I concluded my first ever Maths Trade this week.
Well, basically, a Maths Trade works like this: A group of people make a big list of stuff that they would all like to get rid of (in this particular case, a big list of board games). Everybody then studies the big list and makes a wish-list of things that they’d be happy to receive in return for the stuff that they’re “donating”. All the wish lists are then fed into a magic computer program which runs a neato algorithm designed to make the maximum amount of people happy. You are then issued with an instruction: Send your (thing you wanted to get rid of) to (person X), and (person Y) will send you (something nice that you wanted to receive).
The clever bit is that the person you’re sending to isn’t necessarily the person you’ll be receiving from – there are lots of little loops of senders and receivers – but the algorithm makes sure everything works out right in the end… everybody gets something they wanted. Or, in a worst case scenario, you’ll end up sending nothing and receiving nothing… but that only happens if you’ve been particularly fussy / unrealistically ambitious with your particular combination of donations and wants, and the algorithm couldn’t come up with a solution to please you.
Obviously, there’s a huge trust aspect to a Maths Trade. The whole thing would go horribly wrong if somebody didn’t despatch an item that they were supposed to despatch, or lied about the condition of their contribution, or whatever… but – in the board game community at least – that kind of thing doesn’t seem to happen very often. The trade I took part in resulted in 235 items changing hands, and it all seems to have gone pretty smoothly.
TLDR version: Maths Trades are some kind of swap-shop voodoo magic, and this week I managed to swap the copy of Assyria (which I was a bit luke-warm on) for a copy of Mykerinos… (which is, IMHO, a far, far nicer game).
I can imagine Maths Trades getting pretty addictive… it’s kind of exciting putting together your wants list, not-quite-knowing whether your trade will go through, and wondering which of your selected items you’ll ultimately get. I’m already eyeing up some of my other lesser-played games as candidates for the next one…
If you’re a Board Game Geek user, watch this thread for announcements of new Maths Trades. There’s a UK-specific one every second month (next one due in June) … they’re an excellent way to move some of your lesser-played games along and try something new 🙂