Incentivized Role Selection – Part 2

Following up on my previous post concerning incentivized role selection, let’s take a look at the incentivized role selection of Twilight Imperium.

Mechanic Name: Incentivized Role Selection – Part II

Related Article “Incentivized Role Selection”

System: Twilight Imperium

Summary: Add incentives to ensure that each role is selected multiple times over the course of the game.


Twilight Imperium, much like Puerto Rico, makes use of an incentivized role selection process; In Twilight Imperium they are called Strategies instead of Roles. And much like Puerto Rico, if a Strategy is not selected, it is incentivized. The incentive, much like Puerto Rico, is in the “monetary” currency of Twilight Imperium (as opposed to the Victory Point currency).

In Twilight Imperium, there exists the Imperial strategy card (ISC), a card so strong that you should always select it. The game is played to 10 points, by achieving different objectives, and selecting the Imperial strategy card yields you 2 points.  So the incentive to choose other items is in the form of “monetary” currency, whereas selecting the Imperial strategy card nets you 20% of the required victory points.

Why I Don’t Like It:

I don’t like the Imperial strategy card because it is very heavy handed. After all, if you don’t select it, then your turn should yield at least two points; After all that’s what you gave up by not selecting it.

In Puerto Rico it is hard to imagine a single Role selection netting you 20% of your final points for the game, let alone as your first selection of the game. The incentivized strategy selection system creates an ebb-and-flow in what strategies will be chosen, but with the dominating presence of the Imperial strategy card, you know that you have to chose it when it’s available.  Likewise the other players have to choose it as well. For me, the forced decision results in resentment. I dread the rounds where I “have to” choose the Imperial strategy card.

I want to immerse myself in the game, and have decisions and options that I must consider. There is nothing “cool” about gaining 20% of the conditions for victory, when the other options are going to war, researching technology, or brow-beating someone into a treaty…In other words immersing in the game’s narrative.

I understand that gaining victory points, a

Incentivized Role Selection

Mechanic Name: Incentivized Role Selection

System: Puerto Rico

Summary: Add incentives to ensure that each role is selected multiple times over the course of the game.


Turns in Puerto Rico consist of a player selecting a role, then each player executing the role’s action, with the selecting player receiving a bonus. For example, if I select the Builder role, everyone may purchase a building and I receive a small credit towards that purchase. A role may only be selected once during a given round; A round consists of each player taking a turn.

The game is setup such that there are more roles than players. Thus not every role will be selected in a given round. At the end of the round, if a role wasn’t selected, 1 coin is placed on the role. So now, if someone selects that role they add 1 coin to their coffers; The costs are between 2 and 10 coins, so one coin is a pretty good incentive.

Why I Like It:

First and foremost, without the mechanic, it is possible, though unlikely, that some roles might never be selected. I suspect that for a given game, each person is likely to have one or two optimal roles that they would always select if there wasn’t an incentive mechanism.

Another aspect is that the more coins a role has the more tempting it is to select, even if there is a more optimal role for you to select; I really need to ship these barrels of Sugar, but I here the Settlers will pay me two doubloons just to find some more land for the workers to work.

If you are paying attention, you can look ahead and attempt to predict how another person might take or skip an incentive, thus using that knowledge to better enact your strategy. If I don’t select the Mayor this turn, then it’ll have a coin, and so Matt will likely select it first, leaving me to select the Settler; After all I really need a quarry.

See part 2 of this series