Friday, January 14, 2022

2020-2021: A playtesting retrospective

 A couple of years ago I posted a playtesting retrospective spanning late 2017 through the end of 2019, and I thought it as interesting to see the breakdown of time spent on various games, especially while considering the state that I know those games to be in now.

Now it's a couple years later, most of which has been spent in a global pandemic. Let's see what I managed to get playtested in 2020 and 2021...

2020

January
Throughout January, after a break for a Disneyworld vacation, we iterated a few times on the All For One revamp, and I brought Apotheosis back out after 6 months on the shelf.

All For One seemed to be working well, and I remember being pretty excited about the new updates. Unfortunately I haven't played it since, though in the interim I did create a Tabletop Simulator mod for the game, and I've even pitched it to a couple of publishers that way.

Apotheosis progress was coming along, and we ended up playing it a few times a month throughout 2020.

February
In addition to Apotheosis, February saw the debut of an Isle of Trains board game. First we played Dan's first draft version. Then a few weeks later I brought my own take on his concept, which was a lighter, more straightforward game, and we played that a few times.

March
March was weird, because I had to cancel most weekends for my Anniversary, and then a COVID scare. The 1 time we did play, we tested Apotheosis one more time, and enjoyed a published game: Glen More. Beyond that, I did play Apotheosis one more time at home with my wife.

April
Sadly, I had to cancel my weekly playtest meetup indefinitely due to COVID. I didn't test anything at all in April, but I did figure out how to implement prototypes on Tabletop Simulator, starting with Apotheosis.

May
Thanks to the technology of TTS and the internet, I was able to get a test in now and again online. In May we played Apotheosis a couple of times.

We also played the Isle of Trains boardgame once, and I think I've come around to thinking that maybe Dan was on the right track wanting to make a heavier game.

Finally, we played an updated version of Automatown which designer Michael Brown joined in on as a co-designer. He made a TTS mod and we were able to see his updates.

June
I was still getting the hang of making digital prototypes, and getting online playtests together. Unfortunately I didn't get any tests in June at all.

July
In July I pulled couple of older prototypes out of the woodwork. I played Reading Railroad at home with my wife, I played Exhibit online with my testers, and I got together with a designer who had come on board to work on Kilauea with me to check out his ideas for the game.

August
I got an online tests of Reading Railroad in August, as well as a couple games of Crusaders at home with my wife to test new faction powers I was developing.

I had an online pitch meeting for Apotheosis, which seemed promising. The publisher wanted to set the game in their fantasy universe, which was a perfect fit, so Rick and I reskinned the prototype with their art assets.

September
I kicked off the month with another test of the new Crusaders factions with Michelle. 

A few weeks later I had a prototype of a brand new game, Keeping Up With The Joneses, which I played twice with Michelle, and twice solo - and solo testing is something I almost never do!

Online I played one more game of Apotheosis with Rick and Aaron, my two main testers since going digital.

October
October was a busy month for testing, mostly on account of solo testing for Keeping Up With The Joneses - I played 6 solo games in.

I got in three online tests of Keeping Up with the Joneses as well, and three tests of Apotheosis too.

November
I revisited a couple more older games in November via digital prototypes with Rick and Aaron: Exhibit and Dice Works. I also played one of Rick's prototypes called Cwen.

December
We finished off the year with 4 tests of Apotheosis with some significant changes based on playing with the publisher who had showed interest, and the game got better and better.

2021

January
I started out 2021 playing games by a couple of my testers' latest games: Andy's Gemstone Pylons, and Rick's Stardock (later renamed Starlight).

We played Keeping Up With The Joneses once, and Apotheosis twice (once with the publisher)

February
I only had 2 test sessions in February, and we switched gears and played Sails & Sorcery, trying to figure out how to fix the issues with the Plunder action.

March
I didn't test any of my own stuff in March, but I played Rick's Starlight game a couple of times, as well as a skiing game that Andy was working on as a developer.

