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Keeping score

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chris_mancini's picture
Joined: 05/01/2015

This post is all about mechanisms of keeping score between players.

What are your favorite ways of keeping score? Tokens, scoring tracks, countdown dice, pencil and paper?

Have you played any scoring mechanic which was difficult or poorly designed? Why did it fail?

ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
Personally, I don't like when

Personally, I don't like when keeping score requires additional actions from the players.

For example I absolutely love "Through the Ages", but I hate the Culture track and how you have to update it every turn.

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013

I'm a big fan of theme. Any scoring mechanisms that fit with the theme I like. Victory points just for victory points sake seems a bit meaningless and makes me think the designer couldn't think of a better way to score.

Even something as simple as life points make sense. When life points are at 0, then game is over. Simple as that.

If a game says, "game is over when a player gets X points" is bland in my opinion. Do something different. Even in a game like Monopoly (yes, THAT dreaded game), the inclusion of the Million Dollar goal was great...first one to be a millionaire wins. I can see that goal, it makes sense.

If a game says, "game is over after X number of turns", make every turn be a block of time. Make the end time (if it's historical) be a significant event. Then it would make sense that the game ends at a certain period of time.

Any game that says, "whomever has the higher total of points wins". That's great in sports. Bad in some games. Even Ascension, which I love, could have used a little faction story for each player. Why are you fighting for the honor? What does having the most honor mean?

It's really apparent in a game like 7 Wonders. Yes, a great game, but scoring is such a bear...when I finally get the results, the reaction isn't as exciting as, say a race where it's immediate who won.

Don't get me wrong, Bad theming in games does't automatically make a game bad, I just think there could be more.

My favorite (at least right now) way of theming in scoring is Puzzle Strike by Sirlin Games. The "gem" is the focal point of the whole game; it is the life points, the game timer, the attack, the defense, AND the resource to get other "cards"...of course it depends on where the gem is and how it's played.

Chess is simple, but it works. You command an army (albeit an abstract one) and you win when you conquer your opponent.

Risk is great. The scoring mechanism is the map of the world. Wipe out your opponent.

The act of "surviving" works too (increasing difficulty over time), but depends on how it's realized in its theme. Xenoshyft really makes you feel like you're struggling to survive 9 rounds while you're waiting for transport to take you away. Usually, games have an alternative scoring mechanism to counterbalance just "surviving". King of Tokyo uses a victory point system (which again, no real connection to the theme), Battlestar Galactica uses the theme of the show to have the ultimate goal of engaging FTL enough times to get to a certain location...while trying to survive...and deal with traitor(s).

I think adding theme, the reason why the points or scoring makes sense is something that many game designers could just take a little time to think out, adds so much to a game.

With that, using methods that add to this scoring helps in so many ways. In my game, Conquest at Kismet, damage isn't just "tokens", it's a hexagon-shaped grey chit that looks like it's got a hull rupture on it. The hit points on each of my ships are indicated by a number inside guessed it, grey hexagon. To me, it pulls people into the game. It goes back to when I was creating mechs in Battletech. I loved filling in the tiny circles whenever my robot took damage; It was a clear visual reminder of how my robot was doing.

Maybe I'm just talking out of my butt. I just like a reason to win....besides just winning.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Integrated Components

I prefer games that utilize the components themselves for score-keeping. For example, cards that are played on the table but then collected by players to indicate who "won" them. It's simple and elegant - cutting down on production costs - and I feel it provides enough positive feedback to the player to provide sufficient 'instant gratification.'

I don't mind chips or tokens, as long as they're in sufficient higher denominations: ones, fives, tens, etc. These also tend to be thematically-linked more often than not. I'm not too keen on requiring the player have paper and pencil handy unless it's a budget title or, again, linked with theme.

Joined: 03/02/2014
I'm with let-off studios, if

I'm with let-off studios, if there is something that makes sense. Bohnanza is a great example: you are growing peppers in a garden, increasing the number of whatever type of pepper you have in that garden, until you decide to harvest it. At that point, the card tells you how many you keep as points, based on how many you harvested. That is, the pepper cards themselves are the points.

However, if there isn't anything like this that makes sense, I'm happy to see a victory points track with player tokens that move along it. That way it is easy to see at a glance who is winning and who is losing. This is still ok if there is a flurry of points near the end, based on some hidden data. (See Lords of Waterdeep.) However, the hidden values should not completely overwhelm the visible ones, unless everyone at least knew that a player clearly had a fair bit of hidden value based on his strategy. It shouldn't be a huge surprise to everyone that the person deep in last place suddenly takes the lead with the final scoring -- that sort of thing should be providing tension between two who are close, not a complete reversal.

JayProducer's picture
Joined: 01/31/2016
You have to think what best

You have to think what best suits the mechanics of the game. I prefer to visualise points so like to see it on the board using tokens. I created a game and used point tokens placed underneath playing pieces so you can work out how much defence they have left in a war fight. But that might not work for your game mechanics.

Joined: 02/05/2016
What I don't like is a

What I don't like is a scoring system that relies on a token sitting on a particular space, such that one bump and the information is lost. Better to have a number of goodies in front of you. Bump ten chips and you still have ten chips. Bump one chip sitting on the ten space and now it might be on the eight space.

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