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Subject: Is there not enough money in the stream of commerce? rss

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Robert Carroll
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I have played a few 3 player games and there does not appear to be enough money in the stream of commerce. With only 2 loans per person, the pool of available money seems to be very limited. All three players ran into money-crunch situations rather early--which greatly slowed the pace of the game. Part was probably due to expanding too fast. However, we all thought that the limited pool of money was a big contributor as well and believe it was TOO limited. Has anyone else had this experience? Your thoughts? Thanks.
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J C Lawrence
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Nap16 wrote:
I have played a few 3 player games and there does not appear to be enough money in the stream of commerce. With only 2 loans per person, the pool of available money seems to be very limited. All three players ran into money-crunch situations rather early--which greatly slowed the pace of the game. Part was probably due to expanding too fast. However, we all thought that the limited pool of money was a big contributor as well and believe it was TOO limited. Has anyone else had this experience?


The answer is fairly simple: Build less infrastructure (factories and warehouses) and build it more slowly. Run single and double container loads to the island for (much) longer. Use that as a money pump to inject a few score or even hundreds of dollars into the game before accelerating into larger infrastructure purchases.
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Dave Eisen
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Sometimes easier said than done.

Last play was a 3-player game. Two players had each taken two loans out. The other player started passing every turn instead of taking any actions in order to force the two indebted players to pay off their $2 per round interest without getting any more money in. Pricing all goods for $1 didn't change that, letting the two players death spiral to no money and then no containers was just too powerful.

One of the two had in fact bought too much infrastructure too early. The other, not so much. But when he brought containers to the island the other players were bidding $1 or $2 for them. I suppose selling them there for a loss was the right answer, but instead he (well, me) bought them himself and drove himself broke in the process.

I'm not sure Container is the game for me.
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J C Lawrence
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dkeisen wrote:
Last play was a 3-player game. Two players had each taken two loans out.


Yeah, one loan isn't so dangerous, but two loans are potentially lethal if you are not certain you pay one or both of them off with a turn or two.

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The other player started passing every turn instead of taking any actions in order to force the two indebted players to pay off their $2 per round interest without getting any more money in. Pricing all goods for $1 didn't change that, letting the two players death spiral to no money and then no containers was just too powerful.


Except for the point that the third player needs the other two player's explicit cooperation in order to run the game out of cubes to end the game. Bankrupting the other players is phyrric. I'd argue in fact that bankrupting ANY player in Container is phyrric. This is probably my largest single realisation about Container to date: The player that wins is not only the player that most successfully finds and serves underserved markets, but also the player that cooperates most effectively with the other players. In Randy Farmer's language, this is a coopetition game. At core the game rewards three things:

1) Selling things in your factory that other players want to buy and you (may) want on the island

2) Buying things from other's factories that other players want on the island

3) Shipping things to the island that other players want

Each one of those sub-goals includes the incentivised cooperation, or even emergent collusion, of the other players.

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One of the two had in fact bought too much infrastructure too early. The other, not so much. But when he brought containers to the island the other players were bidding $1 or $2 for them. I suppose selling them there for a loss was the right answer, but instead he (well, me) bought them himself and drove himself broke in the process.


Oops. Yeah, Container is not a negative or zero sum game. If players exercise the zero-sum muscles that almost every other game has encouraged and rewarded, the game will fail. Most aspects of the game are positive sum.

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I'm not sure Container is the game for me.


Bugger. I'm liking it and liking it a lot. Not Wabash Cannonball level liking, but an easy 8.5 rating that kinda wants to be a 9 but will likely never make it.

After additional plays with all the player counts I think 4 or 5 players are clearly the best player counts for the game, probably with a slight nod to 4 players. 3 works, but is far from ideal and has odd binding issues in the container value distribution and money flow.
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Kevin Nesbitt
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dkeisen wrote:
Sometimes easier said than done.

Last play was a 3-player game. Two players had each taken two loans out. The other player started passing every turn instead of taking any actions in order to force the two indebted players to pay off their $2 per round interest without getting any more money in. Pricing all goods for $1 didn't change that, letting the two players death spiral to no money and then no containers was just too powerful.

One of the two had in fact bought too much infrastructure too early. The other, not so much. But when he brought containers to the island the other players were bidding $1 or $2 for them. I suppose selling them there for a loss was the right answer, but instead he (well, me) bought them himself and drove himself broke in the process.

