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Subject: Industrial Revolution Trading Game With Binding Promises rss

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Peter Vrabel
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In quite a few games with negotiation and trading there's a rule that says something on the lines of "You can make trades that include promises to do certain things in the future, but these promises are not binding." That always struck me as a bit disapointing, because almost no-one ever makes trades like that. We just don't trust our fellow gamers. (And with good reason, they're all heartless bastards).

But what if promises were binding? What would happen?

In the game I'm currently desinging, players are industrial- revolution-era capitalists. They build factories that produce raw materials, railway networks that transport resources, and factories that turn these raw materials into goods that can actually be sold to the market.

The idea behind the game is that no player can build up the entire production chain themselves. (Or, if they try, they can't do it as efficiently as everyone else). So players have to work together, by trading with each other. In fact, trading is the main focus of the game, and should take up most of the play time.

I was partially inspiried by Wealth of Nations, but the trading in that game wasn't especially interesting, because there was a Power grid style market that told you what the price for each good should be, and there was no point in deviating from that. In this game the resource supply is completely player driven. If no-one but you produces coal, you can make other players pay through the nose for your coal. You can do this because the only pricing rule is "Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it"*.

As it stands the rules say you can trade anything for anything. You can trade goods for money. You can trade money to have other players efficiently transport your goods across your map. You can sell your factories. You can sell the rights to use your railways to other players. You can sell your technologies to other players. You've got a lot of freedom.

But I want to give the players more freedom. I want them to be able to say things like: "I'll give you £5 now, if you'll give me four coal cubes next turn." or "If you give me £10 now, I'll give you £15 in two turns." or "I'll give you a steel cube now, if you agree to sell me 4 ore cubes for £12 ever turn from now on."

These obviously won't work if the rules state that promises aren't binding. Because people are treacherous scumbags. But that doesn't make thematic sense. In this time period there was an established legal system, and if someone violated your contracts, you could drag them off to court.

So we have to make contracts enforceable. I can think of two way to do this.

1. The rules say "You must fulfill your promises." But what if you play in such a way that you can't? The rules would have to say "It is illegal to act in a way that prevent you from fulfilling your promises." But if it's someone else's fault? This could get complicated quite quickly.

2. The rules say "If you are unable or unwilling to fulfill your contract you must pay the other party £20, and the contract will be dissolved." Then you'd have to add rules saying there could be a larger breach of contract penalty if both sides agree, for very large contracts.

Anyway, this is probably not very important. Although I've done multiple solo playtests**, I've not got around to showing it to other people, so I don't know if they'll even bother with complicated stuff like this. It's not the sort of thing I can do when playing against myself. Doing simple resources-for-money trades is hard enough. "Hmm, can I screw myself over a lot by making me pay myself £5 a coal, cube. Or would I consider that to unfair, after all, it would give me a significant advantage over myself."

I don't really have a question. So I'll simply say:

Binding promises. Discuss.

(I'm not sure wether I should call them 'promises', 'agreements' or 'contracts'.)

*I was convinced Adam Smith said that, but it's much older: Publilius Syrus (~100 BC).

**These are essential. In the earliest versions, everyone would inevitably debt spiral out of existence by turn three. Later on you could make money, but not enough. You'd be have been better off doing absolutely nothing all game, which would probably let you win. I fixed that, and then the problem was that you could be almost completely self-sufficient. That made for very uninteresting trading phases.
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Joe Mucchiello
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The real problem here is you would need to write them down and if there is a "contract dispute" who would become the judge for how to interpret the contract. You can't use the other players as judge(s) since they can often benefit from favoring one or the other party. Unless you limit the scope of what a promise can contain (and then provide promissory notes containing those conditions as part of the game) I could see many games screeching to a halt over a contract dispute.
 
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Andrew Tullsen
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"I'll give you £5 now, if you'll give me four coal cubes next turn"
Do you have to transport these goods to the person? Cause that would be interesting if you had to do that.

