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Concordia» Forums » Reviews

Subject: [Review] The Anti-"Point Salad" rss

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OVERVIEW
Concordia is a game about traveling around the Roman empire to build up a network of resources. Each player has a hand of role cards, and plays one per turn to determine their action for the turn.

COMPONENTS IN BRIEF
Shaped wooden resource markers for each of the 6 types of resource, as well as ships, meeples, and trading houses. Standard high-quality chipboard main board, player boards, and tiles for city resources and prefect trackers; role cards.

GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF

Each player starts with two colonists in Rome, some money, and a player board holding 4 reserve colonists and some starting resources.

Each player also starts with a deck of role cards, which you play one of on your turn:

Architect - Move up to X spaces where X is the number of colonists you own, then build anywhere you have a colonist by paying gold and resources

2x Prefect - Pick any region, flip its tile to receive the best resource in the region. All trading posts in the region produce. OR - Unflip all tiles, gain gold.

Mercator - Gain 3 Gold, then make up to Two transactions (buy or sell one type of good in any amount).

Senator - Buy up to two new role cards from the card line, for resources.

Diplomat - Copy the top card of any other player's pile of played cards.

Tribune - Pick up all of your played cards (including this). Gain gold if you've played a lot. Optionally buy a Colonist with resources.

Each role card you own is also an endgame scoring card that rewards you in different ways (amount of money, number of colonists, various permutations of points for trading houses). When a player builds their last trading house or buys the last card of the card line (receiving a bonus), the final round is played, then everyone tallies their cards, and the highest score wins.



GOOD POINTS

*Surprisingly easy to learn
While the game certainly has its complexities, the basic gameplay couldn't be simpler: Play a card on your turn, and do what it says. The player aids are well-made and handily remind you of the value of resources and the cost of building trading houses, and consequently while the strategy may be very complicated, the rules of the game are very straightforward.

*Very little downtime
Owing to the fact that a turn consists only of playing a single card and then taking that single action, turns move quite swiftly for a game of this complexity. This is aided by the fact that more often than not you will have a sense of which card you need to play next before your turn, so by the time your turn runs around unless something drastic has changed on the board, you will already know what card you want to play, thus hastening the game.

*Ingeniously Intertwined
This is probably the best thing about Concordia, and what makes it such a great game: Everything is linked. For the past few years, many people have complained about various Eurogames that they are "point salad", because you start from the same place and although you may have five or six different paths to take, all they do is score you points in different ways. The fact that there are different paths means you have options, but since all of those options reduce to gaining a few points in various ways, many players feel these games don't really cohere.

Concordia is a cornucopia of coherence. If anything, it's almost the exact inverse of the situation described above. Here you have five or six actions to take, but they not only all lead to the same central scoring mechanism (cards multiplied by collections of trading houses), but also all have a series of nested dependencies:

Architect building trading houses is half of your point-scoring engine, but you need gold and resources to do so.

Prefect is the main way you produce goods, but you get much more out of it if you've built some trading houses. Or you can use it to get gold.

Mercator lets you buy and sell goods, or more often sell and then buy goods, since you've hopefully stocked up to rake in some cash you can use to buy the thing you're missing.

Senator requires resources as well, to buy cards which not only serve as the second half of your point-scoring engine, but also give you more role options and more lead time before being forced to Tribune

In short, any action you wish to take both requires other actions, and boosts other actions. Perhaps if the complaint of "Salad" is the disparate parts, these actions are all baked together. Which is why...

*Options beget options
As mentioned above, everything you do sets you up to do something else. The result is a fascinating set of decisions in terms of which actions you want to optimize. Naturally, you'd like to optimize everything. But you can't. So you have to choose whether to take a sub-par Architect for a single trading house now, a sub-par Mercator role now in order to have the right resources to Architect on a better spot next turn, or a sub-par Prefect to gain a single cloth so Mercator gives you enough resources to do a better Architect for two trading houses instead of one, although if you could Architect first to build a cloth trading house then Prefect would give you two cloth instead of one, although if you had two cloth you could also pick Senator and buy that extra card...

