Friday, June 18, 2021

Talked Victory Point Journey vs Point Salad on Who, What, Why Podcast

On the Who, What, Why Podcast Episode: What's the Point with Dr. Wictz I dive into the impact Point Journey and Point Salads have on player experience in Boardgames. 

Highlights includes how certain games, like Robotech: Reconstruction combines Point Salad and Point Journey.  Where does Burgle Bros fit into the Point Salad and Point Journey dichotomy.  And why Point Journey is a better description then calling something a Race game.   

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Victory Point Architecture: Oversimplified Point Salad vs Point Journey

There are stereotypes of what experiences take place within a Point Salad and a Point Journey.  Neither of these victory point architectures have to meet their stereotypes, but certain design decisions within either framework increases the likelihood the games will match their stereotypes.

Point Salads and Point Journeys have natural flavors that alter players experience.   A stereotypical Point Salad, say Agricola, gives players freedom to build in their sandbox a series of decisions to maximize your points.  The interesting part of that statement is not point maximization, but sandbox.  I am building my own world in the way I want to view it. That means I am making my own special brew in VivaJava, neutering my bird sanctuary in Wingspan, and running my brewery my way in Brew Crafters.  

Points award me for what I build, but at the end of the day, what I construct drives my enjoyment of the game.  In any building point salad, say Suburbia, Chinatown, or Tiny Towns, joy is found in whatever you are able to construct.

Point Salads lend themselves well to games where you really want players to feel like they created something.

Having an open ended point salad with many ways to score points lends to the feeling of building something.  That experience is magnified by the popularity of building themes within Point Salads.  

Point Journey lends well to narrative experiences where there is a start and an end.

Chess is all about the struggle players undertake to capture each other's Kings.  Formula D is a journey where you race to be first.

What Design Choices Contributes to Stereotype

Point Salad: More Freedom, More Options, More Custom Sandbox. 

The more legitimate options provided for players in a Point Salad, the more players will have the opportunity to create their own custom world.  Imagine playing New Bedford without the town building element.  New Bedford is a town building and whaling game, where players can invest in expanding the town or in their whaling expeditions.  When players expand the town, they receive ownership for their particular part of town.  To expand the town, players must collect the resources required to build a particular building.  Each building added is unique, and will add a different character to the overall town.  Removing the ability to legitimately win by adding on to the town, dampens players ability to create a custom world where the player feels they are contributing to the development of New Bedford. 

The creative space in Point Salads can be enriched with game expansions.  More legitimate paths an expansion creates, the more a player can customize their own custom world.  Terraforming Mars base game begins with 208 cards representing a project the player’s company can undertake. The projects the players choose to undertake, and the timing of their projects enables them to create their own custom version of Mars.  The Terraforming Mars expansions broaden the possible ways for players to create their own custom world.  Now, players can not only choose to Terraform Mars, but also affect the colonization of other planets, interplanetary shipping, and the outcome of solar system’s politics.

Ironically, Point Salades can also create different flavors each game by limiting your ingredients. Beginning each game with a different subset of options allows players to experiment with combinations that may be lost if all everything was available.  The Quacks of Quedlinburg limits the types of ingredients available each game to all players, quak doctors, to make their custom brew.  Working around this limitation results in players exploring custom combinations that would not exist if all ingredients were available every game.  Similarly, Dominion creates a different flavor each time you play by varying which card types are being used each game.  The limitation encourages players to explore different card combinations since the relative effectiveness of card combinations is alter, a different flavor I will say, because of what other cards are or not available.

Point Journey: Detail Narratives or Clear Overarching Narratives

Providing players with Detail Narratives or a Clear Overarching Narrative enhances player connections to the Narrative experience in a Point Journey.  Each location in Arkham Horror draws a location encounter that weaves a narrative to that moment, at that location, in the overall story of the game.  Players do not need to create the narrative when a detailed Narrative is provided, they just have to embrace the story they are experiencing from the game as the game tells them the story.