A problem with trying "force" cooperation through trading, is what if some people just DON'T want to trade. They would rather build everything themselves, and much less efficiently.

Also, the point Joe made is good. People will always try too look for loopholes in what they say they will do. So you need to clearly define what your trade will entail.
 
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David Sharrock
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It's a great place to look for innovation, but, as you say, it is fraught with problems simply because it's a game and therefore a simplified model of a real-world system.

I'd go with the previous poster's suggestion and look at limiting what can be promised (perhaps you can give some sort of token to the other player to signify that you are going to give them that many of whatever for that amount for whatever time period etc). If you don't then you can't make rules for it, and most people want to play games, not put in the brainache of having to come up with rules on the fly, that's what we're here for :-)

I'd also wonder about the idea of there being no fixed prices. I can see where you're heading but I'd be really worried about players grabbing monopolies and holding others to ransom. Look at what that sort of price-mongering play can do to a game like Container. I'd wonder whether you should look to have some sort of outside influence that players can buy to/sell from, but at a high cost to their bottom lines (even something as simple as the market's in Brass helps keep the game moving). This also means that players can pursue their own strategies without having to rely on some other player taking the responsible path and filling in that hole in the supply/demand flow to keep the game moving. (This is where WoN does do well by handing out the industries at the start, ensuring that there is a working economy).

Anyway, to go back to the point, I really think that you should keep looking into this area of packs and promises. It is a really hard thing to work through without resorting to implementing a full legal system in your rule book, but it would be a great new thing if someone could crack it!
 
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Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame lets you trade resources. Resources are cities, and they produce more if they are bigger. So trading a "size 4" diamond is going to hurt more than trading a "size 1" diamond.
So you give them the city card and they benefit from the monopoly that they get from it, and from the city size. This is usually done by one person getting the monopoly, and then paying the other people who gave them the cards to get the monopoly on the next trading round.
All the resources get you "money" - there isn't any difference between diamonds and wine resources - each get you "money" in the production stage.
 
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Mike Jones
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I believe that Supremacy: Field Marshall's Handbook had trading with 'future' promises that were binding. I seem to remember they went so far as to have a 'contract' that could be copied and filled in.
 
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Peter Vrabel
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Howitzer_120mm wrote:
"I'll give you £5 now, if you'll give me four coal cubes next turn"
Do you have to transport these goods to the person? Cause that would be interesting if you had to do that.


Sort of. The game tracks both the location of the cubes and their owners. Each location (Which can contain multiple buildings) is divided into four quarters, and which quarter a building or cube is in determines who owns it.

So if you say "I'll give you £5 now, if you'll give me four coal cubes next turn", then all the other guy has to do is move four coal cubes from their quarter to your quarter. You'll then have to transport them to wherever you want them. If the other guy is a jerk, they'll give you four coal cubes spread out across different locations, which makes it awkward to transport.

Or you could say "I'll give you £5 now, if you'll give me four coal cubes in London next turn" Then your trading partner will have to do the transporting, and you'll probably have to give them more than if you took the other option.


Quote:

A problem with trying "force" cooperation through trading, is what if some people just DON'T want to trade. They would rather build everything themselves, and much less efficiently.


In Settles of Catan you're sufficiently restricted in what you can produce, so you're forced to trade with other players to accomplish anything. I was thinking about having a card system like Brass: Lancashire that would restict what type of factories you could build where. This inflexibility would probably force more trading.

But I decided against it. I wanted to keep the game system simple so that people could focus on the trading. I also wanted people to have the freedom to build what they want, I wanted it to feel more like 'real life' rather than a contrived eurogame.

So if we have the freedom to attempt to build the entire production chain ourselves, what's going to stop someone trying just that? If we can't force people to trade, we're going to have to strongly encourage it. I've tried to do this by giving the game 'econmies of scale', it's more efficient to transport cubes four at a time rather than one by one. There's also technologies, that make you better at doing a certain thing (They might increase the capacity of your coal mine, or make steel production cheaper.) These rules should mean that anyone who tries to go-it-alone will lose.