April
In April I revived another prototype, Deities & Demigods, to reacquaint myself and my players with the game. We also played Exhibit again, then later in the month I had the opportunity to pitch it to a big publisher (unfortunately, they passed on it). 

May
I started off the month with two more pitch meetings: Apotheosis and Keeping Up With The Joneses with one publisher; Riders of the Pony Express, Deities & Demigods, Sails & Sorcery, and Apotheosis with the other.

I played Rick's Starlight once more as well, then missed the rest of my sessions due to a vacation to Hawaii, lack of players, and technical difficulties.

June
Another tough month for playtesting... I had a first test of a new I-Cut-You-Choose game idea (later titled Division of Labor) with Rick, and a pitch meeting for Sails & Sorcery, then missed the rest of my sessions for one reason or another.

July
I got a 2nd test of Division of Labor and found some fundamental issues that would need to be addressed, and finished off the month with 3 tests of another revived prototype, Skye Frontier.

August
Another rough month for test sessions, I only got 1 playtest in: I got a gig developing expansion content for Amun-Re, a classic Eurogame from 20 years ago, and I tested some early content for that with Rick.

The rest of my sessions were canceled, but I did have a pitch meeting for Eminent Domain: Chaos Theory (unfortunately that didn't go anywhere)

September
I started September with a solo test of Keeping Up With The Joneses, then spent the rest of the month working on the Amun-Re expansion - 3 live tests, and 6 solo.

October
Six more solo tests and 5 live tests of Amun-Re took up all my testing time in October.

November
One more Amun-Re test in November, then I switched gears to Deities & Demigods because (drum roll please)... it got signed by a publisher! The publisher requested some changes, and I spent November working on those.

December
I finished off the year with 3 more tests of Deities & Demigods iterations as I worked on addressing the publisher's concerns.


The switch to online playtesting was a setback in my playtesting throughput, and it cost me some of my regular testers, but TTS has allowed me to continue testing, and pitching games, through the pandemic, and I've got at least a couple of regular online testers.

I miss testing more, but the good news is that I am finally making a little headway with pitches. Over the course of the pandemic, Isle of Trains got picked up by a new publisher who's going to do the base game as well as the expansion Dan and I made what, 7 years ago now? Deities & Demigods has been picked up, and I got that development gig on Amun-Re. I've had a few meetings recently to try and find a publisher to ick up the EmDo and Crusaders game lines, hopefully one who's willing to pick up the entire line (base game, expansions, and as-yet-unpublished content). No luck with EmDo an Crusaders thus far, but I just had a promising meeting or two about them, so hopefully something will come of that.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Exploration mechanics

Exploration tiles 

I'm adding an exploration mechanism to one of my games, and iterating through a few variations on it has got me thinking about how exploration works. An obvious mechanism is to have face down tiles and flip them up when you get to them. I went this route in my first game, Terra Prime, and it worked alright. In an expansion however I modified that a bit -- set all the tiles face up so you could see where the planets are, then added a face-down exploration tile to each in order to maintain the exploration feel.

Another approach

Another approach though, is drawing multiple tiles to choose from. This could represent preparedness, or luck -- the more tiles you draw to choose from, the more likely you'll find something you like. Some years ago (circa 2007) I suggested this as a variant to the dig mechanism in Thebes, as a way to balance it out a bit, and I encountered a bit of pushback from some folks. Evidently, it can feel a lot less like exploration if you get to choose what you find.

In the game I'm currently working on, making changes requested by the publisher, the actions can be better or worse depending on how invested in them you are. In the case of this new exploration action, my first attempt allowed you to draw more and more tiles the higher your action level was. This is similar to my proposed Thebes variant - the more prepared you are to dig (or in my case, the more invested you are in that action), the more likely you'll find something you'll like. this works if you consider that the tile you choose is the one that's 'actually there,' and that you got to look at several first just means you're luckier, you tend to fid better stuff on average.