I'm not sure Container is the game for me.


What were the other 2 players doing that they couldn't generate any money between themselves? If the answer is: "They had no money" then they've WAY overspent on infrastructure, given that they've exhausted their two loans.

Additionally, it sounds like you may have been playing without the beginner variant, which generally protects players from cash shortages or interest drains. If you didn't play with that rule, you certainly should.
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Chris Farrell
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What I tell people is that they have to do the math on the interest payments. The margins are tight in this game, in that you may only be making a buck or two on each transaction, but it's not *that* tight.

If you take a loan to buy a $9 factory, say, how long will that factory take to pay for itself? Are you going to sell that good every turn? Not likely. If you sell a good for $3 once every 2 turns, you'll make $1 every other turn after interest. So 18 turns to recoup you cost. The interest cost is much larger than what it looks like on paper - without the loan you're money ahead after 6 turns or so, so the interest drain was huge. If you factor in the cost to operate, the loan looks even worse.

Because margins are small in the game, loans to buy infrastructure are almost never worth it. Again, the interest is a lot more expensive than it might seem once you actually do a cursory run of the numbers.
 
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J C Lawrence
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cfarrell wrote:
Because margins are small in the game...


Our margins have not been that small. This is of course purely a groupthink item at this point, but factory prices have tended to settle somewhere between $2 and $4 with just under $3 being average, and warehouse prices between $4 and $5 with $4 being the most common. This affords the 4 factory player a profit of $11 per production action and the warehouse player a profit of ~$5. The difference is that warehouse players can largely assume that they will fill/empty on every circuit, but warehouse players do not get quite that level of efficiency. The result is that factory players seem to make around an average of $8/round profits versus warehouse making a steady $5/round. 4 factories cost $27 (6+9+12), giving 3.4 iterations to pay off the sunk costs. 5 warehouses cost $22 (4+5+6+7), giving 4.5 iterations to pay off the sunk costs. I'm not sure that the payment rate disparity is justifiable, but I suspect that warehouse's general lack of needing a loan (and thus interest to fund) plus earlier and (for us) more reliably consistent return evens out that extra turn needed for repayment.
 
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Tim Seitz
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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WOW. That's some big groupthink. Our prices tend to be much lower, which increases rewards to shipping, which means everyone focuses on shipping.
 
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J C Lawrence
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out4blood wrote:
WOW. That's some big groupthink.


It is breaking. See:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1990387#1990387

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Our prices tend to be much lower, which increases rewards to shipping, which means everyone focuses on shipping.


In short I made more money from factory sales than any player made from shipping. Of the three profit centres, warehouses were screwed. I see no reason that all three of the basic profit centres (factory pool, warehouse pool, auctions) need be more or less net profitable than any of the others.
 
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Tim Seitz
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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In short I made more money from factory sales than any player made from shipping. Of the three profit centres, warehouses were screwed. I see no reason that all three of the basic profit centres (factory pool, warehouse pool, auctions) need be more or less net profitable than any of the others.[/q]

In theory all of them should be roughly equivalent. I think the blind bidding aspect has the potential to create disproportionate returns to shipping, as only one of the competitors has to over-value the lot. I won a previous game on the last turn, as a lot went for a bid of 16! That bidder came in last, and I ended up winning by a few points. Talk about kingmaking!

Factory production would be the next candidate, particularly if someone gets a large number of factories and no one else competes with them to lower prices. There's the potential to make 15 points on a turn (produce and sell 4 @ 4) which is absurdly high, but then the buyer can't turn around and recoup that selling at the warehouse.

Most of our factory goods sell at 2-3, which usually translates as ~5 profit per production action, based on the number of factories.

My typical "strategy," if it can be called that, is to buy up the factory goods I want at the island, and then tactically price them cheaply at the harbor, so that I encourage the lots I want. I don't make much profit selling at the harbor (+1 or 2 per good at most), but I get a lot of shippers coming to my harbor, and I make a LOT (+10 or so) when I buy them at the island!
 
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J C Lawrence
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out4blood wrote:
In theory all of them should be roughly equivalent.


I'm finding that theory is increasingly approaching practice the more I play.

