The Game Design Round Table with Jon Sheafer, Dirk Knemeyer and David Heron discussed Victory Points on their recent episode. Here are a few thoughts in reply which started to get too long to write in a comment box. If you haven’t listened yet, go on over and check it out.
Games where victory points work well: Carcassone. Although the player is constantly attempting to maximize the number of points they are acquiring, and constantly counting the points they earn, the points themselves never detract from the game itself. The point scoring mechanism is well integrated into the game in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the game play.
A game which works well without victory points: During the episode Talisman kept popping up in the back of my mind. The victory condition is about beating a large dragon (which was an amazing plastic dragon cherished by Warhammer fantasy battle players). To win you have to defeat the dragon, which had certain stats. Playing against other players became about guessing when they would attack the dragon, and if they could survive. It was an interesting ‘gate’ or ‘high bar’ to set the players as a victory condition without using points. Basically the stats of the dragon become the invisible victory point.
Lords of Waterdeep has a point scoring track. Around and ‘above’ the game mechanics the player is scoring victory points. At the end of the game all extra resources get liquidated into Victory Points. Almost as though there is this secondary currency floating above the first two (adventures and coin). Except the Victory Points can only be purchased, never spent. They are as ill-liquid as Modern Art.
Maybe my opinion is skewed by my day job, but humans seen to enjoy currencies more than Victory Points. Why have two currencies when one will do? Could we remove the Victory Point track and replace it with coin? This might turn the game into ‘Monopoly of Waterdeep’. Which might be a bit too much of a change to the game.
So here’s an alternative hypothesis which could assist in proving the point. What if we make Victory Points into a currency with a mod that uses some ‘house rules’ as a way to test that thought? It’s a partial conversion to the game which adds a new building to the board (one of the permanent buildings) that let’s you spend the Victory Point tokens to acquire resources. This way Victory Points can be both acquired and spent.
The idea is that if we move Victory Points closer to a real currency, the game will become more fun. Victory Points will be perceived as a core mechanic, instead of quick solution to the difficult problem of “Who wins?
The mod is written up in a Google document. If you play it, give some feedback. Do Victory Points feel more integral to the game if they are more like a currency? This is totally free, it’s a mod, so you have to have a copy of ‘Lords of Waterdeep’ to play. More thoughts on the nature of this ‘experiment’ in the document.