Scoring Timing, 9.8.09
In terms of broad concepts, scoring is in every game. The end scoring in Coloretto, unit generation in Risk… the list can go on. What makes each game’s scoring different? And not just in what is scored; of course you get points for settlements and cities in Settlers of Catan and hexes captured in Memoir ’44. One of the key differences (and the one we’ll be investigating today) is the timing of said scoring. Are points score instantly? Do you need to wait for the right time to cash in? It doesn’t even have to be the final score you’re aiming for; hitting your opponent in a fighting game reduces his ‘Life Score’, bringing you closer to winning that particular match. Lets have a look at the effects of scoring timing.
-Instant Gratification. Players are rewarded instantly for their actions. Whether it be reducing your opponent’s hit point total or scoring a goal in a sports game, this is about as straightforward as it gets. This form of scoring is typically combined with other scoring techniques to create different strategies. Ticket to Ride is an excellent example of this. A player is instantly rewarded points for placing trains on a route, but said route may or may not contribute to their destination cards (which tend to offer big point swings in the endgame). In a combat game, each hit brings one player closer to winning and the victim closer to defeat; even if defeat is just losing a unit in a particular instance. Even within the same way to perform scoring, the effect can be dramatically different.
-Save It Up. Players save scorable resources until a time that it is most beneficial to them to cash in. This scoring technique is all about timing and predicting what will (or won’t) be valuable later in the game. This is often used in commodities/stock trade games. You may have say, 30 shares of stock X, but you won’t score anything good at $1 per share as compared to say, $9 per share. The Motley Fool’s Buy Low, Sell High is essentially this with the added spin that each share sold actually decreases further profits due to there being more supply available. This creates a good tension if the commodities fluctuate a bit and increases if the scoring is based upon other players’ choices (much as in Buy Low, Sell High).
-Endgame Scoring. Different ways of doing endgame scoring itself has been previously covered here; this is going to deal more with the effect it has on play. Endgame scoing creates more tense play in making the game uncertain until the very end. Perhaps that player in third place has a bunch of Resource X she has been saving all game to cash in for big points. Maybe the leader didn’t account for final scoring and overextended, causing him to come in a close second. If it creates tension and uncertainty in the final outcome of a game, end game scoring is being used correctly.
Well folks, I’ve written enough. It’s time to turn it in for final scoring.
Keep on designing, yo!