I think I'll just have to accept that people who don't like trading won't like this game. The same way that people who don't like abstracts won't like Chess of Go.

Quote:

Also, the point Joe made is good. People will always try too look for loopholes in what they say they will do. So you need to clearly define what your trade will entail.


That's true. I sort of like the idea of writing precise contracts, but that would probably take up too much time and effort. Not to mention all the rules lawyering that will occur.

I could probably restrict contracts to be of the following form without losing too much. Most of the time, this should cover what you'd want to do.

"Now: I give you ______ and you give me _______.
On turns _ to _ : I give you ____ and you give me _____.

If I am unable or unwilling to do as this says, I pay you £__ and the contract is dissolved. If you are unable or unwilling to do as this says, you pay me £__ and the contract is dissolved."
 
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Peter Vrabel
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Earl_G wrote:
...

I'd also wonder about the idea of there being no fixed prices. I can see where you're heading but I'd be really worried about players grabbing monopolies and holding others to ransom. Look at what that sort of price-mongering play can do to a game like Container. I'd wonder whether you should look to have some sort of outside influence that players can buy to/sell from, but at a high cost to their bottom lines (even something as simple as the market's in Brass helps keep the game moving). This also means that players can pursue their own strategies without having to rely on some other player taking the responsible path and filling in that hole in the supply/demand flow to keep the game moving.


That was a problem is some of the earlier versions, but the addition of a few rules will hopefully have fixed that.

The first thing is that there's an incentive to expand into under supplied markets. If not enough coal is being produced, any coal you produce will almost certainly get sold, and you can probably sell if for more than the 'nomral' price. Since breaking into a new market is relativly cheap, there shouldn't be a significant shortage of any resource for too long.

In the earlier versions, you needed bricks to build buildings, and these bricks have to come from a brick factory. If no-one built any brick factories at the start, the game could grind to a halt immediately. To fix this is made it so you could build factories with money as well, albeit at a signifcantly increased cost.

There has to be some way of quickly of shifting production to meet demand. I introduced another rule that said you could spend some resources to retool your factories, and turn they into a different type, for less that building a new set of factories.

Finally, I introduced the idea of resource loans, to prevent the entire economy seizing up. You gain a small amount of resources now, you have to pay interest on them everyturn until you return the same amount of resources to the supply. This does the same sort of thing as having an external market to buy/sell from, but without imposing any 'artificial' boundries on thr price.

(I'm toying with the idea of removing the 'build a factory with money instead of bricks' rule, and replacing it with the idea of 'brick loans' from outside the system.)

(I wanted to restrict the usage of resource loans to emergencies, So I added the rule that you can only ever own two resource loans, wether they're paid off or not.)

Quote:

(This is where WoN does do well by handing out the industries at the start, ensuring that there is a working economy).
...


That's an interesting idea. Currently, everyone starts off with a big pile of bricks, and can build whatever they want. But it might be better if everyone started off with a different set of factories (Enough to get the game started) and a few extra bricks.

EDIT: What does everyone think of the name "Invisible Hand" (As in "Invisible hand of the market) for this game. I think it's stupid, but I can't think of a better one.

EDIT: I'm working on a rules-summary-thing (No point in writing formal rules when I'm not finished with them). Does anyone want to see it?
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I'm trying to think of games where future promises are likely to be made. I've got:

* Bohnanza. This happens mainly when you gift a bean you'd be forced to plant, but negotiate something back later. But this might be poor play on behalf of the player who would otherwise be getting a free bean - unless there are 2 players competing for a that bean. Note that the promise made might not be possible to fulfil (they never draw the right bean).

* Junta. You can "bribe" players, but they don't have to do anything.

* Monopoly. I remember people doing deals over temporary rent immunity and stuff. I can't remember if it worked well or not. (Over 5 years ago since I even played it).

* Multi-player war games (alliances). But this is often accompanied by a back stab or unilateral dissolution of the alliance, with no in game penalty.