And the extra cards you get with Senator really expand your options. Even if you just pick up copies of the cards you already have in hand, a second Architect/Mercator means you can build/trade twice as often before having to "waste" a turn playing Tribune, which is a pretty big benefit. Add to this the fact that a few specialty role cards are only available via purchase -- Consul (buy one card cheaply), Colonist (make more colonists, or get gold), Specialized Production (all your trading houses of the specified resource produce) -- and the new cards matter quite a bit even apart from the scoring.

*Clever Scoring System
Aside from the game-ending bonus, your points all come from cards, which tend to reward you for trading houses. But the incentives push you in different directions. Mercator cards tend to be Mercury- which scores you 2 points for each different type of resource you produce, while Specialized Production cards are Minerva and reward you for having lots of the same type, and Architects are Jupiter, which reward you for each non-brick trading house.

The Prefect (which you start with two of) is Saturn, which rewards you for each province in which you have at least one trading house. And this is in direct conflict with your incentives in-game, which are to concentrate in a few provinces in order to repeatedly choose them to produce with Prefect and rake in the resources.

Overall, you have all sorts of opposed incentives for where to build your trading houses, and of course you need to balance the building with the card acquisition, as a bunch of trading posts and no cards to score them is as useless as a bunch of cards with no trading posts to score. Finding the right mix is what makes the game challenging, and fighting for each half of that equation is where the other players come in.

*Everything Is A Race
The thing is, while you have an infinity of good options that make each other better, you also have a clock imposed by the other players. The game ends if anyone buys the last card or runs out their trading posts, and if you still have half of your stock left when someone else plays their last one, it's probably not great unless you've grabbed a lot of cards. And the player interaction here is a good Euro level: You can't destroy each other or each other's things, but you can be in each other's way and take the thing other players wanted.

Competition for cards isn't too bad, because more cards will always come in to replace the ones that disappeared. But not all cards are created equal; given that building and buying cards are the ways to increase your score, those two roles (Architect and Senator/Consul) tend to be popular. Diplomat becomes better the more other players buy the roles you wanted. When these turn up -- especially if they're in the cheaper slot -- you can expect them to go pretty fast, so you might want to buy them. Or you might want to take a round to Mercator or Prefect first, so you can buy them with cheaper resources or buy two at once -- if they last another round of the table.

Likewise you are racing your opponents for each building spot. And while building in a city does not prevent opponents from building there, it does double the cost for them -- which can be pretty brutal on the Cloth cities which already cost 5. If two people build on a city the cost is tripled instead of doubled for a third player, which all but makes Cloth impossible, while a Brick city at 3 instead of 1 is still doable. And of course opponents can't land on a route your colonist is on, although usually that blocking isn't intentional.

But basically, with the game rapidly ticking down, and good trading house locations and cards both able to be snatched from literally the first action of the game, Concordia starts with a tense rush for the good stuff, and never really lets up.

BAD POINTS

*Isn't a Breakfast Cereal
I'll be honest, I think Concordia is one of the best games I've played in years, and I rank it up with Endeavor in terms of packing a lot of game into a small space. There's very little I don't like about Concordia. And if there's one thing you might not like about Concordia, it's probably just the kind of game it is. It's a Euro with limited blocking interaction rather than direct interaction, which will annoy some people. And aside from the initial city resource distribution, the only randomness in the game is the order of the card line, which means that the same strategies can work from game to game.

None of these are really knocks on Concordia, per se, just that for some people, it will be a negative for their enjoyment of the game that the variability from game to game is low and that there are no direct attacks.



CONCLUSION
Concordia is good. It's the rare game with no wasted space; every turn is a single action, and every turn matters. All the parts of the games are deliciously intertwined, and quickly become very intuitive as you play each action to try to set yourself up for the next one. Nothing feels tacked-on or extra. There's a balance between strategy and tactics in knowing when to grab something now, and when to hold off to build up to a bigger turn. The game moves at a good clip, plays well with any number (although is better with more), and is satisfyingly meaty without being mentally overwhelming. It is, in short, a great game I never turn down.

