Daily Archives: February 7, 2014

The (Board) Gamer’s Guide to Supply Management Part VII: Upon a Salty Ocean

SI is almost radiating rainbows now that it’s resurrected it’s one-of-a-kind blog series that will help you take your Supply Management career to the next level by giving you new and interesting ways to hone your supply management skills. Still more fun than reading about the latest study on the daily migration patterns of the three-toed sloth, but now that you can hone your skills while challenging your peers, it’s three blasts and a half.

It’s 1515, and you are a merchant of Rouen. You invest in ships and city buildings in an effort to not only get rich, but be the richest when Francis I comes to visit the city in an effort to win his favour. The city’s wealth is dependent on fishing and the trading of salted fish, herring and cod in particular. Every week, ships full of salt barrels leave Rouen for the fishing grounds of the Atlantic Ocean and, upon their return, sell their fish in the market.

Upon a Salty Ocean is a turn-based work-placement game that consists of 5 turns, where each turn consists of 3 phases: an event phase, an action phase, and a turn end phase. The event phase determines weather and market conditions which affect fishing and the cost of fish and salt. In the action phase, a player chooses to either take a city action (in which she can buy salt or buildings), a navigation action (in which she can take her ships to the open sea and fish or return to Rouen), a harbour action (in which she can move goods to or from her storage depot or build a ship), and a market action (in which she can buy to or sell from the market).

Sounds simple enough, right?

It would be except for the fact that:

  • the event that happens at the start of the phase can bring stormy seas, which will decrease the amount of fish that can be caught; pirates, which will damage the ships and decrease the amount of fish that can be held; market dips, which will lower the selling price of fish and/or salt; and/or market surges, which will increase the selling price of fish and/or salt
  • actions in the action phase are consecutive, each player can only take one action at a time, and every time an action is taken, it gets more costly for the next player — and all purchases and sales affect the market price
  • you begin the game with a small amount of money, have a limited credit line, and interest charges rack up quickly if you go into debt
  • if you prosper, you must invest in a bank to safeguard your money, or you will lose some of it at the end of the turn
  • each building investment provides different advantages
  • a strategy only works if there is limited competition in that strategy, or
    you luck into the right timing

Just like in the real world,

  • shipping is subject to stormy seas, pirates, and other calamities
  • no one can take two actions at the same time in the real world, w.r.t. the markets in particular, and every action taken increases or decreases the cost for everyone else
  • your resources are always limited, debt is costly, and too little cash flow can bankrupt you (and prevent you from taking any more actions for at least one turn)
  • the more you have, the bigger the target you become for thieves and the more you have to invest in security
  • different capabilities in Supply Management give you different advantages, some tactical, some strategic, some innovative, etc.
  • not everyone can corner a commodities market, a CPG segment, etc.

It’s a real supply management market conundrum. Do you try to conquer the seas and get the most fish? Conquer the market, buy low, sell high, and make your riches off of trade? Or do you acquire the most buildings and make money off ship building, banking, and building the church? Played properly, all strategies can win, including the fishing-free market strategy. Played wrong, and bankrupt you will go. Just like the real world.