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Subject: Poll: When does a point salad become a salad? rss

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Channing Jones
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When designing games I prefer to avoid what is called "point salad" to give players a clearer path to victory, though I do have quite a few point sources in my designs. I'm sure some people don't mind "point salad", but I also think most people prefer the simplicity of not having this.

My question is, what is the maximum of number of point sources a game should have to be enjoyable for you?

Poll
What is the maximum number of point sources a game should have to be enjoyable for you?
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any number is fine with me
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Poll created by Mageant
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I think 'point salad' is usually a rather lazy criticism of games that does not really tell you much. It is much more about how you score the points and how the systems in a game interact and are communicated.
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Curt Carpenter
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I agree with Frank's comments. Additionally, I don't think I could come up with a single maximum number. But I could tell you if a game felt like it had too many. Blue Lagoon, for example, felt like it had a lot of ways to score when I learned the game, but after playing, felt just right.
 
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Lil Blue Spider wrote:
I think 'point salad' is usually a rather lazy criticism of games that does not really tell you much. It is much more about how you score the points and how the systems in a game interact and are communicated.

When I hear the term, I don't think of it as a criticism, but as a feature. It happens to be a feature I like, so when I hear it in a description of a new game I'm further intrigued. If a friend says 'It's a bit of a points salad game', I think 'great!'.

I like it in games because it can gives players options and flexibility, and enhances replayability and the desire to pursue new options.

I tend not to enjoy it when one particular aspect of that salad dominates the others, and you tend to ignore the others just to focus on that one primary points source [meaning that the desire to explore and try other approaches is reduced].
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Ryan Winters
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I think a nice rule of thumb if you have multiple paths to victory is to have a number close to the number of players. The reason I say this is that it let's players diversify without being overbearing. If John is going for X and Amy is going for Y, maybe I can focus on Z. Sure everyone can try to do a bit of everything, but it is rough to be the odd man out. If the above scenario only has X and Y paths, then I'm left to decide to fight either John or Amy and the other one gets a free pass in a sense.

I feel like most point salad games wanted to be that way. They didn't accidentally end up with 10 ways to get points and a grid based score sheet. So if you're trying to avoid it, it should be pretty easy to do so.

If you're just trying to get a feel for what people like, I think you're going to see a skew in answers when you limit your poll to people who fill out polls in the Board Game Design forum on BGG. It's a bit niche considering the audience for board games at large. I'm sure simpler games have better mass market appeal, whereas point salad games don't frighten people who are into the hobby.
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Michael Carter
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To me, a point salad game is where I am collecting victory points with almost every action.
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Corsaire
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The less point options the sooner I feel like I'm done solving it as far as I care to. Though some point salad games are unbalanced to the point where the choice is always clear; some are so balanced that you feel like every choice is the same.
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Channing Jones
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curtc wrote:
I agree with Frank's comments. Additionally, I don't think I could come up with a single maximum number. But I could tell you if a game felt like it had too many. Blue Lagoon, for example, felt like it had a lot of ways to score when I learned the game, but after playing, felt just right.

I just went through the comments on that game and saw about 5 people mentioning "point salad" on the first page.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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Mageant wrote:
curtc wrote:
I agree with Frank's comments. Additionally, I don't think I could come up with a single maximum number. But I could tell you if a game felt like it had too many. Blue Lagoon, for example, felt like it had a lot of ways to score when I learned the game, but after playing, felt just right.

I just went through the comments on that game and saw about 5 people mentioning "point salad" on the first page.
Exactly. I would expect as much. Whether you find that to be a bad thing is up to you, but a lot of people don't.
 
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Channing Jones
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curtc wrote:
Mageant wrote:
curtc wrote:
I agree with Frank's comments. Additionally, I don't think I could come up with a single maximum number. But I could tell you if a game felt like it had too many. Blue Lagoon, for example, felt like it had a lot of ways to score when I learned the game, but after playing, felt just right.

I just went through the comments on that game and saw about 5 people mentioning "point salad" on the first page.
Exactly. I would expect as much. Whether you find that to be a bad thing is up to you, but a lot of people don't.

I'm not judging it either way. I'm trying to get a feeling for when people start having that impression.
 
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dave bcs
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For me, point salad is a negative thing, but implies more than just multiple ways to score. Point salad implies that the various scoring methods don’t functionally connect with one another. I am fine with multiple scoring paths so long as pursuit of these paths affects your game engine, or the overall game state, as well: “moving parts” so to speak. Having multiple places to score “points” without altering the game state in some other way is boring.