IS IT FOR YOU?
As mentioned under negative points, the only real reasons to avoid this game are if you demand a different type of game, like something with high randomness and aggression. Otherwise, I'd recommend this game to pretty much anyone -- even you.
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Antonia
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Loving it as well, but funnily my main "contra" argument would be that it is dry, very dry laugh
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Muad Dib wrote:
Loving it as well, but funnily my main "contra" argument would be that it is dry, very dry laugh

Oddly it didn't feel dry to me at all. It may lack direct interaction of aggression, but between the colorful shaped bits and the named cards and the fast-paced play, it honestly never occurred to me that the game might be dry. (Not that I don't enjoy a good dry game -- see my review of King Chocolate!)
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Russ Williams
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I guess this shows how nebulous the label "point salad" is, because I'm surprised to see Concordia described as NOT point salad. The game seems to meet many of the vague definitions of "point salad" which I've seen. You get points from a variety of different independent things (money, non-brick cities, provinces, colonists, types of good you produce, numbers of cities which produce good X), which all seems perfectly "point salady" to me.

Which is not at all intended to slam Concordia, because I have no problem with scoring points from a variety of arbitrary sources (so "point salad" isn't derogatory for me)... And like you, I also think Concordia's a great game, with the added bonus of having a fantastically clear simple ruleset. It's become one of my favorite 1-2 hour economic euros.
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russ wrote:
I guess this shows how nebulous the label "point salad" is, because I'm surprised to see Concordia described as NOT point salad. The game seems to meet many of the vague definitions of "point salad" which I've seen. You get points from a variety of different independent things (money, non-brick cities, provinces, colonists, types of good you produce, numbers of cities which produce good X), which all seems perfectly "point salady" to me.

Which is not at all intended to slam Concordia, because I have no problem with scoring points from a variety of arbitrary sources (so "point salad" isn't derogatory for me)... And like you, I also think Concordia's a great game, with the added bonus of having a fantastically clear simple ruleset. It's become one of my favorite 1-2 hour economic euros.

Fair. Maybe people use the term differently, but I've heard the charge specifically levied at games that let you do five different unrelated things to get a few points each, e.g. Trajan where you are getting your points by playing on completely different sections of the board, be it the map or the grid, etc.
Certainly Concordia still offers you points, but all so baked together that it'd be like Point Bread? I think the metaphor breaks down there, which is why I just called it not salad.
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Good game. But it is a point salad. I have to agree with Russ here.
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Everything you do in Concordia gives you points. It a points salad for sure.
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Richard Young
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I liked the game ultimately, but hoisting aboard all the various ways you can score points, particularly at the end, is very bewildering at first. It is in fact why the game suggests that for your first time out, you do a preliminary scoring routine during the game just to illustrate some of the concepts, hopefully before it is too late. We didn't do this in our group and it surely was a learning exercise when the scoring was finally done at game end.

It may not be the most complicated final scoring regime out there, but it is up there in my book. I would go as far as to say it is the epitome of a "point salad" type of game.
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Salad is the side dish
russ wrote:
I guess this shows how nebulous the label "point salad" is, because I'm surprised to see Concordia described as NOT point salad. The game seems to meet many of the vague definitions of "point salad" which I've seen. You get points from a variety of different independent things (money, non-brick cities, provinces, colonists, types of good you produce, numbers of cities which produce good X), which all seems perfectly "point salady" to me.
But all of the things being assessed also go to strengthening your game engine in themselves. Although I hunt for Mercurius' on principle and keep an eye out for Minervas (which ones exactly depends on the board state) I don't really think much about points until the final third of the game.

If you build a good engine and don't fall horribly behind in card purchases you will be there or thereabouts, for the win, before trying to close the deal in the endgame.
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While I'm not a fan of the game, the interaction is more than merely blocking or getting to something first. Some of the interaction is also parasitic. As in, if I take this action, then this other person will benefit as well. That, along with the cards/point scoring, are likely my favourite aspects of the game.
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Count me in the "not point salad" camp. Almost everything comes down to productively and efficiently building houses, in combo with acquiring cards from the market that reward how you built.

That's almost it. Build, and acquire cards that reward what you built.

