 wild islands, which are explored and settled during the game. When they are explored, cards are drawn to reveal what the properties of these islands are. The properties can be modified to fit new suggestions.

* Ships move at speeds ranging between 1-4 depending on size and purpose (cargo ships move slower than small attack ships). For long distances, they can unfurl full sails, which adds between 1-3 depending on the wind. Nature of the full sails discourages using it for short trips. This will give you an idea of how frequently ships arrive at ports- it generally takes 2-3 rounds to travel between close ports and 3-5 for distant ports. Here's the board.



* In addition to players’ ships that sail around, each nation has cargo ships that sails between its two cities automatically. This is so that players can attack and capture these, gaining free cargo without attacking another player’s ship. There are consequences of attacking these, but that’s another part of the game. These ships do not actually affect the amount of goods in a port, they are just targets.

* Players can gain “influence points” if they carry out certain actions to support the nations in the game. These influence points are then used for various effects in the game.

* There are various ship types, of which three are large cargo merchant ships, with cargo space ranging from 8 to 16. All other ships have cargo less than 6, which is meant to force the players to use cargo ships (with their disadvantages) if they wish to move goods.

What I would like:
* Some kind of change in prices during the game, possibly based on supply and demand. It would be good if players could affect prices somehow, perhaps through large purchases.
* The commodities becoming more important. As it is, once you have money to start trading spices, there’s no going back to the other goods since they are identical except for their cost and profit margins.
* Players being able to affect prices through non-trade actions, such as sinking trade ships. This would add a reason to use military ships and engage in combat. Maybe a blockade to drive up demand and prices.

Maybe:
* The influence points can be used for affecting trade somehow?
* I could give up the idea of supply ports/demand ports (large/small ports).
* I could change the scale of the prices so that they could be more easily modified to reflect supply/demand levels.
* I could have the cargo ships moving around impact supply/demand levels somehow.


In all this, the game needs to move quickly. It should play between 2-3 hours. It's not a strategy game, but a tactical one based on the theme. Although it looks fiddly, it does move at a pretty good pace, partially thanks to a simultaneous action scheme to prevent downtime. The rounds go quickly and as much as possible, I am trying to limit the downtime due to upkeep at the beginning of the rounds, such as adjusting supply levels and rolling for wind.

What I’ve tried
* I tried having a limit of buying at most 6 units of each commodity from each port. I made a chart where the current availability could be tracked. So a small port would have at most 6 units of lumber. Similarly, the large ports had a maximum demand of 6 units for each commodity, so you couldn’t sell more than 6 even if they none there. I thought this may make players think about what was currently in demand when they were buying items. The next question was, how would the supply and demand return to normal levels. I thought of moving the markers forward one spot at the beginning of each round- so every round, small ports would get one more of each commodity and large towns would use up one and demand would go up by one, all capped at 6. In play testing, this didn't have much impact, as by the time someone else visited the same port, more than likely 6 turns will have passed. Even if it hasn't, the impact isn't great. There's no price adjustment based on the current s/d levels, it only governs how much they can sell. There's certainly not much that is strategic or impactful. Here's the tracking chart. At the beginning, everything was at 6. If you buy from a small port, supply goes down. Same with selling to a large port.



I read a lot, and many games have trading/selling mechanisms, but I have not been able to find one that fits this situation well. So right now the money making through trade is rather dull. I hope you will have suggestions for a better system that involves some thought, sacrifices, more risk than having your cargo ship plundered by someone else, more strategy that "buy low, sell high"
 
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Bob Wilson
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violentzen wrote:
For some reason when I read your subject line I thought it said "hebrew pirate game."

I was oddly disappointed when I realized my mistake.


"Hebrew pirate game"... for a modern-day version, you could have them trade banquet-hall and entertainment bills for the money they spent on their kids' bar/bat mitzvahs.

I've worked many of these events in my time as an entertainment caricaturist, and let me tell you, in America, these are BIG productions...

But an ancient "Hebrew pirate game" would be very cool indeed. The coast of the Mediteranean off of what is present-day Israel... very cool. You could even have a once-in-game event of the water rising... player elimination by Great Flood! Would only leave one ship standing though... one about 40 cubits in length.
 
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Richard Hutnik
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How about trading provide the ability to build things in ports and do improvements?
 
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Mike Cooper
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How about putting supply and demand for each port on differentiated curves? Every round (or X time period), increase the demands at each port by 1, unless raided by a pirate, then increase by 2 (or some other factor) until someone a) defeats them/drives them off, or b) they clean out the stores.

If someone delivers a load to the port, decrease by the appropriate amount.

/not a statistician - work out your own curves.
 
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Antonio Chavez
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OK, at the risk of making the game fiddlier, I think this might work (or at least might give you a starting point).

Since you already have clearly established what are good "buying" and "selling" ports, go one step further and designate them as such. Then, after each round, add one good to every "selling" port, and retire one from each "buying" port. You can designate a maximum/minimum number for each, similar to what you have.

The price for each good would vary depending on how many there are available. Let me use an example.

An example. Say Barbados is a Selling port, with a Cloth value of 6. At the start, it would have 1 Cloth marker, that would have a price of 5 (6-1). If nobody buys it, next turn you add another one, and those Cloth markers would cost 4 each (6-2). You do this every turn, but the port can never accomodate more than 5.