I think players make promises based on their reputation. If I played a lot of Settlers and frequntly tricked players by not giving anything back, then very quickly everyone would learn not to trust Paul - and this would likely carry over into other games. In a tournament setting (with strangers), players probably would not make future deals.

Do you think your game will be heavily dependant on future deals, or are you just including it because you want it to be possible? Usually I prefer to wait, because I can't know what state the game will be in a few turns time and if I still want the deal. You cost yourself flexibilty by locking yourself into a series of moves.

Will the game have that much look-ahead? Without serious constraints on what actions players can do, there is a possibility for a lot of look-ahead and AP (big decision tree).

I agree it is better if a future deal is formally enforcable, probably write it down on a post it note. Either

1. The game has to be simple enough that it is obvious that the conditions can be met (nothing can be stolen, destroyed, blocked, not produced, forced to discard etc.).

2. Or there needs to an alternative penalty (either standardised or negotiated). Then the deal really means: "give the other trader your choice of 1 black cube OR £10". But then the alternative must again be something simple enough that it is obvious that the conditions can be met.

So the first point is more elegant - if that matters to you.

Another point to think about is in many Wallace games like Steam/RRT/Brass, when a cube is removed from play it means you have set up a continual supply of that resouce every turn for the rest of the game - you can't suddenly interrupt the cotton delivery to hurt another player.

In other games like Power Grid, Caylus, Puerto Rico, Wealth of Nations a good is temporary, and must be re-purchased every turn.
 
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What if you introduced a set of "contract" cards or certificates that have no inherent value, and can't be acquired from the bank that are used by players as markers for contract breeches. For example, I give you $5 now and you give me 4 coal cubes next turn. I'll also give you 4 contract cards and expect either a coal or $2 to pay off the contract each turn.

That way, the cards are still open and non-restricting (they don't need an inherent value), but you aren't spending all your time writing stuff out. It might even be possible to use different colors for different players' contracts to help differentiate.
 
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Richard Prieto
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Sorry if someone else already said this but I kind of skipped over the longer responses.

I think the solution to your problem is collateral. What you are talking about is a kind of loan. "I'll give you this today and you promise to give me that tomorrow." The value of doing such trades is huge and a great addition to your game. It's basically taking the concept of time preference into the board game world. However, knowing that the players may be unable to fulfill the terms of the agreement (as often happens in the real world), there needs to be some kind of collateral that's put up to mitigate the risks.

For example, in the hypothetical situation where a player offers 10 pounds this turn for the promise of 15 pounds in 2 turns, the lending player should demand a forfeiture in the event that the borrower cannot repay the loan. Perhaps an equivalent value of resources, a railroad contract or even a factory. Then, if the borrower defaults, the lender simply "forecloses" on the collateral and takes possession. Items put up as collateral could not be sold, traded or used in other contracts until the terms of the original trade are resolved. In essence, the lending player would have a claim to the title - a kind of lien.

The rules can simply consider these types of transactions commercial contracts. The civil system can be substituted with a rule - default on your contract and forfeit your collateral.

There could come a point where a player has no or insufficient assets with which to pay back the loan or fulfill the contract. In such a case, the player should be forced to declare bankruptcy and forfeit whatever assets he has left to the other party to the contract. The bankrupt player is out of the game. This should act as a sufficient incentive to not make agreements that you can't fulfill.

Another option for players is to make unsecured loans. In such a situation,repayment is on the honor system. If a player defaults, this would compel other players to either discontinue trading with that player or demand exorbitant collateral for even minor deals.
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LordStrabo wrote:
In quite a few games with negotiation and trading there's a rule that says something on the lines of "You can make trades that include promises to do certain things in the future, but these promises are not binding." That always struck me as a bit disapointing, because almost no-one ever makes trades like that. We just don't trust our fellow gamers. (And with good reason, they're all heartless bastards).

