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Subject: Economic game problems rss

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Christopher Todesco
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I haven't played many games that include a market economy mechanic, but I rapidly find myself designing one... I'm wondering what pitfalls I will run into so I can head them off now during early deign. For instance, I can see that there could be a big runaway first player problem-- the more money the players get, the more money they can invest. I'd counter that with adding a lot more risk, but I fear the game would become too random to be a good game. Can anyone suggest economic games that either have or have solved these problems?
 
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Mark Montreuil
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If players will have an advantage based on turn order, you can mitigate it by giving players that start later more money, as happens in game such as Nexus Ops. You can also limit the amount that a player can buy on his or her first turn to allow each player a chance at starting resources or commodities.

The tricky part is balancing an essentially closed economic system well enough that it plays well without stifling the fun.

I like the Power Grid solution, where turn order is inverse to game position, so that players who are doing "better" have to pay more for the commodities that they want to buy, if they are even available.

Mark

 
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Pretender to the Throne of Alsace-Lorraine
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I'm not well-versed enough in boardgame design theory to say how/whether it attempts to solve a runaway leader problem, but you could take a look at Container for a game where players alone run all aspects of an economy: production, pricing, transport and resale
 
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Tim Seitz
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magicmarcus wrote:
For instance, I can see that there could be a big runaway first player problem-- the more money the players get, the more money they can invest.

Dominion handles this nicely through its deck building mechanic. As the "rich" get VPs, they have a harder time with future turns.

Agricola does this, a little less successfully, with food requirements. You need more food as you grow your family.
 
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castiglione
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You could develop a game where each player controls a country developing an economy.

Free market economies work efficiently when the underlying civilization is operating at a subsistence level but once wealth begins to accumulate, inefficiencies begin to creep in (how do you objectively price a luxury?), i.e. in a poor economy, prices for necessities like food, shelter, etc. are efficiently priced since inefficiencies result in death...in a rich economy, inefficiencies creep in because inefficiently priced items won't result in deaths.

If you make a game based on this, there, therefore, a built-in obstacle to a "run-away-first-player" problem; the richer (winning) players will face more and more inefficiencies as consumer whims/foibles more than free market forces begin to determine the value of goods (most of which will be luxuries).
 
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Tim Seitz
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ced1106 wrote:
For mutual funds, having more money is a disadvantage.

That seems pretty simplistic to me. It's a bit more complicated than that, and it largely depends on your perspective.

For an investor, fund size might limit optimal moves and reduce overall return.

But for a fund manager, more funds = more fees and a quicker retirement. Also, a certain threshold size helps with attracting new investors. Finally, at a certain point, size wields undue influence as you can exert board pressure and influence management decisions.

 
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The Stock Market Game has a timer where all bids can be adjusted by players until the timer runs out. Not the best game but an interesting mechanic.
 
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Greg Jones
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Age of Steam is another economic game to look at with a leader-balancing mechanism. Every round, all players move back a little on the income track. The higher your income, the more you move back. During the round, you try to increase your income. The players with more money will have a better chance at this, but they also have more of a setback to overcome.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Preußische Ostbahn takes perhaps the most interesting approach I've seen yet: the higher your income the lower the maximum number of turns you may get per round and the lower the probability you'll get any turns at all. It is steadily growing on me. On first play I rated it an 8. Now half a dozen games later it is clearly worth at least a 9. I won't be surprised if it joins Wabash Cannonball and Pampas Railroads at 9.5 at this rate, though I'm not ready to commit to that yet.
 
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Christopher Todesco
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ced1106 wrote:
What sort of economic model are you using?


Sorry I didn't elaborate much, I was at work and was getting ready to leave for the weekend... but I wanted to at least pose the question initially to have some discussion waiting for me when I got back.

The game is more based on the players taking the role of retail operators, purchasing consumable goods from a limited number of distributors and selling to customers. So supply and demand is going to be key. Cards will bring random events that will effect supply and demand, forcing the players to adapt to the changing market.

(Think like food cart vendors, although I hesitate to lock this discussion on to one particular theme because I wanted to discuss the pure market mechanics without introducing the limitations and special requirements of one particular sector.)
 
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