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Trading is in my opinion often an overlooked aspect of rules for board games. The lack of such rules often results in players modifying or making up these rules themselves. While making up the rules can be part of the fun I was wondering if you know of any games that already have good such rules/mechanisms? Any examples of games that make trading and the interaction between multiple players when doing so an interesting part of the gameplay would be appreciated.

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6 Answers 6

Settlers of Catan is a classic game with trading elements. Each player needs to build roads and buildings with various resources (wheat, clay, ore, sheep, wood), but most players will have scarcity in one or more of the resources needed; thus, they must trade resources with other players to be able to complete purchases.

The key is that you need all of the resources, at some points, to win the game. There is no strategy where you can get by on just three or four of the five, so you must trade often to win.

Often times you will see resources traded at uneven ratios. A few groups add more advanced sorts of trading, such as futures, but those are not allowed in the basic rules.

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The addition of sea trade makes this kind of straight forward trade work for Settlers of Catan. The ratios for sea trade could however be discussed. I really like the idea of blind auctions as it keeps all the players equally engaged, avoids players entering pacts (cheating) and is more exciting when revealing the winner. –  fluxd Dec 8 '10 at 9:20
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I think Catan is a good game which involves a lot of trading; I wouldn't have said there is anything especially innovative or memorable about its trading rules/mechanisms. –  thesunneversets Dec 8 '10 at 20:05

I always like that the rules for Civilization seemed to encourage bluffing when trading -- you had to give them the number of cards you said you were going to, but you didn't have to be 100% truthful about what you were giving the other party. (or maybe that was just the way our group played ... I don't have a copy, so can't verify the rules for trading)

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Good point; can't believe I didn't think to mention this game. Civilization rewarded - no, demanded - aggressive trade, because trade good acquisition was a mix of all types goods, but value increased geometrically with sets of the same type of good. But you can't trade single cards - minimum sets of 3 - and some of the cards were 0-value 'booby traps' that had bad effects when received. The tension between need-to-trade-to-complete-set and fear-of-trap was a beautiful gameplay motivator. –  Tynam Dec 13 '10 at 1:28

Container

One of my favourite trading type games is Container. The idea of container is that a person has a number of elements to their island.

  • A group of factories
  • A group of warehouses
  • A Port

The interesting mechanic of this game is that a player must produce items in their factory and sell them to an opposing player. They CANNOT sell to their own warehouses. The opposing player then stores those goods in their warehouses.

An opposing player can then visit the port to purchase the goods from the warehouse, to then ship to "the island" in their container ship. A player CANNOT visit their own port to purchase goods.

A player must set their own prices for goods in the factory and goods in the warehouse.

When the player ships to the island, a blind auction takes place to see who purchases the goods. A player can choose to purchase them for themselves for the maximum bid, or choose to take the max bid in cash, plus a matched amount from the bank.

Each good is worth more at the end of the game to different players based on a random card drawn at the start, which makes the bidding process very important.

I love this game because you need to work with other players to beat them, its an odd feeling to sell cheap, so that you can buy back your own goods, but you are all competing in a real market situation with each other.

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Thanks! Blind auctions is a great idea. –  fluxd Dec 7 '10 at 23:41
    
I've never heard of this game, but you've really got my interest up, now. –  JSBձոգչ Dec 8 '10 at 4:34

Twilight Imperium has an interesting trade mechanic: Each player has two 'trade contract' cards (varying from 1-3 in value). When a trade phase happens (which in TI3 is a player decision) you gain goods equal to the value of other players' contract cards you're holding. Then you can trade your contracts to other players. (This sequence means you don't start to profit until the turn after you made the trade.)

Not all races have equal contracts - trade-oriented races might have a 2 and a 3, while warlike ones have two 1s - so bargaining power is uneven. But as an alternative to hosting a trade phase, a player can take the 'trade phase' order and use it to cancel all existing contracts... and a player who is the only one not profiting from trade will be tempted to do so, setting all the traders back by two turns while they reestablish profitable deals.

Contracts can be broken unilaterally at pretty much any time. Going to war automatically breaks them. So good trade deals can discourage conquest. It's a nice interaction.

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Sounds interesting. I´ll have to check this out. –  fluxd Dec 8 '10 at 12:20
    
I should have noted that TI is not primarily a trade game, certainly not in the sense that, say, Settlers is. Nevertheless trade is one important gameplay component. –  Tynam Dec 10 '10 at 12:22

Genoa, or as it was originally published, Traders of Genoa.

Here's a game where just about everything that anyone does involves making a deal with another player. And everything in the game short of future promises can be part of the deal - wares, small orders, large orders, privileges, messages, extra-move tiles, everything. It's a little daunting at first, because you don't always know how much everything's going to be worth at the end of the game and it's hard to cut tougher deals with the person in first place when you don't know who it is.

This is by far the best negotiation game I've ever played, much better than Chinatown or Who's The Boss?

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Roll Through The Ages with The Late Bronze Age "expansion". It's a dice game that's quick to teach, quick to play, and has trading (which people often forget about, but it's really very useful!).

Also consider Bohnanza (aka: That Bean Game). Quick to teach, plays fast, and it's all about trading.

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