On this very day I'm going to talk about money flow and economy in board games.
As usual I'll stick to the point - keeping it short and simple!
As a board game developer one of the big problems you'll face - is the money/economy aspect of the game you're developing.
This goes for computer games as well, the obvious difference being that computer games have the computer's mathematical abilities to work for them, but on the other hand their economics are not necessarily being reset after each games.
There are some things you want to think about before choosing to implement economy. Economy is not a necessity - but a game mechanic choice that you make - so maybe asking yourself a few questions could easy the decision making.
- What kind of gamers will be playing your game?
- Are there any other game mechanics that might go in its place? (like 1 purchase/level limit per turn, thereby nullifying the need for saving up).
- Is the money in the game for show, mechanic, feel or balance?
How will you implement the economy?
So... if you decide to go with an economical system of some sort in your game. You have to look into some more practical details about the game.
How will this economy be represented in the best possible way - weighted again flexibility in rule changes, practical issues like the shape, color and variations of the cash itself, and in the end production cost.
There are many options to chose from, like...
- Standard paper money, Monopoly style (+ easy, cheap and well known / - not interesting, usually bad quality and overused)
- Poker chips (+ almost unbreakable, has a "fun" factor in itself / - expensive unless you go with pre-printed versions which probably wont fit into your system, furthermore you have to keep in mind, due to their normal use, it kind of forces a theme upon the game that you might not want there).
- Cardboard/wooden tokens (+ probably the best compromise of all, with flexibility to make many different design choices / - if not designed properly they can blend in with other tokens).
- Player sheets with numbers and a marker as indicator (+ lower the amount of pieces needed, it can track larger amount of money and it's fast to transfer during play / - it's inflexible towards rule changes, it will demand more game setup space).
- Handwritten during play, Yahtzee style (+ can handle all amounts of cash, even real cash - if you want to make it interesting ;) it's easy and game changing friendly / - it's a bit bland on the theme, like in the words "not existing").
- Credit cards as used in Monopoly (just don't go there... it's only in theory it sounds easy or cool).
Like Blizzard have had problems with WoW money flow, so will you if you don't consider the whole aspect of a game economy (maybe not on the exact same scale ;-)
- Is there a limit to what people can save up?
- Is there a decrease in cost during play, or an increase in money intake?
- Is the game taking more money out of the game than it's putting back in?
- Will player eliminations have a huge impact on the money flow?
- Is there any auctioning and how does it work?
Simplifying the cash system
Sometimes you might find yourself in a whirlwind of units, abilities and upgrades that all need cash to get into play. This will always make things a bit cumbersome, since the pay has to be written somewhere, the players are likely to forget the cost, and the balancing is heavily depending on the right implementation.
In essence, you need to through every aspect of the economy in order to make sure it's as simple as possible, even if you're going for a heavy economy game. Making sure that things are smooth and simple, makes it easier to put on additional layers and rules.
Do you use the lowest possible numbers?
If you have 4 units, each with a cost of 4, 8, 20 and 40... then it would make the most sense to decrease the cost to 1, 2, 5 and 10. This will of course be affected by how your income is structured.
Do you let everything gain income?
Letting all your fields, planets or action add to the income might bug down the game, because players will have to adjust and add numbers together during every phase of the game. This might not benefit the flow of the game itself. So looking into how some factors could affect the game might be a way to limit the many numbers and make the game more "colorful".
Are people winning by having the most money or loosing by having the least?
Well, it's not exactly the same thing. Winning by having the most, may require you to have a time limit on the game, since gaining doesn't necessarily stop by itself, while loosing money will have an end to the unfortunate player.
I hope you got some inputs for your next game!
And remember to leave a comment, if you have any questions or general critique - I'm always listening to feedback :)
Until next time - may you have a great board gaming season!