Now, say Port Royale is a buying port, and give it a Cloth value of, say, 10. At first, it has nothing; when some enterprising pirate arrives to sell, say, 6 Cloths, he would collect 6*10=60. All 6 cloths would remain in Port Royale. A second pirate arriving right then with 2 cloths, would only be able to sell them at (10-6), or 4 a piece. At the end of each turn, a Cloth would disappear.

You can tweak the numbers to whatever you see fit. Also, you might change the appearing/disappering rate of goods (spice refill may be slower, for example).

I think it's not very complicated. Bit management may be fiddly, but then I like fiddly. And, as a bonus, you give a tactile feeling of "loading" and "unloading" the goods, as well as giving something physical to steal to those scurvy pirates.

Please, let me kow what you think.

 
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Richard:

I should improve the trading system before adding additional bits, but the wild islands are colonized and forts can be built on those, so there's some of that already.

 
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Antonio:

What we have right now is almost exactly as you described, except we don't adjust prices, just use the current supply/demand to determine the limits of how much can be bought/sold. Playtesting showed that:

a) supply and demand increasing 1 per turn is too fast and by the time anyone else arrives at the port, they both have increased quite a bit

b) even if a player arrives a few turns after another leaves, she can easily park a ship for a turn or two and wait for the levels to improve. The game is not that tight, in terms of using turns efficiently. This (unfortunately perhaps) is not a Euro style game where each turn players are sweating about their choices and each round squandered makes a big impact.

c) even if the above weren't true, there still wouldn't be much of a decision to make- it's easy to see where the goods are, so where you need to go is obvious. It would be nice if things turned into a race where players loaded up and tried to outrun another to the best port, but for that to happen two players need to buy similar cargo in similar ships and be at a similar distance from the best port to sell them at.

The challenge I am facing is not how to put more details into the process to make it richer, it's how to make it more exciting and maybe more strategic. Adjusting price will make it more interesting but I'm not sure if it'll make anyone think about the decisions they'll make and be tense.

Let me give an example- as I said there are various ships. The non-cargo ships all have a cargo space <= 6. In this game, players can add crew (a la Pirates otSM) which take up cargo space. And there are many useful crew types, both common and unique. So it's an "agonizing" decision on how many/who to hire as crew. Players often skip hiring someone because they want the cargo space for something else, and then wish they had that crew while they are sailing. That offers options and decisions which can have a pretty significant impact if the ship gets into a specific situation. Nothing of the sort happens with the cargo, and I don't like that. The tough decision is to go for trading or not, once the decision is made to do trading (vs piracy or exploring islands) what to buy and where to buy it from are pretty obvious. One only has to go through the motions. It may get exciting if another player likes their cargo and decides to attack them, but the excitement isn't in the trading.

I'm thinking I need a different approach or a new element for trading, but my mind can't let go of how I have been thinking about this for the last 6 months. But you are right, prices do need to vary, and should vary based on supply/demand if I keep that system. I don't like having to move counters on the s/d chart every turn though...
 
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Christopher Onstad
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I know the national ships are just for targets. But could you base the increase and decrease of supply and demand off of the movements of those ships? If the ships specialized in a cargo or something. That might help keep the supply and demand from resetting too quickly. It might provide for a tactic for players not just targetting the neutral ships, but perhaps protect some of them so that they can influence how the supply and demand fluctuates.

Also perhpas to keep interest in the Lumber and Cloth market, tie those commodities to ship repair after storms or battle. That way players would want to have at least some of the cheaper commodities when they sail "just in case" and could sell off the excess at a later time.
 
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Bren Mayhugh
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Have you checked out Smugglers of the Galaxy. Its system for trading goods might be what you are looking for (of course, that would make an 'ever changing board', but is that all that bad?). I'll explain simply here: there are 7 planet that are on the board at all time. Those planets have a resource size and a demand list. Once anything is sold to the planet, the planet 'disappears' from the board and a new planet is placed (all planets have exact places on the map that they go).

So, for your system, there will always be 6 national ports available (but not necessary 2 from each nation), but they will change about when a player sells any goods to them (or sacks the port). This keeps players constantly on the lookout for the best deals for selling goods (and keeps those small profitable runs from hurting the game).

One problem that I see is that what happens to the merchant ships when there isn't any of their national ports on the board. The easy fix is that if at any time, a nation has no ports on the board, the independent merchant ship is removed until a port is availible. Likewise, if there is only 1 port, the ship moves to it if it didn't start there. If it did start at the single port, it moves in a random direction until if moves off the map (and a new one ship starts at the port).

The second problem which my system is that the faster ships could deny the larger merchant ships the greater profits since they can move faster and can sell a single good (no matter which) at a port to make it disappear, but you said you wanted the feeling of a race...

Thoughts or questions?
-Bren
 
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Christopher:

Your first idea of the non-player ships traveling automatically between ports determine how/if supply/demand changes is tempting- can you elaborate some on that? I think it's easier to do for supply: A small port sells some goods to a player, goes low on supply and is only replenished if a NP ship successfully docks at it. The idea is desirable since it eliminates the players having to increase all supply levels by one at every round. Since I have these ships traveling between ports already, it's also easily doable. Two issues are: a) I wish attacking supply ships would be a tactical move for players to accomplish something, but I'm not seeing it (apart from attacking to get the cargo, but that's different). Forcing a continued low supply level at a small port does not accomplish much, except maybe make life harder for players focusing on trade. Hmm. Players focusing on piracy to make money could force trading players to actually protect the supply ships. It's a possibility. b) this idea doesn't affect the demand side of the coin in the big ports. After the big port buys much stuff, what do we do? Do we still reduce the stock at the big port by one at every turn (thus increasing demand back up)? I wish that could be worked similarly so that there wouldn't be this adjusting of s/d at every turn.

