Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Victory conditions summary for boardgames/cardgames

For the benefit of my digital game students, I'm trying to summarize/categorize the many victory conditions available in games (especially board and card games).

Achieve a Position
Occupy a location--e.g. Stalingrad, Axis & Allies require occupation of certain cities
Occupy a lot of territory--go, Carcassone, Blokus, many others
Make a pattern of pieces--Tic-Tac-Toe, my Law & Chaos
Move off the other side of board (or the end of the track, as in race games)
There are many other variations...

Wipe out/destroy something
Wipe out everyone--checkers/draughts, Risk [this could be called "last survivor", too]
Take a piece (chess, the King)

Accumulate something or get rid of something (possibly all your assets)
$$$$ (Monopoly)
sets of cards (many card games)
use up all your cards (many card games)

Deduce/find answer
if no deduction is required, this is a form of accumulate (as, sets)

Use up all your assets (be eliminated) either last, or first--can be seen as a form of accumulate something or get rid of something.

Scoring the most points at the end of a set time, or a set number of points, is very common (Settlers of Catan, Brittania), but this is an intermediate step to the achievement of some other goals--money, territory, whatever. Points are used when multiple victory conditions are wanted. For example, Britannia points include holding territory, temporarily occupying territory, killing enemy units, capturing certain locations, and more.

I am going to include "choose own objectives" separately. In the classic game Careers, players secretly allocate 60 points amongst Fame, Happiness, and Money. The first to achieve his objectives wins the game. While it is an "accumulate something" condition, the strategic variability provided by choice is exceptional and notable.

Finally, some games have "Missions" (newer editions of Risk). This is another form of points, that is, each mission is one of the other kinds of victory condition.

I don't consider sports to be a form of boardgame/cardgame, but even sports can be considered in these terms. For example, in baseball, you get points by achieving a position (getting around the diamond to home plate).

Lew Pulsipher


Eric said...

'Occupy a position' is also often accompanied by a duration (1 turn, ...) to even out pyrric attacks.

Anonymous said...

Where would "pick up and deliver" games fit in? I'm thinking "Accumulate something [and/or] get rid of something". with my suggested modification of and/or.

Lewis said...

Yes, that would seem to be a form of "accumulate".

Pedantic comment: "And/or" and "or" mean exactly the same thing. "And/or" is a fairly recent perpetration of ignorance. "Or" means "one or the other or both", it is not an "exclusive or" in programming terms, which would be "one or the other but not both".

Anonymous said...

ehanuise :
Use 'or' in a game rulesbook to mean and/or and you're bound to have an
errata or faq the day it gets on the shelves, however.

I can see the rules lawyers jumping on the "a or b means 'either a or either b but not both' otherwise they'd have used and/or" argument already.

In a general sense you're right, of course, but in the strictly technical lingo of games rules, it never hurts to be as specific as possible, imho.

Lewis said...

Well, I was an adult when "and/or" began to be used commonly. And in programming, "OR" is definitely "one or the other or both", not the XOR ("but not both"). That meaning *isn't* going to change.

My wife had a professor once who forced her to use "and/or" instead of "or" in a paper. What a moron. Perhaps that's given me strong feelings about it.

So despite "confusion of youth", I would not use "and/or" in game rules. Too many people ("old guys" and programmers) are likely to be offended, or get confused in their turn. Perhaps a note at the start of the rules that "or" means the same as "and/or" would take care of the problem.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with 'or' as defined in terms of a programmer's point of view, is that most non-programmers no longer see the word to mean: "one or the other or both"; the word has evolved to have the sense of mutual exclusivity.

One problem is that common usage is no longer utilizing the word 'either' as necessary for mutual exclusivity, so 'or' used alone has somehow defaulted to non-mutual exclusivity. (Maybe 'xor' can be introduced into common usage?)

In game rules, we may have to bend to this popular (incorrect?) reading of 'or' and use 'and/or' so as to avoid the possible errata mentioned previously. Too many people think that the word is mutually exclusive. Just take quick poll.

Of course, well written rules so as to provide necessary context to make the determination is another option.

Lewis said...

Haven't taken a poll in some years, at that time, the majority did not misunderstand the word, though many did

I confess I have never heard anyone involved in rules writing advocate adopting a new meaning of a word when so many people still understand it as the old meaning.

Shall we use "gay" to mean "I don't like that", which is the common way young people use it, even though most people still understand it as "homosexual" or even as "happy-go-lucky"? The solution, of course, it not to use "gay" at all (same with "bi-annual, too many people think it means twice a year instead of once every two years, the original meaning). But there's no way to avoid using "or".

Decided to check this on dictionary.com. "Or" entries aren't very helpful, though they do mention the boolean meaning (which, again, isn't going to change). At and/or:

"The combination and/or is used primarily in business and legal writing: All dwellings and/or other structures on the property are included in the contract. Because of these business and legal associations, some object to the use of this combination in general writing, where it occasionally occurs: She spends much of her leisure time entertaining and/or traveling. In such writing, either and or or is usually adequate. If a greater distinction is needed, another phrasing is available: Would you like cream or sugar, or both?"

I think they're right, and/or is used primarily in business writing, not everyday writing.

It becomes a question of how many people misunderstand "or". Which may depend on one's age, eh?

Anonymous said...

With respect, there is no comparison of the usage of the word OR with the usage of the word GAY. The usage of the word GAY by young people, and not so young people for that matter, to mean “I don’t like that” is at its core derogatory. The embedded connotation of this phase is, “If you like that, you are a homosexual and all the bad things associated with being so.” It is a form of hate speech.

