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Subject: Why I say Puerto Rico is an Economic Game rss

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David Fair
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I posted a new GeekList the other day. It is called "A Gamers Glossary", and can be found here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=...tid=561... . I have gotten a lot of great comments so far, and this journal is to discuss one of them, wherein I wrote:
Quote:
economic game
n. A game that features money management as the main mechanism. Monopoly and 1830 are examples of this genre. Note that although many games use money as a move-limiting factor or as a way to track performance such games are not necessarily economic.
--
Some may argue that Puerto Rico is not an Economic game. They couldn't be more wrong.

This garnered the following exchange:

Chris Roberts (Chris R):
Quote:
Puerto Rico is not an economics game. It does not feature money management as the main mechanism.

I responded:
Quote:
I knew that someone would disagree.
I feel it is an economic game in which you have to manage your money, and how you acquire it, very carefully, especially in the early game. As the game progresses, money loses its value, but it is still an economic game.

IMO, YMMV.

Chris Roberts (Chris R) replied:
Quote:
Economic game
n. A game that features money management as the main mechanism.

The main mechanism is the role selection, imo. Managing money plays a part in strategy, but not as important a part as the role selection does.

Whereas some other games are based on investing money and getting payouts based on those investments.

Anyway, now that you see the history, here is where I take the floor and expound upon why I feel Puerto Rico is an Economic game.

Role Selection, while being the main choice a player has on his turn, is relatively minor overall. It is an innovative mechanic, and instrumental to the game's popularity, and I will agree that it is the defining element of what makes Puerto Rico unique, however, it is not the main mechanism of the game.

The main mechanism of the game is the process whereby you turn your relatively meager stake of cash into victory points. At first, you have to find ways to invest your money in resources (read:buildings) that will gain you more money, while not losing too much ground in the victory-point generation. As the game progresses, as those early investments are paying off, soon your income is such that you begin to be able to focus on generating victory points rather than money. You do this by taking the fruits money machine you worked so hard to build, and investing in VP generating resources (read: buildings).

As you are doing this, the other players are doing the same, and it is very important to maximize the benefit you gain from the roles they select and minimize their benefit from the roles you select. I have seen players who, by the midgame, are so well setup that they benefit more from 4-5 of the seven roles than most of the other players, in most situations. Still, as important as this is, it is still secondary to the managing of your money, the investment and growth you must gain from it.

Money in Puerto Rico is not a move-limiting factor, and it is not a scorekeeper. It is the main mechanism by which players attain the key elements to earning victory points.

Imagine Acquire did not use most money to determine victory, but some other condition (Say, most majority holdings/minority holdings and money was a mere tiebreaker), would it lose it's status as an Economic game? Of course not, it would just be moving the economics to another layer of abstraction, as Puerto Rico has done.

I feel certain this will get many differing opinions, and there may even be a few out there who agree with me, but now those of you who were wondering what in the world I was thinking now have a better idea.
 
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Jim K.
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How about this for a counter-argument: It is possible to win PR without ever using money. You can build corn plantations for free, get labor for free, and ship corn for free. If the other players just goof off, you could in theory win solely based on shipped VPs and never touch a dubloon.
 
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Jim K.
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Having said my above comment, I actually agree with you. At its heart, I also think of PR in some sense as an economic simulation.
 
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David Fair
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Mechanism Vs. Category
Quote:
Because there is no phase of the game that results in a payout due to well-managed money or that encourages you to have managed your money up to that point.

Finally, the database lists the only mechanic for Puerto Rico as Variable Phase Order. I rest my case.

I'm going to address these 2 points in reverse order.
First, the database also lists Puerto Rico as an Economic game, but as that is not a mechanism, it puts it under Category. So there laugh

Second, regarding a pahse that paysout due to good money management. You are right, there is no single phase where this happens, rather, it happens in (almost, virtually) every phase. good money management pays of in this game in baby steps rather than in big chunks, like many other, more traditional, economics games.
 
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Chester
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While I agree with the principle....it feels like something is left out to call PR an 'economic game'. However, when I think about it...PR is as much an economic game as Age of Steam is. In each case, you are trying to accomplish certain acquisitions and in the end your money is worth nothing. (Well, OK in PR its a tiebreaker.) Otherwise its just a tool to accomplish other goals.

But in PR the fact that a lot of your resources come outside of the economic management seems significant. Your plantations, the disposition of your colonists, the right to ship or sell, etc have very little to do with economy. You could make the argument that you are maximizing action points...and that each turn you get one point. At least in that way you account for both the money-driven and the money-independent aspects to the game.