Your other idea is also interesting, but that's not really about the trade system, so I'll file that for later.
 
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Okay, not sure if this is workable or not, but: can you perhaps add a 'need' angle to the game? So that if certain islands/ports are not supplied regularly with certain goods (and not just spices), they become restless, or weak, or something unfavourable for the players? That way, there's a more strategic elements in taking goods, but also in supplying goods: which port do you support, what advantages does it gain you, etc.

The trick would lie in a timing mechanism, I think: how many turns can you allow to go past before the negative effects of a lack of trade in specific items starts having it's effects?

Just something of the top of my head.
 
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caltino wrote:
Christopher:

Your first idea of the non-player ships traveling automatically between ports determine how/if supply/demand changes is tempting- can you elaborate some on that? I think it's easier to do for supply: A small port sells some goods to a player, goes low on supply and is only replenished if a NP ship successfully docks at it. The idea is desirable since it eliminates the players having to increase all supply levels by one at every round. Since I have these ships traveling between ports already, it's also easily doable. Two issues are: a) I wish attacking supply ships would be a tactical move for players to accomplish something, but I'm not seeing it (apart from attacking to get the cargo, but that's different). Forcing a continued low supply level at a small port does not accomplish much, except maybe make life harder for players focusing on trade. Hmm. Players focusing on piracy to make money could force trading players to actually protect the supply ships. It's a possibility. b) this idea doesn't affect the demand side of the coin in the big ports. After the big port buys much stuff, what do we do? Do we still reduce the stock at the big port by one at every turn (thus increasing demand back up)? I wish that could be worked similarly so that there wouldn't be this adjusting of s/d at every turn.

Your other idea is also interesting, but that's not really about the trade system, so I'll file that for later.


Consider the fact that there were both pirates and privateers that attacked shipping. Simple piracy had a very immediate goal: the cargo on board the ship. Privateers operated with a different goal, although cargo was a certainly on their minds. They were often paid by one country to sink, loot or simply interdict another countries ships. Why? Because disrupting trade hurt the economy of the target nation.

So you already have the fact that attacking the ships will provide cargo, and as a side effect, if you adopt this new system the port that failed to receive goods will have lower supply, it should mean higher prices for the goods in question at that port as well. This may allow a player the tactical option of interdicting goods to a port for the purpose of driving prices up at that port prior to delivery of goods that they just *happen* to be shipping that way.

This creates the opportunity to obtain cargo as one benefit of piracy, and also allows you to control the prices of goods. Say there is a port you have goods to deliver to. It might be beneficial to attack supply ships heading to that port to drive the prices higher prior to making that delivery.
 
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Christopher Onstad
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Godeke wrote:



So you already have the fact that attacking the ships will provide cargo, and as a side effect, if you adopt this new system the port that failed to receive goods will have lower supply, it should mean higher prices for the goods in question at that port as well. This may allow a player the tactical option of interdicting goods to a port for the purpose of driving prices up at that port prior to delivery of goods that they just *happen* to be shipping that way.



This is along the lines I was originally thinking, and well phrased. (my way was more of a closed system that on further examination would not have worked well. so I like Godeke's better.)But, I think you could use this in combination with your turn based return to normal of the market base.

Instead of basing the shifting of the economy back to normal on turns. Use the national ships. Every time a port has a neutral (national? npc?) ship land at it, all of the ports of that nation gain one point in their pre-dominant characteristic. (supply or demand) This will allow a more gradual return to normal. The players will have an additional effect on the economy because if they mess with the shipping of a particular nation that nations economy will not have an opportunity to stabalize. And it will allow the economy to grow, if a nation is not interupted it's ports do well, and supply or deman can go beyond what they originally started with.

Don't know if that gets too complicated, or fidly. I just thought the ships make a good built in timer, and easier to keep track of than "every 5th turn" or something.
 
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Godeke and Christopher:

Please help me understand better-

Right now each nation has two ports: a small one that supplies, where prices are low, and a large one that demands, where prices are high. Currently, the scheme is to buy at a small port and take the goods to a large port. So there's no selling to a small port (because they would buy at the price they sold to you, resulting in no profit), and there's no buying from a large port (because they are expensive). Since currently prices do not change, there's no issue of buying all available goods from a small port, thus increasing the prices for it and selling it back to that port. You actually have to take the goods somewhere else, exposing yourself to risk, spending time and earning your pay.

Now, if, as you say,

"if you adopt this new system the port that failed to receive goods will have lower supply, it should mean higher prices for the goods in question at that port as well."

Does this mean that all ports will be buying and selling? Does it mean I should abandon the large/small port element? What if someone buys all cargo at a port, can they just turn around and sell it for a higher price since the supply is low? How would the prices change?

I read many many geeklists and made one of my own, and haven't seen anything that applies here. I'm sure I'm just missing it.

The second issue is this: there are four possible movements in trade: supply goes up, supply goes down, demand goes up, demand goes down.

Right now, we are thinking:
Supply goes up: when a non=player cargo ship arrives and unloads at a small port
Supply goes down: when a player ship buys cargo at a small port
Demand goes down: When a player ships sells cargo at a large port
Demand goes up: ?? (increase demand by one every turn? is there a better, non fiddly way?)