I still feel that's an OK mechanism, but I can see the point of the people who think that breaks the exploration theme... when you're making a choice, it does feel less like you're literally exploring what's there. So in my latest playtest, I just had players draw 1 tile, not several to choose from. If you were more invested in the action, you could do more than 1 explore at a time. Then I made sure that no matter what tile you draw, you get something of appropriate value, even if it's not the actual thing you had hoped to find. Also, I only have 5 tiles of each type, so in the late game, when the bags are low, you can have a pretty good idea of what you'll get.

So tell me what YOU think...

Does drawing multiple tiles to choose from break the exploration theme for you? Or do you see that as a way to represent spending more time, doing a better job, being more prepared, or getting more lucky?

In my last playtest, my players and I didn't miss the ability to draw more tiles to choose from, so I am very likely to keep the "surprise me" version. I could see adding a unique card or ability to the game that can let you draw 2 tiles to choose from when exploring, and if that breaks the theme for anybody, at least it's a specific piece of content, and not part of the game's structure.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Entangled Decisions

 A while ago (gosh, I think it's been over a year now!) I was mentioning how enamored I was with a particular game mechanism. I had mentioned using it in Keeping up with the Joneses (and even kind of promised a blog post on them), and I brought it up on Twitter as well.

I've always named multi-use cards as my favorite game mechanism (the Rondel is up there as well), but lately a new challenger has arisen... I'm starting to think Entangled Decisions are making a run at my favorite mechanism.

Multi-use cards are great because of the inherent opportunity cost every time you play one. They're compact and versatile, and can do almost anything! Entangling two unrelated decisions though-that's a compact way to ratchet up tension, agony, and decision space without adding content.

Entangling decisions is where you take 2 things a player might want (or not want), and connect them such that choosing one necessarily means choosing the other. This is sort of the opposite of an opportunity cost, if you think about it. When you play a multi-use card for one effect, then by definition you are giving up access to its other effects. When you make an entangled decision, it's like playing a multi-use card and being forced to take all of its effects, like it or not.

Cascadia is a great, pure example of what I'm referring to as an entangled decision. First you pair independent tiles and tokens, then choose which tile-token pair you want. "I like THIS tile, but I want THAT token!" makes for an agonizing decision with very little design effort.

Kingdomino does this a little bit as well by having you draft a tile plus turn order, which sometimes means you're drafting this turns tile and next turn's tile. You might take a less good tile this turn in order to go first next turn to get an even better tile.

Coimbra's dice draft counts too. You might want a die because it's a 5, or you might want the die because it's green.

Concordia's cards appear to have a similar feel: you might want the card for the action, or you might want the scoring condition... though to be honest, I've always felt like those scoring conditions are a little same-y, so I don't usually feel like I'm buying a sub-par card just for the scoring condition. Also, in that game if you have a bad card, you can just choose to not play it, so you don't lose much by taking a card for the scoring condition.

In Keeping Up With The Joneses, I entangled the effect of the tile you draft with the amount you'll move on the rondel (and therefore he effect of the rondel space you'll get). If both of those things are compelling, then it should create agonizing decisions between 3 pairs of effects, while still being a fairly simple game: just choose one of these 3 options. 

What games have you played that make good use of entangling two (or more) disparate, independent decisions?

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Post -Scarcity (YANGI?)

 Jamey Stegmaier sometimes posts interesting thoughts on his blog, and today he posed the question: "What Sci-Fi project would you pursue as an eccentric billionaire?"

On twitter, a few folks responded, and my personal favorite answer to that was teleportation. I've long been a fan of teleportation, I've always said it's my favorite impossible ability -- if I could choose a super power, that would be it!

Jamey described portals that you could step into in one location and out of in another (like in the video game, I guess). That's almost verbatim something I used to think about when I was young. Someone else mentioned food replicators like on Star Trek, another awesome prospect!