Many Stephan Feld games, in my opinion, tend toward having a “point salad” feel (such as Trajan). His latest one, Forum Trajanum,despite still being somewhat non-interactive (players don’t force each other to alter strategy very much), has more interconnected scoring elements than some of his previous games, so is, for me, more enjoyable.
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Patrick Zoch
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It depends on the theme. If all the ways to score are thematically relevant to being successful in the objective of the game, I am good. When a point earning option seems to be inconsistent with what would constitute success in the theme of the game, then it seems excessive.

I prefer to look at the various scoring options as viable paths to victory. These various scoring opportunities open up play strategies. As long as the strategies make sense to the them of the game, the scoring option is good. But when it seems like a player is simply exploiting a loophole, then the scoring option has become problematic.
 
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Charles Ward
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I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the subject/title of this post.
 
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Ville Heinonen
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At Great Western Trail & Trajan. Love em' both, but if they both had a few more things in them.. Dunno.
 
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Ryan Keane
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I don't think any specific threshold defines a game as being a point salad or not being a point salad, so I can't answer this poll. It's just a feeling you get from a game that feels, well, more point salady.

It's not really a bad thing - the choices about which part of the salad you want to eat can be really fun, like digging through a big salad with your fork for the yummiest bits. But as Dave said, the key seems to when the bits don't feel connected. I can take the tomatoes out of the salad and it doesn't affect the rest of the salad - it's just one less way to score points now. Games that feel like point salads tend to feel like the designer made the game by adding salad ingredients and stopped when he felt there were enough different scoring methods to provide an interesting enough game. "This salad is pretty good, but I think it could use croutons. Ok, I've crafted a tasty crouton. Added. Hmm, maybe it needs some bacon bits? Er, ah, ok, there I've added some fun bacon bits."

The designer and expert players may vehemently disagree and make long-winded arguments to dispute that, but it doesn't change the fact that some players got that point salady impression from the game.

Macao is probably my favorite Feld game, but this is how I see his design:
1. I have a cool windrose mechanic for players to make interesting choices about what cubes they'll have in future turns - what should we use those cubes for?
2. Let's have players draft cards that cost specific combinations of cubes and they lose points if they can't pay for them and their hand starts to exceed the hand size. That sounds cool.
3. What else can we use cubes for? Ah, let's have spots on an abstract board they have to pay cubes to claim for points. They can get more points for claiming a network of connected spots. Ok...
4. Ah, and when they claim those spots, they also take the goods tile that was there and they can race to ship those to other random spots on the board for points. Ship? Yeah, they can use excess cubes to move their ship. Ok...
5. What do all the cards do? Well, some can help them get more cubes. Ooh, that's strong. Yeah, well, others can let them turn cubes in to gold. Gold? What's that for? Ah.... let's let them turn gold into points too, but the conversion rate will randomly vary for no particular reason. Wha....? This is sounding kinda point salady. Yeah, but it's fun, who cares? Publish it. Done. Ok, now reprint it. Uh, no.
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Adrian Pillai
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If it takes you 12 minutes to count up all the various scores, that's a points salad. Not good.

If you need to do math before deciding your next move, that is Analysis Paralysis dressing. Not good.

If you are scoring points for actions that have zero correlation to thematic sense - you open the door, 5 points, start your car, 3 points, run a hose from tailpipe into the car, 8 points - that's a pointless salad. Not good.

The worst part of Points Salad is when the story of your achievements are lost and the points are just that. When the game leaves you without a story to tell, any game, despite its quality, suffers.

That's why I consider 7 Wonders a points salad and much prefer 7 Wonders Duel. I feel like I built a civ, not just achieve victory. And as great a game as Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar is, it is reduced to a points salad by the end, with a huge splash of AP dressing on top of the end game. No one's talking about my corn that I sacrificed so many hot virgins to get.
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Rob Stevenson
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elfboy wrote:
No one's talking about my corn.

Which we call 'maize'.
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Jeff Warrender
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To me it's more of a "you know it when you see it" kind of thing.

I'm not myself a fan of point salads but I think with any style of game there will be proponents and detractors so I don't see any reason not to just design games you like and that your testers like. So take this with a grain of salt.

But to me the "problem" with point salad designs is that they are too close to the game/puzzle line. It's the ongoing discussion about the pivot from "German" games to "Euro" games, where the latter feature very low player interaction and puzzle-like gameplay, and often lots of gameplay complexity. Thus point salads (generally speaking, of course) are harder to teach, look more intimidating (all of those icons!), and are more about playing the puzzle than playing the players.

As a designer, I think point salads can arise from trying to include too many aspects of theme into the game, and then slapping a number on each; a superficial approach to theming. To me, skillful design is about distilling the essence of the theme through judiciously chosen abstractions, such that the theme comes through in the decisions the player must grapple with.

