Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Civilization and Resource Management

I am referring, of course, to the Avalon Hill version of Civilization, not the Sid Meier board game, based on his computer game, based on the Avalon Hill game (actually, I don't know that to be the case, but it seems the likely source of his inspiration for the Civilization computer game).

It is surprising that I am featuring another Avalon Hill game? I was never much of an SPI game player. I'm sure there are some excellent SPI games (I did play the SPI game called Sorcerer, where you played two Sorcerers battling each other) but I don't recall playing many of their games.

The reason for this post is not to review Civilization, though I might just do that in the future, but to make reference again to my interest in card-based resource management. Yes, you guessed it, Civilization also used a card-based resource management system. In this case, the resources where such things as timber, ochre, hides, silk, spices, gems and other ancient trading goods. Each of those trading goods was represented by a card, and you collected cards, based on the number of cities that you built and controlled. Then you traded the cards with the other players in order to collect sets: the larger your set of a particular resource, the more valuable it was, and the easier it was to advance your civilization. The risk in trading was that you had to trade 3 cards at a time, but you only had to be honest about one of those cards. There were also "calamity" cards, things like famine, flood, rebellion, and so on, that were resolved against you if you got stuck with the card.

I remember playing many 6-8 player games of Civilization that lasted 8, 10, 12 hours or more. We'd be playing 'til 2 am, calling Nick's Pizza and ordering several Nick's specials. But I digress. What i'm trying to say is that these sorts of games, where cards are used for resource management, have always intrigued me, and I think it is a novel and interesting way to improve the flavor of the game.

As I was mentioning earlier, I had picked up several sets of Paizo GameMastery card sets, intending to use them as part of D&D resource management. The Paizo GameMaster basic equipment sets consist of two decks of 54 cards. That's 108 cards, at a cost of roughly $20 for the two sets combined, or $0.20 per card. That's actually a pretty good deal: if you play any of the collectible card games, I think you'll find your price per card is anywhere from $0.20-$0.40 per card.

The problem is that even if you are playing extreme old-school (and your characters are hunched over due to all the equipment you are carrying) each player might only need 20 of those 110 cards. And there is a core set of items that every character will need, for example, a backpack! Since there is only one backpack per pack of cards, this means either one of your 8 characters has a backpack, and the rest carry everything in their pockets, or you pay $80 to buy 8 packs of the equipment cards. You could have each of your players buy their own packs, but do they really want to spend $10 so each can have a backpack card?

The Paizo GameMastery cards are gorgeous. If I was playing 4E, or Pathfinder, and had a cadre of serious gamers, I could see each of them being highly motivated to have their own packs of cards. But for the long-weekend, hobbyist, or casual gamer, I think the $10 could be better spent elsewhere (again, considering each character will only need about 20 of the 110 cards, and 10 of those 20 are the same for every character).

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