When I first found out Survivor was introducing its own in-game currency, I was, let’s just say, cautiously optimistic. In the words of Yul Kwon, “fire tokens add a whole other layer of duplicity,” and their potential to spawn new strategies and dynamic gameplay was very exciting. Sadly, the first iteration of fire tokens in Winners At War didn’t quite live up to the hype and often got lost amidst the countless other twists and advantages.
The main issue with the fire tokens in Winners At War was their connection to the Edge of Extinction. It gave too much power to the eliminated players while not allowing those in the game to explore the intricacies of the twist fully. In fact, for a large portion of the game, the purpose and power of the tokens remained a mystery to the in-game castaways.
With the tokens only really helping those on the Edge, it meant they lost value in the game itself and sort of became an afterthought. There was no grand reveal like the players were expecting; instead, the twist just fizzled out. Denise even had tokens leftover at the end and had no real use for them other than buying an extra bag of rice! Meanwhile, first boot Natalie stocked up on peanut butter and advantages in preparation for her return to the game.
However, new twists sometimes take a couple of seasons to iron out the finer details. After all, it took four seasons to perfect the Hidden Immunity Idol. There is still time to improve the fire tokens, which are set to become a permanent fixture of the game, according to Jeff Probst. And with the Edge of Extinction sent to the Survivor scrapheap, it means the fire tokens can now become their own thing without that anchor weighing them down.
With that said, here are some ways to improve the fire tokens for future seasons.
MAKE THEM WORTH ACTUAL MONEY
The immediate thought that came into my head when I first heard about fire tokens was the “garnets” from The Genius Game. If you’ve never seen The Genius, it’s an incredibly entertaining South Korean reality-game-show that requires sharp strategic skill and social politicking.
Like the fire tokens, garnets are an in-game currency that can be transferred among players and used to buy advantages. The difference is, the garnets have an actual monetary value. Each garnet is worth approximately $1,000, and at the end of the game, the winner can exchange their garnets for their cash equivalent.
This is definitely something Survivor could adopt to up the stakes. Attaching a cash amount to the tokens makes them real, rather than a piece of wood that you might get to spend on some snacks or a mystery power later down the road.
Let’s say you make it to Final Tribal Council with fire tokens in your possession, you then get to add their cash value onto your prize fund. That incentivizes people to get tokens and makes them more powerful as a bargaining tool.
The problem right now is tokens don’t really have a lot of sway because you’re offering something that may never come into use. But if you’re essentially telling someone, “I will give you $1000 to vote with me tonight,” suddenly, the offer is a lot more enticing.
This would also mean a bigger risk of buying advantages. If you spend your tokens, you’re giving away potential earnings. Therefore, the risk versus reward component comes with a lot more drama.
MORE WAYS TO GAIN TOKENS
There need to be more opportunities to earn fire tokens. The more tokens in the game, the more players can use them, pool them, trade them, etc. Basically, flood the market with them.
In Winners At War, the only way you could gain tokens if you were still in the game was to have them “bequeathed” from an eliminated player or win a post-merge Immunity Challenge. Why not offer tokens in the pre-merge tribal challenges too? Say each member of the winning tribe earns two tokens along with Immunity. Tokens could also be hidden around camp like Idols and/or within the challenges themselves.
You could keep the bequeathing aspect, which rewards social game and creates another interesting dynamic of voting people out but still hoping to gain their tokens.
INCREASE THE PRICES
Following the last point, the more tokens in the game, the higher the asking price should be for the items on offer, especially the advantages. It’s all about creating a bigger risk. It shouldn’t be that easy to get your hands on an Idol. If you want power, you are going to have to spend big.
And again, this encourages players to pool tokens. Even though the Extortion Advantage in itself was silly, watching Tony bounce around camp trying to gather enough tokens to pay off the debt was excellent TV. You could replicate that by making items such as Idols and Extra Votes high value.
Imagine an alliance wanting to buy an idol to make a power move? Each player involved would have to weigh up the risk of helping an ally.
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FULL ITEM MENU AT CAMP
All the items available to purchase, from food to luxuries to advantages, should be listed on a menu at camp. No more secret, mystery advantages coming from other islands. It should be known to all the players what items are available and how much each thing costs.
That’s not to say the transactions have to happen in public. When a player buys an item, it can happen in confessional like in Winners At War. But everyone should know what is up for grabs.
That said, there could be an opportunity for certain public transactions. Before challenges, Jeff could offer up a specific item for sale, almost like a mini Survivor Auction. The player who bids the highest gets the item, but the risk is that it happens in front of everyone.
To increase the stakes even higher, you could add a choice element to the purchase. “You can buy this advantage for yourself or a tarp for the whole tribe,” things like that. Again, it plays into the risk versus reward component that Survivor has thrived on for years.
BRING BACK THE AUCTION
Continuing on the line of public transactions, you could take this a step further by bringing back the Survivor Auction. In the old Auction format, the players weren’t bidding with their own money. There was no real risk of parting with your cash. But if players can only bid with their tokens, there is more consideration behind it, as those tokens could be useful later down the line. And especially if some items remain covered, the risk is even higher.
These are just a few ideas on how to improve the fire tokens going forward. Let us know what you’d change about the tokens in the comments below.