Point Journeys that rely on Clear Overarching Narratives use the clear objective of the Journey to propel players to create their own narratives as they seek to fulfill their predestined purpose.  Pandemic makes it clear, you are on a mission to save the world from a series of deadly diseases.  When players see an outbreak spread across North America, the players create a story about the gravity of the situation and how they will respond.

When a Clear Overarching Narrative is missing, it becomes harder for players to create narratives as they play.  Compare Checkers with Chess.  Both are Point Journeys where a player wins under very specific conditions.  Yet in Chess, I have the goal of capturing a King, with pieces based on positions that existed in real life.  That means my pieces can have personality, a story.  In checkers, there is no Clear Overarching Narrative.  I win if I take all of your pieces.  The pieces are not mystical bears fighting wise but overconfident unicorns.  There is no accomplishment of destroying my opponent’s Kingdom at the end of the game.  Just a piece on the board, and then a piece off the board. No story to help lean players into the natural tendency to develop a narrative as they undertake a Point Journey.   

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Victory Point Architecture: Building a Point Salad or a Point Journey

Victory points are integrally tied to the end of a game. They can be used in two different ways that shape the entire experience of the game. Either as a Point Salad, where victory points measure performance during a period of play, like in a Soccer game. Or as a Point Journey, where victory points is the measurement that ends the game, like a tennis match.

Salads can be delicious or pungent.  Journeys can be a joy or a toil.  The question is not whether I enjoy Point Salads or Point Journeys, but do I understand what they even are and the implications these different victory point architectures have on a player's gaming experience.

Winning a Point Salad is not decided by being the first player to achieve a particular outcome. Instead, players are trying to pile on as many victory points as possible before the game ends. The game will end.  Be it in a certain amount of time, or rounds, or when some other in-game threshold is reached. The threshold can be a depletion of an in-game resource, or a resource accumulated by the players. The threshold can even be the amount of victory points, but once that is reached, players can accumulate more. After the game ends, players then compare their victory points to declare a winner.

Winning or losing a Point Journey happens immediately when a Victory Point condition is achieved. The condition can vary as simple as being the first player to 5 victory points, to being the first car to pass the finish line in a race.  The key is that once a victory condition is achieved players are clearly crowned as either winners or losers. If I am the player who defeats the last monster, I win, end of story. That does not mean there has to be a single victory point condition that defines the game.  In the same game everyone can lose if a critical system runs out of power, or when the capital is captured by aliens, and one player can win if they control eleven cities.

Monopoly is a Point Journey. When played by the official rules the goal is not the accumulation of most money over one's opponents. But that money helps you with your true goal, the bankruptcy of all the other players in the game. Once that happens it does not matter if all but one of your properties are mortgaged and you have $1 on hand, you’ve won.

Scythe is a Point Salad. During play players are trying to complete 6 of 10 goals. But while this feels like a journey game, after the goals are complete players then need to convert star tokens, territories, and resources into victory points (money) to determine the winner. And while the player who completed 6 goals first is usually the winner, if it were a true journey game there would be no need for the second step of seeing who has the most money at the end of the game.

Do not assume all games are either Point Salads or Point Journeys, there are hybrid games where the game can end as a Point Salad or as a Point Journey. In boxing either someone wins by knocking out their opponent, or if there is no knockout, by seeing which boxer has the most points after time runs out   Hybrid game designs are not limited to sports, 7 Wonders Duel is a hybrid system. In 7 Wonders the game will crown an instant winner if one player archives a scientific supremacy or a military supremacy; otherwise,  after completion of the three ages points are tallied and the player with the highest Victory Points wins a “Civilian” victory.

So now we are clear on what is a Point Salad versus a Point Journey, we can explore in the next Victory Point Architecture lecture the way each victory point system affects the player experience.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Robotech & Diplomacy's Influence on Designing - Robotech: Reconstruction

In a conversation with Board Again Games, I talk about how Robotech, Diplomacy, and my game design philosophy of players playing players impacted the design of my board game Robotech: Reconstruction coming from Strange Machine Games.