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I'm creating a game that can grow to an enormous extent, basically can be played with 2 or more and every one represents a nation. Everyone starts with a small castle, a small village and a small army and builds their way up to huge castles and armies, and the winner is the last one left. The game is almost finished (it's based in paper sheets because people draw how their castle, army village, etc appears), but the only things it's missing is currency.

I don't know anything about how currency worked during medieval times, and I have no clue how to apply currency to my game. For example, how much should a new castle wall or 5 catapults cost? I'm pretty clueless about the economics and I'm hoping someone knows the solution to my problem.

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    $\begingroup$ Gameplay should always triumph historical accuracy. The cost of walls, weapons and supplies should be found through playtesting, not history. Consider how often things should be bought compared to the player income and do some iterations. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 17 '17 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ or follow the Final Fantasy series naming convention of gil for currency and other items under set categories i.e. weapons, magic, potions. $\endgroup$ – davemib123 Apr 17 '17 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ In all honesty, I would say that if you genuinely wish to design a good and lasting game of any sort, be prepared to spend 10+ years on it. If you are up to that, then have at it. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Apr 17 '17 at 22:23
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    $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food. While a totally valid opinion, how is that related to OP's question at all? $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Apr 17 '17 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ Take a look at CivCity: Rome might help you if you want a resource system. $\endgroup$ – Ben Ong Apr 18 '17 at 1:55
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This Link has the most info I have seen on the subject.

Unsure how useful it is to a game scenario though. Basically it lists common products and rough prices for them. But most things were made as needed rather than bought back in those days. So an army would probably have its own engineers to build catapults, so I would think time and availability of wood, sinew or whatever they used would be a more logical way of figuring it.

Probably most things would be the same: you get people with the skills to build whatever it is and then they build it from whatever is in the surrounding environment. Unless you get fancy and import marble or something.

Similar to how Age of Empires games work. It's all about resources rather than just gold.

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    $\begingroup$ much appreciated! $\endgroup$ – jeyejow Apr 17 '17 at 9:08
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    $\begingroup$ Resource based approach can easily get too tedious to micromanage as you increase number of different resources. Especially if it's not computer game (I believe OP is making pen and paper game. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Apr 17 '17 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Miech I was just pointing out an option. In those days probably the majority of people had very little currency at all outside of towns, and you can put any price you want on a horse, but if there are no horses in that locale you can't buy one. If you live near a quarry with stone masons around you can build a stone castle at a lowish price, if you don't the price would be hugely different. But the OP can lump it all into one if he/she wants. Call it money, call it seashells, makes no difference and you're right, it's a lot easier to manage that way. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Apr 17 '17 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Miech if you need to simplify, you could use jobs to aggregate things. As in, you need wood, glue, feathers, etc. for making arrows, but you could also just have the players hire fletchers. Make access to certain resources increase the productivity of those kinds of workers or decrease their maintenance costs. Masons build buildings and are better if you have access to stone, engineers construct war machines and are better if you have access to wood, smiths make armor and weaponry and are better if you have access to iron, etc. $\endgroup$ – Jeutnarg Apr 17 '17 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeutnarg Another way to simplify would be to put resources under a set of blankets. Instead of having "wood," "feathers," "steel," et. al., you get "Raw Materials." Instead of "catapults," "swords," "crossbows" et. al., you get "Weapons" (or toss armor and shields in too and call it "Armaments"). Similarly you could imagine "Labor" as a resource, and maybe something like "Politics" or "Influence" or something. This has the advantage of giving you the option of many or few resources (Labor/Materials/Goods vs Manual Labor/Materials/Weapons/Armor/...). $\endgroup$ – Delioth Apr 17 '17 at 18:45
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Depends on many things. However, for much of the middle ages, manpower was power, and thus food was a de facto currency. It would be the one universal thing to trade.

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    $\begingroup$ In Total War: Shogun II, the currency is based on rice, so you've got at least one major example of this being put in place. $\endgroup$ – Jeutnarg Apr 17 '17 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeutnarg I am not sure you would want that as an example. Though they used "koku" for currency but a textile factory produces more "rice" than the paddy fields so... It really feels more like just money. $\endgroup$ – Ben Ong Apr 18 '17 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ @BenOng actually, that's strong proof that rice is used as currency. $\endgroup$ – Jeutnarg Apr 18 '17 at 15:16
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Kilisi seems to have already given you a great source for comparative pricing. Here's another that's less scholarly but aimed at giving general ideas for game purposes, while still being more realistic than the just-gameplay idea @Mormacil proposed that causes such misinformation in one of the few places most people actually learn about history.

