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I'm making a board game about constructing molecules out of elements. For example you can construct water out of 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen. When a player constructs it they take a water card worth 6 points. However this currently has a diminishing return, the next player to construct water only get's 4 points, then 2 points, then 1 point. I felt it simulated a supply/demand system, where to more you supply the lower the value of the commodity becomes. I then asked myself, what if it was the other way around? Water is worth 1 point to begin with, then 2 points and so on. While this doesn't make sense with the supply/demand analogy it does create interesting decisions to think ahead.

Edit to make answers more objective: What are the pros and cons for each system? What games have these mechanics?

(the game is calle Entropy btw, you can read more about it here http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1032958/wip-entropy-chemistry-and-chaos-2-4-players-pnp)

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Welcome to the site! I like the idea of your game, but I don't understand what you're asking. The way this question is written makes it too subjective and the answers opinion based and not a good fit for a stackexchange site. –  ghoppe Sep 5 '13 at 20:45
    
I can see your point about it being subjective. I suppose I can ask what are the pros and cons for each system. –  Perky Sep 5 '13 at 20:49
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Turning in Risk cards in the game Risk is an example of increasing returns. It is a tough decision to turn in cards for extra armies knowing that next turn an opponent can retaliate with a larger army than you just got. –  Colin D Sep 6 '13 at 15:04
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The decision is obviously localized to the game and requires a significant amount of background to answer objectively.

The important distinction between the two is this: diminishing returns is easy, but amplifying returns is hard.

When you have diminishing returns, you introduce two elements.

  • The first is resourcefulness (no pun intended). If you can only do the same thing 2 or 3 times before it becomes worthless, you (as a player) need to structure your play such that you don't rely on a single mechanic.
  • The second is awareness of what your opponents play. If two people have played water already, you really should do something else with your hydrogen. But this means you have to be very aware of who has played water, who is set up to play water again soon, and what options you have with your water components.

When you have amplifying returns, you introduce a different set of elements.

  • The first is that you have a huge risk of being bah-roken. Magic: the Gathering's two most broken mechanics were Storm and Affinity. Storm copied a spell for every spell played before it this turn (majorly amplified!) and Affinity made artifacts cost 1 less for every artifact on the board (allowing you to play things that should be out on turn 8 on turn 3 or even sooner!) The amplification effects in Magic are strictly regulated and playtested to death before being released because of how powerful they've been in the past. Typically, they're prohibitively expensive or fragile to be used in competitive play, as otherwise they would easily dominate the format.
  • The second is that your players will probably focus on them. Most casual players like big things. If this gets big fast, they're going to go for it. You must be careful not to make your game all about these 2 or 3 mechanics that explode super fast, or your game will run out of steam.

So in summary, diminishing returns put a lot of work on the designer not to make the game a chore to play, while amplifying returns put a lot of work on the designer to make the game last long enough to be fun for everyone in the game.

I would recommend using linear acceleration or deceleration in whatever one you pick (if anything) as using anything higher than that explodes in value after only a few iterations, and obviously the safest thing to do is to not have it. A core tenant of game design is that the game should have as few mechanics as necessary to make the game fun.

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It all depends on what you want your players to do.

Diminishing returns tells your players that you want to be the first to do this, and you don't want to do a lot of it. As soon as I have H2O in hand, I want to make water before anyone else does. Once it's been done, I don't want to do that unless I have to because other plays are more valuable.

Amplifying returns, on the other hand, tells your players the opposite - to wait as long as possible to do it, and then do it as much as possible. If there's any chance that an opponent will play H2O as well, I want to try and make them go first so that I get the higher score.

The big concern with amplifying returns is that it can lead to paralysis unless the mechanics force you to make plays - otherwise the first player to move loses.

A variation of Amplifying is where the scoring escalates per player. Any sort of set-building game (like Acquire or Bohnanza) has this, where it's better to have a lot of one thing rather than a couple of many.

For your game specifically, I'm guessing that if you're making molecules you'll have more complex molecules at higher point values. With diminishing returns players will naturally start moving away from the simple ones to the complicated ones because they want more points. Under escalating, I would expect people to farm Hydrogen and Oxygen to get all those nice high-point Waters before looking at something that would require more effort.

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