When less is more
Most games reward you the more you can get: the more resources you can acquire the better and usually those resources allow you to get more resources through some kind of engine building. Now this is all good fun and these games are often a race to get the most stuff and convert it into points. Games like #Architects of the West Kingdom or #Agricola (Revised Edition) have almost no downsides to amassing all the resources that you can. While Agricola does come with some costs for getting too many workers this is only a small aspect of the wider game. Now, I love both of these games and many others that follow this idea but I also really like games that challenge this idea.
I wanted to talk about one of my favourite mechanics in one of my favourite games: #13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis. I have often named this as one of the best 2P games I know and it's multi-use cards and bluffing are awesome. However, it has a wonderful 'Defcon' system in it that adds a pretty unique element of the game: having to limit yourself. Here's how it works: the board is split into 9 'Battle grounds', 3 of each of Military, Political and World opinion. Throughout each round you will play cards that allow you to add influence cubes to one of more battleground and the player with the most cubes in specific battlegrounds will score points/get the corresponding benefits. If this were the only thing to consider then obviously the best thing would be to get as many cubes in every area as you possibly could.
However, each of military political and world opinion also has a corresponding 'Defcon' track. Every time a player adds more cubes to a battleground their matching defcon is raised by the number of cubes minus one number of spaces. E.g. if you add 3 cubes to a military battleground your military defcon rises by 2. Each track is split into Defcon 1, 2 and 3 at the end of a round any of your tracks is at Defcon 1 (the highest level) or all three are at Defcon 2 then you immediately lose the game by triggering nuclear war.
So how do you manage this? By removing cubes; your defcon likewise goes down everything you use a card to remove cubes from a battleground. As such the game is a wonderful balance of trying to exert your influence in the most useful areas of the board while removing it from other area to keep your defcon in check. This adds a fantastic flow to the game and creates a balance of action efficiency Vs Defcon efficiency as adding lots of cubes in one go raises your defcon quickly whereas if you can just keep adding one cube at a time your defcon will not budge (but it will take a lot of actions).
There is much more to this game, but I really enjoy that it isn't just a game of producing as many resources (in this case influence) as quickly and efficiently as possible and instead asks you to be selective with these massive plays.
What do you all think? Are there games you have played that punish massive gathering of resources and instead reward finding a balance? And did you like them?