Tobold's Blog
Thursday, October 07, 2021
Hacking the win condition in your head

So I solo played the first game of the new board game I got this week, Paleo, and promptly lost. And then I continued playing until I fulfilled the win condition. Paleo uses a relatively simple algorithm to determine wins and losses: Achieve 5 "win" points before reaching 5 "loss" points. But other than a lack of loss point tokens (skulls), there is nothing that would prevent you to play on after you reached 5 skulls. If you want a quicker game, stopping at 5 skulls make sense. But if you don't want to stop and start over after having already to some point developed your tribe, a different win condition also makes sense: Play until you win and try to do it with the least amount of skulls possible. As Paleo is a game that you tend to get better at with experience, if you play the same scenario again, you are likely to do it with fewer skulls and at some point with less than 5 of them.

In competitive games, the other players provide an absolute win condition. In solo and cooperative games, where you play against the system (or the AI), the win condition tends to be arbitrary. It is a bit like doing a high jump while alone in the stadium: What is a win? If you jump higher than previously, that would be enough for most people, even if that is far less than the world record.

The big advantage of board games is that there is no computer kicking you out with a "game over" screen. It is up to you to follow the suggested course of action when you reach the win or loss condition. But once you realized that the win or loss conditions are arbitrary, you can decide to alter them, in function of what is most fun to you. Some people enjoy starting over, others would prefer to play on.

I assume that with time I will get better at Paleo, beat the first "easy" scenario, and move on to medium and harder ones. But if I wouldn't get better and would be unable to get past a certain difficulty level, I wouldn't want to be locked out of the latter, very difficult scenarios. I'd rather change the win/loss condition and play the difficult scenarios, even if under the arbitrary rules the developers set these scenarios would be "too hard" for me. Also, I'm planning to go the Spiel Essen 2021 in a week, and maybe pick up the expansion for Paleo. For a computer game you can't beat, it would be stupid to buy a DLC that is even harder; but if for some reason the Paleo expansion would be very hard, "hacking" the win condition is an obvious way around that problem.


Lol some things never change. Tobold's blog is still getting WoW gold seller spam. How comfortingly nostalgic.

While I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestion of choosing your own win condition. I myself am really bad at doing that. I find myself compelled to play games in their default condition. Particularly on my first run through a game I am very resistant to changing anything , even moving away from the default difficulty setting. I resist modding a game until I know I have gotten everything I can out of the vanilla experience. I am not sure what this says about my personality but I recoil in horror when I see others fire up a brand new game and immediately install mods even if they are just quality of life or visual enhancements. I wonder if at some level this is because I play almost exclusively single player games these days and it is a way of getting some kind of external validation by playing the game "as the developer intended".

Agree 100% with mvp as regards the vanilla experience.

But I was going to respond to Tobold. Back in the '80s I played Rogue, a notably hard game. I cheated and reloaded sometimes to learn the game. But I beat it honestly.
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