How can we gradually move demand back to high for large ports?

This is what I meant when in the original post I said that the original ideas have me boxed in- maybe I should give up the buy at small port/sell at large port system.
 
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Jacco:

Extended no trade affecting countries is a good idea, but can I track how long it has been since they bought/sold something without getting into many counters that have to be updated every turn? Any ideas?
 
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I don't want to give up on the national ships completely. But right now, I'm pretty much just as stuck as you are. (although I am certain there is a simple answer I'm not seeing. But as I went over the conversation again, I had another thought.

caltino wrote:


What I’ve tried
* I tried having a limit of buying at most 6 units of each commodity from each port. I made a chart where the current availability could be tracked. So a small port would have at most 6 units of lumber. Similarly, the large ports had a maximum demand of 6 units for each commodity, so you couldn’t sell more than 6 even if they none there. I thought this may make players think about what was currently in demand when they were buying items. The next question was, how would the supply and demand return to normal levels. I thought of moving the markers forward one spot at the beginning of each round- so every round, small ports would get one more of each commodity and large towns would use up one and demand would go up by one, all capped at 6. In play testing, this didn't have much impact, as by the time someone else visited the same port, more than likely 6 turns will have passed. Even if it hasn't, the impact isn't great. There's no price adjustment based on the current s/d levels, it only governs how much they can sell. There's certainly not much that is strategic or impactful. Here's the tracking chart. At the beginning, everything was at 6. If you buy from a small port, supply goes down. Same with selling to a large port.




What about if you use something along these lines, except not with everything being equal. Have the Demand start at different levels. And then as demand for 1 goes down, demand for another goes up. (If the port buys alot of spices, they demand more lumber. (say to add buildings to the port) As their lumber demands are met, they demand more cloth (to clothe the workers who have immegrated) as the cloth demand is met spices go up (to represent a new level of wealth.) So the demands at the ports would be constantly rotating as things were traded, and each demand port could start with a different demand.

For example:
Port Royale is a big demand port. It starts with Spice:6 Cloth 4 Lumber 2
player A comes along with 4 units of Spice. He sells his spice to The port, lowering the damand for spice down to 2. But raising the lumber rate along to 6.

Now Player B who was also heading to Port Royal is better off if she has cloth or lumber, but if she was hoping to sell spices, she might have trouble.

Or better yet, Player A has 3 untis of spice and 2 units of Lumber. He first sells his spices for a good price lowering the demand to 3 for the next spice merchant. But raises the lumber demand up two notches Does he now want to get rid of them here, or take the turns to find a better price.

Would this work for you? I am not sure how we would re-incorporate the national ships, but it would allow fluctuation in the ratios.
 
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First off, let me say that I have had (am still having) a very similar problem with Terra Prime. I have almost the same setup as you, but it's only on the Demand end - you get the goods some other way (collect off planets), and you deliver them for money and/or vps. Here are some of the problems I ran into...

I originally wanted the cash reward for delivering to go down with each good delivered, but that caused a real discrepency between one player and the next to deliver. I currently have it so that when you deliver, you put the goods in a boat, and when the boat fills up, it ships back to earth and those goods go right onto the Supply/Demand tracks. The S/D tracks have numbers on them indicating the price of the good, and as you cover those up, the price goes down (they pay you less because demand is less). But the same price is used for every good that goes on the boat, and there's space on the boat for several deliveries before it ships and changes demand.

Now, once the goods are on the S/D tracks, they need to be consumed. I wrestled with this a bit, and I currently have something I kinda like:
Each round Earth consumes ONE resource. 1 of each went way too fast, and other attempts were lousy, but just 1 resource seems to work. You choose the resource from the S/D track that's the most full, with ties broken in an arbitrary way.

Then with the tracks, I have different curves for price changes. There's 1 good that has a static price of 2, the next is like 4/4/3/3/3/3/2/2/1 or something, then next is 5/4/3/2/1 I think, and the last is 7/5/3/1.

I hope this thread helps you, and I hope it can help me with my similar problem!

caltino wrote:
Godeke and Christopher:

Please help me understand better-

Right now each nation has two ports: a small one that supplies, where prices are low, and a large one that demands, where prices are high. Currently, the scheme is to buy at a small port and take the goods to a large port. So there's no selling to a small port (because they would buy at the price they sold to you, resulting in no profit),

Well, can you not get goods for 'free' by attacking ships (players or NPCs)? If so, then it's interesting to have to choose whether to sell them for less here, or for more over there (presumably there's some cost involved in getting "over there"). If not, then what kind of pirate game is this, anyway?

Quote:
and there's no buying from a large port (because they are expensive).

If the goods were used in upgrades (rather than just money), then this might be a little more interesting as well.

Quote:
Since currently prices do not change, there's no issue of buying all available goods from a small port, thus increasing the prices for it and selling it back to that port.

You could limit the number available per turn... for example in Terra Prime, each planet only ever has 1 good to pick up, period. If it already has one, it doesn't produce. If it doesn't have one, then it produces one (on it's owner's turn). Anyone can pick it up (not just the owner), though the owner gets a vp if you take a good from his planet.

Quote:
Does this mean that all ports will be buying and selling? Does it mean I should abandon the large/small port element? What if someone buys all cargo at a port, can they just turn around and sell it for a higher price since the supply is low? How would the prices change?