Now, as far as the title of the post goes, I'll just address some ideas for names. It's standard to just say gold or gp ("gold pieces") in many games but if you're going to be generic, go the Paradox route and just use a basic symbol like • or ¤. (The East Asian 元 ["yuan", "yen", "wan"] and Monglian tögrög are even named "round things", although that doesn't work very well in English except as a generic coin.)

Historically, gold is gold. There are a few currencies whose names are based on it like the gulder and złoty (and a few others like the đồng based on other metals like bronze), but for the most part the money had to be a weight or unit of precious metal: pound, libra, livre, peso were all a pound and the mark half of one; the Mideastern shekel, Thai baht, and East Asian ("tael") were units nearer an ounce; the Greek and Roman talents were about half a hundredweight. Every one of those was based on silver instead of gold since it was more abundant and useful. If you wanted to reference that but not just say silver, you could call your currency argent. (A few other currencies were based on weights of other items, like the Japanese koku being a double-hwt of rice.)

In medieval settings, there were two other ways to come up with names for money.

Some coins were known for their origin. Bezants came from Byzantium, florins from Florence, and guineas originally derived their gold from the Guinea coast of Africa. You could just use a clipped adjective based on a mercantile location within your game world, something equivalent to a "Venit", "Yorky", or "Shang".

Others are adjectives based on the shape or design of the coin. The groats were fat, the eagles had eagles, the crowns and kroner had crowns, the sovereigns had kings, the laurel had the king in a wreath, &c. You could put pretty much any design on a token you liked and just come up with a name for it: a "dragon", a "shark", a "shield", whathaveyou.

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  • $\begingroup$ interesting! ill consider your ideas!! $\endgroup$ – jeyejow Apr 18 '17 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ @jeyejow Actually, I think the calorie idea in the comments above is also hilarious and accurate for someone in control of an entire medieval economy, even though it's probably too genre-breaking to feel right for a game outside of a college history department. Anyway, good luck! $\endgroup$ – lly Apr 18 '17 at 8:20
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I think we would have to know a lot more about your game before we could give any specific rules.

Firstly it sounds like you don't want to make it too realistic...otherwise you could decide "Hey, I could pay these workers to dig me a trench...but how about I just round them up and force them." or some similar method that got medieval kings around these problems.

As such this may belong more in game-rules building than a worldbuilding site.

My suggestion (as game building) would be to try to gauge how much money someone might have at a certain point in the game, you don't want someone lining their borders with huge castles. What are the hit/attack points of each? If it takes ten catapults to take down a castle but a castle costs 100 times more then you can hit the opposition pretty hard in the economy if they build a castle and you pop in and knock it down.

Several play throughs is the best tactic. You'll notice annoying tactics arise when people don't play your game as you imagined and then want to change the rules as you go along.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have that in mind, the resources are limited else someone could just sell everything and buy catapuls and rekt every castle. But i try to only limit the things that can be abused easly, i alos want to make the game flexible, so people can develop insane strategies. $\endgroup$ – jeyejow Apr 17 '17 at 9:19
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    $\begingroup$ Insane strategies can be interesting to play yourself but in terms of it being an enjoyable game over all perhaps there does need to be some regulation on what they can do. $\endgroup$ – FreeElk Apr 17 '17 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ I see... do you know anny guide that has some rules i can use to "guide" the players indo having an enjoyable experience? $\endgroup$ – jeyejow Apr 17 '17 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ Learn the profession of (board)game designer. It's a complex topic with a variety of skills. Read up some game design books, that should be a good starter. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 17 '17 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ much appreciated! @FreeElk $\endgroup$ – jeyejow Apr 17 '17 at 9:41
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Perhaps a combination of turns, resources and currency would complicate but enhance the game. This is my example -- not cut in stone. Each turn gains you a set number of men to build or be trained for the military, and a set amount of currency. You must mine stone or metal, it takes turns to plant and harvest, and things take a set amount to do. You could collect coin instead of men, or men instead of coin, too. Players can trade as well -- but men, coin or resources are each worth a set amount. (ex: 2 coin = 1 man = 100 stone, 4 metal, 10 food.)

