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Subject: Hard vs Soft Endings rss

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Gabe M
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Missouri
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How do people feel about hard endings in games vs. soft endings?

I like the way soft endings give people a chance to make a comeback but I also like the way hard endings make a big exciting end.

In a game I'm making, I had it so that, once a player got a certain number of territories, the game would end after everyone had one more turn and then counted up victory points. There were some surprise winners but it made the end kind of lame. I'm now thinking of taking away victory points and those final turns and just making the person who gets the number of territories win. I think this would lead to a very exciting final battle but take away any surprise.

Any thoughts?
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Iffix Y Santaph
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If there's any point where a game should be most exciting, it should be the climax. Very few want to play a game where the best player loses due to poor rules.
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Rick Senki
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XendoBreckett wrote:
If there's any point where a game should be most exciting, it should be the climax. Very few want to play a game where the best player loses due to poor rules.


Sorry, I don't follow. It's a truism that's the most exciting point, while poor rules and the extent to which the best player should always win are, neither of them, relevant to the hard/soft ending issue.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether the climax of the game should always be the last play? Often a player's position has a lot of potential energy and an immediate end to the game can leave players feeling cheated out of a chance to execute their diligently made plans. But if that's the experience you want, so that players always feel someone else can suddenly bring all their schemes to naught, the sudden-end is the vehicle.

Personally, I prefer having some hidden information reveal precipitating a game climax (so the end turn is uncertain), followed by all other players have a chance to respond. Inis does this pretty well, as an example. Often a grasp for victory that falls short can involve help multiple players in the climax, whereas the secretly perfected finale, without player recourse, may be more exciting for the victor while less satisfying for everyone else.
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Bill Cook
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I greatly prefer games that just end. When everybody gets one more turn, it's a bit of a let down in terms of climax. Worse, when you always know you have one last turn no matter what? If eliminates a lot tension. I love games where you have to balance playing something now vs holding onto it and maybe getting more points? But maybe getting stuck with it
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Gabe M
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Thanks for all the opinions. As with all games, it will eventually come down to playtesting, but I think I like the idea of a hard ending in my game. This is because it would come down to a final battle and players that aren't involved in the battle can still help those that are, so it would basically turn into an everyone verses the person who is winning scenario, which involves all players and I think is very exciting for everyone, not just the winner.

My thoughts on soft endings is that I think they are great and necessary in games that solely revolve around collecting Victory Points, because otherwise the person going first has a large advantage. However, in my case, it's much more about territory control and (I think) the first player doesn't have a huge advantage as the game goes on.
 
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Laura Creighton
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I think that soft endings make certain games more exciting and fun. If the winning strategy is 'build small, and take a small lead and then trigger the hard ending before the other players get a chance to finish something more elaborate' the losers will end up feeling like that game ended on them before they got a chance to win, which doesn't feel good at all.
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airydisk wrote:
XendoBreckett wrote:
If there's any point where a game should be most exciting, it should be the climax. Very few want to play a game where the best player loses due to poor rules.


Sorry, I don't follow. It's a truism that's the most exciting point, while poor rules and the extent to which the best player should always win are, neither of them, relevant to the hard/soft ending issue.

Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether the climax of the game should always be the last play? Often a player's position has a lot of potential energy and an immediate end to the game can leave players feeling cheated out of a chance to execute their diligently made plans. But if that's the experience you want, so that players always feel someone else can suddenly bring all their schemes to naught, the sudden-end is the vehicle.

Personally, I prefer having some hidden information reveal precipitating a game climax (so the end turn is uncertain), followed by all other players have a chance to respond. Inis does this pretty well, as an example. Often a grasp for victory that falls short can involve help multiple players in the climax, whereas the secretly perfected finale, without player recourse, may be more exciting for the victor while less satisfying for everyone else.


