Trading or Negotiation

Trading or Negotiation

Everybody loves a good haggle. Unless, of course, you’re on the losing end of the negotiation. Perhaps you have nothing of value to wheel and deal. Like in the game of Catan, no one wants your sheep. Not even for sweaters. I’d make a shirt out of bricks to keep warm before I take your wool. I digress.

So, is there a difference between trading and negotiation in gaming? Aren’t they the same thing? Not exactly.

In our book, a game that includes trading doesn’t always mean you’re negotiating because you may not be trading with the other players at the table. For example, some games have a set rate of exchange and don’t require other players to make a deal. Using Catan as an example again, the players can always trade with the “bank” at four to one (four of your crappy sheep for one of anything else). Ipso facto, a game can include trading without negotiation.

Negotiation, on the other hand, is all about the “art of the deal” and involves direct interaction with the other players at the table. The final result may be a trade or a transaction of some sort, but the struggle to reach that agreement is where the magic happens. I’ll give you “this” for “that” unless “that” is sheep.

In games with negotiation, you work with the other players to reach an agreement, trying desperately to play it cool like a grade school boy with sweaty palms at a dance. You put on your poker face so the other players don’t know how badly you may want or need what they have. It’s all part of the game.

Pro tip: Don’t let the table know the one thing you need to win the game right before you enter a negotiation.

Keep in mind, games with negotiation can often be group dependent. If you’ve got a group that’s ready to chip away, bargain, and reach a deal, you’ll probably have a great time. Or you can negotiate in a game of Diplomacy and destroy your friendships, marriages, and end in financial ruin. As I said, it can be group dependent.

Some folks find negotiation off-putting and like focusing on their own game instead, which is probably a result of used-car sales trauma. And nothing kills a negotiation game faster than a player who isn’t into the haggling process. A non-negotiator in a negotiation game can inadvertently swing the game in one player’s favor, and ironically hold the most power in a mechanism they don’t even like.

Although most games with negotiations include trading, the reverse cannot be said. So yes, Virginia, there is a difference between games with trading and negotiation. That difference is the human element. So we encourage you to take a look at some popular games that include negotiation such as Catan, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Cosmic Encounter.

Doug Doug Kotecki is the Chief Curator at Tabletop Game Gallery, and even though his brain tells him not to, he still loves Taco Bell.

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