Resource Management

Resource Management

The players have to plan, manage, and control resource flows within the game in order to reach the goals of the game.

All games where the use of Resources is not simply used for bookkeeping require players to perform Resource Management. This includes deciding how to use Resources to perform different actions and strive towards different goals as well as planning on how to acquire new Resources and judging which Resources will be most valuable in the future.

Example: Almost all strategy games, including real-time ones, have a strong Resource Management component. The final goal is usually just to overcome the opponents by maximizing the use of the Resources available.

Example: Magic: The Gathering, as well as other collectable card games, has Resource Management in at least three layers. First, when playing a single game instance the cards in the deck selected for the game are the Resources that have to be managed to overcome the opponents; second, the cards for that deck usually have to be selected from a much larger collection of cards available; and third, managing the whole collection consists of buying new cards, trading cards with other people, and other methods of obtaining the cards. The last layer of Resource Management often involves the use of extra-game Resources, usually real money.

Example: Professional team sports such as Soccer and Ice Hockey have a high level Resource Management layer for managing the composition of the teams.

Using the pattern

The basic building block for instantiating Resource Management in the game is to have some sort of Limited Resources, which have a direct impact on the possibilities of reaching the goals of the game through the use of Producers and Consumers. In Chess, for example, the players have 16 pieces each at the start, and these are Non-Renewable Resources. The use of Renewable Resources as Limited Resources often creates more complex games, especially when there are Producer-Consumer chains with Converters for creating the final Resources from the basic Renewable Resources. For example, in Age of Empires, the basic Resources, such as wood and food, first have to be gathered from Resource Locations back to the stockpiles, the Containers, and then these Resources can be refined in Converters to Units. In some games, the renewal rate of the Renewable Resources can also be one of the Resources to be managed.

Interesting variations of Resource Management are Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties where the Resources to be managed are, as the name implies, Rewards or Penalties of the game and Attention Swapping, where the players' attention is the basic Resource to be managed. In many cases of team-oriented Multiplayer Games, the players themselves are also Resources, which have to be managed as part of Team Development. This management level can lead to Social Organizations where there is a hierarchy of control similar to the hierarchy of military operations.

In any case, Resource Management can become uninteresting if there are no Tradeoffs with associated Risk/Reward structures. This can happen especially in cases where the availability of the Resources is out of balance or where there is a dominant strategy for maximizing the utility of the Resources.

Book-Keeping Tokens are not used for Resource Management since they do not require any active decisions, investments, or risks on any players' behalf.


Resource Management gives players a Freedom of Choice of how to use Producers and Consumers in a game and often causes Gain Ownership goals. Games with Resource Management usually involve long-term Stimulated Planning, and this kind of strategic thinking can lead to Cognitive Immersion. Games involving management of complex Producer-Consumer chains can make Resource Management a means through which players can develop Game Mastery. The Resource Management involved in these games ranges from controlling the immediate Resources, for example Units in a strategy game, to making long term Investments, such as research in Civilization to increase the number of different Unit types available.

If it is possible to quantify how well the players have performed Resource Management, this can be used as a Tiebreaker.


Instantiates: Cognitive Immersion, Stimulated Planning, Risk/Reward, Freedom of Choice, Game Mastery, Tradeoffs

Modulates: Right Level of Complexity, Social Organizations, Team Development, Tiebreakers

Instantiated by: Attention Swapping, Producer-Consumer, Combat, Renewable Resources, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties, Betting, Investments, Units, Limited Resources

Modulated by: Consumers, Ownership, Container, Producers, Gain Ownership, Converters

Potentially conflicting with: Book-Keeping Tokens