For P3, we made the game “Tragedy of the Commons,” a game about managing resources and surviving in a post-catastrophe world. Each player competes for a limited amount of food, and they must manage their food and population as they face catastrophe. If their population is too high, they risk using up their food too quickly and starving. If their population is too low, they do not have enough people power to complete tasks and must rely on help from other players. They also risk getting wiped out by a catastrophe, which happens every three turns.
This game has fellowship and challenge types of fun. Because some challenges need multiple players to complete, players can ally with or betray each other. The turn order matters, and players can snatch up resources before others get to them, resulting in fun competition. There is also some challenge when deciding which cards to take to prepare for the catastrophe.
When I heard about a system game, I thought it would have to be complex and incorporate a lot of elements. When making this game, I realized that it was better to simplify while still maintaining interesting relationships between the elements. At first, we wanted to incorporate time, so that players would have a limited number of turns to complete challenges, which reflected surviving in reality. We realized that including time would make it more complicated and tedious. We also wanted the game to be collaborative, to show the value of communal living. In the end, our only elements were food and population. Having a collaborative game meant sharing resources, and that ran the risk of “quarterbacking”.
After coming up with the core mechanic, the biggest challenge was balance. We had to decide how much each card was worth to make the game challenging enough. We thought that the relationship between food and people was strong enough that maintaining a large population would be difficult, but when playtesting in class, we found that it was actually easier to increase your population without consequence than we had expected. It was also interesting to observe the resulting dynamic between players: when one player reached a large population early in the game, they pulled ahead quickly and the other players all tried to collaborate to defeat them.
Another problem we didn’t consider was what would happen when players lost. Since our game was now a competitive battle royale, players would get eliminated one-by-one until there was one winner remaining. But since the game could get a bit long, the other players would be left doing nothing. Going forward, we would think of a role for the players who have already lost.