I'm not sure I really care one way or the other how people categorize the game. I suppose the only reason to care much about it is that I think many people hear 'economic game' and picture something a bit on the dry side....which PR really ISN'T.
 
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Stephen Harkleroad
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This beside the point, I suppose, but I think the original term is misapplied--Economics isn't a science of money, it's a science of efficiency, incentives, and payoffs, making it much broader than simply money. Obviously most people regard "economics" as money, but for hard core economists like myself I prefer my definition--I'd rather money-management games be considered "financial" or some such. Of course, under my definition, pretty much *any* game is economic, and most economists would agree.
 
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Burke Glover
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Money management...?
To me it seems obvious that PR is an economics game. The problem is really with your definition...

Quote:

economic game
n. A game that features money management as the main mechanism. Monopoly and 1830 are examples of this genre. Note that although many games use money as a move-limiting factor or as a way to track performance such games are not necessarily economic.


My problem is in your narrow definition of economic. Money management is really just an aspect of an economic game, rather than a way to define an economic game. I would argue that PR and Monopoly are both economic games yet their primary mechanism is not money management. (Sorry, haven't played 1830, can't comment on that)

The main mechanism in PR is the variable role selection and there are a bunch of other minor mechanisms, which are dependent on the main mechanism. All of these mechanisms come together to form a system, just like a bunch of real-life forces interacting with each other form an economy.

Similarly, Monopoly's main mechanism is dice rolling, and it does have some minor mechanisms, such as trading, speculation, and yes, money management. These things come together to form an economy. It is not a fluid or subtle economy like PR's, but it is an economy.

Acquire has two major mechanisms, tile laying and stock speculation. Again, money management is there, but it's really sort of inherent in the stock speculation. Acquire is pretty remarkable in that it gets such a fascinating simulated economy from so few mechanisms.

So a better definition would be something like:

Economic game:
A game in which the mechanisms, when taken as a whole, produce an economic simulation and in which players are attempting to manipulate that simulated economy for their own gain. Monopoly and 1830 are examples... etc.


 
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Ken H.
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Quote:

My problem is in your narrow definition of economic. Money management is really just an aspect of an economic game, rather than a way to define an economic game. I would argue that PR and Monopoly are both economic games yet their primary mechanism is not money management.


I agree. The main problem with this debate is the use of the word "main" in the definition. It's like trying to debate whether Settlers of Catan is a trading game or a building game. Clearly it's both.

I can see where somebody might think that money management is not the "main" aspect of PR (and I can see the counter-argument as well). But, it's equally clear that money management is ONE OF the significant mechanics in the game (or one of the significant categories if you prefer).


Quote:

So a better definition would be something like:

Economic game:
A game in which the mechanisms, when taken as a whole, produce an economic simulation and in which players are attempting to manipulate that simulated economy for their own gain. Monopoly and 1830 are examples... etc.


I think the definition should still mention money management, or at least money.

What about games that have a very light simulation of an economy, and do not actually use money? In Settlers, you collect and trade resources (none of which are "money"). You then spend your resources to gain points and/or to improve your ability to gain more resources in the future. It seems to me that spending resources in order to get more resources means there is some type of economy, and player trading certainly reinforces that notion. But, there is not a doubloon in sight, and I don't think most people think of Settlers as an economic game.
 
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David Fair
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Quote:
To me it seems obvious that PR is an economics game. The problem is really with your definition...

You are quite likely correct. I was using the definition given in the Geek own Glossary (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/gameglossary.htm) and it is perhaps not as complete as the one you gave.

Anyone know how we ask Derk and/or Aldie to change an entry in the glossary?
 
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Garth Wallace
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Puerto Rico is definitely an economic game, but it's not a *capitalistic* economy. It's a colonial mercantilism simulator.
 
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Seth Owen
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economic wargames
There are quite a few wargames that include some economic aspects, although few of them use "money" as such. Most abstract the economic angle to some sort of "resource point" but managing those resources and sometimes even trading them, etc., can be an important part of the game. In some of them it may even be important enough to presuade some players it's not even a "wargame." Some examples include Civilization, Supremacy, Victory (especially the expansion), Third Reich, EuroFront, Empires in Arms and King of Kings.
On the other hand, the existence of money in a game, even when victory is defined by having the most of it, does not necessarily make a game an "economic" game. A case in point is Junta.
 
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