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treasury game

in some sense the treasury game can be seen as a generalisation of the wereldhandelsspel by tinbergen.

below you find version 1 of the treasury game, as played at occupy amsterdam

version 2 can be found at guts4roses.org

the treasury game is open source and can be used freely.
the treasury game can be played in many variants.
here we descibe the simple economic variant.

this game is still under construction, in particular we ask you to experiment with the values of the parameters, and please send us your feedback.

all you need to play the treasury game are:

  • 30 sticks
  • 30 gray rings
  • for each player 10 rings of the same colour (different players have different colours)
  • all rings should fit onto the sticks

the game is played in rounds consisting of:

  • round start: the rings are given to their players
  • round play: the players shove the rings onto the sticks in order to gain points
  • round end: points are calculated and players with less than 20 points have to leave the game

points are calculated as follows, the value of a stick equals:

  • (number of rings + the value written on the gray ring) x number of different colours.

example: a stick containing 3 red rings, 1 yellow ring and a gray ring with 2 points has value:

  • (# rings + the value written on the gray ring) x # different colours =
  • (3 + 1 rings + 2) x 3 different colours (red, yellow and gray) =
  • 6 x 3 = 18 points.

by the end of the round each player needs to have at least 20 points.
if he has less than 20 points then he is out.
if he has more than 20 points then the remainder of the points are processed as follows:

  • first, a player decides from which of his sticks to take how many points, totalling 20 points
  • second, for each stick the remainder of the points is divided by 10, rounded to the nearest integer and this number is written on a gray ring shoven onto the stick

finally all rings, except the gray ones, are taken from the sticks and handed back to their players to start a new round.

the above is the description of the engine of the game.
the real game emerges while adding and changing some rules during play.
this is best facilitated by an experienced game master.

rules to add include:

  • there is a winner of the game, viz the player with the highest number of points
  • at round end the average of all the points is calculated and for each player the difference to the average is doubled
  • the game is played untill finally only one player remains

in a next part of the game groups of players, called trust circles, can cooperate and add or change any of these extra rules.

the importance of the game resides in the evaluation when switching to the next round.
many questions can be asked, such as:

  • in what does this resemble our world?
  • in what does it differ from our world?
  • what would a trust circle in real life look like?
  • what does an enlightened economy look like?

many answers are possible:

  • scarsity
  • ownership
  • growth
  • transparency
  • trust
  • cooperation
  • money
  • winner takes all...

most important is the question:
how can we model that people need to trust each other that they

  • only take what they need (share)
  • take all concerns into consideration


tragedy of the commons variant.

for this variant we change the way points are gained:

  • players can only shove one of their rings onto a stick (multiple rings are not allowed)
  • a player gains points for each stick that contains one of his rings
  • the number of points he gains depends on the number of rings present on the stick, as follows:

number of rings on stick

number of points per player

1 1
2 2
3 3
4 2
5 1






example: if 1 stick holds 4 rings (so by 4 different players) then each of these players gaines 2 points.

a better way of implementing the tragedy of the commons into the treasury game is the following:

all sticks used for gaining points are taken from the game and at the start of each round some of these sticks are placed back into the game depending on the number of remaining (unused) sticks. as yet i still have to calculate a viable parametrisation depending on the number of players. the number of sticks used in the game (30) is the natural equilibrium. the easiest parametrisation is: the number of unused sticks is doubled, which means that the group should never process more than half of the available sticks.


the treasury game is designed with the following interpretation in mind:

  • players represent economic actors
  • rounds represent years
  • sticks represent finite resources (global commons) like land and minerals, but also in processed form as (semifinished) products
  • rings represent infinite resources like labour and energy
  • shoving rings onto sticks represents production
  • several colours on a stick represent cooperation
  • the threshold of 20 points represents the necessities of life
  • leaving the game represents dying