I think it would likely be best to not have ports that strictly sell and buy. Ports never just bought things or just sold things. I would prefer to see some other mechanic to control supply/demand...

You could have ports only buy certain things... so each port buys A, and B, and sells C and D... but never buys A or B...

Or you could have each port buy and sell each thing, but a port won't buy something if it's already got it, and obviously won't sell if it doesn't. This might mean abstracting the amounts down to a "single shipment," removing the number of goods part of it. Might be a good abstraction if the trading isn't the main focus of the game (though it sounds like it probably is).

Maybe a player isn't allowed to both buy and sell at the same port - like once you buy you have to leave, and can't visit there until you visit another port or some such craziness. Or when you either buy or sell at a oprt, your boat teleports "home," meaning it's a trip to get back to that port again anyway- then it doesn't matter if they want to sell goods to the same place they got 'em from.

Quote:
The second issue is this: there are four possible movements in trade: supply goes up, supply goes down, demand goes up, demand goes down.

These should be related though, so there's really only 2. Price doesn't go up when demand goes down, that's just how supply and demand works. If a good is 'in supply', then the ports won't pay as much for it, and neither will their customers.

Quote:
How can we gradually move demand back to high for large ports?

I mentioned how I do it in my game. Another way might be to have demand be specific to each port. So if port A has a lot of good X, then it's cheap and they won't pay much for X. BUt port B needs X, so demand is high over there and they pay more for it. If you buy from A and sell to B then after that the situation reverses.

Oh, to keep people from buying and then selling right back, have the price change later, not right away. Like each round the price updates or something - so when you buy, the price doesn't really change (maybe they don't realise they're out of that good?), then later they're like "hey, we have no stuff... we need it!".

Quote:
This is what I meant when in the original post I said that the original ideas have me boxed in- maybe I should give up the buy at small port/sell at large port system.

I think the basica concept of 'buy at small port, sell at large port' is allright, but I htink you have to redefine what's a small port and what's a large port. If a single port could be sometimes one and sometimes the other, and/or be big with respect to one good and small with respect to another, then that sounds more interesting to me.
 
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Hi Mayday...

In this Merchants & Marauders session report http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/126823 you can see how we handled some of the same issues that you are facing now. We had lots, and lots of things on the table, some too simple, others way to complex. Our final take on it may not suit your liking at all, but it could maybe serve as inspiration regarding alterative solutions.

Here is the relevant extract:

Quote:
"What I found quite inventive about the game was the way trade was handled. At the start of the game each port is dealt a randomly chosen goods which is in demand. When you go into port and want to buy goods, you draw the top five Cargo-cards from the Cargo-deck. If the goods in demand is among the cards, the demand is met and the Goods counter is replaced by another randomly chosen. In this way trade is always fluctuating and you avoid the boredom of each port having the same demands. I haven't seen this before. Moreover, each Cargo-card has a basic cost of 3 Gold. If you among your five Cargo-cards find more of the same goods, goods of the same kind lower the cost of buying by 1. So, say you get three Tobacco-cards, each Tobacco-card would only cost you 1 Gold each. In this way, supply is also represented in an easy way."


Good luck with it arrrh

 
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Seth:

I think it is possible to have "cash reward for delivering to go down with each good delivered" but the price scales need to be set very carefully. When the game has prices between 1 and 7, each change makes a big difference. In my game the prices don't change (yet) but if I wanted them to, I think I would have the same problem. When the prices of a good falls from 4 to 1 (or vice versa) that's a 400% change. If there's a way to get that kind of an advantage, players will do whatever is necessary to get it and it may become an exercise in "gaming" the system rather than trading. If prices will fluctuate, it would be better to have them set originally at, say, 20 and adjust upto +/- 5. This would require scaling other costs, which can be done easily, I think.

In my game, the primary actions are in sailing, where people move their ships and fight, etc. Because of this, I am trying to limit the management of economic counters, trackers and modifications as much as possible, so that the game flows rather than freeze at the beginning of each round. If in Terra Prime you have less emphasis on the "action" and more on the economics, there's more room to work with. For example, San Juan uses the price schedules to vary prices- although they are random, there are only five of them and the changes are simple, so people can remember what kind of a price will be offered next time there's a sell phase and plan accordingly. This could be seen as economic cycles. You could use the idea to show how items are consumed and demand changes on Earth. So you could have different cards that show demand, a few of them so people can see the order and plan, and tie that tie to, say, seasons in Earth causing different consumptions in each period. This way you could consume more than one resource, but the cards can be set in such a way that the consumption is not too fast.

I'm trying to avoid moving markers at all so as not to halt the rounds, so this won't work for me, but it would work for a game that has more emphasis on trading. If I could have a natural way of adjusting markers every few turns instead of every turn, I would do that, but I don't want another counter counting for "every fourth turn."

Here's an idea that I had recently: If players are not trading at the moment (fighting/sailing instead) they are not interested in the current demand levels. Demand could be adjusted every time someone docks at a port. Instead of moving markers every turn, just use a die to count how many turns have passed since someone docked, and when someone does, adjust supply/demand levels based on that. I could even have a non-linear formula. This way, if it eventually turns out no one will dock at a port for many rounds and demand levels will max out at the ports, you avoid having to move markers every round. When someone eventually docks, it will be seen that demand is maxed out and there'll be only one "updating." If the formula is simple and people can see how many rounds have passed, they'll be able to estimate what the demand levels will be by the time they get anywhere.