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I think the blind bidding aspect has the potential to create disproportionate returns to shipping, as only one of the competitors has to over-value the lot.


Shipping takes 4 actions. Don't forget to divide your returns appropriately.

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I won a previous game on the last turn, as a lot went for a bid of 16!


Typical bid patterns here:

Single container: $5-$8
Two containers: $8-$14
Three containers: $12-20
Four containers: $18-$25
Five containers: $24-$32

Quote:
Factory production would be the next candidate, particularly if someone gets a large number of factories and no one else competes with them to lower prices. There's the potential to make 15 points on a turn (produce and sell 4 @ 4) which is absurdly high, but then the buyer can't turn around and recoup that selling at the warehouse.


True, but they can price at $6 which should give even the most clueless the idea that something is afoot.

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Most of our factory goods sell at 2-3, which usually translates as ~5 profit per production action, based on the number of factories.


While the pattern is evolving it seems to be settling towards:

Factory: $2.5 ($9 profit)
Warehouse: $4.25 ($7 profit)
Then container bids are as described above.

Quote:
My typical "strategy," if it can be called that, is to buy up the factory goods I want at the island, and then tactically price them cheaply at the harbor, so that I encourage the lots I want. I don't make much profit selling at the harbor (+1 or 2 per good at most), but I get a lot of shippers coming to my harbor, and I make a LOT (+10 or so) when I buy them at the island!


So far I play a very adaptive game. I'd still like to try a no-containers-on-the-island strategy, which I've seen work twice, but so far none of the games I've been in lately have leant themselves tot hat approach. The very large drain on cash liquidity of that approach significantly changes the game.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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clearclaw wrote:
Typical bid patterns here:

Single container: $5-$8
Two containers: $8-$14
Three containers: $12-20
Four containers: $18-$25
Five containers: $24-$32


Perhaps a bit less at the very start when money is tighter.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Nope, $5-$8 are the early/start game bids. There's too much value to getting money into the economy then to bid low.

One of the odd things about Container is that there's an actual positive value for over-bidding before the end-game and most especially in the early game. By bidding high extra money is injected into the game, money which has no other outlet but to be spent on the other players or less often and less so on infrastructure. Much of it, especially as the mid-game approaches, will be spent on the other players, including you in your markets and auctions. It is a tide that floats your boat as well. It has gotten to the point where we now only have only a couple deliveries of single or double containers, lurching almost immediately into triples and quad-container lots due to the fire-hose of bid-driven money coming into the game. Another nice aspect of this accelerated money growth game pattern is that the strategy of going for all cash and no containers on the island becomes increasingly viable.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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clearclaw wrote:
Nope, $5-$8 are the early/start game bids. There's too much value to getting money into the economy then to bid low.

One of the odd things about Container is that there's an actual positive value for over-bidding before the end-game and most especially in the early game. By bidding high extra money is injected into the game, money which has no other outlet but to be spent on the other players or less often and less so on infrastructure. Much of it, especially as the mid-game approaches, will be spent on the other players, including you in your markets and auctions.

Have you ever come across the situation where the first player to get to the island and sell containers to the overbidding guy (who expects that money to get filtered back to himself) - just takes the windfall and buys a factory or something, leaving the game in about the state as it was before the overbid, but with him at an advantage?

Seems like an early overbid might be just funding someone's infrastructure... depending on what the player does with that cash. And to me, it seems more attractive to buy infrastructure with it than to 'double down' and overbid on the next boat...
 
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sedjtroll wrote:
Have you ever come across the situation where the first player to get to the island and sell containers to the overbidding guy (who expects that money to get filtered back to himself) - just takes the windfall and buys a factory or something, leaving the game in about the state as it was before the overbid, but with him at an advantage?


Absolutely and I don't see that as a problem. I now have more goods to buy for my warehouse, or if someone else is warehousing, more goods for my ship. In both cases I've increased my profit potential AND now have valuable containers on the island.

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Seems like an early overbid might be just funding someone's infrastructure... depending on what the player does with that cash. And to me, it seems more attractive to buy infrastructure with it than to 'double down' and overbid on the next boat...


Only if the other players have enough cash to pay for that new infrastructure by transacting with you (enough). there's no value in buying the N'th factory or warehouse if the basic capacity isn't there, or just about to be there in the rest of the system.
 
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