I think that good players will generally try to keep their promises. If they don't, they become untrustworthy, and people won't deal with them next turn. Being dishonest for a quick profit now will bite you later in the game, and in other games you play from now with the same players. (It's a lesson I learned from Diplomacy)

LordStrabo wrote:
So we have to make contracts enforceable. I can think of two way to do this.

1. The rules say "You must fulfill your promises." But what if you play in such a way that you can't? The rules would have to say "It is illegal to act in a way that prevent you from fulfilling your promises." But if it's someone else's fault? This could get complicated quite quickly.

2. The rules say "If you are unable or unwilling to fulfill your contract you must pay the other party £20, and the contract will be dissolved." Then you'd have to add rules saying there could be a larger breach of contract penalty if both sides agree, for very large contracts.

A third option is to have an external coal market where the party in default can then buy its coal from in order to deliver it. This brings speculation into the game, and hedging. There should be a reason why people don't want to buy, or sell, at the coal market, but would rather trade among themselves.
Some reasons to do so:
- Security. If I agree to buy coal from you next turn for a fixed price, we both know what we get, and can include that in our plans for next turn. If we prepare to buy at the coal market instead, we are dependent on how the price there develops. A particularly high or low price might nix our plans.
- Transport and other costs. If there is a cost included for trading at the coal market, we will both be better off by trading among ourselves - even at the market price. Because we can then both avoid that extra cost.
 
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I think you could do this quite easily: have separate deal boards where you put a marker for the turn, which player owes whom what and what the penalty is. Then let players trade in real time while one player does their turn - that will keep the game moving while giving everyone something to do and may create interesting situations where a player comes closer to their delivery date on the contract and they can't fulfill it as they lack the resources to produce.

Also, if you've got limited resources (say only X coal mines) and a player can corner the market then every other player will have to buy their coal or find something else to use (at a lower efficiency of course).

Reading your description I think that you'll need to simplify the game a bit if you want trading to be a major part. I'd remove the transport aspect (as you then got two aspects: trade and building, instead of three: trade, building and transport) as, from your description, it is secondary to the building and trading.
 
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Carlos Moreno Serrano
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LordStrabo wrote:
Earl_G wrote:
...

I'd also wonder about the idea of there being no fixed prices. I can see where you're heading but I'd be really worried about players grabbing monopolies and holding others to ransom. Look at what that sort of price-mongering play can do to a game like Container. I'd wonder whether you should look to have some sort of outside influence that players can buy to/sell from, but at a high cost to their bottom lines (even something as simple as the market's in Brass helps keep the game moving). This also means that players can pursue their own strategies without having to rely on some other player taking the responsible path and filling in that hole in the supply/demand flow to keep the game moving.


That was a problem is some of the earlier versions, but the addition of a few rules will hopefully have fixed that.

The first thing is that there's an incentive to expand into under supplied markets. If not enough coal is being produced, any coal you produce will almost certainly get sold, and you can probably sell if for more than the 'nomral' price. Since breaking into a new market is relativly cheap, there shouldn't be a significant shortage of any resource for too long.

In the earlier versions, you needed bricks to build buildings, and these bricks have to come from a brick factory. If no-one built any brick factories at the start, the game could grind to a halt immediately. To fix this is made it so you could build factories with money as well, albeit at a signifcantly increased cost.

There has to be some way of quickly of shifting production to meet demand. I introduced another rule that said you could spend some resources to retool your factories, and turn they into a different type, for less that building a new set of factories.

Finally, I introduced the idea of resource loans, to prevent the entire economy seizing up. You gain a small amount of resources now, you have to pay interest on them everyturn until you return the same amount of resources to the supply. This does the same sort of thing as having an external market to buy/sell from, but without imposing any 'artificial' boundries on thr price.

(I'm toying with the idea of removing the 'build a factory with money instead of bricks' rule, and replacing it with the idea of 'brick loans' from outside the system.)

(I wanted to restrict the usage of resource loans to emergencies, So I added the rule that you can only ever own two resource loans, wether they're paid off or not.)

