Not quite the prisoner’s dilemma = trading game

Game: Card game, simulatenous bidding

This original idea was posted on the board game design forum at to get some feedback:

I was at a leadership/personal development session for work and we played the following game.
There were six tables each with a red and green flag. When told to we would spend 30 seconds debating on whether your table would hold up a red or green flag.

If all tables held up a red flag then all tables received 10 points
If all tables held up a green flag then all tables lost 10 points
If there were both red and green flags showing then the red flags lost 10 points and the green flags gained ten points.

After a number of rounds the winner with the most points above zero won.

I immediately realized that if we played the green flag every time we could not lose. We would either lose 10 points if everyone went green (but so would every one else) or we would gain 10 points if there were a split decision (but not every one would – only the green flags).

This led me to thinking about how I could use this pattern in a game. My initial thought was for the players to select a card or worker placement using a blind bidding system. But maybe having a penalty for choosing the same option so many times in a row (?).  Or to incorporate it in a cooperative game where every one is working for the good of the community but there can only be one victor.

There was a good discussion about the mechanic and how it was close to the prisoner’s dilemma. Also, it was suggested that this could be used or converted to some kind of economic game – I ran with that idea for a few days and came up with a ‘simple’ card game.

Each player has a hand of cards – the cards are buy, sell, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and cards representing commodities (up to five commodities depending on the number of players – always one less commodity that the number of players).  The players also have a  preset amount of money and commodities.  The game plays 3 to 5 players.  There are 12 turns (each a month of the year).  On a turn a player would select a commodity card, a value card (0-5) and a buy or sell card and place them face down in front of them.  Once everyone has chosen their cards they are revealed and players either buy or sell their commodity. The person to make the most money over the year by buying and selling commodities wins.

How does this fit into the “prisoners’ dilemma” – well, if people play the same action (buy or sell) and the same commodity then the price fluctuates depending on (1) the number of people performing the same action and (2) the number of the commodity available in the pool.  Different actions = better reward, same actions = lower reward.  The ‘fun’ in this game comes in the guessing of what other players will be trading and when best to buy or sell your commodities.

I will post a picture of the buy/sell chart shortly and have a set of rules on the geek in the New Year.  This might make a good PnP.

I still am going to try and develop the prisoners’ dilemma further – I thing there is much potential there.


About Clive

Just an average guy who loves board games, movies, musics, books, comic books, video games and anything else fun.
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