[This is the final entry of 18 in a game design journal series introducing Spheres & Farms, a game about real estate brokerage branding in the Puget Sound region. Previous]

Setup phase (step through before the first turn only)

In any order, players choose icons and brokerage mats. Players set up the marketing spheres and economic cycle track mat, placing the current cycle marker in the Boom section of the ECT, and apportioning out the demand tokens onto the track.

Players randomly select among themselves the initial active player. Play then proceeds clockwise around the table.

The active player shuffles the agent deck and starting with the player on the left, proceeds to deal out agent cards to each player as follows: two each for five players, three for four players, four for three players, five for two players.25 Players draw the markers for each of their assigned agents. Players should take a few moments to inspect the cards and starting location options for each of their assigned agents. Now is the time to consider where each of their agents should begin by farming.

Players next set up offices. No two offices shall share a location card. Players should consider using the location card summary map to identify locations in close proximity to their agents. At this time (only), among each other or in pairs, and in no particular order, players may exchange agents with each other until each has optimized their agents near an ideal location for offices. Players may exchange agents freely, or negotiate their exchange for anything of value (P&CR points, promises of promotion card plays, etc.). Player offices are fixed when players have settled their locations among each other. The location cards are placed on the table, and one player’s office marker is placed on each card.

Having decided where each of their agents first farms will be located, players now draw those cards from the deck if no other player has done so, and add farm markers to each for their relevant agents. No more than one farm per agent is allowed to start. Some brokers may begin on marketing spheres as indicated on their agent cards. As allowed by the agent card, place a farm in the selected sphere box for any such agent the player chooses. (Observe below that players will receive no at-start P&CR points for these marketing sphere farms, which is a limiting factor.) At the end of this step, there should be 10 to 17 location cards on the playing surface.

Next, based on the number of demand tokens printed on each marketing sphere box, apportion the demand tokens from the ECT onto those boxes, including the geographic farming box. Note that some demand tokens are likely to be in boxes where there are no farms; these tokens represent demand that is inaccessible to the current roster of agents. Unless new agents are drawn, or current agents reset their farms in the next year and begin to prospect for listings, these demand tokens will remain where they are until the end of the current year.The last step at setup is to record the starting P&CR points for each player on the combined record track at the top of the marketing spheres/ECT mat. Each player adds the VPs of the cards their agents are farming, multiplies this sum by 20 percent (or simply divides by five), rounding down, then adds the result in P&CR points for that player to the combined record track. No player begins the game with any VPs.

After initial P&CR points are recorded, the player with the most points becomes the next active player This concludes the setup phase.

The regular sequence of play

There are five turns per year: Early Spring (March-April), Late Spring (May-June), Mid-Summer (July-August), Mid-Autumn (September-October), and Winter (November-February). The Winter turn marks the end of the year. This sequence of play is followed for each turn. At the end of the final step, the turn marker on the combined record track is advanced, and the next turn begins at the selling phase. The player with the highest P&CR total is the active player for the entire turn.

The selling phase

The selling phase occurs once each turn, five times per year. Starting with the active player and proceeding clockwise, each player may select one agent, pay promotions for any listings, and conduct selling rolls for each of that agent’s listings. If promotion is paid for any listing(s), a promotion counter is placed on the track for that listing. Sales are resolved as they occur following the procedure for resolving a sale. VPs and P&CR points are scored for each sale as they are won.

When any or all listings by one agent are resolved, play passes clockwise to the next player, who may do the same. Players with no listings to resolve must pass. When the last player has passed, all players advance the listing markers on their brokerage mats and location cards that do not bear a promotion marker. Any listings that would advance beyond the last space on the agent’s listing track are expired following the procedure for expired listings.

At the end of the selling phase, a new active player may be determined based on the current P&CR totals recorded at the end of this phase.

The project launch and execution phase

Projects that are won as a result of event card plays during the selling phase are planned and executed according to the procedures described for projects in the “Construction projects and pre-sales” journal entry. Project sites are indicated using the project markers included in the counter mix, and are limited to those counters provided for each player.

Prospecting phase(s)

In these phases (as there may be one to three), players add new listings based on the procedures described in the journal entry, “Prospecting for listings and incurring events.” That procedure is followed for each farm, one agent at a time, for each player. A player is not required to prospect for all agents, and listings for each agent are limited by the counter mix. The active player starts and either prospects for one agent or immediately passes to the next player clockwise. Agent markers on each player’s brokerage mat are inverted when that agent has prospected for one or both farms they may operate.

When all agents have prospected, a second or third prospecting phase may follow, based on the current phase of the economic cycle on the ECT. Agent markers are turned face up, and the prospecting phase starts over, again starting with the active player. When all phases have passed, all agent markers are again turned face up.

The maintenance and clean-up phase (Early Spring through Mid-Autumn)

During these turns, maintenance and clean-up comprises only the following steps:

  1. If the economic cycle advanced during the year now ending, the new totals of demand tokens on the ECT are noted. To a total amount not higher than this figure, all demand tokens still found among the marketing spheres, in the geographic farming box, and on the sidelines are swept into the current phase space of the ECT. (Here they will be ready to be apportioned again at the beginning of the next turn). Within the total available, the active player shall ensure that the proportions of demand tokens are as evenly distributed among OCs as possible without reducing the amount below the total indicated.
  2. Any event cards are now returned to the prospecting/event deck, which is reshuffled.
  3. The turn marker is advanced to the next turn on the combined record track.

The maintenance and clean-up phase (Winter turn only)

Following steps 1 and 2 above for maintenance and clean-up in the bimonthly turns, players in the winter must pay maintenance in P&CR points for each of their existing farms according to the farm P&CR maintenance cost table. Farms for which maintenance is not paid are removed from their cards; their agents may not prospect on those location cards in the following year. Agents may relocate those farms for an additional charge according to the same table, but only if the previous year’s maintenance is first paid. The procedure for computing these costs is described in the journal entry, “Location card contents, office locations and maintenance.”

When these steps are complete, the turn marker is advanced to the next turn.

“Victory” determination

Victory will be determined at the end of the last Winter turn. The minimum VP points required to win will be determined through playtesting. However, there will be a VP threshold set for the brand collectively: a sum of all player scores that must be met for any individual player to win. If the brand’s threshold is not met, then all players lose the game.

25 There will be exceptions to this process, among others, for certain versions of the game. For this initial Puget Sound version, agent cards will need to be coded for starting locations in Kitsap, Jefferson, and Clallam Counties. Owing to geography, it is not practical for these agents to operate outside these counties. One player may offer to be the Bainbridge Island managing broker; if two or more players seek this office, they can bid for it, or it can be assigned randomly. When cards are drawn, the agent cards coded for these areas need to be dealt to that player only, who places an office on Bainbridge Island (there are offices marked for this purpose) and subsequently draws agents from this sequestered deck.

Schedule of entries

  1. Spheres & Farms™ design and strategy journal: Introduction
  2. The agent and brokerage as real estate brands
  3. How price and place matter
  4. Visualization, testing, and learning
  5. Spheres & Farms™ game summary
  6. Game procedures and routines in the context of agency law and practice
  7. Game components; agent counters and cards
  8. Farming methods; market selection
  9. More about marketing spheres; the economic cycle track (ECT)
  10. Economic cycle effects on marketing spheres
  11. Location cards: the Spheres & Farms™ "game map"
  12. Location card contents, office locations and maintenance
  13. The prospecting/event card deck
  14. Prospecting for listings and incurring events
  15. P&CR points: promoting and selling listings
  16. Construction projects and pre-sales
  17. Visibility points: accumulation and scoring