Quote:

(This is where WoN does do well by handing out the industries at the start, ensuring that there is a working economy).
...


That's an interesting idea. Currently, everyone starts off with a big pile of bricks, and can build whatever they want. But it might be better if everyone started off with a different set of factories (Enough to get the game started) and a few extra bricks.

EDIT: What does everyone think of the name "Invisible Hand" (As in "Invisible hand of the market) for this game. I think it's stupid, but I can't think of a better one.

EDIT: I'm working on a rules-summary-thing (No point in writing formal rules when I'm not finished with them). Does anyone want to see it?


Hi Peter, as a fellow game designer I can see your pain.
How about giving each player 3 or less save-your-ass (SYA) cards? That way they can weasel out of missing a delivery/deal by paying the affected player the SYA card. If they run out of SYA, and they miss another delivery, they forfeit the game (as cheats). This has the additional advantage that the SYA keep changing hands, so it keeps the game going and compensates the aggravated player by allowing themselves to miss an extra delivery/deal.

This also means that if one of the players is bored and does not want to keep playing, he has a way out. I don't know if this is good or not, though.

Please keep us posted about this game, it sounds interesting and my kind of game!
 
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LordStrabo wrote:
EDIT: I'm working on a rules-summary-thing (No point in writing formal rules when I'm not finished with them). Does anyone want to see it?


I would. I cannot promise timely feedback as my holidays end tomorrow and I'll have a huge workload waiting for me at the office, but I can certainly have a look and give you some feedback as soon as I can.
I send you my e-mail address through Geekmail.
 
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sprocket314 wrote:
How about giving each player 3 or less save-your-ass (SYA) cards? That way they can weasel out of missing a delivery/deal by paying the affected player the SYA card.

Why would I deal with anyone who could "pull some strings" and get out his contract with me? Such a card would reduce all trading to ZERO.
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jmucchiello wrote:
sprocket314 wrote:
How about giving each player 3 or less save-your-ass (SYA) cards? That way they can weasel out of missing a delivery/deal by paying the affected player the SYA card.

Why would I deal with anyone who could "pull some strings" and get out his contract with me? Such a card would reduce all trading to ZERO.


The original conditions of the game state that there is no third-party external market that supply whatever you need at X cost, so if there is only one player that controls the coal, everyone will have to go to him for coal. Same with the rest of material, transport, finished goods.

If Pete includes the suggested external market, my suggestion as you say, makes little sense.

Also, if we limit the save-your-ass cards to just one per player, that would make every player trustworthy after they miss a delivery/deal.
My original idea was to use these cards only as a mechanism to keep the game going if a deal is broken because you genuinely fail to supply the goods (the deal might be part of a mega-deal involving all players in various aspects) due to miscalculation of resources, especially if you are talking about the future, not the immediate present. You can force in the rules an honour-based system where players must always deliver/keep their promises, but shit happens and if a group of players agree on a mathematically impossible-to-satisfy deal, there should be a mechanism in the game that covered the consequences. My SYA cards or some of the others (collateral, etc.) are just an example.
 
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You might abstract the civil court into head-to-head die rolls, with differential odds ...
 
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LordStrabo wrote:

Finally, I introduced the idea of resource loans, to prevent the entire economy seizing up. You gain a small amount of resources now, you have to pay interest on them everyturn until you return the same amount of resources to the supply. This does the same sort of thing as having an external market to buy/sell from, but without imposing any 'artificial' boundries on thr price.


Sounds sensible to me! Though I do like where coffeegod is going with the idea of buying in resources from an external market at price "A" either due to desperate need, or because you think that they're undervalued and will be worth more in long run.

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EDIT: What does everyone think of the name "Invisible Hand" (As in "Invisible hand of the market) for this game. I think it's stupid, but I can't think of a better one.


Hmm, sounds a bit like a spy game to me! But the best I can do is whack out the Thesaurus : http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/trade

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EDIT: I'm working on a rules-summary-thing (No point in writing formal rules when I'm not finished with them). Does anyone want to see it?


