Unpredictable Dynamic Engine

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A source produces an adjustable but unpredictable flow of resources. Players can invest resources to improve the strength or steadiness of the flow.

Also Known As


A dynamic engine produces creates an unpredictable flow of resources and opens the possibility for long term investment by allowing the player to spend resources to improve the production: a positive constructive feedback loop that is the core of the Unpredictable Dynamic Engine.


Use a dynamic engine when you want to introduce a trade-off between long term investment and short-term gains, where chance partly determines the effectiveness of both strategies.



  • Energy the resource produced by the Unpredicatable Dynamic Engine.
  • Actions that consume the resource, including
    • Invest an action that creates Upgrades.
  • Upgrades a resource that improves the Dynamic Engine.


The Engine produces Energy that is consumed by a number of Actions. One action (Invest) produces Upgrades that improves the energy output of the Unpreditictable Dynamic Engine. A Unpredictable Dynamic Engine allows for three different upgrades (the first two are visible in the diagram above), a player can invest to improve:

  • The chance of the Engine produces Energy
  • The rate at which these chances are generated
  • The number of resources that are generated each time the Engine does produce

When a game offers the opportunity to invest in two or three of these options, these options need to be balanced carefully.


An Unpredictable Dynamic Engine creates a powerful positive constructive feedback loop that probably needs to be balanced by other patterns, although less so than a (predictable) Dynamic Engine.

Like the Dynamic Engine an Unpredictable Dynamic Engine generates a distinct gameplay signature. A game that consist of little more than a (unpredictable) Dynamic Engine will cause the players to invest at first, appearing to make little progress. After a certain point, the player will start to make progress and needs to try and do so at the quickest possible pace. The charts these patterns typically generate quite clearly show this behaviour. This effect of play is clearly visible in Monopoly. It is a dominant strategy that is inherent to the pattern.

The chance of building a dominant strategy that favors either long-term or short-term investment is lessened due to the unpredictability of the engine. As with many positive feedback loops it amplifies early success, which effect is increased by the unpredictability of the engine.


There are a couple of ways to implement unpredictability in an Unpredictable Static Engine. The easiest way is to use randomness to vary the output of resources or the time between moments of production, but skill or multi-player dynamics could work as well.

The randomness can but does not need to be different for every player. By using an Unpredictable Dynamic Engine that generates the same resources for all players the luck factor is lessened without affecting the unpredictability. This puts more emphasis on the player’s chosen strategy, although would to some extend still be a gamble.


Settlers of Catan has at its core an Unpredictable Dynamic Engine. The roll of the dice which tiles will produce resources at the start of each player’s turn. The more villages the player builds the more chance he will have that he will receive resources every turn. The player can also turn villages into cities which doubles the resource output of each tile. Settlers of Catan gets around the typical curve an Unpredictabel Dynamic Engine creates by allowing mostly different types of Invest actions, and using a measure of Upgrades to determine the winner.

Note: Add Computer game example

Related Patterns