Like many things do, this of course made me think of a board game. Suppose there's a worker placement game, but you can only move your workers to an adjacent space each turn, and you have to feed them every round, etc. Then imagine you can invent technologies to get around that tedium and those drawbacks... first maybe something that lets you move 2 spaces, or cuts your food costs in half. Then later, teleporters (move anywhere) and food replicators (no more feeding). During the game, you spend time and effort inventing these technologies, which earn you victory points, but once invented, all players gain their benefits!

I've seen games like Antike where being the player to make a discovery is expensive, and worth VP, but then the discovery becomes cheap for other players to obtain (though they don't get the points). I'm not sure if I've seen a game where the technology is automatically useable by all players, though it wouldn't surprise me if such a game exists.

This sounds like an OK premise for a game, but really it's just a backbone. There'd have to be something for players to actually do. Also, I think there would need to be a few more inventions to make life easier.

Perhaps the theme could be creating a post-scarcity society. A utopia where people don't need to spend so much time toiling away just to pay bills and feed themselves, and can instead spend more time and attention on the arts and their loved ones. That would be a pretty upbeat theme for once.

I don't have any further thoughts about this at the moment (hey, maybe this could work into that I-Cut-You-Choose Worker Placement idea I had a while back), so I'll just file it away to possibly revisit later. If you have any thoughts about this game idea, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Friday, November 26, 2021

Rolling Realms - Jaffee Realms update update

 A couple of weeks ago I posted about updating the realms I'd made for Jamey Stegmaier's roll & write game, Rolling Realms. Well, since then I have gotten ahold of the published version of Rolling Realms, and I have played my updated realms a couple of times each. Here's the news...


Crusaders

This one works well. I went with the edit I made in the footnote of the previous post: for the odd numbers, you get 1 resource per dot, for the even numbers you get 1 star for every 2 dots. One game it felt kinda easy to get 6 stars (plus a handful of resources), so I considered changing that to 3 dots per star... but I'm not convinced that's necessary yet, so I left it alone for now.

I like the way this one works, and I think it feels on par with the published realms.


Eminent Domain

After that last post, I preferred the previous version of the EmDo realm, the new one seemed more fiddly. So I reverted to that, but added stars for each row or column of planets, so you can get some stars for just getting lots of planets. This continues to be based on the thematic feel of the game, not the mechanical feel, which could be bad for players unfamiliar with the game, and it could be forcing the realm to be too complicated.

Today I played a game with this version, as well as the published Pendulum realm, and they happened to be in the same round, so I actually played them side by side. This was fortuitous, because it highlighted an observation I made to myself when reading how the Pendulum realm worked. To put it bluntly and succinctly, I don't think I could have boiled my EmDo  realm down and condensed it half as well as the Pendulum realm does! The Pendulum realm is just like my EmDo realm, if you combined Trade and Research into 1 action, and indicated what you get for Trading/Researching on the planets themselves.

...which is cool! I like the Pendulum realm. But if that published realm is so similar (and more simplified) than my EmDo realm, then I probably need to go another route with EmDo. As I mentioned, maybe evoking the deck learning rather than the thematic or strategic aspects would be better anyway. So here's the new version:

1 column per die value. the first time you use a die of that value, you get 1 resource as indicated. the 2nd time you use that same value, you get 2 of that resource. The 3rd time, you get that resource plus a star. And the 4th time you get 2 stars. In this way, it's like you get better at using any given number in that realm the more you use it.

I was wondering if that would be enough, or if I should try and add just 1 more thing somehow... like maybe awarding a star for using 1 of each die value (nah!), or something crazy like "mark off a box in this realm when you use a die value -- whenever you use that die value again (in this or any realm), get the indicated reward in addition" - then award nothing, 1 resource, 1 star or something like that. So using a number in the EmDo realm would make you better at using that number everywhere, not just in the EmDo realm. That's a neat idea, but I think I'll try the basic version first. The neat thing about Rolling Realms is that the complexity comes from the combination of realms available and the opportunity cost of using a die in one realm instead of another. So the individual realms can (and in fact really should) be very simple and straightforward.