The use, or misuse, of the word OR is at worst a misunderstanding of the definition of the word. In my view, this hardly compares to the use of a phrase which has, as a subtext, insult, deprecation, and offense.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that after considerable googling, how difficult it is to find a good definition or usage of the word OR. (It doesn’t help that the search engine seems to prefer to use the OR as an operation rather than an inquiry. I think that’s actually pretty funny.) And you are correct, dictionary.com is not helpful—shame on them.

I found some legal usage manuals that discourage it. The Online Chicago Manual of Style states:

“This Janus-faced term can often be replaced by and or or with no loss in meaning. Where it seems needed {take a sleeping pill and/or a warm drink}, try or . . . or both {take a sleeping pill or a warm drink or both}, or think of other possibilities {take a sleeping pill with a warm drink}.8 Only in nonliterary contexts where it unambiguously means or . . . or both and where elegance must give way to economy should a writer resort to and/or.”

But if you look at the site closely, the site is littered with AND/OR.

And finally maybe some real help from Wikipedia:
The term And/or is usually awkward. In general, where it is important to mark an inclusive or, use x or y, or both, rather than x and/or y. For an exclusive or, use either x or y, and optionally add but not both, if it is necessary to stress the exclusivity.
Where more than two possibilities are presented, from which a combination is to be selected, it is even less desirable to use and/or. With two possibilities, at least the intention is clear; but with more than two it may not be. Instead of x, y, and/or z, use an appropriate alternative, such as one or more of x, y, and z; some or all of x, y, and z.”

At the heart of the issue of AND/OR is that it has been created out of the imprecision and uncertainty (and laziness) in contemporary writing, generally. (Emails, blogs, chats, etc. all designed for speed. With so many unedited words floating around, what else could we expect?)

In the end I agree with you that the AND/OR may be done away with, but only if the rules are clearly written. It must be obvious if the use of OR is INCLUSIVE or EXCLUSIVE. I do not believe that the default meaning should be "one or the other or both". It is the responsibility of the writer to make clear its use. Wikipedia’s guidance may be helpful here. But, this extra work is why AND/OR is tempting because it can be a quick fix.

Is it worth creating a guide for rules writing that focuses on just this topic?

Lewis said...

I was shocked the first time I heard someone say "that's gay". And especially when I heard my 13-year-old niece say it, somewhat later. But I've been around teens and 20-somethings a lot, as a college teacher, and when I talk to them about it, they really do NOT have homosexuals in mind, even though that's undoubtedly where the phrase came from. It doesn't even occur to many of them, when they say "that's gay", that there's any connection to homosexuality. (Just as there's no connection between gay as "happy-go-lucky" and gay as "homosexual", at least not one I know of.)

It has progressed beyond that to a generic phrase, one so commonly used that even if you point out the connection, people are still going to use it the way THEY intend it: "something I don't like".

Could be different in another geographical area, of course.

Lewis said...

A rules-writing guide? That's not such a bad idea (you'd think one exists somewhere).

I've put the following at the start of my recent rules drafts:

(Note about nomenclature: the word "or" is used in these rules in the original (and the programming) sense, to mean "one or the other or both"--exactly the same meaning as "and/or".)

Assuming I understand what and/or means....

Anonymous said...

To start off the rules writing guide, you can have a look here:


But check this out:

In the glossary at the bottom, the site states:
Use only when necessary - and it almost never is. The words are separated by a slash and no space. These are the only two words treated this way."

Yet, at the beginning of the page it states:
"Outside submissions must be revised and/or edited until they meet these standards - or they will be returned."


That aside, it seems to be a great piece of well organized and thought out information about RPG game related writing. Clearly much of this applies to board game rules.

What would be great for board games is studying rules for existing games, both well and poorly written, as case studies.

Anonymous said...

In everyday usage the specific meaning of the word 'or' is indicated by its context. Sometimes it can be ambiguous and should be clarified with an extra word or words.

Used in an 'If' statement to present multiple conditions it means one or both conditions. e.g. "If you have a red card or a blue card you may play."

Used to present multiple choices the word means either choice exclusively and is misleading if used when either or both are intended.

As in "...and for your meat you may select chicken or steak."

Lewis said...

Since "or" has meant "one or the other or both" for centuries, I'd suggest the following:

If you mean to use "or" as an exclusive or, the modified form should be as below.

"...and for your meat you may select EITHER chicken or steak."

You don't modify things by inventing a new word (and/or), you use an existing well-known form to show exclusivity.

"And/or" is a pernicious product of ignorance or laziness (and yes, that can be both).

Unknown said...

Came down to the comments hoping to find further discussion of win conditions. Instead found the pig-headed author angrily defending his position that writing conventions that clarify meaning are moronic and/or lazy. I am disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I came down to the comments hoping for further intelligent, relevant discussion of win conditions. Instead I found the pig-headed author angrily defending his position that writing conventions that quickly clarify meaning are moronic and/or lazy. I am disappointed.

To make my comment less infuriating for you to read, Lewis, let me remove all the unnecessary words for you: hoping for intelligent. found pig-headed author. disappointed.

Lewis Pulsipher said...

I had forgotten this entire conversation, not surprisingly. Yet the point is that and/or does not clarify, it confuses. It means the same as or alone, so when people see and/or enough, they think or must mean something else.

A great many changes in language derive from sheer ignorance. It's hardly like people are getting better at using the language, rather they're getting worse because language is used much less than in the past (videos, photos, etc. displace it to a greater or lesser extent).

Lewis Pulsipher said...

Not surprising when someone, without substantiation, resorts to name-calling, that they hide behind "anonymous". You've joined the "noisy majority" who tend to make the Internet an unpleasant place while adding nothing useful to it, congratulations whoever-you-are.

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle