Tragedy is a game designed for people to play with common pool resources.
Common pool resources are resources which are shared but cannot be easily protected. In Tragedy four players compete to be the first to connect four paths. Each path is made by taking resources from a common pool. This pool grows by only one quarter each round.
Its main focus is on how people interact and reflect on their interactions. The game presents a pool of resources that grows each round. The pool can only grow if enough resources remain in the pool, otherwise it will be consumed. People can explore different strategies to both compete with and support other players. The ultimate goal is for all players to rewrite and add to the existing rules of Tragedy in a way that all agree makes it the most fun.
Fire, Earth, Water and Air
The resources in Tragedy have four types, Fire, Earth, Water and Air. These refer to a set of the elements that were once thought to compose all of the natural world. These element symbols reference the alchemical symbols for Fire, Earth, Water and Air as recorded by the historian Eric John Holmyard. Today they are resources which have immense universal value but which cannot be recovered once depleted or polluted.
The Pool is the first of the two boards in the game. This is where the resources are held and obtained. The resources in the pool grow by one quarter each round. These resources are publicly available to all teams for their private use. They are also subtractable, meaning that each quantity taken reduces the size and growth of the pool.
The order of extraction is determined by the roll of the dice. This simulates the experience of the varying balance of opportunity and access that occurs with common-pool resources.
The Commons is the second of the two boards in the game. It represents the environment where people compete to create value from the resources they have acquired in The Pool. The resources are placed by Stacking and Unstacking resources on alternate rounds.
The aim is to be the first to build a path that connects all four quadrants of the board. To achieve this players must place one of their resources on at least one square which contains the element symbol for each resource type. Each quadrant contains the symbols of only one resource so players must reach all fours sides to win.
The capacity for players to over extract resources from a common pool is known as the Tragedy of the Commons. In its basic form this game provides opportunities for players to discuss, ally or sanction the actions of others. After reflecting on the outcomes of these actions the game then provides players the opportunity to write their own rules.
As the rules of the game develop through this cycle of action and reflection players engage in the process of Governing the Commons referring to the work of political economist Elinor Ostrom. The mechanics of Tragedy provides an opportunity to explore how reflection, incompleteness and interaction might support the development of shared language and goals.