Steadily Decreasing Resources

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The inescapable depletion of a resource as gameplay progresses.

Handling limited resources is a problem many games pose to players, but at the same time most do give players possibilities of increasing these resources in some ways. Games that do not do this - and were players do need to use the resources or the game system depletes them automatically - have Steadily Decreasing Resources.


In both Chess and Stratego players have a limited number of pieces they can make use of, and these are slowly but surely used up as gameplay progresses. While there are a limited number of stones in Go, the positions to place these in are the actual Steadily Decreasing Resources.

In Hey! That's My Fish!, the gameplay area is slowly reduced as players take pieces of it as part of their turns. The gameplay area in Forbidden Island also shrinks but here as an effect of passing time and players have a possibility of slowing this.

The victory points in Race for the Galaxy and the provinces in Dominion show how resources that determine who wins a game can also be Steadily Decreasing Resources that decides when the games end. Survival games such as This War of Mine (both the computer game and the board game) often make use of Steadily Decreasing Resources to create a tension and force the games into one form of resolution or other; Minecraft and Valheim show that this is not the case for all survival games.

Using the pattern

Steadily Decreasing Resources is, quite obviously, a way of restricting Resources during game instances. This depends on two factors. First, that the game system does not allow ways of introducing new Resources during games, so e.g., Resource Generators and Spawning can remove the presence of the pattern from a game (Converters may work as long as the material being converted is a Steadily Decreasing Resources). Second, players must have some need to use or consume the Resources. This can be enforced by making it part of player actions (as in "normal" situations in Go) or by "bribing" players to do this by having Victory Points as the Resources used. Some games have Steadily Decreasing Resources even if not all actions require use of Resources if over time one can guarantee that they will be used up or the game will end. The typical way of doing this is through having some form of Limited Repeats: in Go the Ko rule ensures this while the threefold repetition[1] rule does so in Chess (and some other strategy games).


Steadily Decreasing Resources can be a way to enforce Limited Resources in a game or be a way to modulate that pattern if it already exists. It can also lead to Limited Gameplay Time since the consumption of the Resources forces games to an end state at a speed equal to the decrease. Steadily Decreasing Resources affecting the specific Resources needed for Survive goals make games into Unwinnable Games. Steadily Decreasing Resources can also give rise to Unwinnable Games simply if the demand for the Resources is unlimited.

The presence of the pattern is likely to make each use of an affected Resource into an Investment and create Entrenching Gameplay since options of using the Resources also disappear as the Resources do. As long as players can compete over the Resources, the pattern is even more likely than Limited Resources to create Conflicts.


Can Instantiate

Conflicts, Entrenching Gameplay, Investments, Limited Gameplay Time, Limited Resources, Unwinnable Games

Can Modulate

Limited Resources, Resources, Survive, Victory Points

Can Be Instantiated By

Limited Repeats

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Resource Generators, Spawning


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia entry for the threefold repetition rule.