A stock game bolted to a numbers game -- the wonders of predictable instability

The 18XX in abstraction can be fairly accurately considered as a stock manipulation game with a train game bolted on the side in order to provide a convenient source of reasonably predictable numbers for the stock game. Where this is inaccurate is that a good Engineer who doesn’t screw up the finances can win 18XX. However most will agree that a good financier will have a somewhat easier time winning the 18XX than good engineers. If the same model is to be transposed to Trade Winds (and that’s by no means certain), then we need a convenient source of reasonably predictable numbers for the stock game.

There are a lot of ways to generate reasonably predictable numbers. That’s not hard. The requirements however are a little more interesting. The numbers must be predictable, but they must also be fairly subject to the butterfly effect lest the game be too predictable. Additionally the numbers must have increasing magnitude and variance, with both values being the product of player decisions. Without increasing magnitude some other mechanism must be resorted to in order to generate arc (see my forum thread and Pax Mongolica discussion).

The 18XX generate prediction via a perfect and certain information train game, and add a heatu dose of uncertainty by putting short term profits and long term strategic goals in frequent direct conflict. They then salt that instability in three ways (in ascending order):

1) track tile shortages 2) the location of the priority card heading into stock rounds (effects dumping and protection) 3) game-swinging inflexion points around the train rust threshholds (esp the 3, 4 and 6 trains)

While I don’t want to create a reskinned 18XX, it seems reasonable that any set of mechanisms I put in Trade Winds should deliver similar qualities of prediction (foresight) and instability.

First thoughts:

  • Allow foresight into the queue of arriving trade goods
  • Allow partial manipulation of the queue
  • Allow player-localised revaluation of the queue through warehouse capacity and investment
  • Unless players are allowed to significantly affect the contents and pacing of the queue, then the game will tend to be (excessively) tactical.