Jaffee Realms 2021, v2.0

Please feel free to try these out and let me know what you think in the comments! I'm going for realms that evoke Crusaders and EmDo, but that fit in with the existing realms in the published game.



Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Deities & Demigods playtest - new deity!

 I apologize for again being a little cagey or cryptic about some of the details of Deities & Demigods getting signed. I'll just continue to use terminology and context from the Greek mythology theme, familiar to myself and anyone who happens to be following the progress of that game. At some point I'm sure I'll post about a retheme, a new title, and other publishing details.

Adding new content to an old game

Interestingly, I'm adding new content to this old design at the same time that I'm consulting on the development of an expansion to a classic game. Seems like a parallel there. I've created expansions to Terra Prime (Eminent Domain Origins), Eminent Domain (Escalation, Exotica, and Oblivion) and Crusaders (Divine Influence, Crimson/Amber Knight) as well. So I'm not a complete stranger to fitting new content into an existing game.

In Deities & Demigods, the publisher asked for a few specific things to be added to the game. Among those:

  • More of a 4X feel
  • More relevance to all spaces on the board (not just City and Quest spaces)
  • Slightly heftier game weight (a little longer/more complicated)
  • More variety in game action (an additional action you can do)
  • More variety in the Favor card (game end scoring conditions) 

I believe that we can address all of that in 1 fell swoop by adding a new deity to the game. A new card in the starting deck necessarily means a longer game and another action. More different actions means a heavier and more complicated game. And since we get to choose what the deity does, we can use it to add relevance to the board spaces and give the game more of a 4X feel.

New Deity: God of Adventure

Since we'll be changing pantheons, I didn't bother actually getting a new Greek god for this role, and since my prototype components already say Hades on them, I decided to just use Hades for a stand-in here (I never did try that Hades expansion material we'd come up with, though I think Matthew may have). So... Meet "Hades," God of Adventure and Exploration!

With this new action, you can explore blank hexes, collect gems, and add features to the board. As nobody probably recalls, the game board was made up of 4 boards, each with 7 hexes, and each board had 3 features: either 2 cities and a quest space, or 2 quest spaces and a city space. This way, a random arrangement of the boards would yield 5-7 quests per game, and 5-7 cities per game (and as it happens, 5 quests meant 7 cities and vice versa). Now I have removed 1 feature from each board, leaving 1 city and 1 quest space, and I colored in the other blank hexes to represent different terrain. Each of the colors also corresponds to one of the deities, this way the stuff you find in an area could be weighted toward the type of thing one of the deities is known for.

When using this action, you choose one of your troops and they explore their hex. You get 1 gem of the color matching the hex, and then you draw some Exploration tiles to choose from; the more devotion you have to Hades, the more tiles you draw. You'll choose one of the drawn tiles to add to the board in that hex. So far the features on those tiles are new cities, new quest spaces, tunnels that connect distant hexes, monument sites where more monuments can be built (the monuments are getting a pretty big tweak as well, so they're not just fancy buildings anymore), and a "stronghold" - a space which is meant to have some kind of common enemy that you can "fight" by sacrificing troops to gain the printed effect.

The gems I keep mentioning are also color coded to match the different deities, and the plan is that when resolving a deity, you can spend up to 1 gem of that deity's favorite type (matching color) in order to resolve it as if your devotion were 1 level higher.

First playtest of this new deity

I played a 2-player game the other day with Aaron, who's played Deities & Demigods before, but not that recently. He picked up the nuances of the new content right away, but based on how the game went, we didn't see too much of it in play. For one thing, neither of us added an Ares to the deck, so movement was a little hard to come by, and that was exacerbated by more things requiring you to move around the board. Other than that, the game went fine, and I noted a number of things to change for next time.

