There is a paradox of sorts at the heart of all economics.
Imagine two cosplayers, Xavier and Yvonne. Xavier is a seasoned pro, he has a 3D printer he can use to make a sonic screwdriver in one hour and he can knit a full Tom Baker scarf in only four hours. Yvonne, in contrast, takes a whole two days to make a scarf, and three days to make a sonic screwdriver. Assuming they both need a screwdriver and a scarf for their outfits, Xavier can be ready to go in five hours, and Yvonne will need five days.
But if Xavier makes two sonic screwdrivers and trades one of them to Yvonne for one of her scarves, then he only needs to work for two hours, and Yvonne only needs to work for four days, giving them both extra time to rewatch some Doctor Who episodes before the convention. Even though Xavier is objectively better at knitting than Yvonne is, they both benefit if Xavier lets Yvonne do all the knitting while he focuses on hardware production.
In ways such as this, trade actually creates value.
(Of course, if we really wanted to optimize, we'd just pressgang Xavier into doing all the work, but that starts getting us away from what you'd call economics.)
Trading is not a zero-sum game, it is very often win-win. If all exchanges necessarily had a winner and a loser, no one would ever trade anything, except at the point of a gun.
Anyway, this whole idea of wealth-creation-through-exchange is the central premise at the core of Polymono. Jamie has the ability to turn three tokens into four, as long as he converts a green hash and two crescents into four blue candies. He's a very efficient blue candy creator, but he needs Ellen and Max in order to keep functioning. Despite Ellen's interpretation, I do think that Polymono is an optimistic game. Polymono, like most boardgames, assumes that all the players are fundamentally equal, and that attaining a victory condition of some sort is at least possible. I think that's one of the reasons why games are (usually) fun - they're inherently more optimistic than reality.
Anyway, speaking of exchange, if you feel like tossing a buck or two per month at me, not only can you support comics like the one you're reading, but you can download a printable pdf of Polymono, so you can play it at home. Just sayin', it might help increase our total communal utility.