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The base game of Stone Age includes nine 10-value food tokens and twenty (?) 5-value food tokens. Players start the game with 12 food, and will typically use 5 food after the first turn.

I normally play with 3 players, and deal out one 5-value, two 2-value, and three 1-value food tokens to each player at the start (with the 5-value being taken to feed at the end of the first turn). Never have I used a single 10-value food token, let alone almost ten of them. I don't think I have seen a player go hunting and get more than ten food in a single turn (or maybe only a couple of times). I rarely see players get more than five food in a single turn, for that matter - meaning the 5- and 10-value tokens are never used. When setting up the game, all of the 10-value tokens go back into the box, along with all but five of the 5-value tokens (three of which are given to the players when setting up).

Given how rarely these 10-value tokens are used (and the 5-value tokens, too), why does the game include so many of them? Gameplay with 4 players will surely be different than with 3, of course, but I can't see how that extra player would require using the 10-value tokens (let alone so many of them)!

3 Answers 3

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Because they are effectively free to produce.

Resources in Stone Age are unlimited (pg 6). This means that in theory, the game should provide unlimited pieces with which to play. In practice, this doesn't happen, because pieces are expensive to produce (and take up space and weight in the box). So they try to provide just enough resources so that you will almost never run out in normal gameplay.

But wooden resources are different from cardboard resources. For wooden resources, there is a cost to each additional wooden piece added to the box. Cardboard pieces, on the other hand, are punched out from cardboard sheets. The cost of adding extra pieces to a sheet is negligible compared to the cost of a new sheet.

As can be seen in this unboxing video, Stone Age comes with 4 cardboard sheets. If they removed all the 10-food tokens, they would still have 4 sheets. So there's no* reason not to fill up the extra space with tokens. There may even be technical reasons why it's better to completely fill a sheet rather than leaving blank space.

*they would slightly save in ink costs, and I don't actually know how significant those ink costs are. It's probably enough to be measurable, but not enough to be significant. They would have also saved in art costs if they didn't design a 10-food token at all, but that's a small one-time cost (probably a few hours of work for an in-house artist) over the lifetime of the game's sales.

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    I still wonder why they chose 10-value tokens instead of providing more 1- and 2-value tokens, but this seems to be the best explanation.
    – mmathis
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 15:20
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Another reason of having a lot and in high nomination is to prevent food hoarding. Some games have a limited supply of a resource, and once the supply is empty, other players can't get that resource anymore.

By having a lot (even if only in the box and not used) it signals to players that food hoarding for denial is not a valid strategy and giving peace of mind to players who don't like those type of game situations.

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  • There are plenty of games that do not use component limits as in-game limits. Agricola, by the same publisher is one such example: "If the other game components run out, a substitute should be improvised"
    – Zags
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 14:27
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    Of course, but this would as well require an extra check of the rules in the case it happens.
    – Zibelas
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 18:16
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In order to reduce the amount of tokens a player needs when they get a large amount of food. The idea being that you will exchange groups of 10 for that token in order to keep enough in the supply for others to get.

It isn't about how much you spend each turn rather how much you can store up without spending. The game comes with 53 food tokens and 9 of them having a value of 10 is the same as 18 with 5 value, 45 with 2 value or 90 with 1 value.

Having that many 10 value lets them provide the same value in tokens with a smaller amount in the box which is a cost saving tool.

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    But that's the thing - I don't need 53 food tokens; the most tokens I use is about 20 (5 tokens per player at start, plus maybe a couple more if some of the cards provide food in the first rounds). It would have been more cost-saving to simply not include any of the 10-value ones at all (and only about half of the 5-value ones). Food is the one resource that keeps getting spent every turn, even if you're not buying huts or cards. Because of that, in my experience, the only time a player has more than 10 food is when the game is first set up.
    – mmathis
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 0:41
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    @mmathis You might not but that isn't true for everyone who plays and based on the examples in the rules it is possible for someone to get 15+food on a single turn if they have a really good roll. And most games will provide enough tokens to ensure that no matter the play style you won't run out.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 10:22

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