Tweaks and changes for the next test

The biggest hurdle was a dearth of movement. Aaron suggested it might be good to add a 2nd Ares to the starting deck, since questing, city control, building, and exploration all require adding troops to the board and moving them around. This might not be bad, but I think I had a better idea -- add movement points to the Hades action, so no matter what you'll be able to move a troop before exploring. Also, even if you didn't care too much about exploring, you could utilize the extra movement to accomplish other goals. So I'm updating the Hades track to give movement points as well as gems and tile draws.

I figured that the result of this action would be an immediate benefit for the player (the gem), as well as a lasting effect on the board (the tile) - if you draw multiple tiles, you have a better chance of getting a feature that better benefits you. Some of the tiles weren't that exciting - for example a tunnel does nothing unless there are more than one in play. This felt a little disappointing when choosing between tiles, getting a poor one feels bad compared to getting a good one, feels like you didn't get a benefit. But you did... you got the gem! I guess you were getting that gem anyway, so it doesn't feel connected to the choice of tile. So I might simplify the action by removing the gem, and instead print a gem on many of the exploration tiles, so whichever one you pick, you can feel like you got something. That also means I can change the value of some of the tiles by adding or not adding a gem if I want to, for balance reasons.

For the monument sites, I might let the player actually build that monument for free, which makes it a lot more attractive to explore! And for the quests, I was just thinking of drawing a new quest tile, but instead maybe specific quests would be better.

I'll be updating these items in my prototype, and I look forward to trying the game again as soon as I get a chance!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Incremental progress and "Point Salads"

I probably have a lot to say about the term "point salad," but as this is the first time I've ever sat down to talk about it, it may be a haphazard post about some of those thoughts... maybe some day I'll gather them better and write about them in a more official capacity (or at least in a more intelligible blog post).

"Point Salad" is a term in board games that refers to... well, there's an interesting thread on BGG about the definition of the term, but for the most part I hear it used to describe a game that rewards lots of different things with points, and I usually hear it used as a pejorative, to support a straw man argument that "this game is bad because it doesn't matter what you do, you get points for everything."

Just to get this out of the way, in case you couldn't tell by the way I phrased that last sentence, I think that's about the most ridiculous argument one could make against a game. Well, assuming it's not the case (and it seldom is) that playing randomly or arbitrarily could reward you with a winning score, anyway.

Yes, in the type of game often derogatorily called a Point Salad, often times many different actions confer points... but that definitely does not mean that it doesn't matter what you do! The way I look at it is this: in any respectable point salad style game, certain combinations of actions (call them "strategic paths") will result in a larger accumulated score than others, and the better you play, the better your score will be. The fact that the game rewards incremental progress (i.e. awards points for many little things) just gives the player a way to gauge the value of one action over another, a way to compare options and make intelligent choices.

There's a corollary to this that I'd like to mention... many point salad detractors conflate what I just said with "you just do whichever thing gives you the most points each turn." That assessment is also laughably incorrect, as evidenced by the fact that in any respectable game of this type, simply doing the thing that gives you the most points each turn will not outscore strategic paths which use synergistic actions, look ahead, and maybe even engine building. This great article by Greg Aleknevicus (The Games Journal, circa 2004) explains very plainly how simply doing what's worth the most points right now can end up being very clearly a losing play (for the record, Greg's previous article is also very good).

In the BGG thread linked above, Trey Chambers (a game designer in his own right) argued that the problem with a point salad is that a player playing badly is rewarded with "a ton of points" (200 for example), which is too many. However, in the same example, he admitted that in such a game, the winner may well have 400 points. Bryan Thunkd did a pretty good job trying to explain how the actual number of the score doesn't matter, in that example the loser only got 50% of the winner's score, and it doesn't matter if that was 400-200, 40-20, or 4000-2000. I can almost see Trey's point, that he dislikes the idea of bad play being rewarded - like maybe the bad player will feel like they're "high" score implies they weren't playing badly after all.... almost. But no, I agree with Bryan whole-heartedly here... the goal of a game is to win, not to "score a ton of points." If you score 200 points and lose by a factor of 2, then you did not play well, period.

