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Finance Mechanic

Finance Mechanic

Financial mechanics in board games have always intrigued me. From simple staples such as Monopoly, to stock management games such as Chicago Express, to games with multiple currency management such as Alhambra, financial management in games creates a level of calculation and development that is both satisfying and enjoyable.

Most recognizable are the games that utilize real-life currencies to be managed, but the idea of finance as a game mechanic has a long reach, extending across the board to even affect games like Settlers of Catan, which loosely uses resources as currency that should be financially managed. Let’s look into how including finance as a game mechanic can help us improve the games we design and create.

Finance Mechanic

Overview of Finance

Finance as a tabletop game mechanic can include investment, loans, stock management, and other structures, and most generally describes including anything as a perpetual currency throughout the game.

This means that when finance is used as a contributing mechanic in a game, the game may include real money, thematic money, or even resources that are earned throughout the game and used to progress towards victory.

Much of the value of including finance in a game is that (1) most people are already familiar with the basic concept of finance management, and (2) money is already a desirable commodity for many people and as such, game scenarios where money is accumulated and spent without worries about real-life risks and consequences can be an enjoyable goal for many players.

Because money is a normal part of life and related to many topics, finance can also help make games more thematically accurate and familiar to players. Finance is an opportunity to capitalize on players’ previous knowledge in order to make games more intricate and relatable. Finance can better help games be modeled after real life in enjoyable ways!

The wide variety of potential applications for this mechanic make it a great option for all designers to include in their tool kits. See below for some ideas of how to identify and use finance in the games you play and create! What are some of your favorite games with finance as a contributing mechanic?

Important Considerations with Finance

The first question to ask when considering adding finance to your game is whether your game can bear the added complexity that comes with currency. Do the advantages outweigh the costs? Usually, simplifying is better than adding complexity in many games, but in some situations currency can actually make games simpler as it can represent anything! Money can be used to purchase food, tools, land, and much more, instead of players needing to hold some of everything in their hands. Money management can also add some fun decisions, or can even make up an entire game while remaining versatile and enjoyable.

When including finance in a game, consider whether to use a single general currency as in Coup, or whether to include multiple limited currencies as in Splendor. Some games use a combination of both, such as Catan Histories: Settlers of America, which includes gold as a general currency in addition to the limited currencies of resources from the original game.

Finance can take many roles in tabletop games. In addition to simply using currency throughout the game, tabletop games can center around a financial concept such as investment or loans or stock management, which lends itself to a good number of other mechanisms and strategies. Along with Chicago Express, some examples of games that have done this include Monopoly and Stockpile; while Rook and other similar games even use a financial mechanic while eliminating finances themselves.

Cautions and Tips for Using Finance

When using finance in a game where money is not a winning factor, be careful to incentivize spending and clearly communicate to players that money is not inherently beneficial. In many games that include money, players feel some sense of accomplishment from simply stockpiling funds, even when they would be more beneficial when spent. In such cases, help the players realize that unspent money is useless by incentivizing and encouraging using the money correctly whenever possible.

Also make sure that your game avoids requiring players to make large calculations unless that is an important part of how the game plays. Unless managed well, finance games are often in danger of requiring players to make calculations or remember sums throughout the game, which can become a barrier to players enjoying the game and can divert attention away from the game’s focus.

Whatever direction you take including finance in your game, whether as a peripheral currency or as a mechanical focus, please share your successes! Let us know of other investment, loans, or stock management games you enjoy and create!

What are some interesting ways you have seen finance be used as a part of a game? How else can finance be used to strategically enhance game play? Please comment below with your thoughts!

Finance as a tabletop game mechanic can include investment, loans, stock management, and other structures, and most generally describes including anything as a perpetual currency throughout the game.

Finance Mechanic

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Other Tabletop Game Mechanics to Explore

Are there other game mechanics or topics that you would like to see explored further? Please comment below with any requests!

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