I'm still thinking if there should be small ports that only sell and large ports that only buy. I don't think this is a problem historically, I think of the small ports as poor plantations that grow spices, cut lumber, etc but they have no use for them. I'll think more on that and come back with thoughts.

 
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Hmmm, I failed to subscribe to this thread, so I missed a few days of discussion.

Your questions can be answered in many ways, each method would create a different "flavor" to the economic system.

Running with the idea of "national" (non-player) ships that run on fixed trade lines, and considering as the goal the "normalization" of prices over time at all ports due to the running of these national ships, I think that the following factors should be considered. (Not knowing your design in detail, I'm going to invent my own mini-system. Feel free to use it, adapt it or sink it with a broadside of scorn).

First, the assumptions about trade goods:

1. There are multiple trade goods to sell.
2. Some trade goods are cheaper at colony ports (crops such as sugar).
3. Optional: Some trade goods are cheaper at city ports (manufactured and processed goods)

# Rational for these assumptions: having a buy low and sell high opportunity at each port builds in trade routes that players will want to follow.
# Clever placement of the buy low, sell high opportunities can make multi-port journeys valuable, instead of simple back and forth trips. Specifically, making each port have a different pair of primary trade goods (the goods with the best sell and buy prices) means players will want to make a few stops on several supply points and then several stops on the destination points instead of just back and forth between the supply and demand ports for a single good.
# To support the "large port, small port" model discussed, simply disregard point 3. Trade routes simply won't be profitable on the outbound voyage. According to my readings of the era, ships didn't leave for the colony (small ports) empty, but took manufactured goods that they colonies didn't have the infrastructure to create themselves. This was the far less glamorous part of trading and the goods rarely covered the costs of the outbound journey, but they did offset them somewhat. Thus, this step might be ignored in favor of the Hollywood version of this era and simply assume that the small ports are supply centers only.

Now we need to track the amount of trade goods at each location.

4. I will use the Eurogame colored cube obsession to solve tracking. Each port will produce or consume cubes each turn. At zero cubes, demand is at maximum, and the maximum price will be listed. At the maximum length of the track for that good, supply is at maximum and the price is at a minimum.
5. These tracks would be similar to the ones pictured in the original post, with the exception that cubes would fill the tracks from 0 to n where n is the maximum allowed. The first uncovered price would determine the price of the good (buy or sell) at that port.

It would look something like (buy/sell price, starting from box "zero supply" down).

7
7
6
6
5
4
3
3


Edit: Now that I look farther down, this appears to follow Seth's supply tracks, including the covering of the numbers.

Players will be moving goods around the board in search of profit, and each location will be either creating or consuming goods at some rate. But what rate? Assuming that we are going to use "national ships" that impact supply, the optimal rate of production and consumption is one that exactly mirrors the ability to move the goods around the board. What I mean by this is you will need to consider the supply centers for a good and the demand centers for a good. Let's make the following assumptions:

# "National ships" have the following information printed on them: the two ports they service, the good they transport from each and the amount of goods they carry.
# Upon arrival at a port, the good they carry that is in demand at the port is increased by the amount listed, and the good they carry that is supplied is depleted by the amount listed.
# If we make the amount of goods carried equal to the time it takes for the national ship to make the round trip, we have achieved equilibrium for the good in the long run, barring player activities.

As an example, say that the ship takes two turns to make one leg of the trip. The ship will be vulnerable for one turn each leg, and in port for one turn each leg. The round trip time is four turns, so the amount of good to increase/decrease at the port would be four.

Assuming the track above (and assuming this is a supply side track), this means a good would vary between "3" (right before the ship arrives to remove goods) and "5" (right after the ship leaves). The demand side track would do the same thing, just at the opposite end of the track.

By carefully arranging the national ships, the game would run in equilibrium if no players got involved. But we *want* players involved. Let's see how player interactions can affect the game.

The first aspect is that players can load goods onto their ships. If the player has to pay the cost of the good for each box they empty, the track acts as a self limiting agent: there is no value in buying the good at a price that you can't make a profit with. Timing also becomes important: arriving right after a national ship or another player has moved goods will limit profitability.

However, we have a problem: the goods are now being removed and we designed the national ships to create a steady state. The prices will now fluctuate at the new steady state created by the movement of the goods by the players.

This might not really be a problem though. Remember, we want to create an incentive to sink those national ships. The steady state they create is one such incentive: by sinking a national ship, the port will not receive the natural relief on supply or demand. So the reward for sinking a national ship is twofold. First, you get some reward in cargo (although not the entire ships supply I expect: most probably hits the ocean floor). Second, the port starts to swing to the stockpiled supply or crushing demand side of the track. (We will assume the ends of the track reflect trade that does get through via trade via ships not on the board when things get *too* tasty).

There are several tweaks to this system that will allow the balance to be set "just right":

# The amount of goods provided by the national ships may not create an exact equilibrium (maybe on extra good per trip) to somewhat account for the looting of said ships.
# The risk factor for attacking national ships should be high enough to account for the combined bonuses of "free" cargo and potential big bonuses in supplying the affected good. (Note in the later case that someone might beat you to the punch with goods of their own though).
# Likewise, an unbalanced port may make a good excuse for opponents to attack your ship: "free" cargo and a good price readily available. (Again, I would probably not allow the attacker to make off with all the cargo).
# The lengths and values of the track will seriously impact the flavor of the game. Longer tracks support ships with greater carrying capacity and subtler movement of prices. Shorter tracks will create wild fluctuations in prices.