So I've argued against the down-sides people pose for point salad style games, but is there an up-side to rewarding incremental progress in that way? I think there is. And lucky for me, someone in that BGG thread brought it up as well! Phil Hendrickson said:

One thing I like about point-salad games is that all players receive positive reinforcement throughout. Even if you are not doing well compared to other players, at least your score keeps increasing. It can be a small encouragement to keep trying, hoping to achieve bigger scoring plays as you get better at the game.


Another feature that game designers can use in this style of game is to make players decide between short-term scoring opportunities and actions that score less up front but set up later big turns.


Some point-salad games do it badly, and make players feel like their choices really don't matter. Others do it well, providing an array of choices that are challenging, meaningful and delicious.


Which is a pretty succinct way to describe not one, but two good things about point salads. In addition, Tommy Occhipinti said this:

I tend to think of point salad games as being like a race. Everyone is at all times moving forward along the track (the scoring track, in this metaphor) but the more astute racers are moving faster. No matter how bad of a driver you are, your car is moving forward, even if it is barely chugging along spewing out smoke from the engine, but there is a real thrill in making the engine hum and running along at top speed, linking together multiple bonuses at once and weaving together seemingly disparate goals.


In point salad games, when they are going well, I get the closest to feeling that sense of Flow. On the other hand, no matter how poorly a point salad game goes, there is at least a sense of accomplishing something. Maybe I finished my one section that I worked for all game and got a hefty set of bonus points, or whatever it is. This series of little mini goals you set for yourself and accomplish is, for me, very pleasing.


In particular, it is more pleasing (to me) to finish a game feeling I've accomplished some goals and lost than to end the game with everything I've worked towards in a smoldering pile of ash. I (personally) relish neither being destroyed nor destroying other players.


His first paragraph is a pretty vivid analogy, explaining why it makes sense to score points for every action in a game, and his second and third paragraphs touch on some of the good reasons to utilize this type of dynamic in a game design.

I understand not everyone enjoys point salad style games, or games that reward incremental progress, and I'm not here to tell them they're wrong to not enjoy them. Hey, like what you like - you do you! But I think we'd all be better off if we could get rid of some of the lousy reasoning. You don't like math? Fine. You don't like numbers? Fine. You feel like your decisions don't matter because everything you do is worth points? Well, that's just false, and it's logical fallacy... you're pretending that the points you get for each action are equivalent (False Equivalency), like saying "what are the odds the sun won't come up tomorrow? Well, either it will, or it won't, so 50-50!" And then using that premise to say there's no difference between them (Begging The Question).

Not too long ago (circa 2018), there was a much derided talk at SHUX by Scott Westerfeld called Victory Points Suck about how game designers should stop using victory points in games. To me, this feels pretty similar to complaints about point salad from people who either don't like adding up points, or think that doing so pulls them out of the experience of the game. I liked my friend Gil Hova's reaction post to that video. The problem with the idea of removing victory points from games "to make them more exciting" is that that's just window dressing... VP are just a measure of progress toward victory, by definition. You can call them something else, or make them more or less granular, but if you're declaring a winner then you are awarding victory points in some way.

"But Seth, what about a foot race? There aren't victory points in a foot race!"

Well, ignoring the flippant "yes there is, you get 1 point for crossing the finish line first, and it's a game to 1," I'll point out that a wise man once said "victory points a measure of progress toward victory." In a foot race where you have to travel 500 meters to get to the finish line, you could consider that each meter is "1 victory point," and the game is a race to 500 points. Victory points are just a convenient way to measure that progress, but they need not be explicit!