I'll happily look over it as well, send me Geekmail?
 
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Richard Prieto
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Earl_G wrote:
LordStrabo wrote:

Finally, I introduced the idea of resource loans, to prevent the entire economy seizing up. You gain a small amount of resources now, you have to pay interest on them everyturn until you return the same amount of resources to the supply. This does the same sort of thing as having an external market to buy/sell from, but without imposing any 'artificial' boundries on thr price.


Sounds sensible to me! Though I do like where coffeegod is going with the idea of buying in resources from an external market at price "A" either due to desperate need, or because you think that they're undervalued and will be worth more in long run.

I don't think that idea came from me. Maybe Whymme?

I still contend that if you want to model real-world commercial contracts, use real-world tools. Risk mitigation through collateral and insurance/reinsurance and, as you point out above, hedging through the purchase of futures contracts bought on an external market (analogous to NYMEX/CBOT perhaps?).

The problem with modeling a commodities market with only 3-5 players is that you begin the game with a de facto cabal - the players represent the entire market of goods and services available. There are too few players for a real market. There is no Smithian "invisible hand" because all of the players have essentially perfect information and know what the needs of the entire market are at any given point. Unless you can introduce an external market mechanism to offer players an alternative to trading with their opponents then it is likely that you're going to end up in situations where it is too advantageous for players not to trade with each other. Players will be making cost/benefit analyses based not on what will help them the most but what will hurt their opponents more. An external market will help discourage that kind of behavior.

ETA: I should add that market competition in the real world is highly cooperative. It is not a zero-sum game. Encouraging players to trade honestly is to encourage players to act cooperatively in order to achieve their individual goals. However, the game is a competition with a definitive winner and losers. Therefore, whatever mechanisms you put in place to promote player cooperation will ultimately be corrupted by the players as they seek to improve their own positions while simultaneously doing whatever they can to diminish the positions of their opponents. This should rightly be considered rational behavior in the context of your game - each player wants to win.
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Peter Vrabel
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Lots of interesting ideas, but the more I think about it, the less I'm worried about it.

Firstly, after thinking about it further, I reckon that only a very small proportion of the trade will be for future promises. It's just my gut feeling that gamers won't like making trades like that. Especially since the game system isn't complicated enough to really reward complicated contracts.

Secondly, even if people do make trades involving future promises, the majority of those will be of the form "I'll give you money/goods now so that you let me trade money/goods/nothing for money/goods/nothing on the following turns." That's simple and restrictive enough that I could actually write the rules to cover it, but it's flexible enough to allow some interesting trades.

To cover the possibility of people being unable to fulfill their contracts, I like coffeegod's idea of collateral. It seems pretty simple, but powerful enough that people won't go breaking contracts willy-nilly. Best of all, it should make it feel more realistic, which is something I'm aiming for in this game.

As others have mentioned, there are problems that could occur if you allow more complicated contracts. There are probably ways around them, and looking into it further might be a good idea if I thought contracts like this were more likely. But I'm simply not willing to invest so much thought, and so many rules, for something that's going to take up less than 2% of the game time. No matter how hard I tried, I'd never work all the loopholes out. If I tried, it'd just end up like real-life contract law, and who wants to deal with that in a boardgame?

Several people have suggested the idea of an extenal market. I suppose I could add it. But that would be the easy way. That would be the cowards way. I just don't like the idea. The first idea that started the development of this game was: "What if I made a game like Wealth of Nations, but without an external market?" The extenal markets stripped a lot of the fun out of WoN, trading just wasn't very interesting.

The main problem with external markets is that it sets artificial boundries on the price. If I can sell a resource for £2 to the external market, It's absolutely not worth my while to sell that resource to some other player for £2 or less. A similar argument applies if I can buy a good for a certain price off the market.

