Mercantilism (strategic simulation)

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Mercantilism (strategic simulation)
DesignerOriginated by Dnjkirk
TopicInternational Trade
No. of roles/players5 - 25
Archive of Simulations and Games for the Enhancement of the Learning Experience
The individual resources in this archive come from diverse sources. They have been brought together into this archive in a project supported by

Part of The School of Strategic Studies>Strategic Simulations Project

Object[edit | edit source]

The two large groups are considered “Superpowers” and are competing against each other for victory. The Superpowers win by having the most “satellites” on their side throughout the game. Being voted for by Satellites gives them points. The individual players play for points that are sold or given to them by superpowers.

Pieces[edit | edit source]

No pieces are really required for this game, a piece of paper or blackboard would suffice. However, for those who like pieces, the following are necessary:

  • Resource Cards or Tokens (Sporks, Cheese, and Pants)
  • Point Cards (1, 3, 5, 7, 10 point increments)
  • Scorecards
  • A Board is not necessary, but a simple ledger can be drawn of all the Satellites, their names, and their products. For those who feel a board is essential, one can be drawn.

Teams[edit | edit source]

Two teams of multiple players are formed. These two teams are called the SUPERPOWERS, and should have an equal number of players on each. All other players play for themselves. These are called the SATELLITES. Alternatively, in especially huge games, Satellites can comprise two players. Teams choose names for themselves for ease in identification.

Choosing Teams[edit | edit source]

In the ideal game, a class size of 10 is supposed. The two Superpowers, in this case, would each have two players, and there would be six Satellites. More or less players should be assigned by dividing the group by five. Two groups become Superpowers, and the rest become Satellites. Alternatively, consult this chart for a more even distribution:

Number of players per Superpower/number of Satellites
Number of Players 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Players per Superpower 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5
Number of Satellites 3 4 5 4 5 6 7 6 7 8 9 10 11 10 11 12 13 14 13 14 15

(bolded numbers represent the most even games)

The Purpose behind having more players on a Superpower team is that the Superpowers require more negotiators in the bargaining round to talk to all the satellites. Note that in most even games, the number of negotiators on any one superpower team should not be over half of the number of satellites.

Game Mechanic[edit | edit source]

Satellites produce any of three basic types of resource. Those resources are CHEESE, SPORKS, and PANTS. Each Satellite produces two different kinds of resources. These are assigned to each player before play begins. Superpowers only produce points cards. Points cards come in one of five varieties: 1 point, 3 points, 5 points, 7 points, and 10 points. They do this by buying resources from Satellites, and converting them into points. Superpowers each begin with 20 dollars.

How to Play[edit | edit source]

There are three parts to each turn.

1) Primary Resource Phase

a) Bargaining Round (5 minutes)
b) Trading Round

2) Secondary Resource Phase

a) Bargaining Round
b) Trading Round

3) Voting Phase

Primary Resource Phase[edit | edit source]

In the Primary Resource Phase, give each Satellite player a Spork, Pants, or Cheese as determined by their production. What a Satellite produces is set from the start of the game and never changes. For five minutes, there is a Bargaining Round, during which the Superpowers may discuss with the Satellites about how much money they will offer for each of the Satellites’ products. Once five minutes is up, the Trading Round begins, and deals are made (or broken) with all players around the table, openly and visibly. Any agreement you make does not have to be honoured. However, when a transaction is finished, there is no going back. Satellites can horde resources if they wish. Money may only change hands during the Trading Round.

Bargaining Round[edit | edit source]

How this period works is simple. For five minutes, the Superpowers go around to negotiate with Satellites. Satellites can negotiate with each other, and they can even make deals with one another. Anyone can talk to anyone. At this period of the game, it’s important for the Superpowers to understand what kind of strategy they intend to follow. Will they give each member of their team a certain amount of cash and allow them to bargain autonomously? Will they try to find the best deals independently and then try to frustrate the negotiations of the other superpower? Will they try to carve out a region, or spread themselves wide? Will they negotiate with everyone, or just a few? Satellites also have to make strategic decisions. Will they cooperate or compete with other Satellites? Will they try to form a trading bloc and control the supply of their resources? Will a Satellite buy up the resources of other Satellites to create scarcity? All these decisions must be made in the short negotiating time allotted. The negotiating time can be extended if the group is large, or if the game is to be played out over many days. Five minutes is not an absolute value.

Trading Round[edit | edit source]

The procedure for making deals during the Trading Round is quite straightforward. It is most useful if the players can all sit at one table, preferably with the Superpowers at each end and the Satellites at the sides. Each Satellite in turn makes one offer and one offer only for each of their resources. If they have resources left over from last round, they may make offers for those, too. The formula for making an offer is “resource, price, buyer.” For example, “I offer one Cheese at two dollars to Superpower A.” Offers may be made in any way, so a Satellite can say “I offer one Cheese and one Spork at five dollars to Satellite C.” The buyer may then accept or reject the offer. Since offers are made after negotiation, it is normal that Satellites will honour the bargains made beforehand – but they don’t have to. A person who, during the Bargaining Round agreed to sell one Spork to Superpower A does not have to do so. Maybe Superpower B came around after Superpower A and made a better offer. Perhaps other Satellites convinced the Satellite to join a trading bloc and horde resources. If a deal is rejected, that resource (or those resources) will not be sold this turn. If the Satellite has another resource that has not yet been offered, the Satellite may offer that resource, but no resource may be offered twice in the same Trading Round. A Satellite may refuse to sell anything if the Satellite so wishes, and pass to the next Satellite.

Secondary Resource Phase[edit | edit source]

In the Secondary Resource Phase, Superpowers trade their resources for points cards as follows:

  • One resource: one point card
  • Two different resources: three point card
  • Two of a kind: five point card
  • Three different resources: seven point card
  • Three of a kind: ten point card

For every point a Superpower produces, they get two dollars at the start of the next turn. The Secondary Resource Phase is then just like the first, only in the Bargaining Round, Superpowers offer to sell (or give!) their points cards to the Satellites. In the Trading Round, there is one difference: the points values on the cards being sold are not revealed. The Superpower simply says “I offer one card at the price of one dollar to Satellite A.” Whether the Satellite got a 10-point card or a 1-point card is known only to the Superpower and the Satellite. Remember, Satellites can ONLY win through accumulation of points, dollars don’t matter to them at all in the endgame. At the end of the Phase, just like the first, the deals are done and finalized. Superpowers are allowed to keep points cards that don’t sell (or that they don’t want to sell).

Voting Phase[edit | edit source]

In the Voting Phase, Satellites MUST vote for which Superpower they prefer. There can be no neutrals or abstainers. The criteria for picking the favoured Superpower can be as intelligent as choosing whose economic strategy fits best with one’s own, or a simple as who has the best shoes. Each in turn must declare the Superpower that they like best. Record the number of votes each Superpower gets each turn on a score sheet. In the early phases of the game it allows the Superpowers to see who is in whose good books, and alter their strategies accordingly.

In a large class, Neutrals could be allowed to spice up game play.

Endgame[edit | edit source]

At the end of the game, the Satellite with the most points is declared winner of the Satellites. The Superpower with more votes is the winner of the Superpowers. In order to have a singular winner, add up the final points of all the Satellites. Divide this number by the number of Satellites. Divide this number by the number of turns played in the game. This number is the relative “value” of a vote throughout the game. Therefore, for each Superpower, multiply the number of votes by the “value” of the votes, and compare their scores to the scores of the Satellites. The player(s) with the highest points total is (are) the overall winner(s).