And to do that, you need to produce goods -- because goods are required to acquire cards and build. And money is a very intermediate form of exchange in this game -- not much reward for having money at the end. Money is a mostly a "goods transformer" as you try to efficiently get the goods you need to build what you want and acquire cards that reward what you build.

That "one two punch" of buildings and cards is what takes it away from point salad to me. Point salad, as a phrase, is highlighting the different-ness of the various ingredients just thrown together in a bowl. Some of this, some of that, some of the other thing -- throw it all in there and add it up. Whereas in Concordia, the things interact with each other and multiply by each other, and what you're doing is intentional to bring that about (or deny it to your opponent).

Finally, in closing, and by way of summary, not point salad.
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misteralan wrote:
But all of the things being assessed also go to strengthening your game engine in themselves.

But is the fact that the things which earn you points are also typically useful in other ways mutually exclusive with "point salad"? I don't know. (Evidently it depends on one's definition of point salad...)

Quote:
Although I hunt for Mercurius' on principle and keep an eye out for Minervas (which ones exactly depends on the board state) I don't really think much about points until the final third of the game.

FWIW I think about points all along, and think that waiting until the final third to think about points (and which point sources you're going to be aiming for) means not playing as strongly as one could.
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Hmmm... I'd not thought of Concordia as "point salad" because you only have one way to score points: place houses and buy cards to make those houses score points (OK, money counts for a little bit). In point salad games you have multiple ways of scoring: score regions, advance on tracks, achieve objectives, pick up cards, majorities in X etc. - these games give multiple "mechanism paths" to points rather than different colours of the same mechanism.
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russ wrote:
misteralan wrote:
But all of the things being assessed also go to strengthening your game engine in themselves.

But is the fact that the things which earn you points are also typically useful in other ways mutually exclusive with "point salad"? I don't know. (Evidently it depends on one's definition of point salad...)

Quote:
Although I hunt for Mercuriuses on principle and keep an eye out for Minervas (which ones exactly depends on the board state) I don't really think much about points until the final third of the game.

FWIW I think about points all along, and think that waiting until the final third to think about points (and which point sources you're going to be aiming for) means not playing as strongly as one could.
Pretty darned hard to go for Jupiter in the last third of the game - somebody else has probably hoovered up all the Jupiter cards already and it could be very expensive to build those houses and you don't have the Architects to do it quickly (and you can't build in Brick to defray the cost - not to mention that Jupiter doesn't synergise with Mason very well - last third is a bit late to figure that out ). Nope, you have to play with the end game in mind IMO.
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mccrispy wrote:
Hmmm... I'd not thought of Concordia as "point salad" because you only have one way to score points: place houses and buy cards to make those houses score points (OK, money counts for a little bit).

Also colonists give points. And finishing the game gives 7 points.


I suppose here it depends on what level of detail you describe an action. On the one hand I agree that many of the point sources are all "place houses". On the other hand, they are significantly different, and not all house placements will earn you points.

"Place non-brick house",
"Place house in a province where you don't yet have a house",
"Place house in a city producing a good you don't yet produce",
"Place house in a city for which you have that type of good card"
are significantly different types things with different strategic implications, even though they are all technically "place houses"...

Quote:
In point salad games you have multiple ways of scoring: score regions, advance on tracks, achieve objectives, pick up cards, majorities in X etc. - these games give multiple "mechanism paths" to points rather than different colours of the same mechanism.

To me, focusing on non-brick cities & blue cards is a different path from focusing on provinces, which in turn is different from focusing on goods types, which is different from going for colonist points, etc. They feel like clearly different ways of scoring to me, and I strategically think of them differently, deciding on one course or another in a given session based on the map situation, card market, and what opponents are doing.
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russ wrote:
mccrispy wrote:
Hmmm... I'd not thought of Concordia as "point salad" because you only have one way to score points: place houses and buy cards to make those houses score points (OK, money counts for a little bit).

Also colonists give points. And finishing the game gives 7 points.


I suppose here it depends on what level of detail you describe an action. On the one hand I agree that many of the point sources are all "place houses". On the other hand, they are significantly different, and not all house placements will earn you points.

