Resource Caps

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Limits on numbers of resources allowed to be used or stored.

Players very often handle different types of resources in games and acquiring more is usually beneficial. There may however be limits on how much of a resource can be collected, either for balancing purposes or for practical issues of having to provide enough physical tokens (or not to have to handle large amounts of them), and these limits are Resource Caps.


Each land area in the board game Advanced Civilization has a Resource Cap on how many units can be sustained there, and this makes players wish to expand their territory to avoid having them be removed due to starvation. Origins: How We Became Human has a similar functionality but here all units a players has are in use always - either as producers, consumers, or population on the game board, or a 'locking' tokens regarding innovation, population actions, or brain functions. The Age of Empires series has population caps for each player, although this varies from game to game (50 in the first game, 200 in the second and third, and 300 for Age of Mythology) and some civilizations get raised caps (e.g. the Goths in the second game being allowed to have 210 units); in addition, some units counts double or not at all in the third game and in Age of Mythology.

The number of actions possible to use in another way to provided Resource Caps. Players of Pandemic can take 4 actions per turn, Cartagena allows between one and three moves per turn, and Origins: How We Became Human allow a number of 'innovation' and 'population' actions depending on how many freed slots exist on their respective tracks. This is also used in the computer-based Fallout series, in the first two installments through action points and in later ones through the 'V.A.T.S'.

Players of games in the Boulder Dash series can earn extra lives by playing well but the number of lives possible to have at any point is limited to 9.

The player controlling the marines in Space Hulk not only have a limited number of marines to complete the mission being played, but also has limited time to complete each turn.

Using the pattern

Resource Caps are typically introduced to games to limit the amount of Resources players can collect, or avoid too much Resources to be created through Regenerating Resources or other mechanics for having Renewable Resources. Resource Caps need to be linked to specific Resources, and choosing which to apply the caps on and what the caps should be are the primary choices need to be made when using the pattern. Any numerical Resource can be used, e.g. Ammunition, but so can the number of Units a player may have or, through Action Caps, the number of actions that can be done by (e.g. Budgeted Action Points). Limits on the number of Save Files available is another option which may be overlooked due to typically not being a diegetic feature in a game. If the Resource Caps are to be given some physical expression in the game, Containers or Inventories can be used. The pattern can also be instantiated through Time Limits; this since it makes time into a Limited Resource restricted by cap. Both the board game and the computer-based version of Space Hulk may use of this; the first edition of the board game provides rules for modifying this depending on the number of officers and sergeants in play.

Resource Caps can also be applied on how Investments can be done: this can cause Discontinuous Progression but also just be used to require Investments providing Arithmetic Progression to be spread out over time.

Changing the actual numerical limit of a Resource Cap is a suitable candidate for Rewards or Penalties - for games with Characters this may be due to Character Development.

Diegetic Aspects

Resource Caps can diegetically be motivated as Inventories or Containers, and acquiring more of the latter can easily explain increases in the caps.


Resource Caps make the type of Resources they affect into Limited Resources logically even if functionality this may not be the case if they can be replenished as they are used. Resource Caps make the effect of Regenerating Resources and Renewable Resources not happen; to avoid this players' may engage in Resource Management in the form of making sure that Resources are used so that are below the cap limit, and this provides one form of Encouraged Constant Player Activity.

Since they can break growths of Resources, Resource Caps can break Positive Feedback Loops and thereby be used as a form of Balancing Effect.

Somewhat as a side effect, when the Resources affect by the caps are handled by Bookkeeping Tokens, Resource Caps limit the need for Excise.


Can Instantiate

Balancing Effects, Discontinuous Progression, Limited Resources, Penalties, Rewards

with Renewable Resources

Encouraged Constant Player Activity, Resource Management

Can Modulate

Ammunition, Arithmetic Progression, Investments, Regenerating Resources, Renewable Resources, Resources, Save Files, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

Action Caps, Budgeted Action Points, Containers, Inventories, Time Limits

Can Be Modulated By

Character Development

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Positive Feedback Loops

Excise when Bookkeeping Tokens are used


New pattern created in this wiki.