Transactional liposuction

I’ve been concerned about transactional density in Space Race. I’d like to have players (near) constantly having to pay each other for little actions and the sum of the current game state. Pay for this, pay for that, etc with all debts/payments recurring for every turn of the game after their inception.

This is a problem. There could easily be 20+ transactions per player in various directions. Of course many of those would more or less cancel. PlayerA plays PlayerB $17 and PlayerB pays PlayerA $14, for a net effect of PlayerA paying PlayerB $3. Of course the loop could be larger than that with all the other players involved in various degrees as the money sloshes about.

The obvious choice is simply polish all that detail out; figure out a way to remove all the accounting detail and yet let the game continue smoothly and with rich decisions. However, I’d like to not do that. I’d like to keep the net effect of all those hordes of micro-transactions without having to have the game support the overhead of hordes of micro-transactions. I intend the game to be severely cash strapped, so a few dollars or more draining out in one direction, turn after turn, is a big deal.

My first thought was that each player would have an income track containing markers for each other player. A player’s marker on a track would represent an obligation to play the track-owner that sum of money at the end of each round. As debt events occurred in the game players would synchronously move their markers up and down on each other’s tracks to represent the new balance of payments. However even this is too fiddly. A five player game would have 20 tracks (4 per player), each containing 4 debt markers (one for each other player), with two markers being adjusted for each debt-causing event. Further all this complexity doesn’t clearly represent or collapse debt cycles (eg PlayerA owes $5 to PlayerB who owes $5 to Player C who owes $5 to PlayerA for a net sum of $0). It also doesn’t clearly represent what the net sum of a player’s debt posture is. Each player would need to add the sum of their debts against the sum of their incomes. Fie!

The current thought is to simply have an income track for each player, centred on zero, say, running from -20 to +20. As debt events occur in the game players would move their income markers up and down as appropriate. Thus if PlayerA incurred a $5 debt to PlayerB, then PlayerA would move their income marker down by $5 and PlayerB would move their income marker up by $5. In a 5 player game this would result in 5 tracks, each with a single marker. All end-of-round payments would be to and from the bank. The net effect would be the same, money in sum moving identically to the more detailed system, but with the bank’s implied capital pool acting as a sump to simplify net transaction resolution.

As thoughts from the shower go, this one seems a keeper.