Sorry Rick. Those weren't connected ideas. I do believe in a tight game that's really exciting at the end. But doing so by dwarfing a player just because he happens to be doing well is not a good way to achieve the result. I hope that's a little more clear.
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Lance McMillan
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I think a two-fold approach is preferable to a hard/soft dichotomy. First, establish criteria for an automatic "sudden death" ending, where if one player reaches a certain level of VP (or money, fame, controlled provinces, or whatever) the game immediately ends with that player as the winner. Second, set a turn limit; the player with the highest score (or whatever your victory criteria is) wins. Better yet, have the end turn be somewhat (but not entirely) unpredictable -- for example, if your "normal" last turn is Turn 12, have players roll a die on Turn 9 and, if the result is a 1 then game ends then; on Turn 10 it would end on a 1 or 2, on Turn 11 on a 1-4 (or whatever variable outcomes you feel are appropriate). Unpredictability is key here, because it maintains a degree of tension as players weigh the chances of potential higher scores from longer range planning against the risk that the game might end early.
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Oblivion Doll
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It very much depends on the game, and the ruleset. The theme influences what endings have the right "feel" for how the game works. And making sure the rules provide a balanced chance for all players is important too, so having a system that supports that rather than stifling balance for the sake of drama is a big thing.

It's going to be up to different players to define what they want, and many players want different things from each other, and often from different games. So any option can work if you do it well.

I know that's not very helpful, but it's hard to say "this is how you should end a game" without having more than just "it's a game" to work from.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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obliviondoll wrote:
It very much depends on the game, and the ruleset. The theme influences what endings have the right "feel" for how the game works. And making sure the rules provide a balanced chance for all players is important too, so having a system that supports that rather than stifling balance for the sake of drama is a big thing.

It's going to be up to different players to define what they want, and many players want different things from each other, and often from different games. So any option can work if you do it well.

I know that's not very helpful, but it's hard to say "this is how you should end a game" without having more than just "it's a game" to work from.


I agree. I'm having a hard time figuring out what hard/soft alternatives there would be for games like:
-- Risk
-- Monopoly
-- Axis & Allies

Anyone have examples?
 
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Brian Herr
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Stormtower wrote:

-- Risk
-- Monopoly
-- Axis & Allies

Anyone have examples?

In Risk, the game ends as now (hard), when one player conquers the whole world. Or (soft)... game ends immediately when a given territory card is drawn from the deck -- most territories wins. We've played Risk that way for years, just to shorten the game and lessen the chance of player elimination.

You can do a similar thing with Monopoly, maybe the game ends when the beauty contest card is drawn, highest net worth wins.
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Bill Cook
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lacreighton wrote:
I think that soft endings make certain games more exciting and fun. If the winning strategy is 'build small, and take a small lead and then trigger the hard ending before the other players get a chance to finish something more elaborate' the losers will end up feeling like that game ended on them before they got a chance to win, which doesn't feel good at all.


Just goes to show how different things appeal to different people. To me, this is one of the best sources of conflict in a board game. One player tries to build a big, elaborate engine that will score lots of points, but takes time to get going. The other players goes for a bunch of quick scores. Who will win?
 
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Laura Creighton
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EMBison wrote:
lacreighton wrote:
I think that soft endings make certain games more exciting and fun. If the winning strategy is 'build small, and take a small lead and then trigger the hard ending before the other players get a chance to finish something more elaborate' the losers will end up feeling like that game ended on them before they got a chance to win, which doesn't feel good at all.


Just goes to show how different things appeal to different people. To me, this is one of the best sources of conflict in a board game. One player tries to build a big, elaborate engine that will score lots of points, but takes time to get going. The other players goes for a bunch of quick scores. Who will win?


Oh yes, depending on the game, this can be a splendid source of enjoyment; I did not mean to imply that this is never the case.
 
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Gláucio Reis
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gabemgem wrote:
(...) it would come down to a final battle and players that aren't involved in the battle can still help those that are, so it would basically turn into an everyone verses the person who is winning scenario, which involves all players and I think is very exciting for everyone, not just the winner.

