Have you ever been playing a game where you’re slowly building your engine, you’re ready to start raking in the victory points (VPs) and then suddenly the game ends? “What?! No! I need five more turns at least!”
In any game where you’re taking turns and accumulating VPs (often Euros, but not always), there’s usually some kind of end-game trigger. What happens after the trigger point can vary though. Today we look at the different possibilities for how games can end…
Scythe is a popular Euro hybrid with some light combat, in which players are racing to complete objectives represented by stars on the board. Once someone obtains six stars, the game ends. There’s no finishing the round, it just ends immediately. It gives you quite a shock the first time it happens!
The winner isn’t necessarily the one to get six stars first. You count up your VPs at the end to see who wins, but stars are worth quite a lot of VPs, so the person who got to six first often wins.
Personally, I’m not very keen on this. You can have a great plan to get lots of points on your next turn and then “Bang!” it’s over and your investment goes to waste. If you can see the end coming, you can plan around it, but it’s all too easy with higher player counts to be caught by surprise.
I’m obviously not the only one to dislike this as one of the Scythe expansions adds in the option to finish the current round rather than simply ending when someone gets their sixth star.
Finish the Round
Many Euros will have a first player marker and when the end of the game is triggered, you finish the round so that everyone has an equal number of turns. This feels very fair. It can still catch you unawares if the person in last place triggers the end of the game as the round will be over at the end of their turn so no one gets any more turns.
You need to watch the end-game triggers and see how close people are getting to them to make sure you aren’t caught out. I like this racing aspect to Euros. Is it time to cash in as many of your resources as possible or do you need a slightly longer-term plan? How much time is left? It can make the end tense and exciting.
Just One More Round
I was playing Agra last night (which is great by the way). It’s a heavy Euro where you’re accumulating lots of resources of different types and gradually converting them into VPs through various means. Converting resources into points can often be slow though.
You may need to convert your resources into different resources with one turn and then take the action to cash them in for points on your next turn. For this reason, once the end of the game has been triggered, you finish the current round and then play another full round. It gives everyone enough time to complete their final conversions.
It suited me very well last night as I was playing a slow game and needed as many turns as possible to capitalise on my engine. For the other players, they would have much preferred for it to finish sooner though! There seem to be two distinct strategies you can take in some Euros, which are epitomised in a certain multi-use card game you may have heard of…
Race for the Galaxy
To simplify matters slightly, you can either take a slower, engine-building strategy or race to grab VPs early and then trigger the end of the game as fast as you can.
In Race for the Galaxy you are ‘building’ cards into a tableau that give you special abilities and allow you to acquire goods that can be sold for money or converted into VPs. The game ends when someone builds a certain number of cards or obtains enough VPs from their goods. The cards you’ve built are worth VPs at the end so your final score is a combination of the value of your cards plus the VPs you obtained during the game for your goods.
If you aim to build lots of expenseive cards and get cool special abilities that combo well, you can really rake in the points later in the game. However, the counter to this is to build a few cheap cards and then keep converting goods into VPs until you end the game. It’s easier said than done, but in the right situation, you can really undermine someone who is building too slowly.
Race for the Galaxy is well-named as it really is an economic racing game. In fact, many Euros effectively involve you racing for points, but it’s an approach I really like!
How do you like games to end? With a hard stop, an extra round, or something in between?