"Place non-brick house",
"Place house in a province where you don't yet have a house",
"Place house in a city producing a good you don't yet produce",
"Place house in a city for which you have that type of good card"
are significantly different types things with different strategic implications, even though they are all technically "place houses"...

Quote:
In point salad games you have multiple ways of scoring: score regions, advance on tracks, achieve objectives, pick up cards, majorities in X etc. - these games give multiple "mechanism paths" to points rather than different colours of the same mechanism.

To me, focusing on non-brick cities & blue cards is a different path from focusing on provinces, which in turn is different from focusing on goods types, which is different from going for colonist points, etc. They feel like clearly different ways of scoring to me, and I strategically think of them differently, deciding on one course or another in a given session based on the map situation, card market, and what opponents are doing.
I hear you, but it all feels like "maximising the value of my cards" to me (and I'm arguing from the standpoint of a huge fan of the game). While there are indeed multiple strategies to maximise the value of your cards, that doesn't make it a point salad IMO (not in the way that Agricola, Eclipse, Glen More seem to be to me)

Not sure that there's an objective way to define "point salad", so perhaps we'll just have to agree to disagree.
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mccrispy wrote:
russ wrote:
misteralan wrote:
But all of the things being assessed also go to strengthening your game engine in themselves.

But is the fact that the things which earn you points are also typically useful in other ways mutually exclusive with "point salad"? I don't know. (Evidently it depends on one's definition of point salad...)

Quote:
Although I hunt for Mercuriuses on principle and keep an eye out for Minervas (which ones exactly depends on the board state) I don't really think much about points until the final third of the game.

FWIW I think about points all along, and think that waiting until the final third to think about points (and which point sources you're going to be aiming for) means not playing as strongly as one could.
Pretty darned hard to go for Jupiter in the last third of the game - somebody else has probably hoovered up all the Jupiter cards already and it could be very expensive to build those houses and you don't have the Architects to do it quickly (and you can't build in Brick to defray the cost - not to mention that Jupiter doesn't synergise with Mason very well - last third is a bit late to figure that out ). Nope, you have to play with the end game in mind IMO.

There's only 1 Jupiter in deck I, 2 in II, 2 in III and one each in IV and V, but I had to look and see, because I think in terms of 'Which extra actions would be useful right now?' in the early play, not the Gods. With that spread it still looks good for a don't sweat it attitude early on, IMHO.

But just in case, what are those early Jupiters?

Deck I: Architect. Brilliant early card.

Deck II: Architect and Consul. What's my points scoring strategy? Who cares? There's an Architect and a Consul!!

Deck III: Architect and Consul. Hey, we did this already.

Deck IV: Consul.

Deck V: Consul.

I's suggest that these disappear fast not for the points potential, but simply because they are so very very useful. I have a fine win record, (so good that occasional players are warned about me at my club), so my lackadaisical attitude to the gods early on doesn't seem to be slowing me down any.


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Most of Concordia rewards some time of specialization, some type of focus -- doing a lot of a thing and getting a lot of cards that relate to that thing.

"Point salad" is a slightly whimsical, slightly pejorative that tends to mean "a bunch of point scoring that is largely unrelated to an overall specialization or strategy."
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Race Bannon wrote:
Most of Concordia rewards some time of specialization, some type of focus -- doing a lot of a thing and getting a lot of cards that relate to that thing.

"Point salad" is a slightly whimsical, slightly pejorative that tends to mean "a bunch of point scoring that is largely unrelated to an overall specialization or strategy."

OK, maybe it would be useful/helpful to have some explicit examples of some games widely accepted to be "point salad"; can you name any?

Games which I see described as "point salad" (e.g. Stefan Feld games) don't seem to meet this particular description of "point salad" (defined in terms of rewarding strategy); rather, someone who strategizes well in a Feld game certainly is rewarded by earning more points than someone who does not strategize well.

Or if you mean only that you earn some points even if you don't strategize... well, that's true in Concordia too! A horrible player will still earn points in Concordia.
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russ wrote:
Race Bannon wrote:
Most of Concordia rewards some time of specialization, some type of focus -- doing a lot of a thing and getting a lot of cards that relate to that thing.

