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Container: The Board Game
Published on January 21, 2008 By Jythier In Politics
Container is a board game. It is an economic simulation for 3-5 players, and works this way:

You, as a player, are responsible for 3 different vertically-integrated companies - one is a factory, one is a wholesaler, and one is a shipping/retail company. There are five different types of containers. You produce containers in your factory, buy them as a wholesaler, and then ship them to an island where they are auctioned off to the highest bidder (or you can keep them yourself by matching the highest bid), plus the highest bid is matched by the government as a subsidy to the shipper for being such a great guy and bringing product over to the island.

Factory production costs $1, but it is passed to the player to your right instead of to the bank. Buying merchandise from factories just moves money between players. Buying from the wholesaler again, simply moves money between players. Upgrading your infrastructure to increase capacity in your factories or warehouses costs money, and is paid to the bank. The only ways for money to enter or leave the economy is by taking loans (adds, then subtracts when paid off), paying interest on loans (takes out), upgrading infrastructure (takes out) and shipping (adds or subtracts highest bid, depending on if the shipper keeps the containers or keeps the bid).

The containers on the island are worth a set amount, from $10 to $2, with one container having a variable value based on whether or not you have one of each type on your portion of the island ($5/$10). Also, the container that you have the most of is 'overstocked' and thus is discarded as having no value.

Apparently, there is a lot of depth to this game, and if one can get past the fact that it's an economic simulation, could be very fun to play!

The thing is, some people play this game and use loans strangely. There really isn't ever a good time to take out a loan, but the worst is when you invest it into a factory that will take a long time to pay for itself. Also, if everyone stops trading with you after you take the loan, you will never get to pay it off, and the penalty for defaulting is extremely bad - containers go away from your island, from your stores, and lastly machines and warehouses are repossessed.

This creates an interesting situation as each player cannot buy from themself, but only from each other to move the containers further down the chain. So, by effectively eliminating one possible player, you have practically monopolized the remainder of the game with your partner, but now only have one opponent to buy off of as well, so prices can be as high as the other player sees fit. And this breaks down the game into the it's-not-fun-anymore stage.

So, what did we learn here? Well, we learned that the best move is not always to drive a player to bankruptcy, particularly when the player is going to lose anyway - might as well buy their goods at rock-bottom prices before the other player and sell them for huge profits. Shutting one out of the commerce stream only makes the game boring. It's possible to do it and succeed, but why bother? Why not try to succeed while leaving them in the commerce stream? You can probably still do it with them paying the interest, they will have more fun, you will have more fun, and you will want to play again after instead of being completely disheartened.

Can we take any of this and apply it to the real-world? Well, no, not really. Except maybe to share enough profit that everyone can stay in the game, because in the end, your final score will be higher anyway. Of course, in real life, your final score isn't just economic - and in fact, may have less to do with economic gain than anything else. But hey - even pure capitalists know they have to pay their employees enough to keep them alive, and working. The top 10% can't do it without us bottom 90%, but the bottom 90% can't do it without the top 10% to tell us what we need to be doing for them. Understanding the interdependency between the two is the real key. After all, if those bottom 90% had no jobs, and no money, they couldn't buy the computer game that they will be wasting time at work playing!

on Jan 22, 2008
It sounds like a great game!  And is simple (compared to the real economic model).  And in that respect it can be used as a lesson that people will understand.  Albeit not the normal mom and pop who are only concerned with the price of rice at Safeway.
on Jan 22, 2008
Ah, board games... what can't you do?

I think it's going to be great, but I don't have 2 others to play it with... just my wife. So, it'll have to wait!