Tuesday, July 25, 2006

When do players score?

In many victory point boardgames, players score at the end of each play. For example, Vinci and many others. This is the rough equivalent of the scoring method used in boxing. In boxing some people dislike this method, because you can have one fighter in a mess at the end of the match, and the other doing fine, yet the first could win because he piled up scoring in the early rounds. Perhaps for that reason, in other games, players score at the end of the game (often, the game ends when one player has a given score), and everything that contributes to their score is present at the end of the game. Catan??? In other words, this is a "snapshot" score, directly gaining nothing from previous turns even though the actions of each player have helped create the game-ending situation (the gain is indirect). If this were applied to boxing, at the end of the match judges would decide which fighter was in best shape to win if the fight continued, and award him the victory.

The score-by-turn method tends to suit the "age of instant gratification", because you play your turn and then you get your reward (points). The score-at-end method tends to suit an older generation that was willing to put off short-term rewards for long-term good.

At my age (55) I seem to be in the score-at-the-end camp in my designs, but I can understand the other point of view, especially in historical games. After all, EVERY nation is going to "lose" sooner or later--even the Roman Republic/Empire lasted "only" a thousand years--so we ought to consider how well the nation is doing along the way.

Here's my proposal, something that may already be done in some games though I do not know of any. Why not score both ways? Say the game lasts four rounds. Players score at the end of their rounds 1 through 3, and at the end of the game (round 4) they score three times their round 4 score, which is based on how they're doing right now. So the score would be R1 + R2 + R3 + 3xR4. This provides the instant gratification, yet also rewards the player who manages to be in the best position at the end of the game.

Clearly, in some games--such as Vinci--this method doesn't make much sense. But in others, say civilization-building, games, it has much appeal.

I think most score-by-turn games let each player score as soon as their turn is over. Some others wait until the end of the round, then have everyone score at once. I suppose which method you use depends on the sequence of play and on what advantage there is to moving first, since the score-at-end-of-entire-round favors those who play last in the round.

Does anyone know of a game that uses the combined form of scoring?

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