If you use grid paper -- then each square costs or requires a set thing "X" number of men, "X" number of resources, "X" number of coins. You'd need tokens to represent these things and a banker to dole out and collect coin at each turn. You need a balance of crops, plus men, plus resources and coin to do anything, but the combinations are pretty broad. You can't have a hundred men and the smallest castle, there's a set number per grid -- so it's all a balancing act. (The banker is at a disadvantage because they can't strategize between turns as easily, so maybe they get paid for this task.)

Call the currency 'gold', or 'silver', or 'coin'. It doesn't matter as long as you don't make it too complicated. Coin and half coins are the only things available. Or coin and 10 coin piece. Just keep it simple.

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In Medieval Europe, money was gold, and gold was money. We're used to coins today being worth more than the metals that make them up, and that the value that they're traded for is based on what the government says they're worth. In the past, a gold coin is worth it's weight in gold, no more, no less. The purpose of minting coins is to give a guarantee that the gold hasn't been adulterated with other metals - the king's face is punched into the coin to give you his word that this coin is authentic gold. This is why you can use your kingdom's coins in the neighbouring kingdom's markets, although there is probably only so far you can go before the merchants start to refuse accepting your coins on the grounds they don't recognise your king anymore.

Something else to consider however about the medieval economy was that most people hardly ever dealt with any sort of currency. If you are a peasant working on your lord's land, he doesn't exactly "pay" you. You work his land and in return he allows you to live on it, he'll let you keep some of the food you produce, and he'll assemble an army to defend you from invaders. Lords themselves will have treasuries, but most of their economic relationships are based on barter (direct trading of resource for resource) or fealty (providing tribute to a more senior lord in exchange for protection and legitimacy).

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Inspired by history and stories, here's an idea that may be too complicated:

Each player issues their own currency, and the value of each currency goes up and down based on the perception of their value. They're each pegged against a base currency, such as "gold" or "production", but you don't get to hold onto that. Each player starts with 100 of their own currency, but during the game may hold money in all of currencies.

So if one of your players was playing Florence, then the Florin might be worth 9 gold one turn, but only 7 gold the next. Another player, playing Byzantium, happens to have a lot of their money in Florins, so the change in Florence's fortunes affects them. They need to shore up Florence long enough to trade their Florins for something else - but only if another player is willing to accept those Florins.

This would really only work with 4 or more players, and the mechanics could get pretty complicated.

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In terms of how much it costs to build a castle, the National Archives at Kew in the UK holds records from the Medieval period.

There are quite detailed accounts in those archives for building some of the Royal castles particularly those of King Edward the First in Wales. According to the Welsh Government Conwy Castle cost £15000 to build in 1283. https://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/conwycastle/?lang=en

This according to the National Archives equates to £10,411,041. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter/#currency-result

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While Kilisi nailed the answer perfectly for how to design an accurate medeville economy, game design often suffers from too much accuracy.

The first thing you want to consider is that this is a board game. Board games are typically not like video games in that you can't expect your players to just log-on whenever, save their progress, then come back later. Players will want a game that can be played through start-to-finish in 1-4 hours. Your economy will need to be simple enough to support this kind of fast play through model.

For this you want to consider how much economy is the point of the game. If your combat system is quick and simple, then a complex economy that deals with multiple resources, production bonuses, etc will become the game. If combat and carefully planned tactics is the point, then you want to to simplify economy as much as possible to keep the game from exceeding a one-shot time limit.

The exception to this is if you can make the game appeal to the RPG model of tabletop gaming where you put people into story driven campaigns that are meant to draw out across 20+ hours of gaming. Doing this with competitive strategy games normally does not work well for a number of reasons, but if you could work it out such that your kingdom can exist in a similar format to an RPG character sheet that can be easily picked up and returned to later, then this might be doable. If this is the case, you can build very complex economies and tactics whereby players become interdependent on each other for trade and resources, but this may be a way better type of system for co-op gaming than competitive.

Then there is balance. Does a catapult really cost as much as a frigate? In real life the answer is no, but if the mechanics in the game make them equally useful, then they should cost the same regardless. In general, the best games give you a reason to own all of the units that exist in the game. If an army of knights can just wipe out whatever they encounter, then your other 10 unit types will just be dead weight in your game box, but if knights are so expensive that they have to be selectively deployed, then you will see people need to make mixed armies. So, economy is often a tool used to balance game elements that are inherently unbalanced.

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