How Important is Victory?

I’ve notice many times that players never even look at the Victory Conditions for a game.  Do Victory Conditions in the rules even matter?  What would you think of a game with No victory conditions?  Is that completely crazy?  Is it even possible?  Here is my case:


Often times, players don’t even bother to lookup the rules for Victory.  I’ve seen this in many games.  They just setup and start playing.  Most games never even go to the end.  About half way through, one player usually gives up and concedes.  Game over.  They lost.

Players seem to have an intuitive sense for Victory.  They can tell.  They know when the lose.  They know when they win.  Both players usually see this at the same time and they are usually in agreement.  I don’t remember ever seeing players argue over this, where both players believe they have won at the same time.  I do see them argue over the meaning of rules. 

We usually love to discuss the outcome of the game afterwards.  This is often our favorite part.  It usually goes something like this:  “Well, looks like you won.  You really surprised me with this move.  I didn’t see that coming and then I got bad luck over here.  I did pretty well containing you here under the circumstances but in the end it wasn’t enough.  Good game!”


We like to talk about our brilliant moves and colossal failures.  Where did the game change?  What was the most important event or decision?  What were you thinking when you did this?

I don’t see players argue with each other but I do see them argue with the Victory Conditions in the game.  Often times they are at odds with the game rules.  How many times have you heard:  “Well, technically you won according to the rules but in the real war, I would have won!”  OR “You are winning now but IF we play 1 more turn, you are going to get stomped!”

This kicks off a very interesting debate on what happened in the real campaign / war and how the game events differed.  How would these differences would have altered historical events afterwards?

I’ve noticed that players consider many subtle factors and variations in these discussions.  They take into account far more information than any game rules on Victory Conditions could.  Could you imagine a separate 100 page, fine print rule book on how to determine Victory after the game?  How would the game results have impacted army morale later?  Public opinion on both sides?  The political impact on parties, elections and legislation?  Economic performance and production?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, or you could just look at the board and say:  “I think you won.”  For me, this is often the best part of the game:    Discussing and debating the outcome of the game.  Who won?  Imagine how history would have been different with this result.  Preferably over some cold beers.

Could you have a game like this?  Are there other views?  How important are Victory Conditions to you and your friends?  Would you play a game that had No victory conditions?

14 thoughts on “How Important is Victory?”

  1. Personally I can’t see playing a game like this. I like to have a clear and unambiguous objective.

    The only game I play without victory conditions is vintage He-Man with my 4 year old girl!

    • It seems like the Victory in strategic games like Supremacy is more built in. When do you win a battle? A campaign? A war? When you break the enemies morale. There are no VPs tied to the map or a morale track. The players decide. They know when they have been beaten. You win the war when you inflict so much damage on the enemy that he no longer wants to fight and is willing to negotiate peace. It is all internal. There are no rules for that.

      • Victory conditions will often reflect the failing morale of one side. In original A&A the Axis victories usually represent the allies growing weary and accepting the expanded Axis empires. In Battle Cry you win a battle by destroying 6 enemy battalions – representing a surrender or retreat on behalf of the afflicted army.

        Playing is different than fighting a war. Even if I am being decimated, that doesn’t cost me real world resources. I have no reason to give up unless I can predict my opponent will fulfill concrete victory conditions. The game might become dull when it’s that one-sided, but just as dull for my opponent!

        I have encountered “history buff” gamers who are typically less concerned with victory or balance, and just enjoy seeing how the battles play out. Nothing wrong with that (and history buffs are great to play with – wonderful colour commentary)!

        I enjoy the historic themes a lot, but I guess I’m a little more “gamey” in my approach to playing. Just my personal tastes. 🙂

        • I’ve seen games where players loose because they are too focused on the Victory Conditions. The Eastern Front is a good example. If I try to just get lots of VP cities like Moscow or something with the Germans, I usually lose. I do much better if I focus on the destruction of the Red Army. Then I get the VP cities by default.

          • I remember doing the opposite. 30 years ago I used to play a hex game called Divine Right with my Father. We used to get really into the war and battles at the cost of neglecting victory conditions. We played with a third player once who almost completely ignored the clashing armies and picked off as many small and unprotected castles as he could. He slaughtered us!

            I guess there was a bit of cognitive dissonance between how we thought we were winning a war vs how the game rewarded us for accomplishments. We wanted to kill armies, capture leaders, and plunder the capitol cities. Turns out there was more value in accumulating smaller successes.

            Not sure where I’m going with this! I think if everyone has a shared sense of what the objectives should be, one side will know to give up. If people aren’t in agreement how to evaluate success, you need something the players can reference when they considering concession.

            “You are never defeated until you admit it”
            – General George Patton

          • Those look great. Are you going to use nice wooden blocks ala Pub Battles?

            I didn’t know you were so fond of WWII history. You talked a while back (unless I dreamed it) about a making WWII Supremacy 2020 scenario (like BRIC & ACWII). Do you still have plans for that, or has it been mothballed?

          • Well, we’re not quite sure how to proceed with it. In trying to ‘fix’ Supremacy, we ended up with enough material to make 3 games.

            The 2nd game was our version of A&A. We dropped the market/resources and just went with a basic Production Point economy. We added was all the different weapon types. A slight variation of the Supremacy combat system does a great job of WWII on a different map.

            The 3rd game was actually our favorite. It was more like Risk. No market/resources. We also just stayed with Armies and Navies. We added a fascinating alliance system where players could spend VPs to get control of other countries. Very fun but what is it? What is the theme? How do you sell it? A Risk clone? I don’t think that sells.

          • What if you had a preselected set of resource cards in play instead of production points? You could simulate the commodity spread in WWII (oil in the Middle East, Japan desperate for oil, etc).

            Using the cards will help sustain the uniqueness of Supremacy and make it less of an A&A clone. This should be part of the draw – if people want A&A they’ll play A&A. If WWII Supremacy has appeal it will be precisely because it is WWII Supremacy.

            I assume this could be marketed like BRIC and ACWII. A scenario rules book with some extra components?
            Not sure about how to market Supremacy: Risk edition.

  2. I remember once playing a game of “For The People”. I lost naturally, but a lot of the fault went to Robert E. Lee (or at least his dice) when he failed a 1-5 chance on a d6 for an interception of a Union force that entered Richmond which led to my downfall. We discussed afterwards how Lee would not have been the iconic personality he became after the war. Or at least there would have been debate whether it was his fault or Stuarts, who should have alerted him to the force moving on Richmond. Anyway, great fun either way.

  3. What about multiple victory conditions point systems that may be mutually exclusive?

    Playing as a general may be more about promotions and survival than playing as that “Supreme leader”?

    German generals trying to lose carefully but maintain the integrity of Germany?

    • I really like this idea. We developed a system earlier where players would record their rank and experience in a Service Record. So you would play in teams. The highest ranking player gets to be the commander and assign other players commands. If the Commander wins, he goes up in rank 1 level. He must also promote 2 players and demote 1. If the Commander loses the battle, he gets demoted 1 rank. He must promote 1 player and demote 2.

      Everybody else hated the idea. I still think it would be fun because it brings in all these types of things…

      • You could even have simple motivations. Different generals hate each other and won’t work together or will actively sabotage each other.

        Montgomery and Patton messing with each other in Sicily.

        Try to beat the Russians, but assassinate Hitler.

        Maybe be a spy for the USSR as a nato corps commander?

        We know many personality factors were key historically.

        Arranging your available division commanders to deal with their various levels of competence and connections.

        Dealing with the battlefield death of key personnel.

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