"Point salad" is a slightly whimsical, slightly pejorative that tends to mean "a bunch of point scoring that is largely unrelated to an overall specialization or strategy."

OK, maybe it would be useful/helpful to have some explicit examples of some games widely accepted to be "point salad"; can you name any?

Games which I see described as "point salad" (e.g. Stefan Feld games) don't seem to meet this particular description of "point salad" (defined in terms of rewarding strategy); rather, someone who strategizes well in a Feld game certainly is rewarded by earning more points than someone who does not strategize well.

Or if you mean only that you earn some points even if you don't strategize... well, that's true in Concordia too! A horrible player will still earn points in Concordia.

Jargon is almost never useful, and this is exactly why. I mean, it isn't necessary to define point salad in order to talk about Concordia. I can see why some people would say it isn't point salad (it seems to reward specialisation more than a game like Tokaido), but it does also reward you no matter what you do (like Castles of Burgundy). I suppose one difference is that, unlike CoB, you don't see your points every turn, you only see them at end game.

Which is why we are at the limit of usefulness here. There is no official definition of point salad, so there is no point in debating whether or not this is it. It will be for some, won't be for others. Better to talk about the game in real world terms that do have actual clear meaning.

Unless, of course, people are enjoying semantic debate.
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Seth Brown
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I suppose part of the blame can be laid at my feet for using what turns out to be a nebulously-defined term in my review title, but a) I didn't know everyone didn't use the term in the same way, and b) It was still pithier than calling the review "A game in which all your actions and vectors for gaining points are inextricably linked together and all actions help you out in preparing for other actions as well as other point-getting methods"
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chearns wrote:
Unless, of course, people are enjoying semantic debate.

Concordia is simply awesome and we probably all agree about that, so I guess there turned out to be more to discuss about the meaning of "point salad".
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Joshua Kuhlmann
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russ wrote:
Concordia is simply awesome and we probably all agree about that, so I guess there turned out to be more to discuss about the meaning of "point salad".


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I don't like Concordia, I just came here because I'm subscribed to russ and chearns and Osirus...
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Russ Williams
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drbobjack wrote:
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I don't like Concordia, I just came here because I'm subscribed to russ and chearns and Osirus...

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So... how would you define "point salad"?
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russ wrote:
Race Bannon wrote:
Most of Concordia rewards some time of specialization, some type of focus -- doing a lot of a thing and getting a lot of cards that relate to that thing.

"Point salad" is a slightly whimsical, slightly pejorative that tends to mean "a bunch of point scoring that is largely unrelated to an overall specialization or strategy."

OK, maybe it would be useful/helpful to have some explicit examples of some games widely accepted to be "point salad"; can you name any?

Games which I see described as "point salad" (e.g. Stefan Feld games) don't seem to meet this particular description of "point salad" (defined in terms of rewarding strategy); rather, someone who strategizes well in a Feld game certainly is rewarded by earning more points than someone who does not strategize well.

Or if you mean only that you earn some points even if you don't strategize... well, that's true in Concordia too! A horrible player will still earn points in Concordia.


No, no -- it's not the presence or absence of strategy, it's whether all the different points related one strategy. Is it "fire on all cylinders" or specialize? The most "salady" are the games where you do a lot of a bunch of different things and get points for them.

Five Tribes and 7 Wonders Duel are point salad, to me. It's a strong hint when you are adding up different categories on a notepad. But more than that, the only way the different categories relate to one another is that if you concentrate a lot on one point category, it takes away from another through opportunity cost(either through less turns available to apply to that category of points, less cards, etc.)

In Concordia, buildings and cards both interact together to multiply by each other (if they reward the same thing), such that your highest is achieved by doing the smallest number of things, but succeeding at getting the combination of things that matches up for multiplication.

In some ways, Concordia seems like it would be salad -- because of the different gods and how they score. But the incentives in the game are geared towards getting as many of one god card as you can, and maxing out its building criterion. (Obviously, you have to do more than one, but spreading it out is not rewarded).
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