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Subject: In-game scorekeeping vs end-game scoring rss

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Brook Gentlestream
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I tend to hear that Ameritrash games have strong themes, a high degree of randomness, and a large amount of interaction. To that list, I'd like to add one other qualifying factor, and that is a lack of reliance on purely end-game goals abstract goals. Or rather, a sense of immediate gratification.

There's something depressingly dull about counting up victory points at the end of the game. I understand that in most such games, the players are expected to keep a running tally of the players' respective victory points (in their head if nothing else), but that's kind of a learned experience. It doesn't come naturally (to me at least) without a direct focus on it.

In fact, the more interesting the gameplay is, the less likely it is that I can intuitively focus on the game-scoring abstract victory points. Wouldn't you much rather have more cards, more troops, more territory, or more magical artifacts?

Lately, when playing games, I've taken to reminding my opponent of our respective victory point scores, so that it remains in the foreground of our thoughts instead of (oh so easily) dropping into the background or disappearing altogether.

I think this is a problem I have with Carcassone. It's great that I have more farmers on the board than you, we really don't know what that means until the end so we don't know who is winning.

Come to think of it, the idea of "now, let's see who won" is kind of dull. (Although I thought Killer Bunnies put an amusing spin on this.) I want to know, at any given point in the game, who is winning or who is more likely to be winning.

When I perform a task, I'd like to know that I did something good, that I accomplished something. With some games it seems like the accomplishments are ambiguous... "that will probably help you when we score victory points", or "you took a risk in gaining victory points that could cost you the game."

Games that have sudden rewards are better for me, such as games where you rise in power, expand in territory or resources, or otherwise have concrete, game-effecting rewards for your "victory points".

Securing planets, mustering troops, and even earning cash will always be more fun than scoring abstract points. Especially if those points are not tracked or counted until the game's end.

I'm not saying all games need to be like this, but I think there is a large subset of players that look for games where you are performing accomplishments rather than scoring points. We need to fight the boss monster at the end, or we need to collect all eight artifacts from the other players, or we need to control all of Africa, or we need to trap the opponent's king.

It can be especially anti-climactic when the game ends after a certain number of victory points are scored or a certain number of turns pass. "The game ended. I think I won." "Drats, and we were having so much fun."

I think victory points can be fun, but they need to have some kind of tangible in-game effect. Alternatively, or in addition, perhaps a secondary end game that can be triggered by the player in the lead or stopped by those who aren't. This way the players are in control of when the game ends, and there's no need to end the game until one player has a definite lead.

Am I alone in this philosophy? What do you think? How important are immediate in-game rewards in themed, interactive, risk-oriented games? Or do you find that you and your players can "keep the eye on the ball" perfectly fine when playing games with abstract victory points?
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