Monday, September 21, 2009
1.11: Let's start...at the End?
Many traditional boardgames end with one of two endgame scenarios--either get your pawn or pawns from A to B, and the first one to do so wins. Examples of this are Pachisi, Sorry!, and Candyland. Of course there are games that throw a few caveats into this, such as Life, where the first player to the end of the path gets a huge cash bonus, but the winning player is the one with the most cash. The second scenario is DESTROY YOUR OPPONENTS!--that is, you win when you have eliminated all other players from the game. Obvious examples here are, of course, Risk and Monopoly. (Monopoly, really, I don't hate you, you're just such a useful example.)
For the Modern boardgame, though the above endgame mechanisms may be included, there are a number of different endgame possibilities.
The most simple, score N points. This can take a couple forms, including that common in many card games, where several hands are played, points scored at the end of the hand, and a marker is moved along a score track or points are tallied; the ultimate goal being to reach some pre-determined number of points first. Cribbage (a traditional card game) and Lost Cities (a modern card game) both use this mechanism in this form. If you've played Settlers of Catan or read my review, you've encountered another form of this endgame mechanism--the point total required is usually lower (for instance, twelve points in Settlers, versus the traditional 61 or 121 for Cribbage). For simplicity's sake, we'll also classify most games where you collect a set number of "things" under this category as well--Apples to Apples requires a player to collect N "Green Apple" cards, and Battlelore requires a player to collect N "Battle Standards."
Another endgame mechanism is the need to fulfill some predetermined condition--perhaps this is getting rid of all one's cards/pawns/other fiddly bits (as in Saga, where you play and pick up the same dozen cards repeatedly, but the game ends when you finally play all of them), building a set (think any Rummy style game, as well as The Reef, a two player game where your goal is to pair up male and female fish that produce a specific type of offspring), or the like. A portion of the strategy may be in when to complete said condition, thus bringing the game to a close. In Ticket to Ride, for instance, the goal of the game is to score the most points by laying out your trains and by completing routes, but the last round of play starts when one player has two or less trains left in their pool. Being able to quickly amass a large number of points and then ending the game before other players can catch up is a valid strategy.
Lastly, we'll talk timer-mechanisms; the idea here is that a game ends either in a set number of turns, or when something runs out (or is close to running out), or even an actual amount of time that passes before a game ends. The basic idea is that everyone (or the game) starts with a set amount of something, and this is whittled away, either by the players taking certain actions, or by a set amount being removed each turn. This can be as simple as there being a deck of cards you'll play through N number of times (in Coloretto players go through the deck once, in the Ticket to Ride Card Game the deck is played through once with 2-3 players, or twice in a four player game), a set number of tokens/pieces/other random bits that can be earned or used during the game. Alternatively, a player may start with a certain number of pieces, such as in Blokus, where a player starts with 21 pieces, so the game will take no more than twenty-one rounds, though it may end sooner if the board fills.
Of course there is can be some overlap or combinations--indeed, you may have noticed some overlap in the games I've mentioned here. Some games may even supply multiple endgame possibilities, such as Puerto Rico, where the three things that end the game are running out of colonists, running out of victory point markers, or one player filling all twelve spots in their city (all three of these are condition based endgame options). Rumis, aka Blokus 3D, has two different types of endgame possibilities--players can be removed from the game if they are unable to play a piece on their turn, or the game ends when players have played their eleventh piece. Interestinly, the types and combinations of engame possibilities create different types of tension, and of course they require players to mix and adjust strategies as needed, and also to focus on different aspects and effects of their opponents' actions.