Some of you may say "But what if I really need some coal, but no-one wants to sell me any?" Then you have failed and the game shall punish you because of it. (Actually, the game has the idea of resource loans, which is a limited way of mitigating this. But at least these loans don't distort the market values of resources.) An advantage of this is that it encourages players building up reserves, so that they can't be screwed over by a sudden shortfall.

Quote:

The problem with modeling a commodities market with only 3-5 players is that you begin the game with a de facto cabal - the players represent the entire market of goods and services available. There are too few players for a real market. There is no Smithian "invisible hand" because all of the players have essentially perfect information and know what the needs of the entire market are at any given point. Unless you can introduce an external market mechanism to offer players an alternative to trading with their opponents then it is likely that you're going to end up in situations where it is too advantageous for players not to trade with each other. Players will be making cost/benefit analyses based not on what will help them the most but what will hurt their opponents more. An external market will help discourage that kind of behavior.


That's one of the things I'm worried about. In real life you're worried about making as much money as you can. But games are based around having more.

Think about when it would be worth making a trade where you get £3 of value, but your oponent gets £4 of value. With only two players that's obviously a bad idea. But if there are 4 players, and you can pull this off 3 times: you end up with £9 to your oponents' £4. In a situation like this, the game encourages trading as much as possible, even though each trade helps you less than it helps other people.

But now suppose it's a 4 player game, but only you and one other player are in contention, the other two players have so little money that's it obvious that they're not going to win. This is a situation like that of the two player game: I don't want to make a trade with the other winning player if they get more out of it that me. But if I get more out of it than them, they won't want to trade with me.

This is a sitatuation where the actual aim of the game (Make the most money) conflicts with the intended aim (Make more money). A possible solution to this is to make money hidden. That won't eliminate the problem, but it should at least help a bit.
 
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Erik Rodriguez
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I don't know if this has already been said or not as I only read through about half of the posts (it's quite a long thread), but how do you determine the winner in your game if you don't mind me asking? If it uses a VP system then you could always have something akin to a Beggar card in Agricola: For each "contract" you don't fulfill you get -X victory points, or for each cube or dollar you promised to pay back you get -X VPs. If the winner of the game is determined by overall wealth then maybe those could be debt cards that subtract harshly from your overall score at the end of the game.
 
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Richard Prieto
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LordStrabo wrote:
This is a sitatuation where the actual aim of the game (Make the most money) conflicts with the intended aim (Make more money). A possible solution to this is to make money hidden. That won't eliminate the problem, but it should at least help a bit.
Agreed, hiding information from the other players is probably the easiest solution to this problem. In the face of uncertainty, the players will act more out of self-interest and less out of fear of what their opponents are doing.
 
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alan beaumont
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What do you mean I can't take notes?

coffeegod wrote:
LordStrabo wrote:
This is a sitatuation where the actual aim of the game (Make the most money) conflicts with the intended aim (Make more money). A possible solution to this is to make money hidden. That won't eliminate the problem, but it should at least help a bit.
Agreed, hiding information from the other players is probably the easiest solution to this problem. In the face of uncertainty, the players will act more out of self-interest and less out of fear of what their opponents are doing.
If money changes hands openly it is trackable whether you want it to be or not. If you want transactions to be secret, that is another matter, but then you are going to need written agreements and downtime is going to start stretching.
 
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Peter Vrabel
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misteralan wrote:

coffeegod wrote:
LordStrabo wrote:
This is a sitatuation where the actual aim of the game (Make the most money) conflicts with the intended aim (Make more money). A possible solution to this is to make money hidden. That won't eliminate the problem, but it should at least help a bit.
Agreed, hiding information from the other players is probably the easiest solution to this problem. In the face of uncertainty, the players will act more out of self-interest and less out of fear of what their opponents are doing.
If money changes hands openly it is trackable whether you want it to be or not. If you want transactions to be secret, that is another matter, but then you are going to need written agreements and downtime is going to start stretching.


Let's not turn this into yet another iteration of the "Everything that's trackable must be open" argument. Yeah, It's technically trackable, but you'd have to be insane to try.
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