So in a game about interior decorating, say, you don't want players thinking "Hmm, a couch is worth 3, a duvet is worth 4, a love seat 2, but couch and love seat together is worth 6, unless they're configured wrongly in which it's worth -1", in this case you've totally lost the thread of the theme by commoditizing it. You want players worrying about being "on trend" and pleasing their customer and pulling disparate elements together and whatever kinds of things an interior designer worries about. I don't know how to capture that in game terms, but that's the game design challenge: find an abstraction that brings those kind of considerations to life. Just putting some numbers on things doesn't achieve that, in most cases.
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KC Schrimpl
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elfboy wrote:
If it takes you 12 minutes to count up all the various scores, that's a points salad. Not good.

If you need to do math before deciding your next move, that is Analysis Paralysis dressing. Not good.

If you are scoring points for actions that have zero correlation to thematic sense - you open the door, 5 points, start your car, 3 points, run a hose from tailpipe into the car, 8 points - that's a pointless salad. Not good.

The worst part of Points Salad is when the story of your achievements are lost and the points are just that. When the game leaves you without a story to tell, any game, despite its quality, suffers.

That's why I consider 7 Wonders a points salad and much prefer 7 Wonders Duel. I feel like I built a civ, not just achieve victory. And as great a game as Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar is, it is reduced to a points salad by the end, with a huge splash of AP dressing on top of the end game. No one's talking about my corn that I sacrificed so many hot virgins to get.


I agree. Especially about 7 Wonders.
 
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Seth Rolfe
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I'm good with almost any number...that said, if there are too many sources I feel the designer didn't know what game they were making.

Stand back, look at your design, if only a few methods are actually viable to win, weed out the 'white noise' point sources.
 
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Kyle Sussenbach
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Caverna is an incredible game, has 10 sources of points (more if you break down the categories) and doesn't feel bad at all to me.
 
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Jake Blomquist
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I too didn't/couldn't vote in this poll, because I don't think you're asking the right question. As others have said, whether something is or isn't a point salad is more about feel. To continue to torture the metaphor somewhat, you could have a salad with 3-4 ingredients and it's still a salad since they're all just sitting there as discrete items in a bowl, or you could make some really complicated dish with many ingredients but that's thoughtfully made and so everything integrates together and blends into one cohesive dish.

So for games I really do think it's more about the feel/experience than it is the raw number of ways there are to get points. I never used to have strong feelings about games described as point salad, some I liked others I didn't and I didn't really get the criticism. But then I played Pulsar-2849 and now I understand how people can use point salad as an insult, that game really has no cohesion, it just feels like a bunch of stuff thrown together. But really there are only what, six or seven ways to score points. Compare with Agricola, a game that I think few people would call point salad, but there are certainly over ten different point sources. But it feels more cohesive.

Although, I guess this also gets at the issue that it's not so obvious how we should even count how many sources of points there are. If you look at something like Through the Ages, do you count e.g. temples, libraries, and theaters as separate sources of points? Even if not, between buildings, wonders, leaders, yellow cards, war/aggression, territories, and the final "impact of" cards (I may be forgetting some) that's still more scoring categories than many seem to prefer, but I can't imagine anyone calling TtA a point salad.
 
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Brandon Kane
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Agreed about Caverna, lots of ways to score points, but it feels ok since you can do many of them and score well.

Great Western Trail on the other hand has fewer ways to get points, but in order to win you really need to focus on one of them. Trying to do a bit of everything is usually a recipe for 2nd or 3rd place.
 
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Charlotte Dowling
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I feel like there can be lots of sources of points without the game becoming a points salad as long as the way the different ways the points are acquired are kept fairly consistent.

In Agricola for example, even though there are technically 14 ways to get points, in reality 7 of those are work in exactly the same way (you receive -1 to 4 points depending on how much of something you have in your farm) and another 4 of those ways are similarly easy to see just by looking at your farm. The only real difference is in the the points you get from cards, but because you get such a good sense of how everyone is doing based on looking at their board, it doesn't feel too salad-y, in my opinion

Compare this to Terraforming Mars: in that game, you can get points from terraforming, owning tiles, being adjacent to certain tiles, having collected resources on cards, simply playing cards, claiming milestones, and backing or even just stealing awards. I enjoy it a lot, but the points are super opaque and come from sources which all work pretty differently!

 
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Flip the Board Games
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Personally when playing a competitive game, I'm always calculating how many victory points I'll get from my strategy vs. how many victory points my opponent will get from his/her strategy. If I get 3 points for doing something good but my rival got 5 points, I know I'm not going to win. So I tend to do an opportunity cost style calculation for each available strategy. For that reason, if there are more than a handful of broad strategy choices that lead to victory points, it becomes a LOT to process. And if it becomes TOO much for me to process, I kind of force myself to disengage a bit and just think "oh well, I don't know if I'm playing optimally but whatever." Just my two cents!
 
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