Well, that's about it for now. I think the movement of national fleets and the addition/removal of cubes on the tracks each turn does create overhead. Proper design of the tracks should make the cubes in ports easy enough (just scoop up cubes from all the demand tracks and drop them on the supply tracks), but the national fleets probably need pre-printed paths with color/icon matched ships so it is just "pick up and move to the destination of the arrow". Longer paths (two turns at sea) will make the ships more vulnerable, and will make the fluctuation of the goods at the end wider (because it now takes 6 turns for a circuit). That could be offset with more ships, but that's yet more overhead: it is probably wiser to make longer tracks instead.

 
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Ooops. Some other unstated assumptions:

# The players have multiple ships: a single ship per player makes the opportunities for setting up the "sink the national ship and deliver goods" much more difficult and risky. With multiple ships, you can attack the national fleet before it reaches a destination and have a "peaceful" ship carrying the good impacted. If the attack fails, well, you still can deliver your goods.
# National ships are rebuilt when sunk at the port it departed from next turn. This will ensure that the imbalance of goods is maintained for the turn it is sunk, the turn it is rebuilt, and the turn it is at sea.

Although this is a trade system, the goal is to invite conflict:

# Players will want to attack national ships to manipulate the markets in their favor.
# Players will want to attack other players to gain access to the cargo they carry, deny the opponent a shipping opportunity and finally to cause them to pay whatever the rebuilding price is for destroyed ships.

 
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caltino wrote:
I think it is possible to have "cash reward for delivering to go down with each good delivered" but the price scales need to be set very carefully. When the game has prices between 1 and 7, each change makes a big difference... When the prices of a good falls from 4 to 1 (or vice versa) that's a 400% change.

You are absolutely right. That's exactly the problem I had. I suppose I could have scaled up the costs of things, like multiply everything by 10, then still have the goods change by only 1... but I really liked the simplicity of everything costing 1, 2, 3...

In retrospect, I might reconsider and try insreasing the cost of things. That way it takes a couple shipments to get enough money to buy stuff, rather than 1 shipment being enough to buy lots of stuff. Hmm...

Quote:
If there's a way to get that kind of an advantage, players will do whatever is necessary to get it and it may become an exercise in "gaming" the system rather than trading.

Even if they don't try to game the system, the game will be very imbalanced.

Quote:
You could use the idea to show how items are consumed and demand changes on Earth. So you could have different cards that show demand, a few of them so people can see the order and plan, and tie that tie to, say, seasons in Earth causing different consumptions in each period. This way you could consume more than one resource, but the cards can be set in such a way that the consumption is not too fast.

This is an interesting idea. I went with a simple algorythm because I wanted it to be the same all the time. You'd know that Yellow is in great supply, so you'd probably not want to bother getting Yellow - although you'd also know how long it'll take you to go get Yellow and bring it back, and you'll know how much it'll be worth by then (barring the ship filling up with other goods)...

I suppose it could be as simple as flipping a card, and the card indicates 1 or 2 types of goods, and that's what gets consumed. This could happen 1x/round as I have it now, or maybe when a player delivers goods (in which case it'd probably be a few goods that get consumed).

But my point is that I'm not too excited about adding components (in either my game or yours) in order to track.handle what or ow many goods are 'consumed'...

Quote:
I'm trying to avoid moving markers at all so as not to halt the rounds, so this won't work for me... Demand could be adjusted every time someone docks at a port. Instead of moving markers every turn, just use a die to count how many turns have passed since someone docked, and when someone does, adjust supply/demand levels based on that.

Adjusting the die each turn or round is the same as changing supply/demand stuff every round or turn... I don't see where that saves you any work (well, you have lots of little supply/demand tracks, so updating 1 die each round might be better than several tracks, but it's still an interruption).

Quote:
but it would work for a game that has more emphasis on trading. If I could have a natural way of adjusting markers every few turns instead of every turn, I would do that, but I don't want another counter counting for "every fourth turn."

Does your game already have a Start Player marker? If so, you could do the consumption on that player's turn. That's what I ended up doing. I don't have a rotating start player or anything, but I have consumption happen on the start player's turn, so it happens 1x/round (or every 3/4/5 turns, depending on numbre of players)

Quote:
I'm still thinking if there should be small ports that only sell and large ports that only buy. I don't think this is a problem historically, I think of the small ports as poor plantations that grow spices, cut lumber, etc but they have no use for them. I'll think more on that and come back with thoughts.

As I mentioned, the mechanic is sound, but I htink it's boring to have some spots that are "pickup" spots and some that are "dropoff" spots. Why not have all be both, but in a limited way?

"I'll buy A here, deliver it there, and while I'm there, I'll buy B, then I'll deliver B over there, saking a boat on the way - Oh, the boat had good A again... do I sell that along with B (for less money)? or do I head back to the first port for a better return?" Rather than just back and forth, back and forth.

Maybe each port would buy 1 good and sell one good, and there are three goods. Maybe you make 1 port that has every possible combination, then don't use them all each game, so some games one of the resources is more valuable or less valuable than the others just because of how the ports came out. Stuff like that.
 
