Variant: End Game Conditions
Once again, I was walking through the internets when I came upon an article about the end condition and victory condition in games. As that author points out, many games – especially of the euro variety – tend to play for victory points. Either you play to a certain number of points (Settlers of Catan) or you play for a certain number of rounds with the most points at the end being declared the victor (Small World). And, while this is certainly a successful way of handling the winner, the author talks about games where the end condition and victory condition aren’t related to time or points. And that got me thinking.
One of the things that won me over to euro gaming, at least initially, was the knowledge that the game would be played and enjoyed in a finite amount of time, and this was accomplished through use of victory points. A game like Risk could go on forever. The game won’t end until all are eliminated, and who knows when that can be. By contrast, Small World ends after 8-10 turns. No matter what.
In the article that inspired this post, the author there points out a couple of other end game conditions such as total elimination (like Risk), Board State (like getting three in a row on tic tac toe), and Checkmate (eliminating all legal moves from an opponent). I’m sure there are many more, including discovery of hidden information (such as the murderer in Mr. Jack). What I started thinking about, though, is which way is better?
Although I’m bigger on euros than ameritrash, I think part of the reason euros are sometimes described as “soulless” is because they use victory points. At the end of the game, you typically haven’t killed anyone or crushed your enemies. Instead, you’ve done something slightly better or more efficiently than your opponents. By contrast, if I discover Jack in Letters from Whitechapel, or if I achieve a checkmate in Chess, it feels like I’ve actually accomplished something. The game ended because I succeeded. That’s different from merely succeeding as the game ended.
I also think that games tend to have that “epic” quality when victory isn’t measured by victory points. Talisman, while not my favorite game by a long shot, still has an epic quality as you reach the innermost track and prevail. Similarly, Arkham Horror depends on closing and sealing gates, not upon any victory point track.
Of course, some games (like Small World) probably couldn’t exist without the victory point system. So I think it’s still a necessary and excellent way to do things in gaming. But, with all else being equal, I think end and victory conditions unrelated to VPs generally provide the best conclusions to games.