The usual three-man crew discusses – debates, even – the ways in which we win games. The first half of the show is dominated by dissecting the pluses and minuses of victory points, whether they’re inherently arbitrary, and if they might even be a sign of lazy design. In the second half our hosts talk specifics, analyzing how victory does (and could) work in ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘At the Gates.’
Although it’s not something I’ve talked much about here on the site, anyone that’s listened to the show in the past should be very familiar with my dislike of victory points.
I don’t find the use of VPs to be inherently evil, as they do come with benefits and I’ve enjoyed many a game that’s included them. However, I find VPs to be so much of an abstraction that anything they’re associated with loses all connection to the “theme.”
Sure, you don’t need a great theming in order to have great gameplay, but without it you’re raising the barrier to entry and making it much harder to tell if you’re on the right path. As such, I try to avoid them whenever possible.
Of course, that’s just my opinion! Check out this episode to see what Dirk and David think.
8 thoughts on “TGDRT #28: Scoring & Victory”
Excited to listen to this episode, Jon. I tend to agree with you about victory points: most of my favourite games have them, but I prefer exploring other victory conditions. However, I think there are victory points and then there are Victory Points and the difference is in how many different ways there are to earn them. I’m thinking mostly of board and card games here, but the way I look at it, the more different ways you can earn victory points, the more abstracted they become and the more the game becomes simply about point optimization than anything else, which is when I start to dislike them. Games where points key off of one or two things – Go being the prime example here – don’t really bother me.
>the more different ways you can earn victory points, the more abstracted they become and the more the game becomes simply about point optimization than anything else
This is one of my biggest gripes with Catan. The fun in the game for me is in spreading your color over the map, racing for advantageous locations, trading resources and upgrading villages. The fact that the game ends as soon as someone reaches 10 points and that this usually means that the last turn is someone suddenly stealing away the longest trade route or largest army bonus points, plus revealing a victory point card or so, and then that’s that. Very unsatisfying for anyone but the winner, and if people see it coming they will usually start refusing otherwise viable trades a while in advance, which leads to a stale and boring game.
I’m not quite sure how you would go about solving this. Ideally I’d only have victory points being awarded for villages and cities you have on the map. The longest trade route/largest army cards could instead offer some other, more indirect reward. However they are one of the few mechanisms in the game that actually exist for making a comeback, so I’m unsure that this would work out positively for game health in the end.
Great point that the more ways you split up the VP pie the more abstract the game becomes. That was (indirectly) the point I was trying to make in the podcast when noting that their use is a spectrum. You’re almost always going to have SOME kind of artificial “counting metric,” but there are better and worse ways of integrating them into the theme.
I agree with you and what was said in general in this episode.
One way that VPs can be useful that I don’t think was mentioned yet is how you can voluntarily unbalance your game to make it more fit a theme. For example, while Agricola is light on theme, the rulebook hints that diversity is important and it’s well reflected in the VPs structure where you score -1 if you didn’t take part in a element of the game and there is also a cap on how much points (usually 4) you can get from a single element. A more “balanced” approach would have let players score as much as they want the more they invested in an element.
VPs based game is the rage at the moment in board games as this is a cornerstone of the “euro” game design which is very popular at the moment. I suspect that it will eventually die out in a similar way that video games in the late ’80 were almost all based on the idea of achieving a high score and few modern video games use this system anymore.
I can’t for the life of me find the podcast feed anywhere. I’d like to listen to this, can someone please help?
Here is the page for our podcast on the host website, which includes an RSS feed:
Woah, that was fast. thanks Jon! Suggest you put that link somewhere on the right so people can find it 🙂
The magic of Google’s tech suite plus sitting in front of your desk all day!
And good idea, I’ll see if I can find a good place to put it. It’s a bit odd that we have an official site for the podcast and also a sorta-official page on the host’s website. I didn’t set this thing up! 🙂