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Godeke wrote:
Players will be moving goods around the board in search of profit, and each location will be either creating or consuming goods at some rate. But what rate? Assuming that we are going to use "national ships" that impact supply, the optimal rate of production and consumption is one that exactly mirrors the ability to move the goods around the board... [snip]

I think your idea is brilliant, and I love the thought of the little National ships moving back and forth 'fixing' supply and demand - the game keeping itself in a little equilibrium, barring the effects of the players![/q]
 
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There's so much good contributions in this thread, by all who posted, that I cannot keep up. I had some thought for the other posters as well, because all the ideas spark something off.

I'll reply later in detail, but I just wanted to say that all of Godeke's assumptions (except for the optional #3) are right (Players do have multiple ships, national ships do respawn once they arrive or are sunk, there are multiple products...)

One detail is that when a player attacks the ships of a nation, he becomes the enemy of that nation and can no longer dock at ports that belong to her. In addition to being thematic, this prevents players from plundering a cargo ship that left a port and selling that cargo to the same port. In the game, players balance the temptations of easy cargo with the fact that they can't be an enemy to everyone. They can go back to not being enemies when certain conditions are fulfilled, but most of the time, each player will be an enemy of at least one nation, two if they are focusing on piracy and attacking most merchant ships, three if they are suicidal (tortuga in the middle of the map welcomes everyone). This also cuts down on the number of ports they can sell to, which opens up the map and forces players to travel various routes that others may not, crossing paths instead of making the same rounds. In other words, the players become dissimilar and this adds variety to the game. The downside is multi-stop trips are harder to pull of, but I may still be able to enable that if I can figure out a good distribution of where each good is cheap and where it's in demand. Also note that the map is random- the locations of the ports/islands are fixed but where each port is random at the beginning of the game. I would give that up however, as I have changed most of the parameters of the game over the last 6 months.

My major goal in this effort at a new system is to introduce some strategy where previously all I had was a boring pick-up and deliver system that meant nothing to anyone else. If this system of non-player (national) ships managing supply/demand levels around the ports works, then it may accomplish the goal by allowing players to attack the shipping of a nation and forcing the player who relies on that nation for trade to worry about (thus defend) the poor ships. So although a player gains directly by sinking a national ship since he gets some "free" cargo, he will also gain indirectly by hurting someone else's trade flow. The indirect gain may be more significant since a pirate type ship doesn't have much cargo space and most of the cargo in the merchant ship isn't taken (unless he takes over the ship, which is another matter).

I wish there were more angles like this, then attacking national ships would become much more than hunting easy prey for cargo, and have serious implications for other players. Without elements like these, this game is fun, but there's no thinking, strategic planning or any sense of pressure or accomplishment.

Can you think of a way to use the influence points the players gain (by serving allied nations) to make an impact on trade?
 
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caltino wrote:
...

My major goal in this effort at a new system is to introduce some strategy where previously all I had was a boring pick-up and deliver system that meant nothing to anyone else. If this system of non-player (national) ships managing supply/demand levels around the ports works, then it may accomplish the goal by allowing players to attack the shipping of a nation and forcing the player who relies on that nation for trade to worry about (thus defend) the poor ships. So although a player gains directly by sinking a national ship since he gets some "free" cargo, he will also gain indirectly by hurting someone else's trade flow. The indirect gain may be more significant since a pirate type ship doesn't have much cargo space and most of the cargo in the merchant ship isn't taken (unless he takes over the ship, which is another matter).

I wish there were more angles like this, then attacking national ships would become much more than hunting easy prey for cargo, and have serious implications for other players. Without elements like these, this game is fun, but there's no thinking, strategic planning or any sense of pressure or accomplishment.

Can you think of a way to use the influence points the players gain (by serving allied nations) to make an impact on trade?


Real pirates that became a problem had a bounty placed on their head, often multiple bounties by multiple nations if they were a real annoyance. One possible bounty system:

1. The individual ships that sink national ships gain bounty tokens of that nationality. Maybe just one per ship sunk, maybe several depending on the value of the ship sunk (the amount of cargo it transfered, for example).
2. When a player sinks an enemy ship that has bounty tokens, they may take those tokens to the appropriate national ports for the reward. Each token should be worth a fixed amount, with perhaps an additional bonus for turning sets of N tokens at once.
3. Obviously docking at an enemy nation isn't an option, so I would suggest that such bounty tokens are simply lost. Yes, they are thrilled you took that thorn out of your side, but they still want you dead too.

Another alternative is for the player himself to have the tokens assigned to him when his ships sink national ships, and any ship from that player would be worth a percentage of the tokens the player has.

At this point I would see the following strategic options:

1. Trade as my primary strategy: I must time my journeys to those of the national fleets as well as the other players, while avoiding combat worthy opponents.
2. Piracy as my primary strategy: As the scourge of the sea, I don't buy goods, I take them. I need to be wary though as the bounties mount and I make more enemies my options narrow.
3. Bounty hunter as my primary strategy: I'm on the lookout for those low life scum while making a few deliveries to tide me over between hunts.

Another idea:

Your existing "enemies" system makes it easy to implement Letters of Marque: an extra bounty that would be paid out on sunk enemies of the nation you obtained the letter from.

Additionally, perhaps while carrying a Letter of Marque, you could assign a player ship to escort national ships for a fee on safe arrival based on the port to port travel time.

I suspect the best possible design will force the players to adapt from one strategy to another as the situation changes on the board. However, the various roles makes me thing it might be wise to have some variance in the capabilities of the ship a player uses: merchant vessels, war ships and blended designs so a player might be doing all of the above, just with different ships.

Have fun with the ideas, I look forward to more information about the game!
 
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