So, the end is basically ganging up on the leader and/or kingmaking? Honestly, short of someone flipping the table, I can't imagine a worst way to end a game.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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EMBison wrote:
lacreighton wrote:
I think that soft endings make certain games more exciting and fun. If the winning strategy is 'build small, and take a small lead and then trigger the hard ending before the other players get a chance to finish something more elaborate' the losers will end up feeling like that game ended on them before they got a chance to win, which doesn't feel good at all.


Just goes to show how different things appeal to different people. To me, this is one of the best sources of conflict in a board game. One player tries to build a big, elaborate engine that will score lots of points, but takes time to get going. The other players goes for a bunch of quick scores. Who will win?


I need to mention a game: Babylon 5 Collectible Card Game

I'm hoping it gets re-published someday, either as a standalone or an LCG-style.

Like every other CCG, the game is marketed with booster packs containing a random assortment. (An aspect I don't want repeated). And then players get to build a customized deck out of their collection.

However, the starter decks are playable, and have somewhat unique paths to an endgame victory scenario. The game does this with "Agenda" cards that give you a semi-unique method of getting victory points (on top of the built in mechanics to get VPs).

My favorite mode of play is something they call "social starter decks." And as you might guess, everyone starts with just the contents of a starter deck. There are (base game) 4 starters one for each race: Human, Centauri, Narn, and Minbari. The "social" aspect is because each of those 4 races will be represented in a 4 player game. (Room for a 5th player is made in later expansions). These 4-player games can take at least 1.5 to 3 hours of play, so players are encouraged to get in-character and play their race/faction-associated deck like they are acting out scenes from the TV series.

Back to the point. Because each of these starter decks has more than one unique agenda, and more than one path to victory, it is possible to "start small" and build up alliances and appear as the non-contender in the game. Which means that in the late-game, almost anyone can pull out their Agenda card, reveal their big combo, and suddenly become the biggest threat on the table.

I've had similar experiences in other CCGs with multiplayer modes:
A Game of Thrones Collectible Card Game
Deadlands: Doomtown
Shadowfist
 
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Mike Watne
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gabemgem wrote:
My thoughts on soft endings is that I think they are great and necessary in games that solely revolve around collecting Victory Points, because otherwise the person going first has a large advantage. However, in my case, it's much more about territory control and (I think) the first player doesn't have a huge advantage as the game goes on.


My favorite solution here is to have the current round finish when the end-game trigger occurs.

The best example I can give is the original end-game rules for Eminent Domain. Once the end-game trigger occurs, play continues until it would be the starting player's turn and ends immediately before that.

It works because
- Each player gets the same number of turns
- End-game triggers can be used dramatically and tactically.

Ironically, it seems that many people dislike this system. Eminent Domain has since amended the end-game rules to allow for an entire full round after the round in which the end-game trigger occurs. The main complaint here was that players hated not knowing whether or not they would have another turn. In original EmDo, you could end the game suddenly if you weren't the starting player, effectively dashing the plans of players higher up in the round order who didn't consider their precarious position - an aspect which gave the game some wonderful tension and depth.

We exclusively use the original end-game rules for Eminent Domain.
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Gabe M
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thegreybetween wrote:
My favorite solution here is to have the current round finish when the end-game trigger occurs.


I completely agree and I currently have that in my game. My problem is that someone triggers end-game (gets a certain amount of territories) and then the game just fizzles out as everyone spends their last turn trying to get a few more victory points.

I guess one way I could address this is to make more ways to get Victory Points, like adding quests and stuff like that, but I also feel that Victory Points don't really add to my game since it is mostly about territory control.

Would having different rule/goals just in the end-game help with these issues?

I am going to run it tomorrow without any VP's and a hard ending to see how that feels and, if I don't like it, I'll probably go in the opposite direction and make the game much more VP reliant.
 
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Sight Reader
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Sorry if someone mentioned this, but does it count if individual point values are unknown, so the game "fizzles" out but there's suspense because objectives and points have been kept secret?
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Jonathan Abbott
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I have a pretty strong preference for soft endings because generally when I play I am not paying attention to what the other players are doing, especially when it relates to closing in on the ending. So I like having at least one last chance to do something when the ending inevitably sneak up on me.
 
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